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Legal Drinking Age in Thailand: What You Need to Know

As one of the best party hubs in Asia, Thailand is on the bucket list of almost all beer nerds and partygoers. From Bangkok and Phuket to Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya, this beautiful country is brimming with nightclubs, bars, rooftop lounges, beach bashes, full-moon parties, and lively nightlife. With its deep brewing traditions, the country has a large collection of local beers, rums, and whiskies. While some travelers might think that the drinking age in Thailand is the same as in neighboring Asian countries, surprisingly, it is different. So, what is the legal drinking age in Thailand? In this blog post, I’ll share all the necessary info about alcohol consumption in Thailand, including laws, penalties, drinking culture, traditional alcoholic drinks, and much more. Here we go!

Minimum Legal Drinking Age in Thailand

The Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Food courts at the night Bazaar in Chiang Mai

One of the very first things that hits every traveler who is exploring the Thai drinking culture is the legal drinking age. The minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) in Thailand is 20 years

Initially, the legal drinking age in Thailand was 18, but in 2008, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act raised it from 18 to 20. From Bangkok, Phuket, and Pattaya to Koh Phangan, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui, the MLDA has been the same across all 76 provinces of Thailand. 

The same legal drinking age is regulated in places where alcoholic drinks are sold, like restaurants, bars, and licensed venues. 

Alcohol Consumption in Thailand

The majestic towers of Wat Arun that stand tall over Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River in Thailand

Drinking is a popular pastime among Thai people. It is all about socializing, celebrating, and building connections. Whether it’s a big milestone or a small victory, every celebration involves alcohol.

Thailand has the highest alcohol consumption rate in the WHO Southeast Asia region and the fourth-highest in Asia, behind Vietnam. But, still, the alcohol consumption rate in Thailand is lower than in most Western Countries, like Spain, Germany, Portugal, etc. 

Since the enactment of the Control Act 2008, the Kingdom has experienced a decrease in the number of boozers. Statistics reveal that the total alcohol consumption per capita (APC) of Thailand was 8.5 liters in 2015 and 7.8 liters in 2019. When split by gender, alcohol consumption is higher among Thai males (APA=13.5) than females (APA=3). 

According to the Provincial Alcohol Index (PAI) study, North East Thailand has the highest alcohol consumption rate (40%), followed by 23% in the North region and 21% in the Central region (excluding Bangkok). Bangkok itself has more than 1.3 million alcohol consumers. 

Along with drinking, smoking is also a common practice in Thailand. About 10% of alcohol consumers are involved in drinking and smoking concurrently. Moreover, after the legalization of medical marijuana in 2018 and recreational cannabis in 2022, cannabis-infused drinks have become more common among both locals and expats. People above 20 years of age are legally allowed to consume cannabis in Thailand.

As a conscious traveler, I don’t drink much alcohol, but I like a beer from time to time whenever I travel to Thailand. The last time I was in Thailand though, the marijuana scene was a bigger concern for me when I visited the Southern parts of the country. 

It seemed like there were little rules in place to legally sell marijuana and it felt like every restaurant, store or bar suddenly had marijuana on offer! It might be for you, but it’s definitely not for me.

Underage Drinking in Thailand

Chiang Mai Flower Festival 2023, Thailand

In Thailand, it is illegal for anyone under 20, either local or foreign, to consume, possess, and buy alcohol. Still, Thailand has a large population of minor drinkers –  including Thais themselves. 

About 45% of the drinkers started drinking at the age of 13 to 14 years. According to the 2018 Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, alcohol consumption among Thai teenagers is the highest in Southeast Asia, at about 27.3%.  

Underage drinking in Thailand has led to severe consequences of violence, drunk driving, smoking, illicit substance use, and health disorders. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 4 in 10 Thailand adolescent crimes involve alcohol.

The Thai government takes the issue of minor drinking seriously. It has banned alcohol sales and consumption in places visited frequently by Thai youths. Yet, the prevalence of minor drinking continues to rise. 

