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Beverage availability for non-alcoholic travelers

We are contemplating a grand European adventure for 2020. ( Plans in evolution) We will be traveling w mature teenagers who love ancient cultures and know a good bit of Latin.
What types of beverages would be generally be available for those that do not drink alcohol?
Thanks

PS. Sorry for posting in wrong forum, I didn't realize which was being posted in. Thank you for all the gracious responses.

Posted by
672 posts

If you're referring to a Rick Steves tour, water (both sparkling and still) is usually the only included beverage for group meals. On those occasions where wine is included, water will still be served as well. Very occasionally, sodas have been included. As far as what is available in general, you can find pretty much the same things we have at home.

Posted by
1213 posts

Yes soda is available, but it is expensive and refills are NOT free.

Posted by
3522 posts

I don't drink alcohol, but there are so many great things to drink in Europe you won't go thirsty. The following are a few of our favorites.

I love sparkling water. I always have some with me on my trips and at home. Many Americans find it odd and stick to still. I find sparkling water more refreshing. I also find that it settles an iffy stomach.

I had my first sparkling iced tea in Belgium. Of course it was served in the right glass. It even came with ice in it. Who knew?

Another Belgian treat is Cécémel Dark chocolate milk. My husband got our first bottle on a gas stop on a major highway. There is a dark Dutch Chocomel, but it's not as decadent.

My husband and I got hooked on Schweppes Agrum in France. On that 2009 trip we only saw it in France.

If you rent apartments on your European adventure, you will be able to try many drink options at much cheaper prices than will be charged in restaurants.

Posted by
125 posts

Just about every beverage you find in the US is available in Europe. They may taste a bit different, the peach Snapple we had in Italy had a stronger peach flavor then US version. If you are in England be aware that cider is alcohol, not just apples!

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you for your reports. We don't have plans for an RS tour. We are planning to AirBnB at many locations.

Posted by
2453 posts

Anything you want to drink. But ice is served sparingly so ask for more if you need it. I hope the teens are not too frustrated but I know a bit of Latin and the few readable inscriptions were indecipherable to me.

Posted by
2487 posts

Pretty much everything is available. Coffee and tea are a little different but are quite popular everywhere. Juice. Soda. These are everywhere, then some countries will have local specialties.

Water, of course - tap water is drinkable but some restaurants don't serve it, but you can always buy bottles at the restaurant. Usually there are the normal size water bottles and bigger ones to share. If all of you want water get a big bottle to share - the restaurant provides glasses for all people.

Soda - coke is common and Coke Zero/coca light - different than our Diet Coke. Also sprite and local soda brands. It's more expensive than at home and no refills - but easily available.

If you mean to buy and have in your apartment - same. Just stop by any grocery or small shop and there will be plenty of options. I do drink alcohol but always buy fruit juice and milk for breakfast in the apartment. And sometimes I just want soda and buy a single serve bottle (I don't drink soda often but every once and awhile I like it)

Posted by
18741 posts

I remember seeing white grape juice in an Alpine country--probably Switzerland, but it was more expensive than wine.

I've had orange sodas in Europe that were actually drinkable, as opposed to the syrup-like Fanta we get in the US.

Be aware that limonade is usually a pleasant lemon soda rather than the juice-water-sugar mixture we call "lemonade". It used to be possible to get fresh-squeezed lemon juice in Greece, which you mixed with the cold water and sugar also provided. But that was a long time ago.

When you order bottled water, you should always specify "still" or "sparkling" (or a local equivalent). Preferences vary by country, and you don't want them to bring you the wrong type and open the bottle before you realize it's not what you want. I have learned that, even saying "still" up front, I will occasionally be brought sparkling water in countries where that is (apparently) the overwhelming preference. It has happened to me in Italy and France. I'm not thrilled about paying for bottled water, though I accept it as a cultural difference; I am really unhappy about having to pay for a bottle of water I will not drink.

