There are so many things to love about travel but street drinking has quickly become one of my favourite activities abroad. If you live in a place where it’s legal (and normal) to walk down the street with a beer, maybe you can’t imagine what the big deal is. For the rest of us, it’s pretty great.
Photo by Ruth Hartnup
For one, street drinking is cheaper. You can BYOB anywhere — you’re not limited to the overpriced selection in bars and restaurants. You can buy a cheapie at 7-11 and walk around freely, which brings me to another advantage: Buzzed sightseeing.
There’s nothing like cracking open a cold one with your travel companion while you walk around and explore a city at a relaxed pace. You want to be safe and keep an eye on your surroundings, of course, but that should go without saying. And picnics! Picnics are a perfect travel activity. You can relax and soak in the atmosphere of a city and, like many activities, picnics are even more enjoyable with alcohol.
Plus, it’s just fun to do something you don’t get to do back home! After all, isn’t novelty half the fun of travelling in the first place? From Vegas to Germany, there are quite a few places in the world where you can drink on the street without worry. Here are a few of my personal favourites.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans doesn’t have strict open container laws, so you’re free to drink on the streets and footpaths as you please (and there are plenty of bars and restaurants that will accommodate with to-go cups). However, open glass containers are prohibited, so make sure you’re drinking out of plastic cups.
New Orleans is one of my favourite places, period, and it’s often called the Vegas of the South. Sure, Vegas has the Strip, and you’re welcome to drink on it while you squeeze and shuffle among the tourists, but for the most part, Vegas is all about hanging out at your hotel: The hotel nightclub, the hotel pool and, of course, the hotel casino. There is no reason to ever leave your hotel, which makes street drinking a little less exciting in Vegas.
In New Orleans, though, there’s so much happening outside, from tours to music, and it’s extra fun to walk around with a Hurricane in hand while you take it all in.
Japan doesn’t have any open container laws, but public drinking isn’t always socially acceptable (here’s a great thread on what people think about it). You won’t see much street drinking, but you might see people sitting down in a park with a cold one.
That said, Tokyo is fun for public drinking in Japan, just because there are so many tourists and so much going on, that it seems less likely to be frowned upon. And the rumours are true: There are alcohol vending machines all around Japan, but they’re actually pretty rare — I didn’t see a single one in Tokyo (though I did find one in Kyoto).
Like a lot of Scandinavian countries, Denmark doesn’t have super strict or rigorously enforced open container laws. Denmark’s seem to be even more relaxed than the rest of Scandinavia, though.
Not only is street drinking legal in Copenhagen, it’s socially acceptable and encouraged. If you visit Nyhavn, for instance, you can spend upwards of $15-$20 on a beverage at any one of the fancy restaurants along the canal. But you’ll probably just want to grab a beer from the grocery store for a few bucks and join the rest of us drinking on the waterfront — the view is just as nice. Again, Copenhagen is also great because the laws are so lax. In Sweden, if you want a drink with more than 3.5 per cent ABV, you can’t just go into a grocery store and get it. You’ll have to find a Systembolaget, a government-owned liquor store chain that isn’t always open. It’s easy and fun to drink on the streets in Copenhagen.
These are my favourites, but there are so many other tourist destinations with relaxed open container laws in the world: France, Germany, England, Wales, New Zealand, Hong Kong and China to name a few. There are some unlikely cities in the US, too. You can have beer or wine in public in Fredericksburg, Texas, for example. And Butte, Montana allows it except between the hours of 2AM and 8AM.