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Alcohol

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You probably know by now that I’m not a big drinker. I say I drink when I have to, and that’s not often. Thus, I’m always on the lookout for the best non-alcoholic drinks around the world to enjoy when I’m traveling.

Smoothies and Juices

These two go without saying and are available in nearly every part of the world. I’m particularly fond of the juices and smoothies in southeast Asia. Not only are they often prepared fresh in front of you, they’re also very cheap. Some of my favorite juice bars in Chiang Mai, Thailand sell a large smoothie for less than $1. You just have to make sure you ask for “no sugar”, as they love to add a thick sugar water.

Smoothies in Luang Prabang

Another country that stands out for its juices is Romania – particularly the lemonades. In Timisoara, Romania, they offer well over a dozen flavors of lemonade, all made with fresh fruit or other ingredients. Peach, blueberry, and pineapple were my favorites. I purchased quite a few on the hot days I was there back in 2015, especially since they were also about $1 each.

In some places, the juice scene is just starting to catch on. I was surprised to see how long it took Edinburgh to open a few juice bars. In the past couple years, Hula Juice Bar opened a couple shops, but otherwise, I used to get my smoothies from Black Medicine Coffee…which I still think makes the best fruit drinks in town.

Third Wave Coffee

On the subject of coffee, I’m doing everything in my power not to be addicted. That’s extremely hard when I’m based in Edinburgh, which has some of the best cafes anywhere. That the city where I learned what third wave coffee is, but this hipster version of coffee isn’t just available in Edinburgh.

In a nutshell, third wave coffee isn’t Folgers pre-ground instant coffee (first wave), nor mass-produce single-origin coffee like Starbucks (second wave). Wikipedia defines third wave coffee well by saying, “Distinct from the first two waves, the third wave of coffee disrupts the more commodity-focused trade of coffee and prioritizes taste quality, unique flavors, and equitable relationships over low prices and standardizations in flavor.”

Many of the backpacker and hipster hubs around the world have several cafes serving this type of coffee. In Bucharest, Romania I enjoyed several cups at Origo Cafe. In Chiang Mai, it was Ristr8to Lab, Akha Ama la Fattoria, and SS1254372 Cafe. While staying in Rotterdam this summer, my favorite cafe to visit was Bagels & Beans where they get all their coffee from a small family-run plantation in Panama.

Cuba Coffee #2

If you do happen to make it to Edinburgh, there are almost too many cafes to choose from. My favorites include Castello Coffee, Black Medicine Coffee, Machina Expresso, Fortitude Coffee, Wellingtons and Cult Espresso. I used to like Brew Lab, but they were recently bought out by the London-based company Union, and it just doesn’t feel the same anymore there. I’ll have to get a full post out soon on all these cafes.

Black Medicine Coffee Mocha

Kombucha

The first time I had kombucha was at By Hand Pizzeria in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’ve tried it a couple more times since then, such as at Frenchie’s Cafe in Haarlem, Netherlands. This is the only fermented (and slightly alcoholic) beverage I have on my list, although the alcoholic content is usually about 0.5%. I certainly don’t drink it for the alcohol or even health benefits, but rather for the unique taste. I’ve heard it’s become more popular in the States since I left. I’d recommend trying it if you happen to run across it at a cafe or restaurant in your travels.

 

French Bulldog at Frenchie Cafe in Haarlem

Indian Chai

When I watched Slumdog Millionaire when it came out in 2008, I was stumped at what a chai wallah was. Googling it, I learned a wallah is a person who makes and/or sells a commodity. Chai is the Indian word for tea, but not in the sense that we think of tea (a tea bag in a cup of hot water). While they use black tea leaves as a base, this is then mixed with ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and other spices.

This is quite different from the Chai tea lattes I’ve been purchasing from cafes since long before I started traveling. While those are enjoyable, they’re usually made from a powder. I haven’t been to India yet, but I’ve been to Little India, a neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There, I visited a hole in the wall restaurant where they placed a large banana leaf on the table and then spooned rice and curry directly on to the leaf to eat with your fingers. I ordered a chai, which came in two small vessels – a small steel cup inside a bowl to catch the spills. This was nothing like the bastardized cafe drink popularized by Starbucks in the late 90s; it was so much better!

