General practitioners, dentists and opticians are readily available. Doctors and staff in the larger hospitals generally speak good English. Every major town in Thailand will have a public hospital, but these can be poorly equipped and overcrowded. However, there is a good number of private hospitals and we recommend these for easier communication and better service.
Ask for "long-piya-barn ekachon" - private hospital.
Most general practitioners work at Polyclinics, which offer a walk in service from 8:00am until 9:00pm. Clinics offer a full range of services, including laboratory facilities, tests can be conducted and the results known, within a very short period of time. Currently the fee for seeing the doctor will be around 150-300 Baht, and the total bill, including medication, may be no more that 500 Baht.
Hospitals also offer a walk in service, where you can see a general practitioner, during the daytime. Many also offer a 24-hour emergency room service.
Emergency ambulance services differ from those found in most western countries. All hospitals have ambulances but they are mostly used to transfer patients. Emergency numbers are only useful if you can speak Thai. If you need help contact the Tourist Police.
In the event of car accident, an ambulance is not always called. In many instances, a passing motorist will take the injured to hospital.
Many of the problems that visitors encounter are minor and would not cause much concern in their home country. However, a minor problem can quickly grow into a bigger one, due to the heat. Don't wait too long if you think you need treatment. Remember that tests, which might take days in your home country, can often be conducted with in an hour or so at the local polyclinic, and the appropriate medication prescribed. You can then be back on your feet ready to enjoy the rest of your holiday in a very short period of time.
At the current time there is no compulsory immunisation required for Thailand. Medical opinions also vary as to which immunisations are advisable. The following vaccines are generally recommended for adults:
A pharmacy will be found on most streets in Thailand. They sell a wide range of products, both locally and internationally produced. However they may not have your particular brand. If you have special requirements it is a good idea to consult your doctor at home and bring adequate supplies with you, or make sure you know the generic name for any medication that you may require. In some cases pharmacies are able to sell you medications that would require a doctors prescription in your home country. All pharmacies close on the 25th of each month.
By international standards the cost of medical treatment in Thailand is surprisingly low. Nevertheless health and accident insurance is strongly recommended.
If you are planning a medical procedure you might want to consider a medical vacation.
On first entering a hot zone don't overdo it. Your body needs a few days to adjust to the higher temperatures and new humidity, so gradually increase your daily activity and exposure to the sun. This will help build up your defences, providing you drink plenty of water.
Adjusting to the tropical climate of Thailand can take a while, but you can lessen the degree of discomfort by heeding a few suggestions.
Tap water comes from various sources. In most towns it will have passed through a treatment plant, however, this is no guarantee of its purity.
Bottled water is provided in most hotels, and can also be bought easily and inexpensively at most shops. Imported water such as Evian, Perrier, Volvic etc. is also available, but quite expensive.
Ice cubes served in drinks at established restaurants are not a problem as they are usually prepared from boiled or bottled water.
Windows are generally fitted with screens so that air can be allowed in, whilst keeping out the bugs. The sensible use of an insect spray to kill any invaders, is recommended. Several different brands are available in the shops.
To avoid insect bites the use of an insect repellent is recommended. Several international brands are available in the shops, but we particularly recommend the local product called Sketolene. It is reasonably priced and very effective.
If you plan to travel away from the major tourist areas then you should take medical advice about the type of anti-malarial medication required. Such advice is best obtained from organisations like the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, in London, who have the latest information. Some strains of Malaria are now resistant to the more common anti-malarial drugs. It is important to check on this information as early as possible, as some drugs need to be taken for a period of time before possible exposure to the disease. This may mean starting the course of drugs before you leave home.
This disease is generally transmitted by the sharing of hypodermic needles or by sexual contact.
If you do require an injection of any kind, watch carefully to see that the doctor or nurse uses a new syringe and needle. Generally this is the normal practice, but it pays to be careful.
Condoms are widely available throughout the country. They are often referred to as a Meechai, named after the Thai government minister who championed their use for birth control.