Bangkok is a busy city and there is always something exciting happening at all hours of the day, but are there any restrictions on when you can buy alcohol?
The answer is yes- and it can affect your drinking plans so make sure you are aware of the restrictions. It is important to note that it is illegal to buy alcohol in shops and supermarkets in Bangkok from 2pm until 5pm. Also, the shops will not sell alcohol from midnight until 11am. You might find this odd – in many countries it is possible to buy alcohol 24/7 – but these restrictions are quite firm in Thailand.
The ban of sale of alcohol after midnight seems a little easier to explain, shop owners do not want drunk and unruly customers on the streets or in their stores late at night.
But what about the afternoon ban?
You are allowed to drink in a bar or restaurant all day, so why can't you buy alcohol in the afternoon to prepare yourself for the evening? It is thought that this ban was put into place to stop Thai people from drinking all afternoon. The average Thai person cannot afford the price of beer, wine and spirits in the bar so by blocking the sale of alcohol in the supermarkets afternoon drinking can be actively stopped.
The employees will not want to break the rules even if you ask nicely, they will be worried about getting in trouble as it will be recorded on the register that they sold an alcoholic drink within the banned hours. In fact, some shops will have the barcodes of the alcoholic beverages blocked during these hours, so they could not even sell the drinks to you even if they wanted to!
There are some days of the year during which alcohol is banned completely. This usually takes place on election days or religious holidays. Sometimes bars will not serve alcohol on election days – but Western owned hotels will still be likely to serve.
Beating the Ban
Although the main supermarkets and stores will ban the sale of alcohol during these specific hours, it is possible to find some local stores that are not part of any chain or large company. Sometimes these stores will sell you alcohol at any time.
Also, many of the bars in Bangkok are open almost 24 hours per day. If not, many of the bars will open at 9am and will not close until 2am or even 4am on the weekends. Many of the sidewalk bars will continue to serve until people stop buying, so if you want to keep drinking after 4am make sure that you are buying for yourself and offer the bartender a drink as well to encourage them to stay open.
Generally in Thailand there is often a way to work around the rules if you know where to go and who to ask. Make sure that you flash a smile – it always helps! Of course, be sure to always drink responsibly!