Chai Tea at Indian Restaurant #3

Since then, I’ve found a handful of Indian restaurants around the world that serve a chai that’s up to par. One was 10 to 10 Dehli in Edinburgh. I always ask restaurants if their chai is homemade, although I’ll still probably get it if it isn’t. I’ll even order the Chai latte more often than not when I see that a cafe is serving one.

My 10 Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drinks Around the World 1

Thai Tea

I didn’t try Thai tea before my first visit to Thailand. Now I can’t stop drinking it, and I even have the ingredients to make it at home in the UK. Some people refer to it as orange tea. It’s a special blend of black tea which turns orange when it’s mixed with sweetened condensed milk. It’s almost always served over ice, and couldn’t be more delicious in the hot weather of Thailand.

Selfie with Thai Tea

If you want to make this at home, you can order the tea leaves online. The name is in Thai, but in English, the package says “Number One Brand” with red and gold packaging. In the US and UK, I use Carnation sweetened condensed milk, and I usually put in a little less than the recommended amount of sugar. There are a bunch of Youtube videos that show how to make Thai tea correctly.

Mexican Horchata

Horchata can refer to several different beverages produced in Central and South America and in Africa. The variety I’m familiar with is horchata de arroz from Mexico, made with rice milk. As with many of these drinks, the best horchata I found in Mexico City was at street vendors. Not every Mexican restaurant has the drink available; I’ve actually had a hard time finding it around the world outside Mexico, but I can always look forward to it when I’m back in Latin America.

Moroccan Mint Tea

Mint tea is obviously available in far more places than just Morocco. It’s one of the most popular beverages in Korea (per my English students) and I had some delicious cups in Turkey, but the Moroccan blend really stood out for me. The Moroccan version is correctly known as Maghrebi mint tea. It’s more than simply a drink in Morocco. Just like vodka is part of the bonding process in Russia, Moroccans use mint tea ceremoniously when welcoming guests.

Server Pouring Moroccan Mint Tea

My favorite part about Moroccan mint tea (aside from the delicious taste) is the presentation. In order to create the bubbles in the cup, the tea is poured from high, sometimes several feet in the air. It’s always fun to watch servers pour with perfect accuracy. Just give it a second to cool down. The glasses rarely have handles and they can be really hot!

Vietnamese Egg Coffee

I’d never heard of egg coffee before I landed in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. On my first day walking through the city, I saw a cafe advertising it and thought it was perhaps a joke. Intrigued, I ordered a cup. It was delicious! It was as if someone had topped a really good espresso with a large dollop of custard cream. Well, that’s exactly what it is.

A couple days later, I joined a local food tour where I got to learn the real scoop on Cà Phê Trứng (Vietnamese for egg coffee). It was started in 1946 by a guy named Nguyen Giang. While thousands of cafes have tried to copy his legendary drink over the years, he keeps his recipe highly guarded and it tastes truly unique. I know this as the tour took us to the original cafe where he served egg coffee. That cafe, called Cafe Giang, is now managed by his son, while a second cafe in the center of town, Café Đinh, is managed by his daughter. They stick to the original recipe and, although the price might have risen over the years, a cup of egg coffee will only set you back $0.65!

Vietnamese Egg Coffee

Malaysian Iced Cham

This next one is super unique, and probably an acquired taste for most. Iced cham is a mixture of coffee and tea in proper ratio. That might sound crazy, but I found it surprisingly good. It was really refreshing, especially considering how hot Kuala Lumpur was when I visited. I’ve heard this drink is also available in Hong Kong under the name yuenyeung, and in Ethiopia where it’s called spreeze. If you find yourself in any of these locations, I’d recommend trying out a cup for yourself. Maybe you won’t like it, but maybe you will.

Iced Cham Drink

Kompot

Finally, I have to mention kompot (or compot as some countries spell it). This drink is served throughout much of Europe and Asia. It’s made by cooking fruit (such as strawberries, peaches, cherries, or many others) in large quantities of water, mixed with sugar or raisins, and sometimes spiced. It’s never brewed to the point where it develops alcohol. Some countries have started serving juice more than kompot, as this drink stems from the days when food was rationed out and fruit was received in limited quantities.

Kompot in Krakow

I first ran across kompot in Odessa, Ukraine (one of the countries where it’s still very popular). A couple years later, I had a glass on my food tour in Krakow, Poland. Granted, I’d probably go for juice over kompot if it’s available, as kompot is sometimes a bit watery. However, I still really like the flavor and grab a glass now and then when I see it.

