• Alex Gerlach

A Traveler's Guide To International Drugs And Alcohol

Updated: Jun 19

There are a lot of different factors we consider when traveling internationally: what we need to pack, have an up-to-date passport, convert money, etc. We don’t think about drugs and alcohol until they stare us in the face.


Whether you want to know about laws and regulations or how to handle contact with illegal drugs internationally, this is the guide for you.

Many travelers consider drugs and alcohol as part of the travel experience
Many travelers consider drugs and alcohol as part of the travel experience

Before I dive into all the technicalities, I want to describe my personal experience with both drugs and alcohol while I studied abroad in Europe. Living in London, drinking and going to pubs is a huge part of their culture. So, I did a lot of drinking while I was there. This more relaxed attitude toward what would be considered heavy drinking in the US was definitely a huge cultural shock.

Not only is the attitude different, but the cost of alcohol is also much less compared to the US. So much so, that in some places I found alcohol was cheaper to buy than a bottle of water. I remember seeing a 6-pack of Corona for less than a dollar at a corner store in Madrid. I could find bottles of wine at the Tesco around the corner for £3.


When it comes to drugs, I had a few encounters during my travels. While I was in Amsterdam, I went to a coffee shop, an establishment that sells hash and marijuana. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that marijuana is legal in the Netherlands, it’s only decriminalized.

*As of 2020-2021, the Amsterdam City Council has proposed a ban on marijuana for foreign tourists.

Amsterdam's coffee shops have been a destination for many travelers
Amsterdam's coffee shops have been a destination for many travelers

That encounter with marijuana was a planned activity. However, I did have another instance that wasn’t the most comfortable. While on a week trip to Italy, my friend and I traveled to Venice.


After arriving and trying to get to our hotel, we passed a group of people smoking out of pipes in an underpass. I think we both instantly tensed as we walked by. They called out to us, “hi.” Without looking in their direction, we said hi and kept walking. Luckily, nothing else happened and we made it safely to our hotel.

Drug dealers are a common site in many large cities around the world
Drug dealers are a common site in many large cities around the world

That experience was very uncomfortable, and one I didn’t expect to have while on vacation. It’s something you don’t think about – I know I didn’t. The reality is that illicit drug use and trafficking happens all over the globe, so it’s important to be informed and cautious.


International Laws and Regulations

Laws and regulations for the consumption of drugs or alcohol are variable across the world. Some countries have no legal drinking age, while others strictly prohibit it. Typically, each country has its own legal drinking age and purchasing age, which we encourage you to research before your trip.


But, it's important to remember that the use and possession of illicit drugs are illegal all over the world.

Know the country's laws before you take any stupid risks
Know the country's laws before you take any stupid risks

Tips for Safe Encounters With Drugs and Alcohol

Unfortunately, some encounters with drugs and alcohol while traveling may not be fun or comfortable. But there are a few things you can do to ensure the safest possible experience:

  • Research and Adhere to Local Laws and Regulations

  • Practice safe consumption practices like proper hydration, eating food, and knowing your limit.

  • If you come into contact with illicit drugs, leave the situation and contact local authorities if necessary.

Always research and be responsible when traveling to a foreign country
Always research and be responsible when traveling to a foreign country

Above all, always be aware and cautious. Using substances can be a great way to experience other cultures and enhance your travel experience when done safely, legally, and responsibly.

 

Want to know more? Are you interested in becoming a contributor for Pedacitos? We'd love to hear your stories! Send me a message and I will get back to you!

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