Readers' Submissions

The Real Cost Of Beer In Thailand

  • Written by Tony-UK
  • December 4th, 2020
  • 10 min read

One of the things most people who have never visited Thailand assume is that it’s cheap. Cheap as chips. Depending on where you live in the world, it may be. If a product is made in Thailand and not imported then it will be broadly in line with the average Thai salary. Current data would suggest that it’s around 40,000 baht in Bangkok for a middle class salary man or woman, but drops down to under 25,000 baht or less in the provinces. Broadly in line with what I would guess. We can deduct from this that $7 craft beers are not the first thing a Thai will rush out to buy after they pay their rent, even in a land where most people are partial to a tipple with food.

When I regale my team in the local pub with tales of epic drinking sessions in Thailand they usually comment “wow, I’ve heard you can go out with a fiver and come back with change”. The days of the 80’s and 90’s and the tales of feeling like a millionaire still live large in folklore. While undeniably cheaper than the UK in general by some margin, the only cheap beer I drink in Bangkok these days is usually from a 7-11 on my hotel balcony. 60 baht works out at around GBP 1.50 or $2 USD. I can find a regional brand of beer a bit less. The trouble is my local UK off license will sell me a can of Mc Beer for 50 baht or less these days. Prices in the UK have come down. I will say that Singha, Leo or Chang is a good tasting lager beer in a hot country so there are differences in quality. But we’re talking the actual cost of wetting your whistle on a bar stool in an area better than a sailors lean to or a jungle taxi stop. When it was 60 baht to 1 GBP it was an intoxicating feeling to cash in your pounds, at 40 baht to 1 GBP it leaves you a little underwhelmed.

What is the cold price of a holiday beer in the land of smiles?.

Well let’s start with consumption. How many beers do you actually drink?. Early in my holiday as I feel the full effects of the sun and the peer pressure of my gang, I usually do a lunchtime session, early bar and late bar followed often by a lock in. this usually tails off after a few days when I spend more time around the pool and go out later. Often swapping lunchtime beer for a substantial Thai meal or a massage. I’d like to think I drink about twenty bottles if I’m out for several hours but probably it’s nearer to 15. By the end of the holiday just six or seven followed by a few Jack Daniels. So a laid back average over 14 days of around 10 beers a day. If you like bars. I mean on a holiday that hardly makes you an old soak. I’ve been through the pain barrier of 20 plus beers and shots a few times but those days are getting less often.

For the sake of this calculation we will make it 12 a day.

The biggest single cost of an excursion to the LOS is the flight. Here in the UK if you want to hang around in Abu Dhabi or Dubai for 18 hours or go via Kathmandu and Bogota then you can get a flight for 350 GBP (470 USD), usually on air Siberia or an airline with the name in Cyrillic alphabet. If like me you would rather fly direct the best option is Thai Airways and their big Airbus 380’s; get on, snooze, eat, snooze, movie, nap, beer in Bangkok. Simples. I’ve had a ticket in advance for £550 GBP but I’ve paid £1100 GBP at Christmas/new year. Over the last 10 years prices have crept up, bargains are fewer and as I’ve not got hours to try to save 50 quid I’m generally of a mind to pay it and sod it.

I’d say the average price of a direct flight is £800 GBP (32,000 baht / $1070 USD).so we’ll add that to our basket.

Bear with me.

Hotel or apartment? That a choice a lot of regular travellers to Thailand have considered. The older you get the less likely you are to fish on the bottom. Firstly there’s the argument that as you’re out all day so it’s not necessary to fork out a lot of money on a room. This works if you’re on a budget or possibly on your first visit. For regulars, I like a pool and a gym. I like a good bar in the hotel with a kitchen serving fresh food and a laundry on site. It’s not that I drink in the hotel, but I like the option if I want to invite a visitor. The pool is a must, 10 lengths before breakfast and 10 lengths after tea is the refresher needed to recharge your batteries.  Location is another must for me, I need to be local to the bars I drink and either on the BTS in Bangkok or on the seafront in Pattaya. So I have to pay for this. These days there’s no end of sites offering deals in advance or hotels running promotions. Being a creature of habit I usually stay in the same places with an occasional impulse booking. These vary, the Marriott in Sukhumvit at around 200 GBP (8000 baht / 270 USD) – although not at today’s exchange rates I might add. To a favourite on Sukhumvit soi 10 ; The Galleria 10 – 40 GBP (1700 baht / 55 USD).Both these places offer a clean, friendly and relaxing environment, with the Galleria really punching above it weight. Both guest friendly. For a bit of context, you can get a bed and breakfast in the UK for 40 GBP a night in the sticks but a decent hotel in London would be 3 times the cost of Bangkok. Ironically there’s a good chance the reception staff would be Filipino, Chinese or Thai anyway!. So let’s average it out at 75 GBP a night (3000 baht / 100 USD). As a man In his 50’s with a decent job I’m not going to be fishing further down the food chain unless there’s a special deal being offered.

