Questions + Answers

How Much Does Alcohol Cost In Thailand?

Are you travelling to Thailand soon? It’s good to know what things cost so you can budget, especially something like alcohol.

The cost of a tipple here varies a lot, so I’ve done my best to take over 5 years of (too much) drinking here and condense it down to this article.

I’ve separated the article into several sections. Each heading tells you the type of place, be it a fancy nightclub or a gritty hole-in-the-wall. As you can imagine, there’s a world of difference in shmoozing with a Mojito on some Silom rooftop compared to necking Lao Khao on the stoop outside 7/11.

At the end, I also answered a couple of peculiarities about alcohol in Thailand. Namely, why it costs so much compared to similar countries and also what the deal is with craft beer here.

Enjoy!

Note: The prices are all in Thai baht (฿). To help you convert, here are the current exchange rates as of writing in July 2019 with accurate numbers in brackets. For more accurate figures, do a quick Google search.

£1 = 40฿ (38.59)
$1 = 30฿ (30.85)
€1 = 35฿ (34.61)

Grocery Stores, 7/11’s and Supermarkets

Shops and stores are the cheapest places to buy alcohol in Thailand, like much of the world. Everyone knows pregaming is the way to a cheap night.

It’s not a rare sight to see groups of Thais sitting on the floor outside a 7/11 with a few half-empty Chang bottles littered around. It’s just their way of having a cheap drink. It’s probably technically illegal, but one of those things no-one is going to do anything about.

Do bear in mind that that sales of alcohol are restricted at certain times. You cannot buy alcohol between 2pm and 5pm (the school rush!), and also after midnight until 11am. This is strictly enforced by the major chains but it is possible to get around it by visiting the more lax mom and pop style stores.

65฿ – 600ml Of Domestic Beer (Singha, Chang, Leo…)
150-200฿ – 500ml Bottle Of Imported Beer
14฿ – 330ml Can/Bottle Of Mixer (Coke, Sprite…)
250-300฿ – 700ml Bottle Of Domestic Spirits (Sangsom, Blend 285)
800+฿ – 700ml Bottle Of Imported Spirits (Smirnoff, Gordons, Bacardi)

Street Food And Cheap Thai Restaurants

The way Thai people get their drink on is different to what you might expect. A Thai night out consists of one venue, lots of food, lots of beer and a couple of bottles of whiskey. The cheapest way to do this is to get a 10-person table at a sit-down street food restaurant and spend a few hours munching on Isaan dishes and bingeing on Chang.

The prices at these kinds of places are very reasonable, not being much more than retail cost.

80฿ – 600ml Of Domestic Beer (Singha, Chang, Leo…)
15฿ – 330ml Can/Bottle Of Mixer (Coke, Sprite…)
300-400฿ – 700ml Bottle Of Domestic Spirits (Sangsom, Blend 285)

Thai-style Bars

Moving up a little bit, we’re getting away from a few chairs and tables on a busy street and into the bars of Thailand. A Thai-style bar has outside seating, offer mostly Thai beers and spirits, live music will be playing and good Thai food will be served. A quick rule of thumb: if 90% of people there are Thai, this is what I’m talking about.

On the higher end, these are the places like JJ Green and Night Train Market but there are bars like this everywhere. Try Bar XCQ in Asoke or Is Am Are on Rama 3 for a couple of cool little joints I can vouch for. I am something of a connoisseur of anywhere I can spend 6 hours chugging Blend 285 for a fistful of baht.

One last thing, you’re going to struggle to find anything but Thai beers and spirits at these places.

80-120฿ – 600ml Of Domestic Beer (Singha, Chang, Leo…)
15-20฿ – 330ml Can/Bottle Of Mixer (Coke, Sprite…)
400-600฿ – 700ml Bottle Of Domestic Spirits (Sangsom, Blend 285)

Western Bars And Restaurants

Next up, we have restaurants that serve Western food, sports bars or what you could describe as a ‘pub’. Hemingway’s on Soi 11 in Bangkok is a well-known example of what this section is all about.

