Looking after yourself when travelling is incredibly important, and there are a number of different things to know about health in Thailand before you leave. Don’t panic though, as millions of tourists visit this country every single year, and health problems are very rare. Also, despite the fact that there are a large number of underprivileged people in this country, the health system is actually very good – this means that you’ll be well looked after in the event of an emergency. If you do have an emergency, the number to call for an ambulance is 1554.
It is absolutely vital that you have health insurance when you visit Thailand, as it will ensure access to the best hospitals and therefore the best treatment. Without insurance, medical bills can often be exceedingly high, so the small outlay before travelling is worth it, if not solely for the peace of mind. There are many different insurance companies offering insurance for Thailand, so make sure you compare them all before taking out an insurance policy.
There are many different vaccinations recommended when travelling to Thailand. Don’t panic though, as you will probably already have a number of them for day to day life at home. The vaccinations you should have though are hepatitis A and tetanus, while cholera, diphtheria, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis and typhoid should also be strongly considered. Those travelling away from cities can also consider rabies. As always, please speak to a medical professional before travelling, and follow their advice properly.
While the risk of malaria is incredibly low in cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, as well as in Ko Samui, visitors to rural areas of the country will be at risk of malaria. This means that malaria precautions are incredibly important. Every traveller should speak to a doctor about malaria precautions, plus they should use insect repellent and cover up as much as possible.
Medical Care in Thailand
In the large cities, medical care is very good, therefore meaning that you will be cared for well should you fall ill. Unless it is an emergency – in which case you should get to any hospital ASAP – it is a good idea to phone your insurers first. This is because they might be able to recommend the best hospital in the area specialising in your specific problem.
In more rural areas, medical care is not as widely found. Therefore, you should take into account any pre-existing conditions before making the decision to base yourself away from larger urban areas. If you do decide to travel to more rural areas – and they are incredibly beautiful – make sure you know where the closest hospital is and how to get there.
As with the information on hospitals, dental care can be easily found in all the larger cities – in fact, dental tourism is booming in the country thanks to the excellent dentists found in large cities like Bangkok. More rural locations are less well served though, so get those teeth checked before you venture away from civilisation. Also, check whether you insurance policy covers dental issues, so you don’t get landed with a large bill when your filling falls out!
Before leaving home, make sure you speak with your doctor and ensure that you have enough supplies of your medication to last you through your trip, as you don’t want to run out when you are miles from the closest medical centre. If you do run out, you will need to visit a doctor and get a prescription – trying to buy prescription drugs from more unscrupulous pharmacies is not a good idea at all.
Visitors to Thailand are at risk of dengue fever, which has no vaccination. It is spread by mosquitos, therefore avoidance of mosquito bites should be a top priority. It is more prevalent in rural areas, so take extra caution when visiting less developed parts of the country. If you start to develop a fever, headache or serious joint/muscle pain, please seek medical attention immediately.
It is also estimated that Thailand has an HIV prevalence rate of 1.2%, making it one of the worst affected countries outside of Africa. This means that unprotected sex should be avoided at all times, especially with the large numbers of sex workers in the country. The gay community within Bangkok has a very high prevalence of HIV (between 17-28%), so gay travellers should be very aware of the risks. It is also the case that many people with HIV in Thailand do not know they are infected, making the problem even more difficult to combat.