Are Bangkok’s gogo bars becoming too expensive?

‘How much should I budget for a night out in the gogo bars of Bangkok?’ It’s a question I’ve been asked many times, by friends, friends of friends, even uncles of friends of friends, and a few others in between. The obvious Thai reply is ‘up to you,’ but this answer doesn’t appease the masses, and so begins the debate over bar prices and spending.

You will hear mummers that the gogo bars are becoming a bit expensive, and that a night out in Nana Plaza can now rival a night out in a western capital city, for cost at least. I can’t believe this is true, yes, prices have gone up a few baht over the years, and yes, exchange rates aren’t helping, but would you really spend as much money on a night out gogo hoping in Bangkok as you would drinking your way through London’s Soho?

The drinks

Gogo bar drinks are generally more expensive than those your average Bangkok bar, not a huge amount more, but while you can probably find plenty of beer bars and pubs serving booze under the 120 Baht mark, your average a gogo bottle of Singha or Thai whisky and coke is going to be around the 125 Baht to 150 Baht. Yes, some gogo bars area breaking past the 150 mark and I’ve paid as much as 180 baht for a bottle of beer in one certain gogo, but at the same time there are still happy hours and promotions to be found, with some beer prices as low as 80 baht.

Compared to prices in London there isn’t too much difference. A bottle of beer in your average London pub is around £2.50 to £3 (125-150 Baht), and a pint of beer will cost you around £3.50, so maybe they have a point, maybe Bangkok’s gogos are as expensive as the west.

The lady drinks

When you add on the cost of ‘lady drinks’ things start to get a bit more expensive. To be honest, I’m never too confident or sure how much a typical lady drink costs. Some bars are now pricing lady drinks at the same cost as customer drinks, while other bars whack on a hefty premium, and you can find yourself paying over 200 Baht for a messily shot drink in the more pricey venues. So when you add this into the equation, and the fact you’re probably going to buy at least one or two lady drinks during your gogo-hopping, then maybe it is more expensive than the west.

But wait a minute. The reason lady drinks aren’t expensive in your average London bar is because they don’t exist, just like the gogo dancers themselves, who you certainly won’t find in a typical London tavern.  Yes, London does have strip clubs and dens of iniquity where you could find yourself buying a lady drink, but you can quickly add at least one more ‘0’ on to the end of the price.

The extras

The cost of a night out isn’t just about the drink prices. If you factor in dinner, then you can opt for a Bangkok budget saving 100 Baht Thai meal, or even splash out on some farang style pub grub for under 300 Baht, while over in London you’ll be paying close to that just for your greasy doner kebab on the way home. Sure, you can spends a few 1000 on a decent meal in Bangkok if you want something fancy, but that’s certainly not the norm, and cheap London eats almost don’t exist these days.

Transport costs. We may complain about the fixed fares some Bangkok cabbies try to charge, but you can probably get from one side of the city to the other for under 200 Baht (at night at least). Over in London you might not even make it to the end of the street for that price (London taxis cost considerably more between 10PM and 6AM).

So are Bangkok’s gogos getting expensive?

While the drink prices in Bangkok’s gogo bars may be comparable to some London bars, but the comparisons stop there. Yeah, you might find cheaper beer and spirits in some of London’s more budget orientated chain pubs, but I doubt those same bars will provide an army of bikini clad girls dancing on your table top as you sip your beer; you’d be lucky to get a smile from some bar maids. If you compare the Bangkok drink prices to similar entertainment venues in London, such as hostess bars and strip joints (which can be anything from expensive to criminal), then you’re not getting such a bad deal in the Thai capital. Factor in the other costs such as food, transport, even your hotel costs, and Bangkok is still far cheaper than London, and most of major capitals in the west.

How much you spend on a night out among the gogo bars is still up to you. If you want to be two week millionaire or blow your entire Christmas bonus in one unforgettable night, it can quite easily be done. But if you’re on a tight budget there are still plenty of affordable drinks to be found, and you can quite easily control your spending and stick to the budget plan while still enjoying the sights, sounds, and anything goes buzz of Bangkok’s gogo scene.

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