I will be travelling to Scotland later this month and plan on visiting a few pubs and drinking some alcohol. And, while I am above the legal drinking age of Scotland, I can look quite young sometimes and get carded somewhat frequently here in Switzerland. My problem now is that I currently do not posses a valid passport as it expired about 6 years ago, but I do posses a valid Swiss identity card with a picture of me alongside my birthday. I didn't worry about this until a few days ago when a friend said that Scottish pubs do not accept Swiss ID cards as proof of age and that I should carry my passport with me instead.

Now, after doing some research, I found drinkaware.co.uk which lists these three options:

  • A photo driving license
  • A passport
  • A proof of age card, such as the PASS card from the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme

As I posses neither a driving license, a passport nor a proof of age card, it seems like I'm out of luck. So I guess my question is this: Will I be able to purchase alcohol in pubs and restaurants with just a Swiss ID card?

  • 2
    Just to say, I was never carded in the UK when I visited (I was 20), perhaps because the amount of alcohol I try to purchase (usually no more than a pint) and they find no point to scrutinize.
    – xuq01
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 20:45
  • 1
    @xuq01 That anecdotal evidence says nothing. I was carded in the UK at the age of 35. My national ID was accepted without any issue. There and at many other official occasions. I did not really carry my passport. Even when flying in the UK I always used my ID. Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 22:33
  • Anecdotal evidence: I bought alcohol and visited pubs in the UK multiple times (although in Wales, not Scotland) using a Russian driving licence as a proof of my age without any issues (and they did ask almost every time). Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 8:53
  • May I ask how you intend to travel to Scotland? If you travel from Switzerland you need a passport or national identity card. visitscotland.com/about/practical-information/…
    – ghellquist
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 16:20
  • @ghellquist I stated in my question that I own a valid Swiss identity carf
    – MindSwipe
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 17:22

3 Answers 3


It heavily varies by place and even by person serving you.

Despite their being legally acceptable PASS cards are rarely accepted. They’re unfamiliar to most people so if they doubt your age they won’t accept them. A Swiss national ID card would likely carry the same stigma. Its a fairly well known trick amongst kids to get fake foreign ID and put on an accent.

Usually a driving license is the only thing that will pass muster. Considering how similar they are to UK licenses a Swiss driving license would likely be fine but a national ID might be iffy as we have nothing comparable in the UK.

It also often varies heavily by what you are ordering and your general behaviour and manner. Very often I found when I was young that some pubs would happily serve people they knew to be under-age if they felt you were sensible enough and weren’t going too mad. At shops too expect more scrutiny if you’re buying several bottles of cheap vodka vs. A bottle of decent wine along with your food shopping.

However….this is very much based off regular life in the UK. In touristy areas there will probably be more familiarity with foreign ID and the concept of national ID cards.

I’d suggest getting a provisional driving license if possible. If not then make sure to take a photocopy of your passport alongside your ID card, just in case.

Being on your best behaviour and acting like an adult is overall the best way to ensure you get served.

  • Thanks for the input. I don't have an accent and funnily enough it's gotten me into more "problems" than if I had had one (e.g when trying to help tourists, them not believing me). Also, a provisional driving license is quite expensive and complicated to get here in Switzerland, it would easily take about 2 weeks and cost around 200-300 francs, and I'm not ready to pay that much for something I'll use a week and then not any more. Plus, my old passport expired in 2014 and was issued in 2009, I don't think I can convince anyone that's actually me on the photo
    – MindSwipe
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 11:00
  • Swiss DLs look nothing like UK ones
    – Crazydre
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 14:06
  • 1
    Swiss ID are like driving license (EU style), so this should be well known. OTOH I also prefer driving license to proof my age. Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 14:18

In reality most places in the UK tend to be quite relaxed about the situation. Some countries like the USA are strict and you will be asked for ID almost every time if you are under 25 or 30 years old. But it does not occur so often in the UK in pubs and clubs (supermarkets are often stricter).

But of course some places will be stricter than others.
(I also used to look young when I was 18 - 20, but in reality was very rarely asked to prove my age!).

But if you are asked to prove your age the issue you are going to face is that the average person serving drinks or allowing admittance to licenced premises has probably never heard of let alone seen a Swiss national identity card. Or any national identity card!

This is because in the UK there are no identity cards issued at all. And all international travel is done with the use of a passport only.

This is why the official advice is a photo driving licence, a passport, or a UK only "proof of age card". As these are accepted and trusted sources, and most people would have experience of them and trust them. And they are difficult for the average under 18 drinker to easily forge.

This is probably where your friend suggested using your Swiss passport. As even if they have never seen one before, most people would feel confident about it proving your identity in comparison to an ID card.

In the UK then it is up to the person serving you to decide if they feel you are old enough or not and if not ask for ID.

So it could be that: - You never get asked on your whole trip - You get asked in some places and they accept your Swiss ID - You get asked in some places and they reject your Swiss ID

So I would suggest that to be safer you could take your passport anyway. They either won't look at or care about the validity. Although, of course the photo has to be recent enough so that it still looks like you!

Or you can risk it. But accept that in some places you might get refused and you need to go somewhere else.

  • Problem with my passport is that it expired in 2014 and that I look nothing like the picture. So I guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and hope I find a pub that'll serve me. Thanks for the alternate point of view
    – MindSwipe
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 11:00
  • @MindSwipe: Consider getting a new passport: it is much easier to travel (e-gates in CH and in UK), and with passport you get nearly for free also a new ID card. Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 14:20
  • Thing is, Swiss bureaucracy is 2 things, slow and incredibly expensive. I'll be lucky if I get the passport at the end of april, except if pay some ludicrous sum to get it done within a week. Plus, I'm planning on travelling outside of Schengen in the next 2 years (partly because I can't afford it)
    – MindSwipe
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 14:33

If the picture clearly looks like you and the card has your date of birth in an obvious format like 03/10/1995 (or 1995/10/03 although we are less used to the ISO standard in the UK) then you should be OK. Even 03 Okt 1995 although that may take some explanation. I suggest you say that you only have your Swiss document but it does have the date of birth and point to it. If the date is labelled in any of the official languages of your country you may strike lucky and the server can read that language.

Note by the way that the rule applies to buying alcohol for someone not just your self. I have had one of my lunch companions asked for ID when I tried to buy a bottle of wine for three of us to share. So if you get rejected in the supermarket it is no good turning to the old age pensioner behind you in the queue and asking them to buy it for you.

  • I just checked, the format is dd mm yyyy, so a pretty standard format. Plus, it also says "Date of Birth" above it
    – MindSwipe
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 14:37
  • 1
    As the card is enough to enter the UK, it should also be enough to get a drink in a pub.
    – Willeke
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 16:08
  • @Willeke that is logical but we are dealing with people who make rules here and at least in the UK their grasp of logic is not always that strong.
    – mdewey
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 16:15
  • I have traveled often in the UK with a Dutch ID card and at no time it has not been recognized. That is mostly in hotels as I am clearly over the age where alcohol is allowed. (I have even used that same EU card in North America and had it accepted.
    – Willeke
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 16:24

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