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Drinking Guide to Southeast Asia

by Taylor Kohlman Dec 17, 2014

“Another round, please.” = kor peum eek.

Between the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and party-hard beaches, drinking is a major way of life throughout Thailand. There are very few regulations regarding alcohol consumption, making it a worry-free experience for travelers. Fortunately, alcohol is consumable in public (avoid drinking in and around temples) and identification is rarely checked. With that being said, police will randomly raid establishments looking for underage tourists. If you are not 21, I strongly advise against taking the risk.

What to drink: Beer is the drink of choice in Thailand; Chang being my personal favorite. If you’re looking for a quick and cheap way to loosen up for one of the many parties on Ko Phangan, Thai rum and whiskey will get you where you want to go. Just a bit of advice: Stay clear of Sang Som rum; it’ll knock you right on your ass. You should also be aware when drinking from buckets, as their large opening is a great target for date-rape drugs.

Price: Beer is the cheapest form of alcohol and costs around $1.50 USD for a large bottle of domestic beer. Prices around Khao San Road, Bangkok and on many popular tourist islands are higher.

Legal drinking age: 21


“One more beer.” = Som beer moi teit.

With practically no drinking laws, delicious and cheap beer, and fun-loving locals, Cambodia’s drinking experience is a must. A large part of their economy is reliant on alcohol sales and the government actually promotes drinking, making it ingrained in their day-to-day culture.

What to drink: If you want to experience local life, you’ll have to drink some of their homemade beers. Strangely enough, gin and tonic is also incredibly popular among locals due to the quinine found in tonic. Quinine is known to help prevent and treat malaria, which gives us yet another reason to keep on drinking.

Price: Beer can range from $.70 to $2 at a bar. The cheapest way to drink is by sticking to draft beer. Bottled beer and liquor can cost up to twice as much.

Legal drinking age: None


“Cheers!” = Tam chok!

Whether you’re a partygoer in Vang Vieng, or looking for a more “local” experience, Laos is a great place to hang out and indulge in a few beverages. Follow local etiquette by making sure other people have a full glass before pouring your own, and try not to drink straight out of a bottle. “Cheers” is also widely used and is a sign of friendship and trust.

What to drink: Although it’s relatively new to Laos, beer is very popular; Beer Lao being the most well-known. If you’re looking for something a little bit stronger, lao (rice whiskey) is a lethal local classic.

Price: Drinking in Laos is relatively cheap. Like many other countries in Southeast Asia, beer is the cheapest of alcohol, costing between $1 and $1.50 USD per bottle.

Legal drinking age: 18


“Do you serve alcohol?” = Anda menyajikan alkohol?

Alcohol is widely available in most areas in Indonesia, but since it is an Islamic country, there are certain places where alcohol is strictly prohibited. When venturing into unknown territory, it is always best to check up on local laws.

What to drink: Indonesia’s most popular beer is Bintang. Tuak (sugar palm wine) and arak (distilled tuak) are great drinks if you’re looking for something a little stronger. If you are in a tourist area, beachy cocktails are also widely available, but cost extra.

Price: Beer at convenience stores will cost between $.50 and $1 USD and is the cheapest way to buy alcohol. Restaurants will usually charge at least double.

Legal drinking age: 21


Karaoke bars litter the streets of metro Philippines. Alcohol is a large part of the local culture and you will feel more than comfortable taking part in drinking. It is customary for Filipinos to accompany alcoholic drinks with “bar chow” such as mixed nuts and various meats.

What to drink: Local beers and rum are the most popular drinks for both locals and travelers. There are also unique liquors derived from coconut sap that are available nowhere but the Philippines.

Price: San Miguel and other domestic beers are the cheapest to drink in the Philippines, costing less than $1 USD. A cheap alternative to beer is Tanduay, (a local rum) costing only a couple of bucks a bottle.

Drinking age: 18


“One, two, three, cheers!” = Mot, hai, ba, do!

Drinking is a very popular pastime among locals and many will be pleased to have a drink with a traveler. Beer is the most popular beverage and is normally served over ice. After a “cheers,” it is necessary to take a drink, and make sure to refill everyone else’s glass before your own.

What to drink: Fresh beer on tap at a local bar is the best way to drink and absorb local culture. Bia Hanoi and Saigon Do are very popular brands.

Price: Vietnam has the cheapest beer in Southeast Asia. Fresh draft beer called bia hơi costs less than $.50 USD a glass.

Legal drinking age: None (18 for purchasing alcohol)

Express caution when drinking


Singapore is notorious for having some of the most elaborate laws. Even something as simple as chewing gum is a banned substance and spitting on the ground can run you a $1,000 fine. Although alcohol is legal, there are many taboos and regulations surrounding it. On a brighter note, if you have the money you can drink at some of the most elaborate rooftop bars and upscale restaurants in all of Southeast Asia.

What to drink: If you have been travelling for a while, you may want to put the Asian beer down and take advantage of the cocktails and wine the city has to offer. Nothing beats a Singapore Sling on a rooftop bar.

Price: $12 a beer is quite the wake-up call after drinking for pennies throughout the rest of Southeast Asia. Cocktails cost even more and bottles of wine start at well over $20 in stores.

Legal drinking age: 18


It is important to understand that drinking alcohol in front of Muslims can be offensive and you should observe local culture before indulging. With that being said, alcohol is widely available in major cities and in Borneo. The Langkawi Islands near the Thai border even offer tax-free alcohol.

What to drink: Thai and Indonesian drinks are abundant in Malaysia, and in major cities such as Kuala Lumpur you can find a huge array of liquors from all over the world.

Price: The Malaysian government heavily taxes alcohol, so your best bet is to visit tax-free Langkawi where alcohol is much cheaper. Throughout the rest of Malaysia bottled beer can cost you anywhere from $2 to $8.

Legal drinking age: 18


Be aware that alcohol is frowned upon by conservative Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, but is still widely consumed among Myanmar men. Beer is deeply ingrained in the culture, and is available at stores and restaurants almost anywhere in the country.

What to drink: The brand Myanmar Beer is by far the most popular in the country. Toddy juice is made from fermented palm sugar and is also a great regional drink.

Price: Beer is the cheapest form of alcohol in Myanmar and will cost you around $1 to $2 per 650mL bottle.

Legal drinking age: 18

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