Shaken: The Dont’s of Alcohol Abroad is a report put out by the Overseas Security Advisory Council, a private sector collaborator with the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Service. In the report, they outline incredible tips for alcohol consumption abroad. (They are relevant inside the United States, too!)
Don’t drink homemade or counterfeit booze
All over the world people brew their own alcohol – even in the United States. Home brews are unregulated so the percentage of alcohol in home brews can vary dramatically. Some home brewers have a tendency to add cheap toxic chemicals like methanol to increase the alcohol level and volume of the drink. According to the report, 55 people have died and more than 150 were hospitalized in 2014 in Kenya and India after drinking tainted bootleg alcohol.
Don’t over-do it
It can be easier to become intoxicated when you are drinking alcohol abroad than when you are at home because the wine, beer, and liquor you drink in other countries may likely have a higher alcohol volume than you are used to at home. This can cause you to underestimate how much alcohol you are actually drinking. Being drunk in an unfamiliar place can lead to dangers, such as robbery, assaults, rape, falling, and even death.
Don’t compete with locals
Many cultural traditions around the globe involve imbibing vast quantities of alcohol in a short amount of time. You might think you want to be social and keep up with the locals to be friendly, but locals are more experienced with the alcohol being consumed and probably have higher alcohol tolerances. Trying to keep up can lead to risky levels of inebriation and problems with police, thieves, and people who will harm you.
Other things to watch out for
The report also warns you to be wary of “friendly stranger tricks,” such as buying rounds of drinks and sticking you with the tab. The State Department implores travelers to keep an eye on their drinks since roofies and date-rape drugs can become higher risks.
If you are inclined to Bring Your Own Booze (BYOB) in a suitcase, you need to understand local laws and customs. You may be detained, imprisoned, flogged, and sentenced to death if you become intoxicated in some countries country such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Saudia Arabia, to name a few. Even if it is legal for men to drink, women may not be allowed to do so. Some countries, like India, have laws that vary by state restricting consumption entirely on dry days, or by age ranging from 18 to 25, although in some cases beer and wine are allowed. Be aware of the alcohol laws at all of your destinations before you arrive.
We all know that drinking and driving don’t mix, but in some countries, the penalties can be even steeper than in the US. In China, for example, you could be sentenced to life behind bars for hurting someone while drunk driving. Be sure to have travel insurance that covers a stay in a private hospital because public hospitals may not be up to Western standards if you need medical attention. Don’t count on your health coverage back in the US to pay for healthcare. Healthcare abroad is often excluded from medical policies. And, medical evacuation is not generally covered but can cost upwards of $300,000 with prepay mandates.
“Overindulging alcohol can lead to blackouts, injury, assault, abuse, reckless behavior, impaired judgment and decision-making, long-term health consequences, and death. Medical care may not be up to Western standards, increasing the risk should medical attention be required. Cultural, linguistic, and ethno-national nuances may be heightened with increased alcohol consumption.”
–Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, OSAC Report
Depart Smart before you go abroad with travel safety skills and a plan to avoid risks and get help so you can travel like a HERO.