Comparison of Drinking Age and Rules with Other Countries

Khao Sok National Park, Thailand

In Asia, countries have different legal drinking ages and laws that depend on their religion and cultural norms. The drinking ratio in Asia, however, is still lower than in Western countries like Spain, the US, Germany, and the UK.

Comparison to Laos

The minimum legal drinking age in Laos is 18 years. As of 2019, the alcohol consumption rate in Laos is 11.1 liters per capita, the highest in Southeast Asia. Drinking is deeply rooted in Laotian culture and traditions and is relatively cheap. Beer Lao is the most popular alcoholic drink in the country.

Comparison to Cambodia

In Cambodia, there is no legal minimum age for drinking and buying alcohol and no drinking laws. Alcohol sales are an important part of their economy, and the government itself promotes drinking.  Home-made beers, gins, and tonic are popular among locals. As of 2019, the alcohol consumption rate in Cambodia is 8.5 liters per capita.

Comparison to Vietnam

Vietnam is a famous place for Binge drinking with no minimum legal drinking age and laws. Drinking is a common practice among locals. As of 2019, the alcohol consumption rate in Vietnam is 9.3 liters per capita. The country has the cheapest beers in the region. Bia Hoi’s are popular cheap beer hangouts in Northern Vietnam.

Drinking Rules and Regulations in Thailand

A Buddhist monk in a vibrant orange robe walks beside ancient, weathered brick ruins under a hazy sky. The ruins of Ayutthaya which can be visited on a day trip from Bangkok, stand as silent witnesses to the rich history of Thailand, with remnants of structures in the background partially enveloped in scaffolding, indicating ongoing preservation efforts. The monk's peaceful demeanor contrasts with the stark, time-worn textures of the bricks, offering a sense of continuity amidst the relics of the past.

Many travelers assume Thailand has lax drinking laws because of its exciting nightlife, street parties, beach bashes, bars, night bazaars, and nightclubs. But don’t get tricked by its party scene! 

Before 2008, there were no specific rules and regulations regarding alcohol consumption, production, and distribution in Thailand. Drinking was only curbed by religion or social norms. Then, after the implementation of the Alcohol Beverage Control Act, the legal drinking age was set at 20 years, and this law remains in effect today.

Today, the Kingdom has some of the strictest rules in the region. Violating any of these drinking laws can result in severe penalties like fines, imprisonment, and even deportation for foreign expats. 

So, if you or your children are under 20, I advise you to abstain from taking a risk.

Below, I have discussed the current Thai drinking laws so you can have a safe and enjoyable trip to the Land of Smiles. 

Buying Alcohol in Thailand

In Thailand, you can find alcohol anywhere from small roadside restaurants to upscale beach clubs! The most common places to buy alcohol are shops, convenience stores, supermarkets, and liquor stores. 

Supermarkets like Rimping, Big C, Villa Market, and 7-Eleven have a large collection of imported wines – good if you are a Western traveler who don’t like beer. For those who want premium wines and spirits, liquor stores in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and other big cities have the finest collections of alcoholic beverages.

In addition, you can buy almost any kind of alcoholic drink at clubs, bars, and restaurants, which allow only on-premises consumption. Takeaways are not allowed. 

When it comes to buying costs, you’ll be paying according to the surroundings. Expect to pay high in tourist hotspots like Patong Beach, Khao San Road in Bangkok, and Walking Street in Pattaya. Duty-free stores at airports are a good option to buy alcohol at a lower price. 

Before 2024, alcoholic drinks were heavily taxed in Thailand. However, as of March 2024, the Thai cabinet has reduced the taxes on alcoholic beverages to boost the tourism industry. 

Note that you must be 20 years old to buy and consume alcohol at these places. Be sure to carry a valid ID for age confirmation.

Alcohol Selling in Thailand

Thailand has some strict laws regarding the selling of alcoholic drinks. 

According to Section 29 of the 2008 Control Act, it is illegal to sell alcoholic drinks to individuals under 20. Even parents, guardians, and relatives are not allowed to give alcohol to children under the legal age of 20. It is also illegal to sell alcohol to anyone who has lost consciousness due to excessive drinking.