Posted by
1217 posts

Starbucks in the UK does have iced tea if you get a craving for it. And you can pay there and a few other European countries using the Starbucks app at a decent exchange rate. (I get a bunch of Starbucks promotional gift cards for free, and figure I might as well use them on vacation if we only want a quick snack and drink)

Posted by
3894 posts

After our first few meals the first time we visited Italy - we learned really quick that soda is really expensive. We generally drink milk at home with our evening meal, and when we eat out would usually have a soda or iced tea...but milk and iced tea aren't really options when travelling so we usually would get water (we don't do alcohol either). We could share a litre of water between us for about 1/4 of the price of two sodas.

A few times soda was cheap so we'd splurge - the worst price I saw - and I have to think if I'm remembering correctly because I'm still shocked - was a place in Venice along the Grand Canal charging 12 euro for ONE GLASS of soda! I don't think soda was as expensive in France, the Netherlands, the UK.

If we were staying in an apartment with a fridge, we'd hit the grocery store (always fun when travelling) and pick up some milk and juice for breakfast, and a big bottle of soda in case we needed some fizz at night.

Posted by
1217 posts

Also in the UK, the chain pub combo meal deal often comes with your choice of soft drink or small beer.

Posted by
3458 posts

You will find any type of drink in Europe that you find here -- many times even the same brands.

Posted by
1612 posts

See also the thread from earlier in the Food and Drink forum that I titled "What have you been drinking?"
for more specifics on both nonalcoholic and liquour-y drinks.

The habit of overgeneralizing about what they do in Europe and matching it with what we do here in (North) America is irresistible,
so I'll join in:
•The horchata that we all drink here in America is better than the horchata that they all drink in Europe because ours is rice-based and theirs is chufa-based.
•The seltzer that we all drink all the time here in America is fizzier than the sparkling water that they all drink all the time in Europe
• The boba teas that we all drink all the time here in America are sweeter than the milk teas that they all drink all the time in Europe.
• The Italian sodas that we all drink all the time here in America are less syrupy than the infused syrups that they all drink all the time in Europe
• The smoothies and licuadas that we all drink all the time here in America are more yogurty than the smoothies that they all drink all the time in Europe.
• The various melon fruit juices that we all drink all the time here in America are harder to find there, but mint-smashed not-quite-mojitos are easier to find there, especially in immigrant quarters.

The stranger thing is that I never drink sodas, yet I do look pretty walrus-like. Hmmm...

Posted by
12252 posts

Most of the time I don't drink beer anymore at dinner in Germany, usually now mineral water, flat or gas, or sometimes juice, black currant or apple, or, rarely, a lemonade type drink, like Brause, in Austria it is called "Almdudler" In France mostly mineral water at dinner followed by an espresso after dinner.

Posted by
6562 posts

You can drink the same beverages there that you drink at home.
Although we are no longer drinkers (at home), I come out of retirement when traveling to beer meccas like Munich, Salzburg, Prague and Amsterdam.

Posted by
11261 posts

For France I have two special favorites. Schweppes Agrum (citrus) has already been mentioned. I love it, but have only seen it in France. I looked in supermarkets in Spain and Switzerland, but while they have Schweppes Lemon, they don't have Schweppes Agrum. And at a cafe in France (not usually at a restaurant), you can get a citron pressé. This is fresh squeezed lemon juice, water, and sugar, all served separately; you mix them to taste. This is what you should order if you want "lemonade"; as said above, a limonade is something different.

Many countries have their own local specialties, some more palatable than others. At supermarkets they're cheap, so it's fun to try an unfamiliar beverage. One bottle of Irn-Bru in Scotland was sufficient for me, but perhaps you'll like it more.

If, like me, you love carbonated beverages, note that can be orders of magnitude cheaper in supermarkets than elsewhere. If you're buying a bottle of soda at a cafe, or even at a snack cart, you just have to accept that it will be several times the supermarket price.

