The minimum legal drinking age in Peru is 18 years of age. This age restriction applies to both the consumption and purchase of alcohol, as detailed in Law 28681, the “Law that Regulates the Marketing, Consumption, and Advertising of Alcoholic Beverages.”
Alcohol is sold in many different establishments throughout Peru, including bars, discos, cafes, liquor stores, large supermarkets, and small grocery stores. By law, any establishment selling alcohol must display the following message: “Prohibida la venta de bebidas alcohólicas a menores de 18 años” (“It is prohibited to sell alcoholic beverages to people under the age of 18”).
Enforcement of the Legal Drinking Age
While the written law may be ironclad, the practice of observing the minimum age for alcohol consumption is variable at best. It’s not uncommon, for example, for a 15-year-old to buy a few beers in a small store. Many establishments do not ask for identification, at least not to the extent found in countries such as the United States and in the United Kingdom, and many vendors do not bother worrying about the legal drinking age.
As for drinking at home, it sometimes seems like there are no limits whatsoever when it comes to underage drinking. According to DEVIDA (Peru's National Commission for Development and Life Without Drugs), four out of ten schoolchildren in Peru have consumed alcohol, while the average age for first consumption of alcohol is 13 (with reports of children as young as eight trying alcohol for the first time). Don't be surprised if you see 10-year-olds drinking chicha (an inexpensive fermented corn beer) with their families (or by themselves) at parties or in the streets throughout the country.
The Minimum Drinking Age in Bars and Discotecas (Dance Clubs) in Peru
Bars and dance clubs in Peru are expected to abide by and enforce the minimum legal drinking age. Fortunately, many do observe this law, and you will see bartenders and bouncers ask for identification. This, of course, limits a good amount, if not all underage drinkers from entering these adult environments.
At the same time, many bars and discotecas habitually ignore underage drinking, but this often depends on the location of the bar or disco and the priorities of the local authorities. A disco in the Miraflores district of Lima, for example, may have a strict identification policy at the door, knowing that local authorities are likely to hear rumors of any underage drinking and are likely to inspect the establishment. A large dance club on the outskirts of Tarapoto, on the other hand, could be full of slightly intoxicated 15-year-olds and no one would pay much notice.
If you are heading to a nightclub in Peru, it's a good idea to at least take a photocopy of your passport, especially if you are very young (or look younger than you are). It's unlikely that you'll be denied access at the door, but not impossible, especially at the more exclusive nightclubs in Lima, so it's always good to be prepared.