Alcohol 101 before and after visiting Thailand
Starting from basics, the legal drinking age in Thailand is 20 years old. Apart from education institutions, infirmaries, parks, petrol stations and stops, pharmacies, public offices, and temples or most religious locations, it is not always illegal to drink in public unless there is a prohibition sign. Some streets are restricted but it depends on the case such as street festivals or food stalls.
Selling, buying, and drinking alcohol in public on Buddhist holidays are against the law as well as when there is a national or local election. Bars, clubs, and pubs are temporarily closed and convenience stores and supermarkets are prohibited from selling alcohol, with an exception of a few hotels. Selling alcohol to a person who was previously unconscious from intoxication and being considered intoxicated or involved in any altercation with an authority are also illegal, hence can lead to a penalty of one-year imprisonment and/or B20,000 fine.
Alcohol can only be sold during specific hours of the day: 11am-2pm and 5pm-12am except at the airport and certain nightlife establishments that are allowed to open later. Hours of operation for nightlife establishments differ in various areas. Most businesses close at midnight except for some in neighbourhoods like Silom, Patpong, and Ratchadaphisek that can stay open until 1am-2am.
The new Excise Act B.E. 2560 has been implemented since 2017. The updated tax is called “sin taxes” and is calculated based on the retail price. For wine and sparkling wine that cost more than B1,000, the rate is at B110, and around B20-60 if the price is below B1,000. Tariff on domestically produced wines is cheaper by B25. State revenue in general could be raised by an average of 2% increase.
Please also note that importing unpaid excise commodities is liable to a maximum of seven-year imprisonment and/or a fine of five to seven times the original amount of payment.
Alcoholic beverages in excess of the amounts that are not necessary to declare are allowed for import and export purposes with an appropriate permit from “related government agencies”. Failing to declare will lead to costly and severe penalties, with the fine four times the value of the items plus tax and duty and/or a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Tourists are eligible for Value Added Tax (VAT) Refunds according to the following requirements: exiting Thailand through an international airport; being a non-Thai resident who has visited the country for no more than 180 days; and not considered a pilot or cabin crew of any departing airline. The process requires showing a passport, a VAT Refund Application Form obtained online or at the airport, original receipt(s) of goods purchased in Thailand, and the actual goods purchased.