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Many countries have regulations about when a person is old enough to buy and drink alcohol. Usually they’ll also set limits on the amount you can drink and still drive. However, not every country has the same laws. Check out our guide  and avoid getting into trouble at home or abroad.

Laws in the UK

Buying and drinking alcohol

The drinking and purchase age for alcohol is generally 18. Please be aware that there are some caveats – see below:

If you are under 18, it is illegal:

•    for someone to sell you alcohol
•    to buy or try to buy alcohol
•    to drink alcohol in a public place
•    for an adult to buy alcohol on your behalf

In England and Wales, children under 16 years of age are allowed into pubs, as long as they are accompanied by an adult. However, children under 16 cannot drink or be bought alcohol in a bar, pub or off-licence (where alcohol must be taken away from the premises and drunk somewhere else).

Young people aged 16 and 17 can drink beer, cider or wine with a meal at a table in a bar or restaurant, as long as they’re accompanied by someone aged 18 or over.

Drinking and driving

There is some variation in the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration limit for driving across the UK.  

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the legal alcohol limit for drivers is:

•    80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood in your body
•    35 micrograms of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath
•    107 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of urine

In Scotland, the legal alcohol limit for drivers is:

•    50 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood in your body
•    22 micrograms of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath
•    67 micrograms of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of urine

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What you can do next

See what effect alcohol has
See what effect alcohol has

Now you know about the laws, why not find out how it gets processed by the body? Learn about the changes that alcohol can have on your metabolism, diet, and sleep. More importantly, know the recommended limits you should follow, to help you make the best of every drinking occasion.

How alcohol affects us