Bonus: My Special Drink

There’s one more drink worth mentioning, but not something I’ve ever found while traveling the world. It’s a concoction I had as a child, made by my healthy parents, and I continued to use it often when I lived in Los Angeles where I needed electrolyte boosts to combat the heat.

My special drink is made primarily with honey, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. All three of these ingredients have huge benefits. While I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, I’ve felt much healthier when making this drink on a regular basis. If I’m feeling a little sick, I’ll also add a bit of cayenne pepper, or some powdered ginger if it’s hot outside. Similarly, I’ll serve it hot in the cold months, and over ice in the summer.

As to the proportions, it’s completely based on taste. I like my apple cider vinegar strong, and I use the Bragg brand if I can find it. This isn’t medical advice, but I’d say you’d need at least a teaspoon of ACV per glass. If that seems strong to you, just increase the lemon juice and honey to neutralize the kick.

 

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One More Thing

If you know another non-alcoholic drink around the world that I need to try, please let me know so I can make sure to get them when I’m in their respective countries.

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Non-Alcoholic Drinks Around the World Pin

Further Reading

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Aside from the fact that I was born in the generation of Millennials, it just might possibly be that my daily yoga and penchant for chai tea qualifies me for the label as well.

Truth be told, I missed out on a lot of what my generation had to offer. Since I went to so many schools, it was hard to develop long-term friends. I wasn’t much for parties and clubs. Hell, I didn’t even attend my first concert until five years ago. Don’t laugh, but it turned out the final performer was Taylor Swift, and I sang as loud as the rest.

The only problem with trying to classify Millennials is that what I believe defines them the most is their lack of classification. More than ever we have a generation which simply doesn’t fit any mold, which makes the widest range of choices and which doesn’t fall into any general lifestyle. But then lack of categorization becomes a trait in itself.

For example, I never take drugs and I rarely drink alcohol. While drug use is rampant across America and other countries, it is by no means a defining characteristic of all Millennials. Additionally, the rationality of taking or avoiding drugs is certainly a contested matter, although those in favor of drug use is probably a higher percentage.

Alcohol is another matter, as the number of Millennials who abstain from drinking is decidedly smaller. It’s not that I don’t drink. I never drink to excess. I can truthfully say I’ve never been drunk, and only barely tipsy for a couple moments. My views on drinking certainly differ from the vast majority of my generation, and yet I still find many who share my stance.

My political views are decidedly impartial, much to the consternation of some of my friends, and relief of others.

I’ve always done things differently than others. All my life I’ve been called a rebel. For better or worse, I would never do things differently. I also encourage others to do the same, and I’m happy to see so many other rebels in my generation.

But being a rebel isn’t just about going against the Establishment. It’s also about thinking outside the box, being willing to try something new, opening yourself up to new points of view. As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to harbor an idea without accepting it.”

I also believe that true happiness comes from being willing to experience anything, and also only doing those things that others can experience easily.

Having said that, I’m still not willing to try drugs.

But beyond drugs, I’m always up for an adventure. I didn’t hesitate to jump 50 feet into the water in Chiang Mai, and I went for a 70 mile bike ride across Lithuania. I’ve tried some of the strangest food in the world, and slept in very questionable locations. Oh, and then there was the time I quit my life to permanently travel the world.

I think most of the activities I do are shared interests with other Millennials. I’m curious to know from my readers if this is the case.

Next month, I’ll be returning to Europe. I plan to get a home in Romania for a few months. During that time, my goals are to visit my 15 remaining countries in Europe, and do as many off-the-beaten-path adventures as I can find. I’m open to suggestions!

I’m not against drinking alcohol. I like my glass of wine with a meal, and I’m never going to say no to a good sangria or even a shot of the local whiskey or rakia. However, there are some good reasons why you should lay off the booze while you are traveling.

This might come as shock to many. It seems to be stereotypical of travelers to always have a beer in the hand, to stay up late partying every night or to try as many drinks with the highest percentage of alcohol in one’s travels. Many of the most-liked travel photos even have an unnoticed beer or cocktail somewhere in the shot.

Some solo travelers, like Adventurous Kate, will tell you that champagne is a travelers best friend.

