Cheap alcohol. Its one of the perks of living and travelling overseas. Even if you are living in Asia and earning a quarter of what you would back home, the booze still seems so cheap. So where is the world’s cheapest alcohol?
This post isn’t about finding the cheapest way to get as drunk as you possibly can – its about finding the cheapest place to buy good quality alcohol around the world. Sure, you can always find locally-brewed brain-killing alcohol in just about every country for the price of a chocolate bar, but its nasty stuff.
In Laos, potent local rice-whiskey called Lao-Lao sells for $1 (or less) for a litre – but despite some travellers swearing that it isn’t too bad, our experiences with Lao-Lao showed it to be pretty awful stuff. Sure, some of it might be fairly tasteless and reasonably well distilled, but you never know if you are getting a good batch. A bad batch of homemade spirits can lead to blindness and death – something that really does happen. If you really want to get wiped out on the cheapest alcohol possible, with no concern for taste or the long-term functioning of your brain, then Lao-Lao is for you. Or maybe just buy some Methylated Spirits. Or a gun.
Ghanaian Palm Wine
During a stint in Ghana a few years ago, a local farmer took me and a friend into the forrest to show us how palm wine is produced (nsafufuo).
A palm tree is chopped down and a hole is cut through the trunk, with a bucket put under the hole to collect the sap or tree juice that runs out of it. This sweet sap is then fermented to turn it alcoholic. This can then be made more alcoholic by being run through a crude distillation process, resulting in the ominously named drink “Kill me quick”. Palm wine, and is distilled cousins, are seriously cheap, but sitting around covered in bugs and dirt and drinking warm, sweet, lumpy palm sap from a plastic jerry can with a bunch of African farmers was memorable for the experience, not for the wine.
Vietnam has the cheapest beer
I was in Vietnam a month or so ago, and found what has to be a contender for cheapest beer in the world. Bia Hoi draught sells for around 15 cents a glass – and its not too bad. Light, refreshing and $1 will buy you 7 glasses. I cant imagine anywhere in the world could possibly top that. Apparently production of Bia Hoi is largely unregulated, and we noticed some really strange egg smells coming of a brew we were drinking.
Tongba – Beer’s Ancient Ancestor
In Nepal in 2005 I came across Tongba – a hot millet-based alcoholic drink that is about as tasty as it sounds. A traditional drink for some Nepalese tribes, Tongba is a large wooden mug, filled with fermented millet (which had previously been mixed with mould, bacteria and yeast) which is then covered in boiling water. After five minutes, the brew can be drunk through a metal straw. What makes Tongba so cheap is that when the mug is dry, more hot water can be added and the process occurs all over again. Its like a ever ending mug of hot, millety beer – the problem is, most people would struggle to get through one mug. In Tibet I was introduced to Chaang, a similar but more refined millet based drink. These super cheap brews aren’t all that great – but they are the ancestors to modern beer.
The Cheapest Alcohol? It’s in Cambodia
But I don’t want to drink palm wine, Lao Lao or millet beer. And that’s why I think Cambodia has the cheapest alcohol in the world.
In terms of the alcohol that you DO want to drink – brand name vodkas, spirits, top shelf scotch whiskeys, wines from around the world – then Cambodia is definitely the cheapest place in South-East Asia, and as far as I know, the world.
Here a litre of Smirnoff vodka can be found for $7, Australian-made Bundaberg rum can be found for $8 for 700ml (a quarter of the Australian price), and top shelf, single malt scotch sells for a third the price one would pay at home. A litre of Bombay Saphire is $11 Its not worth buying duty free on the way to Cambodia, as the alcohol is cheaper when you get here. It makes you realise how much of your money is usually going to taxes.
I’d love to hear some of the other contenders for world’s cheapest alcohol. Let me know in the comments section below.