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New Zealand has many fine wines and beers, which can be sampled in cafés and restaurants all over NZ. But for the lowest prices and a genuine Kiwi atmosphere you can't go past the pub , often known as a hotel from the days when all drinking establishments were required to have rooms for revellers to sleep off a big night. The pub or hotel is a place where people stop off on their way home from work, the emphasis being on consumption and back-slapping kiwi mateship, with ambience and decor taking a back seat. In the cities, where competition from cafés is strong, pubs are sharpening up their act and comfortable, relaxed bars are more common, but in country areas little has changed. Rural pubs can initially be daunting for strangers, but once you get chatting, barriers soon drop. Some pubs are still divided into the public bar , a joyless Formica and linoleum place where overalls and work boots are the sartorial order of the day, and the lounge bar , where you are expected to dress up (dress up, meaning clean jeans) and are charged more for the privilege.

There is barely any limitation on the hours you can drink, most bars shutting up around midnight on weeknights if it is quiet, and closer to 3am at theweekend. Until December 1999, arcane Sunday licensing laws forbade the sale of alcohol in shops and pretty much anywhere else unless it was accompanied by a meal. However, on Sundays you can now buy beer as well as wine in supermarkets, and get a drink without eating. The drinking age has been lowered to 18 (from 20) and anyone looking under 25 can expect to be asked for identification.
All New Zealand eating and drinking establishments now ban smoking inside.

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