First of all you need to know that none of these shops is the cheapest or the most expensive. Like in many countries some goods will be cheaper in one store, while the other things – in the second. And God only knows where a promotion (or “hot sale”) happens.
- Common traits of all shops, supermarkets & hypermarkets in Thailand
- Convenience shops
- Hypermarkets (Big C, Tesco Lotus, Foodland, Makro, Tops, HomePro etc)
- Up-to-date prices in Thailand
In Thailand you may meet proposals “2 for the price of 1”, “3 for the price of 2”, “Buy this and you will have possibility to buy that for 2 THB instead of 12 THB” etc. in many shops. Good news: you don’t need to speak/read Thai language to use these offers, just pay attention at signs. If you don’t understand (too many similar goods in a picture), try to find a seller and point to the picture.
Not all of Thai supermarkets & hypermarkets will accept your credit card. Some of them accept only Visa, some have limitations (like your purchase should be more than XXX THB) and some are not equipped with payment terminals. It means that on the first visit to a shop you’d rather have some cash with you.
All non-national goods will be much more expensive in Thailand. So if you got used to apples, chocolate, buckwheat, oatmeal, cheese (like brie), mortadella etc., be ready to pay more than you do in your home country. In Thailand it’s much cheaper and healthier to enjoy Thai food (fruits and groats).
Today convenience stores can be found in any country of the world. Usually cities are occupied with chains of mini-marts, while towns and villages have more private ones. The same thing happens in Thailand.
There are several chains of corner shops in Thailand. The most popular are:
- 7-Eleven (7-11, American chain that was bought by Japanese in 1990s).
- FamilyMart (Japanese chain).
Also you will meet Big C Mini, Tops, FoodMart и Tesco Express (these are convenience shops managed by hypermarket chains).
The most convenient things about these stores are that they are air-conditioned and open 24/7. In cities and popular tourist places you will meet them literally on every corner. There’s almost no choice of fruits & vegetables (in Thailand one usually buys them in markets, hypermarkets or fruit stalls), only a banana or a sliced apple. The same goes with the range of food that is used for cooking (f.e. there’s no raw meat at all). But here you will find:
– Microwave oven, sandwich toaster and boiling water at counter. It means that cashier can warm up & toast anything you choose out of big variety of dishes (from frozen & cooled down dishes with garnish to sausages, dumplings & rice burgers). And there’s a possibility to brew tea/coffee and various noodles.
– Ready-to-eat food. I would recommend you exploring the choice that these shops have to offer. Depending on the size of shop it can be big and interesting – it’s possible to spend a vacation having meal from 7-11 and every time it will be something new, unusual and almost healthy.
– Pastry. Thai-style, like pizza with sweet dough or sweet buns with salty sausages etc.
– Snacks: chips, sunflower seeds, nuts etc.
– Sweets: chocolate (much more expensive than in Russia or Germany), ice-cream, jellies etc.
– SIM cards & payments. If you want to buy a SIM card, just tell the cashier the name of mobile operator and handle your phone – s/he will install SIM card and activate it.
– Wide range of beverages including milk & yogurt, most of them are cooled down. Check the range of goods, f.e. ice tea in Thailand is not only with lemon flavor. It can be with rice or berry flavor, or Thai-style cold sweet tee with lots of milk, or a can with fizzy tea.
– Alcohol is mostly local: rum, imported vodka, beer and different cocktails like SpyWine (wine mixed with coca-cola).
– Cigarettes. My smoking friends told me that the quality of Thai cigarettes is low.
– Big choice of products for personal care – tooth brushes and pastes, shampoos, soap, tissues etc. All liquid goods are sold in small travel-size packages. If you have forgotten something at home, I give you 95% that you will find it in 7-11 or FamilyMart.
– Household goods & stationery. If you need a knife to cut fruits – it’s waiting for you here. Other important things that are for sale in Thai mini-markets: anti-mosquito devices and repellents, batteries, adapters.
– At least 1 ATM is located outside every 7-11.
If you can’t find something you are looking for – ask the staff.
If the staff doesn’t understand you, show an image on the screen of your gadget or use your theatrical talent.
7-Eleven and FamilyMart are franchise chains. It means that the range of goods may vary despite of the same uniform of staff and the same microwave ovens at every counter. Also the bigger is the convenience store, the bigger is the choice.
