Do’s and Don’ts of Drinking in Costa Rica for Tourists

When planning a trip to Costa Rica, it’s important to understand local customs and laws related to drinking. Understanding the Costa Rican drinking age rules is essential for responsibly and legally enjoying alcoholic beverages in this Central American paradise.

Let’s raise a glass and embark on a journey filled with taste and tact as we uncover the Dos and Don’ts of Drinking in Costa Rica for Tourists.

Navigate Costa Rica's vibrant culture by understanding the minimum legal drinking age.

The Legal Drinking Age in Costa Rica

The first thing to know is that in Costa Rica, the minimum legal drinking age is 18 years old. As per Costa Rican laws, anyone under this age is prohibited from consuming alcohol. This age restriction ensures that young adults and others know how to consume alcohol responsibly.

Do I need an ID to buy alcohol in Costa Rica?

Yes, in Costa Rica, it is mandatory for vendors to ask for an ID when purchasing alcohol, especially if you appear to be a young person or near the minimum drinking age.

It’s essential to carry an accepted form of identification, such as a passport or a driver’s license, to confirm your age. This practice ensures that alcohol sales adhere to the legal drinking age requirements and that vendors don’t sell or serve alcoholic beverages to minors.

Do’s When Drinking in Costa Rica

Now, let’s dive into what brought us here. These are some things you may do in Costa Rica when drinking:

  • Respect local customs: Costa Rican drinking culture is partly influenced by European countries and deeply rooted in local traditions.
  • Stay hydrated – Costa Rica is hot: Costa Rica’s tropical climate means you need to balance your alcohol consumption with plenty of water. For every alcoholic beverage, like the famous Imperial beer or other distilled beverages, drink some water.
  • Drink responsibly: Understand and adhere to Costa Rica’s drinking laws and always consume alcohol in moderation.
  • Tip your bartender: Although tipping isn’t obligatory since a 10% service charge is included in bills, an extra tip for exemplary service is appreciated.
  • Use local currency: While some places might accept US dollars, it’s always best to use Costa Rica’s local currency, the colón, especially when you purchase alcoholic beverages.
  • Keep valuables safe: As with any destination, when heading out to bars or licensed premises to enjoy the drinking culture, ensure your valuables, like passports and other essential documents, are stored safely.
  • Speak some basic Spanish: Simple words like “Gracias” (Thank you) or “Una cerveza, por favor” (A beer, please) can go a long way.

Don’ts When Drinking in Costa Rica

However, not everything is permitted, so please abide by the following guidelines to keep both you and others safe when drinking in Costa Rica: 

  • Don’t drink and drive: Costa Rica has strict laws against drunk driving. The country adheres to the legal drinking age of 18 years old and encourages responsible drinking among its residents and visitors.
  • Don’t walk around with alcohol: In many parts of Costa Rica, especially in public spaces, it’s against the law to walk around and consume alcoholic beverages. Consuming alcohol should be limited to licensed premises such as bars, restaurants, and other designated areas.
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended: As a safety precaution, always watch your drink. This reduces the risk of someone tampering with your beverage.
  • Don’t assume all drinks have the same strength: Costa Rica’s native liquor might have different alcohol concentrations than you’re used to. Always drink in moderation and be cautious when trying new drinks so you don’t overconsume.
  • Don’t leave items in your car: Costa Rica is generally safe, but just like anywhere else, leaving valuables in a visible spot in your car can attract thieves, especially in areas with a higher concentration of bars or stores selling alcohol.
  • Don’t serve or supply alcohol to minors: If you are found serving or supplying alcohol beverages to someone under 18 years old, you may face penalties under Costa Rican laws. Protecting minors from the harmful influences of alcohol is taken seriously in the country.
  • Don’t forget to explore local beverages: Costa Rica has a diverse range of alcoholic beverages. While you might be familiar with beers like Imperial, try other beverages such as the locally made ‘guaro’ or fermented beverages.
  • Don’t use illegal taxis: Always use legitimate transportation services after a night out. Pirate taxis can be unregulated in Costa Rica and may not always provide the safest option.
Ensure you're 18 years old before you purchase alcohol to meet the Costa Rica drinking age.

Local Regulations About Drinking in Costa Rica

Now, let’s dive into some regulations that the country mandates by law.

Costa Rican laws clearly state when and where you can buy and supply alcoholic beverages. Always purchase from authorized alcohol vendors, such as liquor stores or licensed premises.

Can I drink alcohol in public in Costa Rica?

No, in Costa Rica, you are not permitted to drink alcohol in public spaces. It’s important to adhere to this rule to avoid potential legal complications during your visit.

What are the penalties for drunk driving in Costa Rica?

The law regulating driving after consuming alcohol in Costa Rica is strict; a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 0.05% mg may lead to a hefty fine of $410 or even jail time of up to 3 years.

Always prioritize responsible drinking by following these tips:

  • Avoid driving after drinking alcohol.
  • Consider using rideshare services like Uber.
  • Assign a designated driver.

 Tips to Drink Responsibly in Costa Rica

We already learned about the do’s and don’ts. Now, we consider it helpful to talk about some additional tips you can implement when drinking in Costa Rica.

  • Know where to buy: In Costa Rica, alcoholic beverages can be purchased from liquor stores and other licensed premises. Always ensure you’re buying from a licensed vendor to guarantee the quality of your drink.
  • Respect local culture: While Costa Rica might have a lively drinking culture, it’s essential to respect local customs, traditions, and any restrictions related to alcohol sales or consumption.
  • Be aware of selling hours: In certain areas or during specific holidays in Costa Rica, there might be restrictions on alcohol sales. Be informed about these to avoid inconveniences.
  • Explore local alcohol options: Try local options like Imperial beer, but remember to consume alcoholic beverages in moderation.
  • Stay informed: Regulations might vary depending on where you are in Costa Rica. Stay updated on any liquor licensing act regulating alcohol sales or law affecting your plans.
  • Ask locals for guidance: Costa Ricans are generally friendly and approachable. If you’re unsure about any alcohol-related implementation measures, ask a local for advice or clarification.
  • Avoid illegal substances: Like many countries worldwide, Costa Rica has a strict law prohibiting the possession, consumption, and trafficking of illegal drugs. Violating the penal law can have severe consequences.
  • Carry emergency contact information: Always have a local contact number, like your hotel or accommodations, local guides, or friends you might have in Costa Rica. While the emergency number in Costa Rica is 911, it’s wise to have the contact numbers of local police stations, medical facilities, and embassies.

Enjoy Your Time in Costa Rica Responsibly!

Costa Rica is a destination of beauty, vibrant culture, and traditions. While immersing yourself in the local experience is essential, it’s equally crucial to be mindful of the country’s drinking laws.

Remember, the Costa Rican drinking age is 18 years old. Respecting this and other local norms ensures a memorable and hassle-free experience in this Latin American paradise. Contact Find My Costa Rica for detailed information and guidance if you want to know more about Costa Rica and its regulations. Experience Costa Rica’s Vibrant Culture Responsibly With Us!

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