Tourist Tip #49 / Late-night Drinking Etiquette

New legislation bans grocery liquor sales between certain hours in Israel, so employ a little strategy to make sure you can enjoy your tipples without paying through the nose.

There is generally a relaxed attitude toward alcohol in Israel. The drinking age of 18 is loosely enforced, bars stay open until the last customer stumbles home, and it's not uncommon to see young people drinking beer on the street or enjoying a bottle of wine in the park.

But with youth binge drinking on the rise, the attitude is changing, and there has been something of a crackdown on nighttime drinking.

In 2010, the Knesset passed legislation banning the sale of alcohol outside of bars and restaurants between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. This means that those of us used to starting, or ending, our nights out with a beer from the corner shop have had to change our ways.

On your next visit, you may be tempted to circumvent this law by planning ahead – buying your alcohol earlier in the day and then taking it with you at night. Unfortunately, the new legislation precludes this approach by prohibiting public alcohol consumption during the same nighttime hours. If police catch you outside with an open container, they can pour out your drink.

Your safest bet these days is the old-fashioned pregame: Enjoy a beverage, or several, wherever you’re staying before heading out for the night. Or you can always bite the boozy bullet and pay for your drinks at a restaurant or bar. Although this approach is pricier – beer delivered by a waiter or bartender costs upwards of NIS 25 ($6) as compared to about NIS 12 ($3) at a kiosk or grocery store, with an even steeper markup on wine and liquor – at least it will get you into your favorite venue before the crowds converge. This is especially important in Tel Aviv where popular places tend to fill up early, even on weeknights.