Drinking Alcohol Safely in Foreign Countries

Drinking Alcohol Safely in Foreign Countries

Drinking Alcohol Safely in Foreign Countries 540 720 Greg Ellifritz

Have you heard news reports about tourists being served tainted, poisoned, or adulterated alcohol in foreign countries?

It’s relatively rare, but it certainly happens.  There have been a couple recent articles written that provide tips to avoid being poisoned.  If you want some background info, check out:

How to Drink Safely On Vacation

Know the Risks When Drinking Spirit-Based Alcohol Away From Home


All of that is great advice, but I’ll share some additional experiences from nearly two decades of consuming homemade and locally made alcohol in third world countries.  To establish my drunken bona fides, here is some photographic evidence of my taste for third world hooch.


Roadside moonshine in El Salvador


Local rum with a friend in Cartegena, Colombia


I have no idea what the bartender is pouring down my throat. Bogota, Colombia


After the shots in Bogota, we set the bar and ceiling on fire with local moonshine.


Guifitty, a local rum/herb mixture in Honduras.


Home made rice wine on the street in Saigon, Vietnam.


With my bartender in Tanzania drinking banana beer


Mixing moonshine and Tang to create a beverage that tasted OK despite no refrigeration on an un-named island off the coast of Panama.


Buying moonshine straight from the still (in an old Jagermeister bottle) in rural Costa Rica.


Despite all of these insane adventures, I’m still here.  And I’m not even blind.  Here’s my personal strategy when evaluating the local stuff.


As a person who has enjoyed local brews on five different continents, I can tell you there is a safe way.  You don’t buy this stuff at your resort or at a tourist liquor store.  You ask a local to take you to the person who makes it.  Taxi drivers, hotel concierge staff, and tour guides know where to get the local homemade brew.


When you arrive you ask to sample a shot.  Of course, you are polite and offer to buy the seller a shot as well so that he drinks with you.  If he won’t drink his own brew, run away.  If he drinks with you (out of the same bottle) you are probably pretty safe.   I’ve done this a lot of places and I’m not blind yet.


It’s safest to buy your own alcohol at the duty free shop in the airport, but where’s the fun in that?  If you want to try something a bit more adventurous, remember my strategy.