What's the Legal Drinking Age For Visitors to the USA?

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Nothing special about the US - Everything from bar fights to traffic accidents emerge from drinking too much, and antics can get especially crazy around hotels, tourist spots and hostels.

The bright lights of Nevada, Las Vegas at night Photo © Getty Images/Westend61

Many places beckoning tourists also offer drinking specials, and travelers in general tend to up alcohol consumption when on vacation. This can be the case particularly in party hotspots like Miami and Las Vegas, the latter having many all-night drinking options.

Drinking for both legal and underage populations is also common on and around college campuses, and tourists may encounter bands of tipsy students strolling the streets on weekday or weekend nights in these locations.

What's the legal drinking age in the US?

Travelers to the U.S. should remember that the legal drinking age throughout the country is 21.

Fake ID's have become a big problem with underage drinkers. If caught with one, there are big fines and potentially jail time involved.

Patrons who are too drunk can be kicked out or turned away from bars.

If pulled over for drinking and driving, police may administer a breathalyzer to test BAC. Drink responsibly and call a cab to get back to your hotel or hostel.

What's the drink/driving limit in the USA?

In terms of tolerance, the U.S. has one of the highest compared to other countries. The International Center for Alcohol Policies says only 15 other nations have a similar Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit to the States, which remains at .08.

An average-sized man can guzzle 4 to 5 glasses of beer before hitting this limit. By contrast, most European countries set a more restrictive .05 or lower. Some countries have zero tolerance in addition to stiffer fines if caught drinking and driving.

The higher legal limit in the States very often means the difference between life and death, someone dies in a drunk driving death every 45 minutes there.

Police will set up DUI road blocks to stop and breathalyze drivers, whether you have consumed alcohol or not. If given reason, police will stop any vehicle with due cause which passes through the DUI road block.

While many of the statistics relate to American residents, when considering the amount of tourists who come from countries where the legal BAC limit is far lower, it's not a far stretch to guess that some grossly underestimate their level of inebriation before getting behind the wheel while on a vacation here.

And with the introduction of services such as Uber and Lyft, thankfully less people are drinking and driving, as taxi rides home are cheap.

Drunken crime spree in the US

The issue with alcohol is also that it can increase the likelihood of other crimes such as robbery, rape, assault plus accidents like drowning and petty crime like public urination.

On the first front, four in 10 criminals in the U.S. say booze played a role in a violent offense.

Bar room altercations are not uncommon. A club in the Wilmington, North Carolina, area recently had its alcohol permits revoked after a fatal stabbing took place outside.

If you consider the risk to a foreign traveler, mix alcohol, testosterone and a possible language barrier, and a misunderstanding can quickly lead to disaster.

It is also an offense in many states to be drunk and disorderly in public, have an open alcohol container in the car or open alcohol container in public (laws vary from state to state).

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