Whether you can get free tap water when you are not ordering other beverages varies from place to place. In France it's common; just ask for un carafe d'eau, s'il vous plait (the tap water does often come in a fancy carafe). You'll see that most other diners in the restaurant will have one on their table too. In some other places, they will only give you tap water if you're ordering another beverage; if you aren't, you will be expected to buy bottled water. The cost and size of this varies; in Italy it's usually 0.5 liter or 1 liter and is cheap, while in the Netherlands it was 0.33 or 0.5 liter and cost more (restaurants in the Netherlands rarely had 1 liter bottles of water available).

And it hasn't come up in this thread yet, but it will come up sooner or later, so I'll be the first to say it. In no place in Europe, and yes that includes France and Italy, is there an expectation that you will be drinking alcohol. Your server may ask if you want wine, but they're just being thorough (similar to asking if you want dessert); feel free to say "no," and that will be the end of it. But I can only recall that question a few times. The rest of the time, you will be asked what you want to drink, and the server will bring whatever you ask for; that's the end of it. The various rumors about how you will be sneered at if you don't have wine with every meal are just that. I often get a Coke Zero with meals, and I've never had so much as a raised eyebrow at the request. Don't worry about having to come up with any explanations for why you're not having alcohol; no one will be bothered.

Posted by
2487 posts

Agree with the above - you hear a lot about wine and beer in Europe because they are local and popular with residents and travelers. It IS a fun part of the dining experience for those of us who drink. Not everyone does, for all sorts of reasons, and that's never a problem. Drink what you want! In some nice restaurants there may be a stigma attached to ordering soda - not because you are skipping wine but because soda itself is not drunk with nicer meals. Drinking only water will not raise any concern at all. If you want soda and it's available at the restaurant, get it - but if you get a questioning look that's why - no one cares that you aren't drinking alcohol, but some more old-fashioned waiters may raise an eyebrow at soda. Whatever, if it is sold at the restaurant you can order it!

Posted by
7205 posts

Sometimes I'm in disbelief at the rumors I read here...being sneered at for not drinking wine. OMG! What a croc of nonsense. But judging from the title of this post and the ensuing question the rumor mill must still be pumping them out as fast as possible.

Knowing a good bit of Latin - what's up with that?

Posted by
18741 posts

I think Mira's point is a good one. I normally drink water but occasionally arrive at a restaurant so hot and tired that I think a Coke would be a great idea. But unless I'm eating pizza, a Coke is not what I want with my meal, so I order a Coke "for right now" and water "with my food". I often get an understanding nod from the server when I say that, and the beverages arrive at the requested time. Or sometimes the water shows up along with the Coke. I see plenty of people drinking what appear to be soft drinks with their meals, but then I'm not frequenting fancy restaurants.

Posted by
9 posts

My kids have studied 3 years of Latin each. They will be on a second language by the time of the trip. One has chosen Spanish, the other TBD.

Posted by
9 posts

I wasn't worried about being sneered at. Really don't care what others think. I have watched zillions of travel show hours and all you ever see is wine and beer/liquor. ;D

Posted by
2487 posts

I specifically said you WOULDN'T be sneered at for not drinking wine. That is, abstaining is perfectly acceptable and not at all notable - Europe has plenty of people who don't drink for all sorts of reasons and no one really notices or cares.

What MIGHT get you judgement is drinking coke at a fancier meal. I stand by that for some places in France and Italy at least. Doesn't mean you shouldn't order it if its what you want, of course, but something to be aware of. Just like drinking cappuccino after breakfast in Italy - a local norm that WILL get you strange looks.

Posted by
12252 posts

Hi,

If you want a break from alcoholic drinks in France, order a Genadine...perfectly fine.

Posted by
503 posts

Another non-alcoholic drink to try is ginger beer. It's similar to ginger-ale but a bit more spicier, more ginger flavored. Very good and refreshing.

Posted by
1217 posts

I feel like I get more eye rolls from servers in the USA if I order tap water because it means their tip will be lower at the end. For countries where servers are paid a normal wage, it's less of an issue because their pay is not driven by our check.