The pub

Two young men sitting on a sofa inside an old pub

One of the most popular ways to spend an evening in the UK is to go to the pub. ‘Pub’ is an abbreviation of ‘public house’ – a place where people in the community can come together.

Pubs, inns and ale houses have existed in the UK for centuries. Many are beautiful, ancient buildings. No-one is quite sure which is the oldest surviving pub in the UK, but at 800 years old, it could well be ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem’ in Nottingham.

You will find pubs in virtually every city, town and village in the UK. Many hold evening events, such as karaoke, football match screenings, music gigs and pub quizzes. Some will also have an outdoor area, or 'beer garden', where you can eat or drink while soaking up the sun during the summer.

All pubs in the UK serve non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcoholic ones, and many serve food, so you don’t have to drink alcohol to have a pub experience.

Most pubs are very welcoming, safe places but a minority can be rowdy. Make sure you choose pubs with a friendly atmosphere where you feel comfortable. If in doubt, ask staff or students at your school, college or university for recommendations.

Age limits

In the UK, you need to be 18 or over before you can buy alcohol in a pub. It is against the law for someone under 18 to buy alcohol, attempt to buy alcohol or to be sold alcohol. To prove your age, pubs and shops selling alcohol will ask to see a form of ID, such as a passport or driver’s licence.

It is also illegal for someone under 18 to drink alcohol in a pub or other type of licensed premises, except where the child is 16 or 17 years old and accompanied by an adult. In this case it is legal for them to drink – but not buy – beer, wine and cider with a meal. Find out more at Drinkaware.

Responsible drinking

Some international students come from a culture where alcohol is not widely available. It can be tempting to drink a lot when you arrive, because of the new freedom, but drinking too much alcohol can be dangerous for your health and safety.

If you want to drink alcohol, make sure you do so responsibly. Read Responsible drinking advice from Drinkaware to find out more.

'The pub is a culture of camaraderie that has little to do with alcohol. I learned more in pubs, talking with friends and teachers, than in libraries (and I did spend quite some time in libraries)!'
~ Mariana, 30, from Peru

'The best thing about the pub is that nobody cares about your gender, nationality or social status – everyone is welcome! For students, it is not only a great place to catch up with friends but also a chance to meet local people, get an insight on the British way of life, and improve your English.'
~ Patricia, 22, from Switzerland