Moreover, it is illegal to sell alcohol through automatic vending machines. And online alcohol sales and delivery have also been banned in Thailand since 2020. 

The Kingdom has set specific hours for buying and selling alcohol, which might surprise many travelers. 

  • From 11 am to 2 pm
  • From 5 pm to midnight

Outside these hours, especially from 2 pm to 5 pm, convenience stores, supermarkets, and liquor stores are prohibited from selling alcoholic drinks. This law has been effective since 1972, when the Thai military party imposed it, and is strictly followed. No one knows the reason behind this weird law.   

However, these restricted hours don’t apply to clubs, bars, and restaurants. You can enjoy drinks at these venues anytime during their operating hours. Small family-run and independent stores also don’t follow these banned hours, so you can also get alcohol from them. Be sure you flash a smile – it always helps in Thailand! 

Drinking in Public and Private Places

In Thailand, there are no strict rules when it comes to alcohol consumption in public. Drinking is legal in many places, such as streets, beaches, workplaces, sporting events, and tourist areas. 

For example, in Bangkok, you’ll see young people walking with open drinks in the streets or drinking outside the 7/11 stores.  

Under the Alcohol Beverage Control Act, drinking is illegal in many places, such as temples, places of worship, public parks, petrol stations, hospitals, educational institutions, public offices, and public transport. You’ll see no-drinking signage across temples and public parks.

Public intoxication at any of these places is usually frowned upon and can lead you to hefty fines and imprisonment. So drink responsibly!

Andaman beach, Koh Jum, Thailand

Bringing Alcohol in Thailand

Do you know you can carry your favorite drink to Thailand? But you must be legally 20 years old! If you love premium wine brands but are concerned about the high Thai taxes, you’ll be happy to know that you can bring your favorite wine, spirits, and tobacco products to Thailand as checked luggage on domestic and international flights.

Each traveler can bring up to 1 liter of alcoholic beverage with 24% and less than 70% alcohol limit. So, whether it’s your favorite grin, a bourbon, or any vintage wine, add them to your Thailand packing list, but not more than 1 liter. 

Drinking and Driving Laws in Thailand

Like other countries, Thailand doesn’t compromise on drunk driving. The legal blood alcohol concentration for drivers over 20 years is 0.05 g/dL, and for professional drivers or those under 20 years, the limit is 0.02 g/dL. Passengers are not allowed to drink alcohol in any vehicle. Drinking is not even allowed in parked vehicles on roads and streets. 

Thai Police can stop the vehicle and conduct a breathalyzer test at any time, not only at checkpoints or following accidents. Law enforcement agencies are more active during religious holidays and festive seasons. For those caught guilty of drunk driving, be ready to pay heavy fines, license suspension, or imprisonment in extreme cases.

Advertising Laws

The Kingdom has strict regulations related to the advertisement of alcoholic drinks. Under Section 32 of the Control Act, advertising alcohol logos, bottles, and marketing communication of any type is banned. In fact, you can’t say that you enjoyed an alcoholic drink or give a positive review. 

Displaying or posting a selfie with a beer glass on social media can result in a hefty fine. This is the Thai’s weirdest drinking law. So, I would advise you to be on the safe side and wait to post pictures until you’re safely back in your home country. 

Days When Alcohol is Prohibited in Thailand

In Thailand, there are many days in a year when alcohol consumption, sales, and purchases are banned. These days are designated as “No Alcohol Days.”

  • Makha Bucha (Buddhist Festival): This religious event is celebrated during the full moon day of the 3rd lunar month, usually in February or March.
  • Visakha Bucha (Buddha’s Birthday): This sacred day for Buddhists falls during the full moon of the lunar month of Visakha, usually in May or June. 
  • Asalha Bucha Day (The Triple Gem): This day is celebrated on the full moon of Asalha, the eighth lunar month, during July or August.
  • Wao Khao Phansa (Beginning of Buddhist Lent Day): This day marks the beginning of three months of training, during which all monks must stay in their temples. 
  • Wan Awk Phansa (End of Buddhist Lent Day): This day marks the end of three months of training, and it usually falls during the waxing moon of the 11th lunar month, October.

