Alcohol is one of the most popular beverages consumed across the world. In fact, it is estimated that some 1 in every four adults consumes alcohol regularly. The incidence is even higher in Jamaica with 40 percent of the population or four out of every 10 people reporting that they currently use alcohol.
In addition, Jamaica has lots and lots of bars across the island. In 2020, the country’s local government ministry estimated that there were over 11,000 bars in Jamaica.
If you’re traveling to the country on vacation, you may have questions about the drinking culture. For instance, is drinking allowed everywhere? Where is liquor sold? Do resorts serve alcohol? Great questions, continue below for the answers you need.
Compared to the United States where the drinking age is 21 and India where it is 25, Jamaica is pretty liberal. Once you are 18 and above, you can drink legally in Jamaica. While the legally permissible age is 18, young people in the country are generally exposed to alcohol years earlier. This is because of the culture around drinking and how acceptable it is. For instance, many places across the island do not require Identification Cards to be produced to buy alcohol.
Jamaica is not an alcohol-prohibitive state, so there are not many laws surrounding the use of the drug. When it comes to children though, there are strict prohibitions about the use and sale of alcohol.
Section 40 of the country’s Child Protection Act explicitly states that no intoxicating liquor or tobacco product is to be sold or served by any establishment to a child. Likewise, no child should be employed by an establishment to sell or assist in the selling of intoxicating liquor or tobacco products. Breaches of either statute could result in jail time or other penalties.
Drinking is socially acceptable across Jamaica. In fact, alcohol is widely incorporated into social gatherings and even some traditions. For example, alcohol is popularly served at traditional nine nights or wakes which celebrate someone who has passed. For burials, alcohol is sprinkled on the ground in a sort of ritual that pays homage to those that have passed.
Some popular holidays celebrated across the island also include foods and drinks that have alcoholic components. A common example is the traditional sorrel drink that is served at Christmas. This drink is made using the sorrel plant and healthy amounts of rum which is produced locally. The popular Christmas cake that forms part of the December celebrations also incorporates red wine as one of its staple ingredients.
So while vacationing on the island, be sure to check the ingredients of products that you are not accustomed to, if you are not open to consuming alcohol.
Like the rest of the island, hotels are very liberal about drinking. It’s almost a given that hotels in Jamaica are outfitted with a full-service bar. Some have multiple bars across their resorts, with pool bars also common at larger hotels. At all-inclusive resorts, alcohol is generally included in the accommodation costs and guests have access to free alcoholic beverages and mixed drinks. It is also common for all-inclusives to have mini bars in each room that they stack with mini liquor and alcoholic beverages.
While the rest of the island might not enforce the laws around the drinking age, hotels will. So be prepared to show your ID if it is not an adult-only resort.
Jamaica’s liquor laws are mild when compared to other jurisdictions. The country’s drinking age is also low compared to some countries, particularly those in North America.
Drinking is very common in Jamaica, and alcohol is even infused into a lot of the traditional foods and household drinks. Drinking at a younger age than the age stipulated by law is also pretty common and minors can buy alcohol at a lot of places without being asked for their identification. So if you are traveling to Jamaica with children, this is something to be mindful of.