I hold Swedish passport and I am traveling to UK this month. I've read that the legal age of drinking alcohol in UK is 16 to 18 depending on the type of beverage.

I am an undergraduate student and look about 18. Can I use my university card (Swedish uni) in place of my passport in bar entries? Since a typical university student is 18 or above so, can my university card be shown as a proof of age, even if it doesn't have a date of birth on it?

  • On a purely technical note, as your source notes, those are the UK ages to buy alcohol, and to consume it in public premises. Your parents can give you alcohol in private younger.
    – origimbo
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 1:53
  • @origimbo, I thought that maybe I can guess the rules of bars through the rules of buying alcohol. I want to experience bars in UK not just about drinking.
    – user41592
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 2:05
  • Yes, that's what 90% of the law on drinking in the UK is actually about. However there are places where drinking alcohol anywhere below 18 or 21 is illegal. To avoid confusing other people, it's also worth explicitly pointing out that the 16 and 17 exception in bars applies only to drinking and not buying alcohol, and that pubs generally can choose to accept (non-drinking) children with adults.
    – origimbo
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 2:15
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    Many European visitors/tourist do not have other ID with them, so I bet many bars and so on in the touristy areas are used to see them.
    – Willeke
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 13:16
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    Well think about it. There can't be any guarantee of success if you are not really 18 so you are asking whether you might fool the staff. Maybe this card will help and maybe it won't. My guess is that it won't help much. Either you could talk your way in with no ID or you won't get in with this. Either way, be ready to say what your "birthday" is. Here, you don't need to carry your licence when driving. The cops will commonly ask for your date of birth, often repeatedly. If you are not telling the genuine one then you might slip.
    – badjohn
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 19:18

3 Answers 3


According to Drinkaware:

Acceptable forms of ID to prove you are over 18 include:

This does not include foreign university identification.

  • 5
    Anecdotally, I got my first university ID at 16. It doesn't work to prove age. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 0:55
  • However though it may be legally OK many bouncers won't accept PASS cards. I had a bad experience with this one in my younger days. To be on the safe side get a drivers license. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 10:21
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    In Scotland it's fairly common to start university at 17. No one who knows what they are doing ought to accept a university card as proof of age.
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 11:53

Since 72D has clarified they are interested in just entering drinking premises as well as in ordering alcohol in them, it might be worth summarising the relevant UK drinking culture, and how it relates to age checks. I'm too old now for a lot of this to be recent personal experience, and some of the legal points are a bit different in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but I don't believe things have changed that massively.

Firstly, the legalities on children:

  • Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult when in places where the sale of alcohol is the main business (i.e. public houses, bars and nightclubs rather than restaurants). They can't buy or drink alcohol.

  • 16 & 17 year olds are allowed unaccompanied. They can't buy alcohol, but can drink beer or wine with a meal if purchased by an adult with them.

Next the implementation. This depends a lot on the type of place and the time of day.

  • Hotel bars will typically only ever check on ordering.
  • Public houses (pubs) will generally check at the bar, except for places that get rowdy enough in the evenings (mostly in town centres, especially student towns) to employ doormen/bouncers.These days many English and Welsh pubs follow "Think 21" and card anyone ordering alcohol who looks under 21 to check that they are over 18. In Scotland this is "Think 25". A few places may be over 21s only.
  • Larger wine bars and cocktail bars are much more likely to check at the door, and to set their own higher age range.

  • Nightclubs all have door staff, and may have many, many house rules to be admitted. In particular large all male groups are known for being told to look elsewhere.

You have marginally more chance of convincing a doorman to let you in with non-standard ID (passport, PASS card, or EU driving licence) than you do of using it when getting served alcohol, since the in the first case the establishment isn't actually committing an offence and thus isn't at risk of losing its licence. However, if the place is busy enough to have a doorman, they're still very likely to tell you to go elsewhere. If you just want a typically British experience, without fuss or argument and without the risk of losing your passport, stick to smaller pubs, early on weekday evenings and to soft drinks. You may even get to experience a pub quiz or a meat raffle.

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    In Scotland, a person between 16&18 can by alcohol (beer, cider, non-fortifed wine) with a meal, and without parental consent.
    – CSM
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 12:21

Legally; no.

There are only a few forms of ID that are legally acceptable;

  • Passport
  • Drivers License
  • PASS Card

However the third one of these is not widely accepted. Generally a drivers license is taken as the standard form of ID in the UK.

Two points on this however:

  1. The UK drivers license looks just like the Swedish drivers license and they will not be so strict in the UK about accepting this as Systemet can be about accepting UK licenses (Nordic only is their rule, and they stick to it).

  2. You don’t need a full drivers license. A provisional license is fine.

Further to this…IDs are checked sporadically and generally bouncers and barmen use their own judgement. If you are in a student area and amongst a group of other students, then it is rare that they will ever bother to check your ID; many British kids use this to their advantage to drink illegally.

Overall- no you can't rely on your uni ID card to guarantee you will be served. It isn't useless, it might convince some people, but don't rely on it.

The best thing to do is take a photocopy of your passport or your driving license (a provisional is OK).

  • The best thing to do is take a photocopy of your passport I think this will see you laughed out the door. A photocopy is too easy to doctor, and of course you could find a friend who is over 18 and looks like you, and photocopy their passport.
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 11:43
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    As there is no law in the UK which requires anyone to ask for ID when selling alcohol, there is no such thing as "legally acceptable" in this concept. It's up to the person selling the alcohol to decide whether they want to see ID and which types of ID they accept.
    – Daveoc64
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 13:23
  • @Daveoc64 Having said that, if there's a later prosecution for selling under age, it's up to the court to decide if their choice was one a reasonable person would accept, assuming they use "but he showed me ID!" as a defence.
    – origimbo
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 18:51

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