With all that said, here are some reasons why you should consider sticking to healthier drinks as you travel.

1. Drinking is expensive

Drinking Receipt in Las VegasSome places in the world are cheaper than others for alcohol. Yet, except for perhaps the Balkans and the Czech Republic, you’ll be hard pressed to find countries where alcohol is cheaper than other drinks. In many places, a cocktail costs more than a decent meal, and even a couple of pints can really add up.

I’ve seen travelers double their dinner bill by adding on a drink or two, and I’ve seen others blow 100 (or much, much more) on a night of partying.

Unless you’re a millionaire and never have to worry about money, budgeting your finances is going to be an essential part of your travels. Even if you have a large budget, managing it well could lead to a longer vacation, better attractions or some cash left over for a another trip. Don’t let alcohol drain all your money in your travels. Set your budget, and don’t budge it.

2. Drinking causes you to do embarrassing things

It can be quite humiliating to be embarrassed by a fellow traveler under the influence of alcohol. Sure, a recording of their antics might get a few hits on YouTube. But is the disgust the locals give you really worth it?

Be aware of the customs to where you are traveling. Some places like Prague and Krakow will just laugh when you get drunk, and sadly in Edinburgh you’ll fit right in, but many places (like Italy and parts of Asia) find it highly disrespectful to be drunk in public. You represent the country you’re traveling from. Don’t give yourself and future fellow travelers a bad name.

Girl Falling Off Cliff
Girl tripping on a cliff dive in Chiang Mai (she landed fine)

3. Alcohol makes you forget

When I travel, I like to remember what happens every night, good or bad. It’s all part of the experience. I can’t think of anything worse than showing up for some wonderful event or festival in a new city, and not being able to remember it later.

What’s worse, whether you believe various researches or not, many of my friends who take drugs or alcohol routinely complain of bad memory. So whether it’s remembering a good evening you had, or your entire trip, laying off the alcohol is a great idea.

Absynthe and Alcohol Party at Hostel
Absynthe Party at Budapest Hostel

4. Don’t waste your nights at the bar

Going to a new city is all about experiencing something new. Yes, there are some bars around the world which are certainly unique. There are some cities where the nightlife is definitely a main part of the attraction. I would always recommend a visit to the pubs district when visiting Dublin or Brussels (but don’t actually buy any drinks in the Temple Bar part of Dublin). The difference is that you can get drunk at home just as well.

Look into what activities are available in the location you’ve traveled to at night. Many cities offer local dance classes, some have epic parties and others are nice to just watch the sunset in.

Landsort Sunset
Sunset in Landsort, Sweden

5. Hangovers aren’t fun

I’ve yet to meet anyone ever who enjoyed the feeling of a hangover. Whether it’s a migraine, vomiting or feeling completely smashed, there’s no “good” feeling the morning after a binge.

Worst case scenario are the bus tours (not mentioning any names, but none I’ve taken personally) which take you to one town, drop you off at a pub to get drunk, and then drag you out of bed the next morning to drop you on the bus, where you sleep your hangover off on the way to your next town and pub.

Get up early to enjoy your travels. If you want some great photos, the morning is usually the best time to get them. If you’re already spending your savings on a short trip to a new country, I don’t recommend losing half the time in bed.

Sunrise Over Angkor Wat
Sunrise Over Angkor Wat. Up at 4, photo before 5.

Summary: Don’t get Drunk

There’s nothing in the steps above that says you can’t ever drink. Alcohol is a great complement to many dishes, and drinking socially is practically mandatory in some societies (like Russia!).

The injunction to drink responsibly should be followed at home just as much at home as on the road. It just becomes more important based on the above points. Saving your money for other activities and more traveling, giving yourself and your home country a good reputation and taking care of your body are key when traveling the world.

If you’re a budget traveler like me, you really have to watch every penny. There are certainly ways to save on drinks. Purchasing alcohol at a market instead of a bar is almost always cheaper. Some places will give you free drinks or shots. Sometimes friends will buy you a drink, but if everyone is expected to buy a round, it’s a quick slope to getting drunk, and not cheap either!

Save money and travel some more. Stay safe. Enjoy your travels. Don’t get drunk. And above all, have fun.

Selfie Tasting Whiskey at Glenmorangie Distillery
P.s. I never finished this shot of whiskey! What a waste.