The least we can say is Thais are not shy about drinking.
Thais rarely refuse a good drink and drinking is a common way to relax and enjoy time with friends, family, and colleagues.
Now, even though you can easily get by with common sense, there are a few rules as well as dos and don'ts when it comes to drinking in Thailand that can be useful to know.
So here's everything you need to know about drinking in Thailand.
- Law and Etiquette
- Alcohol Sales in Thailand
- Popular Drinks in Thailand
- How do you Say Cheers in Thai?
Law and Etiquette
There are a few rules and things to know about drinking in Thailand:
- You can only buy alcohol in shops between 11 am and 2 pm and between 5 pm and midnight. More on that below.
- The legal drinking age in Thailand is 20 years old. Most bars and supermarkets don't check IDs but almost every club does. So make sure you got your driving license or passport with you when you go out.
- It's prohibited to drink in the street. Or in public places in general. Drinking in the street in Thailand is often tolerated but it's against the law. You can get fined for it.
- Don't get too drunk in Thailand. Thais love to drink and to party but not to the point to be absolutely wasted and to embarrass themselves or their friends (most of the time). While screaming and doing dumb shit might be seen as fun in the West, it is seen as losing face in Thailand and it will not make you popular.
- Thais usually share drinks. When you go out in Thailand it's common for groups to buy alcohol (and food) for everyone to share.
- Your glass will never be empty. There's always gonna be someone to refill it. Either your Thai friend or a waiter/waitress. Not a bad thing most of the time but it can make it hard to keep track of how much you drink.
- Thais often eat and drink at the same time. Not only in restaurants but also in bars and clubs. It's common for Thai clubs, even high-end ones, to have a food menu with Thai food and snacks.
Alcohol Sales in Thailand
Buying alcohol in Thailand is easy and most supermarkets, including convenience stores, have a decent selection of local and imported beers and spirits.
But in Thailand, you cannot buy alcohol between midnight and 11 am and between 2 pm and 5 pm.
That's true for every shop in the country including 7-Eleven and other supermarkets.
In some areas, small mom and pop shops still sell during the ban but you need to know where to go and to keep it low key.
But during these hours you can still drink in bars, restaurants, and clubs.
The rule only applies to sales of alcohol to take away.
In Thailand, there's also a ban on alcohol during Buddhist celebrations as well as the day before and during elections.
In those days, alcohol is banned completely.
Bars and clubs are closed and restaurants don't sell any alcoholic drinks.
Popular Drinks in Thailand
What do people drink in Thailand?
Number one is beer. 🍻
It makes sense when you consider the weather is hot and humid year-round.
Thai beer also pairs really well with Thai food and spicy food in general.
It's almost mandatory to order beer as you would order rice when you eat Thai.
If you want to know more about Thai beers you can read this post:
And yes, most of the time, Thais drink beer with ice. 🧊🍺
Popular local sprits in Thailand are:
- Sangsom, a spirit made from sugarcane and aged in oak barrels with an ABV of 40%. Often listed as a whiskey, it is a rum.
- Hong Thong and Mekhong, are both made from rice, have an ABV of 35%, a produced by Thai Bev (the company that also makes Sangsom), and pair well with ice and soda.
The 3 are really cheap (about 250/300฿ for a bottle of 70cl) and are widely available in Thailand, including at every 7-Eleven in the country.
Wine is getting more popular in Thailand and it's now easy to find a large selection in supermarkets like Big C, Villa Market or Gourmet Market
But as imported alcohol is heavily taxed, wine is really expensive in Thailand and is still something reserved for wealthy locals and expats.
Thailand does produce some wine but it doesn't get much praise or recognition yet.
Like wine, imported spirits are heavily taxed when they come into the country so they're usually pretty expensive.
Much more than in other countries in the region.
That being said, if the price isn't an issue for you, you can find pretty much every popular alcohol brands in the world from Tequilas to Whiskys in Thailand.
Thailand has a dynamic and rapidly growing cocktail scene with now 5 bars into the Top 50 Bars in Asia.
We're talking serious cocktails with some amazing bars and creations that have nothing to envy to the rest of the world.
For good cocktails in Bangkok, visit Revolucion Cocktail, Today Asia, Teens of Thailand, or #Findthephotobooth to try by yourself.
Thailand is well known for its buckets of booze made famous by places like the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan and Khaosan road in Bangkok.
They usually contain a small bottle of alcohol (35cl) mixed with soda or Thai energy drinks like Redbull.
Be aware that even if the small bottles they sell are labeled Bacardi, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, or other widely known brands, the alcohol inside is usually replaced with cheap Thai alcohol.
Even if they often contain more sugar and ice than alcohol, buckets are by far the best value to get wasted.
And they will leave you with a hangover in the morning.
How do you Say Cheers in Thai?
There are different ways to say cheers in Thai.
The most common is “Chon – gâew!” ชนแก้ว that literally means "touch glasses".
For bottoms up, Thais say “Mhod gâew!” หมดแก้ว that means "empty glass".
And in some case, you might hear people use Chok Dee that means "good luck".
Now if you're not sure about the pronunciation, watch Banana Thai video below.
Thai beers and sprits are pretty inexpensive so alcohol is cheap in Thailand if you drink local.
Imported goods are heavily taxed so imported spirits, beers, and wine tend to be more expensive in Thailand than in neighboring countries.
It's prohibited in Thailand to drink outside or in public places. Some parks and beaches also have signs showing they are alcohol-free zones.
Even if it's often tolerated by authorities, you can get fined for it.
Yes, as much as it would be in any other country. Use common sense, don't get too drunk, don't pick fights, especially with locals, and you'll have a great time.
While you're in the country, enjoy some refreshing Thai beer and drink Thai spirits like Sangsom if you're on a budget when you go out.
Now if we're talking about good Thai spirits to buy and bring back home, buy some Chalong Bay if you're into rum and if gin is your thing, buy some Iron Balls at the Iron Balls distillery in Bangkok.
Now over to you.
What do you want to know about the drinking culture in Thailand?
Ask me in the comments below.
And share your drunk stories from Thailand with us.