A Dive Bar by Any Other Name

When traveling abroad, finding a down-home, no frills bar can make for one of the greatest experiences of a trip. The only problem is actually finding these local digs among a sea of tourist traps. Don’t take the bait.

While the term “dive bar” is a distinctly American colloquialism, the concept certainly isn’t. All around the globe you can find them tucked away in any city. They’re cheap, modestly decorated and one of the few places young and old folk can just sit around and chat, which makes dive bars a great place to mingle with the locals… just try not to act like a tourist.

Maybe the next time you’re jaunting around the world, you can pop into one of these fine watering holes for some much-needed refreshment. You may even learn a thing or two about the place you’re visiting.

Slim Jim’s Liquor Store | 112 Upper St, London N1 1QN, UK

On just about any list of the best places for a cheap pint in London, you’ll find Slim Jim’s Liquor Store—and for damn good reason. If the dim neon and candle lighting doesn’t immediately scream “dive bar” at you, Slim Jim’s policies sure as hell will—including “no suits” and a free drink for any lady (or man) willing to donate a bra to the bar. In addition, the bar also donates a pound to breast cancer research each time.

Stop in.

Juggie’s Place | 53/3 Front St, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten

Dubbed “the world’s smallest bar,” Juggie’s Place could be missed in the blink of an eye if you don’t know where to look. Located in an alley next to an old Catholic Church, Juggie’s motto is “Close to God & The Drinks are Blessed!” The best part of this place isn’t the quirky size though, it’s the owner. He makes his own rum, and for a mere $3 you’ll get two beers and a cigar. Juggie is also known to sit with patrons and share tales. Seriously, what else could you need?

Stop in.

Ölsmiðjan Bar/Cafe | Lækjargata, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Built way back in 1877, Olsmidjan is in one of the oldest public houses in Iceland. In fact, it was the first stone house built in Reykjavik (if those walls could talk). Known for their low-priced Gull, Iceland’s favorite beer, the bar has become more popular in recent years but maintains their status as a hotspot with locals. Some nights you can even hear traditional sea shanties passed down through generations for a truly Nordic experience.

Stop in.

Mistral Bleu Train Bar | Japan, 〒106-0032 Tokyo, Minato, Roppongi, 5 Chome−5−1 ロア六本木1F

One thing everyone who’s been to Tokyo knows is that damn this place is expensive. However, nestled inside a room the size of a train car (hence the name, Capt. Obvious), you’ll find the Mistral Bleu. “Cozy” is a word you might hear people describe small dive bars, but that’d be a bit of an overstatement. Regardless, when the drinks are cheap and the air is filled with ‘80s hair metal thanks to the bartender’s extensive selection of CDs, you forget all about the lack of standing room. Feel free to contribute to the ceiling of autographed money from around the world while you’re inside.

Stop in.

August 2017: Tio’s Cerveceria, Surry Hills. Photo: Hollie Adams

Tio’s Cerveceria | 4/14 Foster St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia

This dimly lit, Mexican-themed dive bar located in Sydney is quickly becoming an icon, but it’s still a popular place to find a mix of locals and travelers. Tio’s serves a relatively cheap lineup of tequila, mezcal and cervezas with a knowledgeable staff that actually knows a thing or two about what they’re pouring up. Perhaps Tio’s best aspect is the free, unlimited popcorn you can munch on while you’re getting inebriated.

Stop in.

Sunflower Public House | 65 Union St, Belfast BT1 2JG, UK

While this place might not check all of the official dive bar qualifications (like having a carpet so sticky you become a part of it), Sunflower is an excellent place to pop in for a pint if you find yourself in Belfast. The bar’s site has stood as a public house for over a century, serving up affordable libations to locals and tourists alike. Sunflower prides itself on being one of the few remaining gimmick-free corner pubs from a bygone age, and the security cage on its front door, a relic from 1980s Belfast, is a testament to that.

Stop in.

The Joker Pub & Grill | Shop 25, Wilrogate Shopping Centre, Ontdekkers Rd, Roodepoort, Johannesburg, 1724, South Africa

Perhaps the most qualified dive bar on the map, The Joker is a dive bar through and through. Open for decades, this pub’s been around longer than the trendy comeback of “dives” in recent years, so you know it’s authentic. Drink of choice? We recommend a Klippies and Coke. You should also probably know that if rugby is on, you’re in for a real treat (just be sure you cheer for the right team).

Stop in.

Happy Ending Cantina | Blvd. Marina 22, Centro, 23450 Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S., Mexico

First things first, you gotta respect a place that prides itself on “NO B.S. PRICING,” especially in Mexico (seriously $5 will get you two beers and two double shots). Second, you gotta respect a good dive bar name when you see it. Happy Ending Cantina has been around for a lot less time than some of the bars on our list, but that doesn’t diminish its standing as one of Cabo’s best dives. The cantina has every amenity you could ever need, like stripper poles anyone can take for a spin … but we do remember saying something about not acting like a tourist.

Stop in.