Sometimes tasty things can be out of stock, just an empty shelf and a price tag reminds of them. It happens with big triangle sushi and dumplings with shrimps. (Hm, it seems that I need to write an article about tasty things of 7-11 and FamilyMart in “Food” section).
Even in a chain of convenience shop you can experience problems with credit card payments. Not every credit card will be accepted. And the amount of purchase should be big enough. Be ready to pay cash.
Prices in 7-11 and FamilyMart are medium and low. Note that there will be an “island surcharge”, if you visit a shop located on an island (f.e. on Koh Samet or Koh Chang). You will notice that the same goods cost 1-4 THB more.
Stamps from 7-Eleven
Sometimes in 7-Eleven you can receive some stamps from cashier. Don’t hurry to get rid of them – next time you go to 7-11, you can pay with these stamps as if they were money (up to 100% of purchase). Well, it really cheers me up, when one changes stamps for food or whatever.
If you will go deeper in country, you will notice that the far you go from big cities the more private shops appear. Private convenience stores also exist in Bangkok and Pattaya though they are not so widespread. Most of private shops close for the night and have no air-conditioner and even door.
The range of goods in such shops is usually not as wide as in 7-Eleven or FamilyMart. Most of private convenience stores have no microwave oven and have a lack of microwavable food as a result. But here you will definitely find drinks, snacks, something from a fridge, a few household and personal care goods. In big private shops one may find peculiar goods as well as souvenirs.
In most of private shops you can pay cash only.
Hot deals like “2=1” or “1=12 THB, 2=20 THB” happen here too. Prices vary from shop to shop. Rarely (but I’ve seen it in Bangkok) some prices can be lower than in convenience store chains, but mostly goods cost slightly more.
Hypermarkets in Thailand usually don’t work around the clock. In the nighttime you can rely only on 7-11 and FamilyMarts. Reminder: your credit card may not be accepted, have some cash with you. All following hypermarkets are air-conditioned.
Big C, Tesco Lotus
Chains of huge hypermarkets like French Auchan. Here you will find almost anything:
- All kinds of food: from raw meat, vegetables and fruits to pastry and cooked dishes.
- Clothes and shoes (there’s a dressing room to try it on).
- Household goods, personal care products and cosmetics.
- And a lot of other goods including blankets and trolley cases. Just explore the range of goods while cooling down from Thai heat.
In the same buildings, behind cashier line, you will find some other shops, restaurants/cafes/food court, ATMs (bank offices are common too) and free toilet room. Sometimes there can be a little market with cheap goods on a parking lot in front of the entrance.
Big C and Tesco have membership cards, I’ve got both, but I didn’t notice any discounts that they grant to a member. So I would advise you not to waste time filling the form in.
In the evening ready-to-eat dishes (that were cooked in hypermarket) and cut fruits are sold with a discount.
Either in Big C or in Tesco Lotus one can shop online. Follow the links – both websites are available in English (just change TH > EN). Also you will see there today’s prices for food and other products in Thailand:
It’s a chain of hypermarkets of smaller size. But Tops try to be as comprehensive as Big C or Tesco Lotus.
Another chain of Thai hypermarkets. They are of smaller area but here you will find a lot of exotics for Thai people (=home food for you and me). There are European kinds of cheese & sausages, Chinese and hard-to-find in other chains Thai sauces and delicacies. Some of Foodlands work 24/7.
Makro Cash & Carry
Makro used to be a German chain powered by Metro (Cash & Carry) until in 2013 it was bought by Thai conglomerate. The difference between Makro and other shops are wholesale offers, though the range of goods is almost the same.
If you want to shop in Makro, you need to get a guest card at reception desk, next to the entrance.
Home improvement (hardware) store – DIY and building goods, interior decoration etc. Like French Leroy Merlin or German OBI. On my first occasional visit there I was lucky to find perfect (and surprisingly cheap) lamps for my apartment, so they were flying 8000+ km. with me back home. Too see the range of goods and prices, visit English version of Thai HomePro website.
There are 3 IKEA stores in Thailand – 2 in Bangkok and 1 in Phuket. They are located in suburbs, a kind of IKEA’s tradition, that’s why I still didn’t visit any of them. Unfortunately I can’t tell you, how IKEA adapted Swedish menu to Thai taste. But you will definitely see familiar interior details in guesthouses of Central and Southern Thailand.
If you are curious about how much something costs in Thailand, I would advise you to visit websites of Thai hypermarkets. This is the only way to see real up-to-date prices. All sites are available in English (just change TH > EN):