Moreover, alcohol is banned in Thailand during Thai national holidays, election days, and the birth and death of the King. These alcohol bans usually last from 1 to 2 days. So, if you’re visiting Thailand during these days, make sure to abstain from drinking.

Penalties for Violating Drinking Laws in Thailand

Coconut beach, Koh Jum (ko pu), Thailand

As a conscious traveler, you must be aware of the legal consequences of violating Thai drinking laws. Here are some of them:

  • Underage drinking is a punishable crime in Thailand. If a minor is caught breaching the law, they have to pay a fine of 10,000 THB ($300), imprisonment of up to six months, or perform community service. If the minor doesn’t comply, their parents must pay the fine.
  • If any establishment, including bars, restaurants, or clubs, sells alcohol without a license, it is liable to pay a fine of 500 to 2,000 THB. 
  • Selling alcohol to minors can lead to a penalty of up to 20,000 THB fine and six months in jail.
  • If you’re caught drinking in the restricted areas (I discussed above), you are liable to a fine of 10,000 THB and imprisonment of 1 year. 
  • Buying or selling alcohol during restricted hours is subject to a fine of 10,000 THB and six months in jail.
  • Public intoxication or inciting conflict with a law enforcement official can result in a fine of 20,000 TBH and six months imprisonment.
  • Any individual caught driving under the influence or with a BAC level greater than 0.05g/dL can face a fine of 20,000 TBH and imprisonment of 1 year. The police will take custody of the vehicle, and the driving license can be suspended for at least six months. 

So drink responsibly – the last thing you want is to be fined or, worse, end up in a Thai prison.

Thai Drinking Culture and Customs

Chiang Mai Flower Festival 2023, Thailand

Drinking is deeply ingrained in Thai culture and traditions. It is an important part of their traditional celebrations and religious rituals. For example, during Hmong New Year celebrations, alcohol is served to everyone as part of the festivities. Other occasions include rice harvest celebrations and the Songkran Festival.

In the past, most hill tribes in northern Thailand produced their own traditional alcohol for drinking and religious ceremonies. Over time, new commercial brands replaced these traditional drinks in the market. 

Today, Thai rum and white spirits are more common in rural areas, where people prefer to drink at home with friends or family. Beer, whiskey, and wine are mostly consumed in modern cities like Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Chiang Mai. 

From small street-side beer gardens and local bars to nightclubs and restaurants, you’ll see colleagues, friends, or groups sharing bottles of beer, laughing, gossiping, and enjoying each other’s company. Whether it’s a birthday, a wedding, a small victory, or just a casual night out, drinking has become a part of Thai daily lifestyle. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to join a table or clink glasses with locals. Smile and say cheers before taking a sip. 

The term kap klaem defines Thai drinking culture, which means that food and drinks go hand in hand in Thailand. Thai beer pairs well with hot and sour vegan Thai dishes such as green papaya salad and banana blossom salad. To learn more about Thai drinking culture, you can go on beer tours.

Traditional Thai Alcoholic Drinks

Streets of Koh Jum, Thailand

When buying alcohol, Thai people first consider the price. Flavor comes later. Local alcohol brands are more common in Thailand because their prices are much lower than international brands. I encourage you to try the exotic traditional Thai drinks instead of Western brands!

