Drinking age in Thailand
The legal drinking age in Thailand is 20. The drinking age was raised from 18 to 20 in 2006. Interestingly, other Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan have a legal drinking age of 20 too. It’s not quite as high as the United States at 21, and it’s not as low as the European countries at 18. Although you’ll find that many bars and stores will let you buy alcohol even if you’re under 18, there are other places that really enforce the law. There are penalties for nightclubs and bars that don’t enforce the laws, and they could be suspended or closed down. They can get some huge fines levied against their businesses too. The police sometimes conduct raids on nightclubs when they’re looking for underage drinkers and drug use, and offenders get taken to jail. The likelihood of getting caught is minimal, but if you get caught, then beware, because Thai jails are some of the worst in the world.
Most nightclubs and bars will have their own age that they have at their own discretion so they can choose the kinds of audiences that come into their clubs. Don’t drink and drive, even though the country has a reputation for letting you bribe police officers. Don’t rely on breaking one law to make up for breaking another law. Some sources will tell you that no one under the age of 20 years old can enter a disco, club, or bar. However, people rarely get checked if they look old enough and don’t misbehave.
If there’s a check done at a nightclub or bar, and there are underage drinkers present, then the bar or club owner will take the majority of the flack, and not the customers. There are heavy fines levied, and the bar owner could even lose his club. It’s not worth it for most club owners to tolerate underage drinkers. That’s why there’s more strict enforcement there than other countries. It’s even known that sometimes the government will send an underage drinker into the club to see if they can buy alcohol without getting their ID checked.
When you’re in Thailand, don’t ruin the experience by misbehaving or underage drinking and getting sent to a Thai jail. Thai jails are some of the worst in the world, and they’re written about by Amnesty International as violating numerous human rights laws. Now, of course, you probably won’t encounter any human rights violations in the relatively short time of incarceration for underage drinking or causing a stir, but it’s still not to wise to risk ruining an entire vacation by being sent to a Thai jail.
There are a lot of plusses to visiting Thailand, and the drinking age is one of them. After all, if you’re 20, that’s still one year earlier than when you can drink in the United States, and you’ll be in a much more beautiful part of the world where you can really enjoy your first drinking experience.