Welcome to our country guide page providing economic, healthcare and health insurance information to expatriates living in Thailand. The country is located in South East Asia and is surrounded by Mynamar and Laos to the North, Laos and Cambodia to the East and Malaysia and Thailand in the South. The capital city is Bangkok, other well-known cities and towns include Pattaya and Phuket.
Thailand in numbers
|Area||513,000 sq. km|
*UN World Bank figures from 2014.
Thailand has grown from a low income country to upper income country and poverty has declined year on year. The country has a lot to offer from bustling cities to sandy beaches, Buddhist Temples and countryside. 40 per cent of the population work on the land. A useful summary of country information and data on Thailand can be found here.
Healthcare in Thailand
Healthcare in Thailand is excellent in the country's 400 private hospitals. There are many public hospitals too, the government introduced a universal healthcare service in 2001 providing medical care for all nationals, with contributions paid for from earnings. Now almost all of the population has access to medical care.
Expats can contribute to this scheme although investing in private medical insurance is recommended.
The main hospitals are based in Bangkok as expected. The Bumrungrad International is the largest private hospital in South East Asia and offers services for 30 different specialities with modern equipment. English is widely spoken.
Bangkok Hospital Group has grown over the years into a group of more than 13 hospitals and medical facilities around Thailand. The hospital provides modern equipment and well trained staff. The Bangkok Nursing Home Hospital, known as BNH Hospital, was originally a hospital for elderly expats in Thailand. Now a private facility, BNH it has many international accreditations and speciality clinics which have expanded over the years. The World Medical Centre in Bangkok is two facilities in one providing high quality medical care including the International Patients Service Centre that provides care for patients from around the world, with medical staff able to speak a variety of languages.
Private medical insurance in Thailand
Despite having a complex visa system, a valid health insurance policy isn't required on arrival in Thailand. However, Expats are legally required to hold a valid private medical insurance policy. Health Insurance is regulated in Thailand by the Office of Insurance Commission.
It is advisable to ensure the correct insurance is chosen and that care is taken over choice of policies. Emergency and specialised care is expensive and a policy that covers all eventualities is recommended. Those looking for a flexible plan that provides transferable cover in and outside of Thailand should consider international private health insurance.
Important health information before you go
Ensure you have up to date vaccinations before going to Thailand. Air pollution can be a problem so those who suffer from any type of respiratory problems should ensure they have supplies of medication particularly for asthma.
You should be up to date on routine vaccinations. Some vaccines may also be required for travel.
|Routine Vaccines||Make sure you are up to date on routine vaccines. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio, and your flu injection.|
|Hepatitis A||CDC recommends this vaccine because you can get Hepatitis A through contaminated water in Thailand, regardless of where you are staying.|
|Typhoid||You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in Thailand. CDC recommends this vaccine for most travellers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.|
|Hepatitis B||You can get hepatitis B through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and blood products, so CDC recommends this vaccine if you might have sex with a new partner, get a tattoo or piercing, or have any medical procedures.|
|Rabies||Although rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in Thailand, it is not a major risk to most travelers. CDC recommends this vaccine only for these groups:
Children, because they tend to play with animals, might not report bites, and are more likely to have animal bites on their head and neck.
|Japanese Encephalitis||You may need this vaccine if your trip will last more than a month, depending on where you are going in Thailand and what time of year you are traveling. You should also consider this vaccine if you plan to visit rural areas in Thailand or will be spending a lot of time outdoors, even for trips shorter than a month. Your doctor can help you decide if this vaccine is right for you based on your travel plans. See more in-depth information on Japanese encephalitis in Thailand.|
|Yellow Fever||There is no risk of yellow fever in Thailand. The government of Thailand requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. This does notinclude the US. If you are traveling from a country other than the US, check this list to see if you may be required to get the yellow fever vaccine.
For more information on recommendations and requirements, see yellow fever recommendations and requirements for Thailand. Your doctor can help you decide if this vaccine is right for you based on your travel plans.
|Malaria||When traveling in Thailand, you should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria. You may need to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans, such as where you are going, when you are traveling, and if you are spending a lot of time outdoors or sleeping outside. Talk to your doctor about how you can prevent malaria while traveling. For more information on malaria in Thailand, see malaria in Thailand.|
Source: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
Prescription drugs and pharmacies in Thailand
There are thousands of pharmacies across Thailand both chains and independently owned. The Thai population often visit a pharmacy when feeling ill before their GP.
Most pharmacists will speak English and be happy to offer advice. Prescriptions are not always required, even for medication that might require a prescription in other countries, and a wide selection of medicines are available including anti-depressants and antibiotics. Hospital pharmacies can be slightly more expensive and only brand name medication is available.
Pharmacies will have shop hours from 9 or 10am until 5pm, except in busier areas when they will be open until around 9pm. Most are closed on Sunday.
Taking care of special medical needs
For existing conditions bring prescriptions and details of any medication with you. A wide range of ailments can be treated in the private hospitals and English speaking consultants and specialists can always be found.
Food hygiene and health
Don't drink tap water in Thailand. To avoid sickness drink bottled water, however, ice is usually safe as it is produced commercially using purified water. You should also check the source of water used to wash food.
For the same reasons care should be taken when swimming. It's wise to disinfect and treat any cuts after swimming to avoid swamp fever.
Care is also required when eating out especially at street food markets. Use common sense precautions such as ensuring food is cooked fresh. Make sure utensils look clean and that vendors' wash their hands. Ensure food is cooked thoroughly and avoid uncooked foods including salads, raw fish and foods from buffets that have been left for any period after cooking.
If you have a medical emergency contact the Tourist Police (1155) or the ambulance service at the nearest private hospital. You can make an ambulance call on 1669.
If you have medical insurance ensure you have a contact number in case of emergencies. Many international private medical insurers have mobile apps with all the information you need in case of emergencies so make sure you have downloaded it!
The World Medical Centre - +662 836 9999
Bumrungrad International- +662 667 1000
Bangkok Hospital - +66 2 310 3000
Bangkok Nursing Home Hospital - +66 2 686 270
If you are an expatriate looking for health insurance in Thailand, click here to create your own tailored international health insurance cover.