Drinking is a relatively inexpensive affair in Thailand, even imported brands and bottles may be comparatively cheaper. Whether it’s alcoholic, isotonic or purely a refreshing bottle of water, have a browse to find out prices and recommendations of what to drink when in Thailand. First things first, starting with the most important drink.
Like many places, it is best to not drink tap water in Thailand outside of Bangkok, where new buildings may have safe water systems. The simple solution comes in a bottle; Bottled water (naam plao) is cheap and can be bought anywhere for 5-20 baht.
In the heat of the day nothing is more refreshing that one of a fruit juice, freeze, or milkshake. You will find these sold at most cafés, restaurants and specialist street vendors for around 20-40 baht. Look out for brightly coloured, freshly squeezed Thai sweet orange juice (naam som) for 15-30 baht, or coconut water (naam ma-phrao), served from the coconut shell with lots of ice. Thais sometimes add salt or basil seeds to their juice, an acquired taste you could try, but definitely not mandatory.
You might not know but Thailand is the home of the Red Bull brand of energy drinks, and has its own licensed and re-branded version of Thailand's original Krathing Daeng (lit. Red Bull). Although you will recognise the label you won’t have tried anything like it before as the Thai version is a syrupy sweet, un-carbonated concoction that looks a bit like medicine. Don’t expect to find it in a Jaeger bomb, this drink is mainly for workers who need of a mid-shift boost- the caffeine content is equivalent to a double or even triple espresso. If you have got to get your wings and need the western version, a normal red bull will set you back 50 baht, as opposed to 10 baht for a Thai style boost.
A different kind of caffeine, try the strong sweet orange-coloured Thai iced tea (chaa yen), served with or without condensed milk) chaa dam yen to skip the milk). Tea without milk in general is referred to as Naam chaa, this means milk-less or black tea, even if its green (chaa khiao) Chinese style tea (chaa jiin) or Western-style black tea (chaa farang)
Coffee(kaafae) is also widely available, and is usually served with condensed milk and lots of sugar, Thai people tend to like their coffees sweet. Different variations include, iced coffee (O liang) and hot black (O yua).
Drinking in Thailand is inexpensive, unless you really want a particular tipple from home as imported drinks will cost you in Thailand. A shot of a brand-name liquor will set you back around 100 baht, a pint of Guinness at least 200 baht and, because of an extortionate 340% tax, even a cheap wine will come in over 500 baht. The alternative is a lot cheaper and on most occasions perfectly palatable.
Thai whisky (lao) can be a bit deceptive for travellers as it does not refer to the western tyoe of whisky but to a number of liquors. Rum-like brands Mae Khong (Mekong) and Saeng Som (Sangsom) compete across the market, with their high alcohol content and cheap price, about 50 baht for a 35cl bottle. Whilst it may smell like paint nail varnish it tastes good with tonic or coke. An alternative is the real Thai whisky (lao khao) a white spirit, distilled from rice. If home-brewed, as it most likely will be, this home brew goes by the name of lao theuan,jungle liquor. Some add herbs for medicinal effect (ya dong). It’s an illegal drink but this is hardly kept and no doubt you will be offered some if you go on a hill tribe trek.
Thai rice wine (sato) is very similar to Japanese sake. The Siam Sato brand can be bought at 25 baht for a 0.65L bottle. At a sturdy 8%, satois a cheap night, however in strong quantities it could become a regrettable or forgettable one. Check out the gapyear.com community’s advice on hangover cures to get you through, as a day in bed is sometimes not an option on a traveller’s schedule!
Thais tend to like beers with higher alcohol content that westerners (around 6%). Check out Local brews such asSingha orChang. Both are strong (Chang especially, being 6.4%, and Singha 5%), but do have low-alcohol alternatives such as Singha Light (3.5%) or Chang Light is 4.2%. Try Leo for a cheap, popular alternative (priced 10-20% less than Singha) If looking for Premium brands then you will most likely find Heineken and Tiger, bear in mind they are weaker but around 10-20% more expensive.
There are some days and time when the sale of alcohol is restricted. On religious holidays and elections it may be hard to find shops that are selling alcohol. On regular days retailers are not supposed to sell alcohol between midnight and 11:00 and, strangely, 14:00-17:00.