7 nights in Thailand works out at £525 GBP (21,000 baht / $700 USD), add to the basket.

Bear with me here.

Ok we’ve got the big stuff out of the way, but how do we get to the airport?. For me it involves a 3 hour drive to London Heathrow and then a 7 day or 14 day car park ticket. There are other airports in the UK, but only Heathrow is a hub for direct flights. The average cost of a pre booked slot in long stay carpark best case scenario is 200 GBP (8000 baht/270 USD) So we’ve got a 400 mile round trip. At 20 mpg that’s 10 gallons. Currently prices are low at 4.50 a gallon but it’s still going in the basket as a cost incurred.

£200 plus £45 = a further £245 (10,000 baht / $330 USD), add to the basket.

Bear with me again.

Food and incidentals in Thailand. Here we start to see savings. I love Thai street food. The joy of a small plastic bag of fresh fruit washed down with a pomegranate juice makes me feel like a health freak. If it’s sold in a kerbside café and can’t run away fast enough then I’ll eat it. I am a huge fan of Italy, their food culture is the equal of Thailand. But there prices are the equal of the UK. Eating  Fresh fried morning glory with garlic sauce while sat on a beach with the surf washing around your feet AND having only shelled out 100 baht is one of Thailand’s little joys. Avoiding too many Western pandering places I think I can exist comfortably on 1000 baht a day without scrimping. That’s around 7000 baht a week for a basic Thai diet without sitting on a log and eating off a rusted pram base way down soi alley 2 million with a toothless crone. Throwing in a few motorbike taxis instead of tuktuks or meter cabs in this too. A day pass for BTS would push that up, but the cheap vans in Pattaya would keep it down. I think 1000 baht is a fair amount if you’re on your own.

So let’s add £175 GBP (7000 baht/ $230.00 USD) to the basket.

Keep with me.

Pay to play. Should this cost be added to the calculations?. Well given that this website will probably have more than 50% readership who have been down that road then I’d say yes. There is a lot of feedback about GO-GO bars but not everybody has bar fined I’m sure. I’d like to bet though that most people have given in to temptation when confronted by some hot fox out of your league that’s suddenly in your league. It’s a man’s nature to hunt and our spears are metaphorically still being carried. Just a lot shorter than before and hidden from sight. There has been much complaining of costs of gym membership but I think I can say without much dissent that 5000 baht all in is about right for a personal trainer. Bar fine, lady drinks, taxi, drinks in another bar, dinner and a game of pool. I surely can’t be far away in 2019/2020. Now even a committed swordsman with a mission needs a day off so……let’s say 6 nights you’re going to make home base and nothing except castration is going to stop you. The other night you strike out. That’s 30,000 baht. When many of us sit in an office most of our lives staring at a computer screen and talking about gardening or a new online hat shop, there’s no way you’re going to waste a day in paradise right?.

Ok we’ll add this to the basket. £745.00 GBP (30,000 baht / $990.00 USD)

We’re nearly there.

There are many other costs that could be involved here. Especially if you fancy a couple of days in Chang Mai. But we’ll stick to this for the total. If you’ve already added it up were at £2490.00 GBP or $3312 USD. This is my costs for a week in Thailand on a basic but comfortable level. You will notice I haven’t added any bar bills in this. We can say without doubt the familiar 1500 baht bills keep coming throughout the trip. Weirdly my bill in Hillary 4 always seemed to be 1200 to 1500 baht whatever I drink and however short my stay. I suspect they just make it up. Those are optional and a moderate drinker on his own will manage to keep a couple of beers inside the allowance if you’re here to play and not slide under the table waving a surrender flag.

So here’s the real cost of a bottle of Chang.

£2490.00 for 84 beers. Or £29.64 per beer……$39.50 USD a beer! Effectively that’s what you’re paying. If you think about it a holiday is a luxury you needn’t purchase. So you’re looking at the cost per beer of your trip. A trip that seems to involve a lot of sitting in bars rather than day-trips to world heritage sites. Next time some of my mates suggest we decamp from a bar I actually like to save 40 baht a beer at happy hour in a bar I don’t fancy , I will simply refund the 40 baht per beer to each one of them because I’ve already bought beer more expensive than champagne. I will enjoy that beer exactly where I bloody want regardless of people complaining about the price!

Do beer prices matter then? I’d rather not think about that or I might end up drinking to forget. That would be an expensive way to forget an expensive way to forget!.

“Cheap night out in Pattaya isn’t it mate?”. Well, that really depends how you see it…

The author cannot be contacted.