The bright lights of red, green and orange of the 7/11s in Thailand seem to always shine. These handy shops are dotted all over the country, sometimes two or three right next to each other, and they always look like they’re open. But are they?
What are the opening hours at 7/11 in Thailand?
The default opening hours for 7/11 in Thailand is that they are open 24/7 every day, even on public holidays.
There are a few exceptions. The first is that 7/11s that are located inside a building that closes each night do close with the building. Some 7/11s like this have alternative entrances though. Another exception is certain national events. When the king died a few years ago, on the day of the funeral all 7/11s were closed from 2pm to midnight to allow some time for mourning. These events are rare and well publicised beforehand.
What Are The Opening Hours For Other Shops And Supermarkets?
While you can rely on 7/11’s being open practically all the time, you can’t with all grocery stores.
Familymart, MaxValue and Little Big C are the main competitors that offer small-sized grocery stores. Each of these has more normal opening hours, something like 6am-11pm being typical. The shops will display the opening hours somewhere on the front.
The 7/11s in Thailand are well-stocked but they don’t have everything. So if it’s 4am and you’re dying for a piece of Gouda (for example), you will be pleased to know that some larger supermarkets open 24/7 too.
You’ll have more luck in Bangkok. The original Villa Market store on Sukhumvit Road near Soi 33 is open 24/7, as is the Tops on Sukhumvit Road near Suk Soi 19.
And in this happy age of internet and smartphones, it’s simple enough to check whether a shop is open or not. Despite being a developed economy and a poor country in many respects, Google Maps is as useful for opening hours as it is in most Western countries. I imagine they get the data from the GPS on people’s smartphones, and people in Thailand looooove their smartphones.
Here is a screenshot (from my computer) of the Villa Market I mentioned in Sukhumvit. You can see its opening times – 24 hours. It even shows you how busy it gets at each time. Really useful. The only criticism I can make is that in the UK it will tell you how busy it is right now compared to the average.
The information is not as good when you use a phone. You will still see the opening hours but you can’t see that ‘popular times’ section which is useful for avoiding the crowds.
When Can You Buy Alcohol?
So we’ve established that your local seven is always open for you to pick up a cheese ‘n’ ham toastie or two. But if you enjoy the odd tipple then you might run into problems.
Thailand has strict laws on the sale of alcohol and they are strictly enforced by 7/11’s and other similar grocery stores. The specific times are as follows.
Outside of these hours, you will not be sold alcohol at a 7/11. In fact, they put up the shutters on the alcohol section as in the following photo.
[pic coming soon :)]
Essentially, you can’t buy alcohol after midnight or during the strange break in the middle of the day. Apparently, the ban between 2-5pm is aimed at stopping school kids buying drinks in the periods after school. The drinking age is 20 years old here but I guess that doesn’t stop them. Bangkok does have problems with kids from rival schools fighting so maybe there’s something to do with that, too.
Can you get around this? Yes, and fairly easily. The first option is find a bar, they aren’t restricted to the same selling hours that shops are. No problem during the day but tricky at night where Bangkok’s everchanging curfew forces most bars to close between midnight and 2am (often depending on when the police turn up!)
Your other option is to find a mom ‘n’ pop store. These shops rarely have signs (that are in English, anyway) so you’re just looking for somewhere selling bottled water, eggs, fish sauce and whatever else. Ask about beer and they’ll show you a sneaky fridge that you can choose from.
Why Do 7/11’s Open 24/7/365?
The simple answer is that it’s profitable to be kept open at all times. The cost of staffing a 7/11 is minimal with the official minimum wage in Thailand being 300 Baht per day. I can’t see the teenagers who staff your local seven earning much more than that. The staff seem to keep busy during the night shift too, stocking shelves and whatnot.
The constantly freezing cold AC is probably the biggest expense. I suppose it is offset by the boozy visitors in the early hours coming in for a cheeky Spinach And Cheese Danish.
And when every single one is open 24/7, it becomes the place to spend money at night. Ever been to Koh Samet and seen those two 7/11’s across the road from each other? It’s nice to know that you can pick up some bottled water on the way home no matter how late you stay out.
Either way, you can rest assured that staying open all night isn’t demolishing the profits of CP.
When Do 7/11’s Close?
The big holiday in Thailand is Songkran. It’s the Thai new year – going by the old calendars – and is roughly equivalent to Christmas in that everyone gets days off and spends it with their families.
Interestingly, Thailand has not rid itself entirely of its old calendar system. As of writing, the year is 2019 which in Thailand is 2562, based on the Buddhist Era which counts the years from Gautama Buddha’s death.
Anyway, Songkran itself is a 3-day celebration that involves water to purifies the soul and spirit, other Buddhist rituals and merit-making.
In the tourist hotspots, that has turned into a full-on water fight. Thais and foreigners alike walk around the streets getting soaked while also spending money on drinks, snacks and water-gun related stuff. The 7/11’s must make a killing at this time, so the holiday doesn’t make a dent in opening times.
Other holidays like the Thai religious or royal days and even Christmas or New Year have zero impact on the closure of 7/11’s. Christmas is more celebrated by shopping malls here than people.
In 2014, shortly after I first arrived into Thailand, the mounting and irresolvable political tension between red shirts and yellow shirts resulted in a military coup. A curfew was imposed, martial law was established and the government was dissolved. This sounds scary, but is actually a relatively normal state of affairs in this country.
Did this military coup cause the 7/11’s to close? No, it did not. While most governmental offices closed, as did many schools and some businesses, especially on the day of the coup, the 7/11’s stayed open.
In 2016, Thailand’s adored Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away at the age of 89 after a reign of 67 years. The Thai people loved their king, and his death precipitated a countrywide outpouring of grief. Black became the colour of everyone’s clothes and of many shopfronts. Here’s a look at what (most) 7/11’s looked like during the period of greaving.
[pic coming soon :)]
Did this cause 7/11’s to close? Yes, but for just half a day. On the day of the King’s funeral, all 7/11’s closed at 2pm and remained closed for the rest of the day. This is the only example I can think of that caused a nationwide shutdown of 7/11’s. It was well publicised in advance so no-one was put out by not being able to buy their afternoon sushi roll or whatever.