Healthcare in Thailand has developed considerably over the last 20 years. Bangkok offers several world-class private hospitals that provide general health care alongside top dental, cardiac and other specialised clinics at a level of quality and price that amaze the foreign visitor. This combination of quality and affordable fees has made Thailand the leading medical tourism destination in the world; whether for a heart bypass, bridgework, cosmetic surgery or even a sex change.

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A considerable number of doctors in the private hospital sector have been trained abroad, so English and other languages are widely spoken and procedures are up to date, including extensive physiotherapy. Equipment in private hospitals is usually state-of-the-art, so you can expect health care as good as you get in your home country, but without the waiting lists, and at much lower cost. Even the government hospitals are surprisingly good (and amazingly inexpensive) for basic health care, though sometimes there is a bit of a wait. All accept BUPA or Blue Cross health insurance, which can be organised in Thailand for a very reasonable annual fee.

While the top hospitals are cantered mostly in Bangkok, other tourist locations have received top priority for new hospitals, including Pattaya, Koh Samui and Phuket. This is due to the influx of foreigners moving to these parts of the country. 

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Ambulances are affiliated directly with a given hospital, so it is important to keep the number of the nearest good hospital handy. Helicopter evacuation is also available from a couple of different companies to ensure you can access the best emergency medical care possible wherever you are. They will even evacuate patients from neighbouring countries, where the quality is not as good as healthcare in Thailand. 

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Healthcare in Thailand is however different from the West as it traditionally serves people from many income levels. All medical care throughout the country tends to be hospital based.

As such, most doctors, surgeons, and other medical personnel are specialised and most hospitals don’t usually provide a ‘general practitioner’ who looks after the whole family on an ongoing basis. Instead, one visits the hospital for the annual check-up or for specific ailments.

Alongside western medicine, healthcare in Thailand also includes traditional Chinese medicine such as acupuncture and herbal remedies. Over the last decade, practitioners have been licensed by the government for this ‘alternative’ treatment and there are now numerous clinics dotted around the country.

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Many visitors expect tropical Thailand to be a hotbed of exotic diseases, but this is not the case at all. No vaccinations are required, though it is a good idea to have yourself inoculated against hepatitis. The worst you can expect for the most part is the very occasional case of “the runs”and this may simply be from indulging too heavily in the chillies that Thais love to put in many of their dishes. If you are sensitive to chillies, be sure to learn the Thai for “not too spicy please” (“Mai chawp phet”).

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Pharmacies are on practically every second street corner in urban areas and if you require regular or occasional prescription medication (such as antibiotics) and know exactly what you need, you can often pick it up at your local pharmacy, at prices far lower than in Western countries.

Original branded medicines from all of the major pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Bayer and Glaxo, are all available at a fraction of the cost in Western countries. There is also a large range of generic products that cost even less.