The prices are much higher here, touching on what you might expect to pay in Western countries. These bars love their ‘happy hour’ discounts though. So if you can go early enough, before 7pm or so, you can get great deals like buy one get one free or at least cut-price drinks, usually on beer but sometimes on spirits as well.

120-150฿ – Pint Of Domestic Beer (Singha, Chang, Leo…)
200-250฿ – Pint Of Imported Beer
30-50฿ – 330ml Can/Bottle Of Mixer (Coke, Sprite…)
180-250฿ – Double + Mixer Of Imported Spirits (Smirnoff, Gordons, Bacardi)

Patpong, Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza…

No list of drinks prices in Thailand is complete without a description of the sleazy side. Some people would say you haven’t really seen Bangkok until you’ve spent hours in dingy little clubs watching poor women shoot ping pong balls from places where ping pong balls should not be shot.

I hate these places and avoid them where I can, but still get dragged into one every so often. As you’d expect, you’re paying top dollar.

The one item on here that is not seen on others in this article is known as a ‘lady drink’. This is a drink you buy for one of the women in the club. Either the waitress or mamasan as a kind gesture, or when you pick one of the dancers on stage to sit with you for a while as a prelude to brokering some kind of “deal” to spend more time together. This drink is cheap soda, the girls rarely drink it, but they earn a small slice (20฿ish) when you buy one.

150-180฿ – 330ml Bottle Of Domestic Beer (Singha, Chang, Leo…)
100-150฿ – 330ml Can/Bottle Of Mixer (Coke, Sprite…)
180-200฿ – Double + Mixer Of Imported Spirits (Smirnoff, Gordons, Bacardi)
180-200฿ – “Lady Drink”

Fancy, High-End Bars

There are bars in Bangkok so cool, classy and kitsch that you’ll think you’re partying away in London, Paris or New York. A look at the prices on the drinks menu will reinforce that idea. Above Eleven is a wonderful rooftop bar on Soi 11 that fits into this mould. Maggie Choos, Iron Fairies and Sing Sing are just a few more of these gorgeous bars you can check out here.

180-200฿ – 330ml Of Domestic Beer (Singha, Chang, Leo…)
250-300฿ – 330ml Of Imported Beer
80-100฿ – 330ml Can/Bottle Of Mixer (Coke, Sprite…)
250฿ – Double + Mixer Of Imported Spirits (Smirnoff, Gordons, Bacardi)
350฿ – Cocktail (Mojito, Margarita, Long Island…)

Bangkok Nightclubs

Last but not least we have nightclubs, where bleary-eyed partygoers get the chance to empty their wallet and stare at prostitutes. Clubs like Mix, Insanity, Sugar are where you’ll go if you ask a taxi to take you somewhere for a late-night drink. They’re some of the few places that can escape the city’s curfew of midnight or 2am or whatever they’ve decided it is this week.

If you’re unfortunate enough to enjoy going to these places (can you tell I don’t like them?) then expect to be taken to the cleaners with obscene prices. Don’t be surprised when your precious Smirnoff and coke is watered down or simply cheap paint thinner.

Also, count your change in clubs. I’ve seen them try it on with drunk friends of mine by not handing back a 500฿ note in their change.

180-200฿ – 330ml Of Domestic Beer (Singha, Chang, Leo…)
80-100฿ – 330ml Can/Bottle Of Mixer (Coke, Sprite…)
250฿ – Double + Mixer Of Imported Spirits (Smirnoff, Gordons, Bacardi)

Why Is Alcohol In Thailand So Expensive?

Anyone who’s travelled around South East Asia has enjoyed the bargain basement cost of living. Nowhere is this more apparent than with alcohol and particularly beer. In Vietnam, a beer costs as little as 7000D (30p or $0.50) and in Cambodia a glass of the local brew is just $0.25.

The cheapest beers in Thailand are way more than that, and in nicer bars you’d be forgiven for glancing at the menu and wondering if you ever left your home country.

So why is Thailand so much pricier than its surrounding countries?