  • Beer: Leo, Chang, and Singha are top local beers. Chang has a slightly sweet and strong flavor. Singha, a pale lager, has a smooth and balanced flavor with an ABV of 5%. Leo is a top pick at Thai gatherings. You can’t walk past a bar, club, or terrace without seeing a bottle of Leo on the tables. It is a light and malt-tasting beer with an ABV of 5%.
  • Lao Khao: Known as “Thai whisky” or “white whisky,” this fermented, clear beverage has an ABV of 35% and is a popular party drink. You can try it clear, add soda to top it off, or combine it with an energy drink. You can find it easily at all small and big grocery stores.
  • Satho (Thao Rice Wine): This traditional Thai wine is brewed with water, glutinous rice, and rice mold bran. It has a strong, malty taste and an alcohol content of 7-10%. This drink is enjoyed during festivals, celebrations, and social gatherings.
  • Sang Soam: This 40% alcohol Thai rum is a favorite among Thais and tourists. It has a strong and sweet taste and is served in buckets with cola or carbonated water and ice. Mekhong and Hong Thom are popular hard spirits in Thailand.
  • Thai Wines: Thai wines are also worth a try. They are mostly sourced from Hua Hin, Khao Yai National Park, and Phichit Province vineyards. Popular names include Colombard Shiraz, Malaga Blanc, and Chenin Blanc.

But remember, you’re not forced to drink alcohol if you don’t want to! Every restaurant and bar in Thailand serves non-alcoholic beverages such as Thai iced tea (Cha Yen), Lemongrass tea, Thai iced coffee (Oliang), and many delicious and healthy juices and smoothies.

Drinking in Thailand: Do's and Don't

Morning market in Chiang Mai, Thailand

As a responsible traveler, you must adhere to the Thai drinking rules to ensure responsible drinking. Here are some tips for a safe and enjoyable drinking experience in Thailand.

  • Thai drinking culture is all about respect, moderation, and bonding. Drink responsibly to honor their cultural norms. 
  • Take a slow start and know when to stop drinking.
  • Be careful about drink spiking, especially for female tourists. Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave your drink unattended. There have been reported incidents of drugging and robbing tourists in bars.
  • Beware of bar scams. In the busiest nightlife areas, some bars don’t mention prices to scam customers. Don’t order drinks at bars or clubs that don’t have prices listed on their menu or walls. 
  • Pouring drinks for others is a friendly gesture in Thailand.  After filling your glass, you can top off other glasses. Remember to say “kop khun (‘kha’ for females and ‘Khrap’ for males),” or thank you, when someone refills your drink.
  • Don’t drink tap water in Thailand and avoid ice too, unless it is made from mineral water.
  • Don’t drink in temples or parks. Thai people have a huge respect for their Gods. Always check signboards before opening a beer bottle. 
  • After boozing up, use tuk-tuks, taxis, or ridesharing apps such as Grab to get home safely. Don’t risk yourself or others by driving.
  • Make sure you have the local emergency number (191) saved in your phone. 

Tip: Drink wisely when visiting Thailand. Don’t let a glass or bottle of beer make the decisions for you!

Popular Thai Drinking Expressions

Pai, Thailand

When drinking with Thai people, you must know how to raise a glass and say cheers in Thai. Here are some common party expressions that you should learn.

  • Kop Khun = Thank you
  • Chon gaew = Cheers
  • Mao may Khab = No drunk driving
  • Pay kin Beer kan = Let’s go drinking beer
  • Khoo bla neug kwaat = One beer, please
  • Chan Khoo bia dai mai? = Can I get a beer?
  • Kor peum eek = Another round, please
  • Mhod Kaew = Bottoms up/Empty glass
  • Chok dee = Good luck

Final thoughts

There you go! Whether you’re planning a vacation to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, or lesser-known places like the islands of Koh Phayam or Koh Jum, the legal drinking age is 20 in all parts of the country.

If you or someone you are traveling with is under 20, please respect the Thai drinking culture and norms. It’s really not worth it to let a glass of alcohol ruin your trip to a beautiful destination like Thailand.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or drop me a message through my contact page

Also, don’t forget to check out my resources page with my favorite booking platforms and tips to start planning your trip. Additionally, have a look at my favorite travel gear if you want to pack more consciously!

ENJOY!

Disclaimer: This post may include affiliate links. If you click on them, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

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travelers and dreamers

Hi! I am Annelies and this is Travelers & Dreamers, a blog about conscious travel which means traveling in a more mindful way, with a positive impact on the world and yourself!

On this website, I cover different topics like slow travel, plant-based food guides, responsible travel, sustainable packing, eco-travel, and more!

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