What is a Pub Crawl?At its essence, a pub crawl, or bar crawl as some call it, is when you visit a number of pubs and have at least one drink in each. There is rarely any actual crawling, unless you drink so much that you eventually can no longer remain upright on two feet.
As a pub crawler, you are usually one of a group and the best part is the opportunity to meet and have a fun night out with other fellow crawlers and local guides – it’s not just about free shots, cheap drinks, and great bars. Whether you’re on a low-key, small bar crawl event or the biggest pub crawl in the world, there are some common rules and dos & don’ts to be aware of. If you’re about to pop your pub crawl cherry, here’s some helpful tips & advice to make sure you have a blast when pub crawling in Europe.
1. Don’t expect the Pub Crawl to be a Tour!
While most cities in Europe are rich in history, heritage & culture, many are also incredible party capitals by night too. There may be some night-time tours on offer in these cities, even some that involve beer tasting and visiting a local pub or two, but these are not pub crawls! And while your local pub crawl guide might give you some random fascinating tidbits about the city or the pubs, make no mistake - that’s bonus material.
So, for example, while the guide in Budapest may give you interesting insight to the history of local ruin pubs, if you’re expecting a quick stop to hear all about the Basilica as you pass by on the way to the next bar, you’ll be disappointed. The main agenda on any good bar crawl is, first & foremost, to dive into the local nightlife and live it up!
2. Be prepared to walkPub crawling involves getting from one pub to another on foot and, usually, getting drunker as you go. Typically, the best pub crawls in Europe involve visiting 5 or 6 venues, including at least 1 nightclub, but these may not necessarily be in very close proximity to each other, so be prepared to walk a bit.
For example, there are literally over a thousand pubs & bars in Dublin city and, theoretically, you could spend days going from one to the next without ever having to walk more than a few meters; but we designed our pub crawl around the best places to party in Dublin, not the most convenient walk possible. So think about footwear when you’re planning on doing a bar crawl in Europe, especially in cities with a lot of cobblestone streets like Prague or Dublin; high-heels could mean you literally end up crawling!
3. Pace yourself
The best pub crawls always include free drinks – free shots, a free welcome beer, or an hour of unlimited free alcohol, as well as exclusive discounts on additional drinks so it is very easy to get real drunk, real fast! Be careful, drink sensibly and responsibly, and know your limit. If you don’t know your limit yet, take things nice and slowly while you’re figuring it out.
4. Pub Crawl venues’ policies
Other than skipping the queues, free nightclub entry, and free & discounted drinks - being on a bar crawl does not give you special privileges that exempt you from the policies of each venue you visit. If, for example, you’re obviously completely shit-faced on arrival to a venue, there is a chance that the door staff will deny you entry – and the guide is not your keeper, don’t expect them to try and convince the door staff to change their minds.
The key pub crawl rules are the same as on a typical night out - respect the venues and everybody else. Your wristband gives you some pretty awesome perks, but it doesn’t entitle you to be a drunken dick!
5. Drinking on the streetIt is often tempting to take the end of your drink with you when it’s time to leave for the next pub, but beware the local alcohol laws when pub crawling. In some cities in Europe, like Berlin and parts of Prague for example, you can drink on the street (we even give you free beers on the street in Berlin); while in most other cities, like Dublin or Barcelona, doing so could get you a rather hefty fine or even a night in a cell.
If you are unsure as to what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to local public drinking laws, ask your pub crawl guide. Don’t sneak your glass out of or into a pub, and be aware that should the door staff at the next bar see you with outside drink, even where drinking outside is permitted, they can stop you going inside their bar, whether or not you are on a crawl.
6. Put down the phone!
Many of us have a bad habit, okay many of us have many bad habits, but one in particular can get in the way of your pub crawl experience - Your phone. It might sound fairly innocuous, but studies show that Millennials check their phones at least 150 times per day - it's a dopamine-releasing compulsion; checking Instagram, twitter, messaging friends, browsing, and uploading pics & selfies. We see it regularly on our pub crawls, especially in the early stages of the night when it is often used as a crutch by some crawlers who may not be as naturally adept at making new friends & being entirely at ease in social scenarios where new people are actually there, in the flesh, irl. We quickly intercept, of course, get them mingling and in no time they realise the social butterflies they truly are.
Travelling, and especially pub crawling, is about meeting new people in new places and enjoying shared experiences, as well as getting out of your own shell and comfort zone. Put down the phone, fun is happening right in front of you, Instagram and random notifications will all still be there tomorrow.
7. Listen to your Pub Crawl guide
Generally, a good bar crawl guide will give you a minimum of three key pieces of information before going into each pub; where they'll give you your free shots, what the exclusive drink specials & discounts are, and how long you’ll spend in / what time you’ll be leaving this bar.
The Backpacker Pub Crawl guides are used to managing big groups, after all ours is the biggest pub crawl in Europe, but giddy crawlers can be a noisy gaggle at times, so shut your pie-hole for the 10 seconds it takes for your guide to address the group & take these three pieces of fundamental info on board. Busy bar staff don’t want to have to tell so many people what the crawl specials are when you’ve already been told, and if you’re not outside with the group on time, ready to go, the guide will have to search for you inside - and that’s just a pain in the ass!
8. Know where the pub crawl ends
The best pub crawls in Europe usually finish with free VIP entrance at a top nightclub. Depending on the city, this means you can potentially dance your way until dawn if you so desire; but eventually you’ll want to make your way back to the hostel (usually via the closest eatery). It helps to know where in the city you are in relation to your bed, and the best way to get there, so it’s always a good idea to ask the pub crawl guide where the final club will be, and it's best to ask this early enough in the night so you remember. The guides will be more than happy to mark it on a map for you and advise you on getting back.
9. Do I need to make a booking for a pub crawl?
Most bar crawls will accept you if you arrive without a booking. We run some of the biggest pub crawls in the world, but we generally have a number of guides available to take out multiple groups when demand is high, so it is very rare that we cannot take everyone; but if that happens we prioritize those with advance bookings first. So booking is advisable, especially in the Summer months to avoid disappointment. Also, sometimes the advance booking price is cheaper, so it’s worth checking if you can get a discount by booking online.
10. Is there a dress code on Pub Crawls in Europe?
There isn’t really a pub crawl dress code per se, but obviously a crawl involves visiting multiple venues which might have some kind of dress policy. Just dress as you might for any regular night out – you won’t need a tux or ball-gown, but obviously a string vest and tracksuit-bottom ensemble probably won’t go down too well. Also, if you're a stag or hen party, best to check with the bar crawl organisers in advance if you intend going in fancy dress.
Bonus Pub Crawling tipsBring some ID, budget for some drinks other than the free and discounted ones and, if you’re joining the Backpacker Pub Crawl in Dublin, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, or Barcelona, keep your wristband because you’ll be able to join us again as many nights as you like absolutely free! And don’t worry, our sexy wristbands are high quality durable material – like festival wristbands – so they won’t deteriorate in the shower or during your travels.
That’s it, dearest pub crawler – ten things to know about pub crawling in Europe. Now that you’ve got the need to know tips and key bar crawl rules, you can check out the 22 stages of doing a pub crawl and the people you can expect to meet. The most important thing to remember though is to have fun!