When it comes to what time a bar has to close in Bangkok, Thailand, Thai licensing laws are a law unto themselves (pun intended). A mess of supposed laws followed by “if you have the right influence,” (meaning if you pay the right person, you can do whatever you want), opening hours for bars in Bangkok, Thailand were changed to much shorter hours several years ago. But, like everything in Thailand, that doesn’t mean much.
Legally, all bars are supposed to close in Bangkok by 1am and, in some cases, 12pm, depending on the area. That many bars stay open long past 1am and well into the morning, well…..it isn’t that surprising.
On a holiday in Thailand and wanting to stay out longer to drink? Here’s what you need to know.
Around the Sukhumvit and Silom areas, most bars will begin to close at 1am, so by around 1:30 you’ll be expected to leave. If it’s raining however, many bars will stay open much longer. Why? Simple. It’s raining. The police don’t come. They don’t like getting wet.
At 1am on a dry night, as you leave a bar that’s closing, ask the bar owner or one of the patrons where there are other places to drink. Many bars in the city still stay open past 2pm, 3pm and later. If they’ve paid the right person for ‘permission’, that is.
Other bars will pop up on side sois (lanes) all over the downtown area. These are what are known as ‘cart bars’ and are literally as they sound – a bar set up on a cart and wheeled to a specific street. They’re easy to set up, and easy to wheel away if the police arrive, so they’re popular with vendors.
The cart bars are also fun, as you meet a variety of people from all walks of life — foreigners and Thais — and, on one occasion, I’ve even seen a couple of Bangkok’s finest drinking at one.
So much for Thailand’s “licensing laws” right?
In other areas of Bangkok, away from the tourist traps, you’ll find many bars stay open far past 2pm, as their clientele is Thai and the police aren’t that interested in closing them down.
If you make some Thai friends and they know where to go, tag along. These local bars tend to be more mellow, relaxed places where you can enjoy cheap beer and cocktails, and meet some fascinating Thais. The music is often cool too.
A final word of warning about drinking in Bangkok’s bars though, particularly in tourist spots like Sukhumvit, Patpong and Khao San Road. Make sure you always carry your passport or a copy of it, as they are notorious spots for Thai police to do spot checks. Without a passport, you can be arrested as it is mandatory in Thailand for a foreigner to carry one at all times.