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Unless you've lived in England, you'll find that pubs are very different from bars in other countries. It's important to remember that pubs are usually a social centre, in the way that a church used to be, and people often use them as extensions of their own homes.

Pubs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are modern and metallic, with loud music; others are wooden and cosy, with real fires. Some are new and serve the latest cocktails; others are five hundred years old and have centuries of tradition.

Most serve food as informal bar-food, but many also have a full restaurant with an excellent menu. Typically, pubs stop serving food at about 9:00pm. So, if you're in the country, find a pub early and reserve a table, because everything may be completely full by 8:00pm.


There is no table service in most pubs. You order and pay for drinks at the bar. If you're buying drinks for a group, the bar staff will expect you to pay for all of the drinks together. Only one or two of you need go to the bar - the rest of your group should find a table, or somewhere to stand. If you want to pay separately, order separately.

Pubs are one of the few places where the British donít queue. Although everyone seems to stand wherever they can, the bar staff do know who is next. It's not polite to speak loudly to attract attention, so try eye contact.

Know what you want to order - bar staff hate waiting for you to make up your mind. Stand back from the bar whilst you decide so that other people can be served - this is a good opportunity to look at the range of drinks and see what other people order.


Bitter is Traditional British Ale, or beer. It's usually a clear dark golden brown in colour and rarely served ice-cold. Ask for either a 'half' (280ml) or a 'pint' (568ml) of bitter. Donít just ask for 'a beer please'. There are at least 20 different beers on sale in most pubs so, if you are not sure what you want, ask the bar staff to recommend one.

Lager is served cold. Lagers include international beers such as Heineken or Budweiser. They're usually served in halves or pints, although you often buy bottles of lager.

Spirits, such as whisky, gin, and brandy, are sold in quite small measures in Britain. Wine is usually sold by the glass.


You must be 18 or over to buy and drink alcohol in a pub. You must not buy alcohol for anyone under the age of 18. If the staff in the pub think that you are under 18 they will not serve you unless you can prove your age - with acceptable ID. Acceptable ID may need to have your photograph and date of birth, such as a passport or driving licence.

You can normally go into a pub at 14 or over, but you mustn't drink or buy alcohol. Many pubs now allow younger children in, particularly where food is eaten. Some pubs now have a childrenís certificate, which means they have special permission to allow in children under 14. Ask in a pub for more information about ID cards.


Pubs are open 11:00 - 23:00, Monday to Saturday, and 12:00 - 22.30 on Sundays. Some pubs have special permission to open different hours and nightclubs are usually open until much later.


When the time comes to close the bar, you'll hear a bell ring as a final reminder that you have to buy your last drink if you want one. You then have about 20 minutes to finish your drinks and leave the pub.


A lot of people suddenly appear on the streets just after 11pm and not all of them are sober and well behaved. To make sure you stay out of trouble, make your way home quietly - not forgetting the chips or Kebab of course!


Choose a driver who won't drink, use public transport, or call for a taxi. Driving whilst over the alchohol limit is an offence, and it's even an offence to be drunk in charge of a bicycle. By the way, walking can be dangerous too - 36% of pedestrians killed in 1998 were over the alchohol limit for driving!

Copyright and Permission: Camguide Publications Linited 2002

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