How to Drink Legally in Greece
In Greece, there’s no minimum age for consumption of alcohol, but you must be 18 or over to purchase it.
There is no legal drinking age in Greece if you are drinking in private. However, if you want to purchase alcohol and drink in public, you must be 18 years of age. That’s the law, at least, although it isn’t always strictly enforced.
No one asks for identification in bars, cafes or supermarkets where you can buy just about any type of alcohol.
- Drinking Culture in Greece
- Drink Responsibly in Greece
- Alcohol Poisoning in Greece
Drinking Culture in Greece
Social drinking is a big part of Greek life. Traditionally, Greeks drink at every meal – even young children will be given a glass of watered-down wine. But drinking to excess is frowned on. You are expected to stay “nice”.
Most Greeks do this by drinking moderately and eating mezze as they go.
These subtleties of the Greek drinking culture have been missed (or deliberately abused) by some visitors.
Some Greek islands have become party destinations for young people, even if they wouldn’t legally be allowed to do so at home.
Drink Responsibly in Greece
Try to follow the traditional Greek way, and drink moderately. Pick a taverna close to where you’re staying. Leave the quad bike at home.
While not keen to enforce the drinking age, Greek police are keen to enforce drink-driving laws. They regularly stop drivers and test their blood-alcohol content. Relative to other European countries the legal limit is quite low, blow .05 and you’re over the limit.
When walking back to your accommodation, take care on the winding roads. Don’t fall off the edge, and watch out for less responsible revelers (the ones on the quad bikes) coming around the bend in the dark.
Alcohol Poisoning in Greece
If you’re tempted to “go Greek” and try the ouzo (best on the rocks with seafood), be ready for the hangover. It’s a particularly strong liquor, with its own special way of reminding you about the night before.
Similarly, watch out for the village specialty. Homemade spirit is technically illegal in Greece, but locals spirits are made and will blow your socks off, but exactly what’s in it, and if it complies with health standards, is anyone’s guess. Try to have just one to limit the damage.
If the bartender asks you what’s your poison, he might not be joking. The beachside bars famous for serving bargain-priced drinks that might not be what’s advertised on the label.
Are Drinking and Driving Illegal in Greece?
Drinking and driving are illegal in Greece, as it is everywhere. Winding, dark roads, unfamiliar cars, unexpected obstacles and narrow lanes all combine to provide Greece with the highest road fatality rate in the European Union, whether you’re drinking or not.
What’s the Legal Limit for Drinking and Driving in Greece?
The legal limit is lower in Greece than in the United States or the United Kingdom. Just 0.05 will classify you as legally drunk, compared to 0.08 in the United States and England. If you’re arrested for drunk driving in Greece, you need to pay the fine, which can be hundreds of Euros. Even if you believe you can drive perfectly well while intoxicated, the equally drunk guy in the other car may not be so talented.
Do Greeks Have a Higher Alcohol Tolerance?
Greeks can get as drunk as anyone, but the ones who seem to have a higher alcohol tolerance may be wise enough to keep eating snacks, or mezes, while they are drinking. This often works well enough with wine, beer, ouzo, and raki in relatively small quantities, but stronger liquors have the same effect as they do at home and eating will only go so far to protect you.
While it is a good practice in general, if you’re going overboard, don’t count on a few bites to keep you sober. Drink moderately.
A common sentiment among people traveling in Greece: “Wow! Liquor is so cheap in this string of beachside nightclubs catering to young people just like me!”
And it’s probably cheap quality, too. Sometimes, it may even be dangerously cut with pure industrial alcohols. If that drink deal is too good to believe, it is. And just because it gets poured from a top-brand bottle doesn’t mean it started out in one. For this reason, many partiers stick to bottled beers, which usually are what they claim to be and are harder to tamper with. (If you can watch the bartender open your bottle, even better.) Even experienced and wary Greeks can be caught by the bad liquor served in these kinds of places.
Still determined to drink a bit too much in Greece? Stake out a table at a taverna within walking or taxi distance of your hotel. Better yet, drink as the Greeks used to and some still do: as an accompaniment to an array of mezes, little snacks, which slow down the intoxication process and may give you the sense to say “no” to that last proffered bottle.