Thailand is often promoted as being the party capital of Southeast Asia and there are numerous great bars, pubs and clubs scattered throughout the country. However, at certain times of the year alcohol bans mean that it is unwise to drink in public. These bans are usually announced in advance and are imposed for the following reasons.
Alcohol bans are permitted during major religious holidays such as Makha Bucha day in February and Vesak Day in May. These holidays revolve around the full moon and the days vary each year. These days are considered to be extremely holy and most Thai run establishments tend to close during these times. This is a good time to give your liver a break from alcohol and take part in alternative activities. However, if you really can’t go a day or two without a beer, simply find out the dates of these holidays in advance and stock up.
Before and During Major Elections
Alcohol bans are usually enforced on the day before voting to ensure that people remain sober. Although these bans don’t prevent people from drinking at home, most bars and convenience stores such as 7-11 and Family Mart are not permitted to sell alcohol. Although Westerners are not allowed to vote in these elections, they are still not permitted to purchase alcohol from these convenience stores. However, some smaller neighbourhood stores will still sell alcohol under the table to people who they recognise.
Regular Selling Hours
While many convenience stores are open 24 hours a day in Bangkok, they do not sell beer around the clock. Most supermarkets and shops such as 7-11 and Family Market are only permitted to see beer between 11:00-14:00 and 17:00 until midnight. Although this is not really such a big deal, it can put a real crimp in your plans if you are not prepared.
How to Beat the Alcohol Ban
The good news is that there is not really a ban on drinking during these times, only on selling alcohol. Although most bars are not permitted to sell alcohol during alcohol bans, many will still be open and will be willing to sell alcohol to Westerners if they discuss their drink by pouring it into a cup and keep a low profile it is best not to draw to much attention to yourself if you choose to do this.
Most tourist hotels are usually exempt from alcohol bars. If you find yourself with a first during an alcohol ban, you can still sit and sip your favourite tipples at these establishments. Alternatively, buy your alcohol in advance and drink at home. This can be a great excuse to throw a house party to get your friends together and have fun in style without spending a fortune on pubbing and clubbing.
The penalty for breaking an alcohol ban is typically 10,000 Baht and/or six months in prison. Stay smart and stay informed so that you don’t get slapped with a heavy fine.