The first reason is that Thailand is a significantly richer country than the other ASEAN nations (excluding Singapore). The region is one of the poorest in the world. It contains countries that have been devastated by wars with other nations, dubious economic policies and internal conflicts. Seriously, look into the history of some of these countries and you’ll discover many sad, sad tales.

By contrast, Thailand made the decision of allying with the major Empires back in the 1800s and adopting capitalist economic policies early on. It’s a point of pride among Thais that it’s one of the few countries to never have been colonised or conquered. This has resulted in Thailand being the rich man of South East Asia, which means the cost of living is higher here.

That’s not the whole tale though. Thailand has high taxes on alcohol, especially imported stuff. This is the best English language article I could find on it. Key points are that excise tax on beer and wine is at 60% and on pure spirits at 50%. These percentages contribute a hefty increase in the baht you’re paying on your liquor.

What Is The Cheapest Alcohol To Drink?

So Thailand ain’t cheap for drinking. What you gonna do about it? The answer that you frugal types are looking for is to buy domestic, to drink like the Thais.

The domestic Thai beers are beloved among expats, tourists and locals alike. Beers like Singha, Leo, Chang or Tiger are produced in Thailand, available everywhere and a cheap way to get drunk. They are all lagers, comparable in taste to what you might find in the West.

Things become more thorny when we explore the hard alcohols. The most popular spirits are Sangsom which is a rum and Blend 285 which is a blended whiskey. You’ll also come across the whiskeys Regency or 100 Pipers at a price bracket a touch above the other two. A bottle of any of these costs next to nothing in a shop or bar and are the mainstay of a typical Thai night out. Enjoy with a lot of ice and coke and soda water.

The larger supermarkets stock some choices that are way out there. Try a local Tesco for some “Black Cock”, a quaffable vodka of which a 700ml bottle will run you just 140 baht.

If you’re a wine buff, forget about getting any vino on the cheap. The growing conditions in Thailand are unsuitable for wine, so it’s all imported and subject to the high Thai tariffs on imported alcohol. Bottles in a supermarket run you a minimum of 500-600฿.

Lastly, it would be remiss of me to not mention the infamous lao khao (white liquor). Not for sale in any bar but ever-present at motosai stands, you can find it on sale for 80฿ for a 350ml bottle if you’re interested in a novel experience, a banging headache the morning after or simply being laughed at by the confused 7/11 girl (been there).

Here’s a pic of this harsh-tasting grog to whet your appetite. If you do decide to take the plunge, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

[pic coming soon :)]

Is Thailand A Good Place For Craft Beer?

Some of the coolest and quirkiest craft beer establishments I’ve ever been to have been in Thailand. The tropical climate with its year-round balmy temperatures makes for some awesome venues to quaff an IPA or two. The only drawback? It’s hella expensive.

You’re looking at 300-400฿ for a 500ml glass which works out to £8-10 or $12-14 for a large beer. Crazy prices, and that’s not even a pint. I can’t afford to drink at these places on a regular basis. For me, it’s a special occasion kinda thing, and even then just for a couple before heading somewhere a touch less exorbitant.

One of my favourites is Mikkeler. It’s in Ekkamai, Bangkok, down a few sneaky side streets (take a taxi). You’ll forget about how difficult it is to find when you enter the premises with its gorgeous house, well-maintained lawn and beanbags that you’ve obviously got to sit on. And of course the beer is wonderful too. Here’s a photo I took of this place.

[pic coming soon :)]

Another cool joint is on Sukhumvit Soi 23 called Craft. It’s a big outside area that has an almost ‘festival’ feel about it. Great food options are available while you drink. And don’t miss the whiskey and cigar lounge next door to class it up after your beer and tacos.

[pic coming soon :)]

The last one is Chit Beer on Koh Kret little trek to get out there, but totally worth it. Take a boat up the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok all the way up to the river island of Koh Kret. It’s a great day out and at the end of it, you can kick back on the riverside watching the boats go by with a craft ale in your hand.

[pic coming soon :)]

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