Healthcare in Thailand 

Thailand’s healthcare is generally of a high standard. The country has the unique medical problem of having more specialists than general practitioners, the result being that it’s rather difficult to find a reliable GP to treat minor medical issues.

Compared with the US and Western Europe, healthcare is cheap in Thailand. Although foreigners working in Thailand have access to free public care, most expats opt for private treatment, as private facilities offer faster and higher quality treatment.

Before venturing to another country, make sure you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Our international health insurance plans offer comprehensive health cover for when you are in your home country and abroad.

A national health insurance system, the Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS) provides free public healthcare through the Ministry of Public Health. Expats working in Thailand are covered by the UCS and their contribution to the scheme is deducted from their salary. Once enrolled in the system, new arrivals are assigned to hospitals where they will receive treatment.

Although doctors in public hospitals are excellent, waiting times for treatment can be slow and medical equipment is often out of date. A further issue is that care is restricted to specific hospitals that patients are assigned to.

Private care in Thailand is excellent and private hospitals have highly qualified staff as well as sophisticated medical facilities. Although Thai private care is much more expensive than public care, it is still comparatively cheaper than the cost of equivalent medical services in the US and Western Europe. This has led to Thailand becoming something of a medical tourist destination.

Most expats prefer private healthcare for myriad reasons: the quality of care and facilities is usually better; a wider selection of hospitals to choose from; shorter waiting times; and more English-speaking staff. As private hospitals often require proof of funds if a patient is not insured, those without international health insurance may face delays in receiving treatment.

Pharmacies are common in Thailand’s urban centres but are rarer in rural areas.

Expats may be surprised to find that some medications that would require a prescription in Western countries are available over the counter in Thai pharmacies, and vice versa. Many Thai pharmacists speak English, and pharmacies are open until late into the night, with some 24-hour pharmacies operating in cities like Bangkok. Many hospitals also have pharmacies attached to them.

Thailand presents some health hazards. In some areas, there is a risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases such as Japanese encephalitis, malaria and dengue fever. Expats should consider taking malaria tablets and should also avoid mosquito bites by sleeping under a mosquito net and wearing trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Apart from mosquitoes, care should be taken to avoid typhoid, which can be contracted through contaminated food or water.

Another health risk is the high level of air pollution in some Thai cities such as Bangkok, which can aggravate respiratory conditions.

Emergency transport facilities in Thailand are not yet fully developed, and response times in urban areas are often frustrated by high levels of traffic. Practically, this means that it might be faster for expats to make their own way to treatment facilities.

When contacting an ambulance, expats may experience language barrier issues, as government emergency service operators might not speak English. There are private ambulances that cater to English speakers, while some private hospitals operate their own ambulances.

The medical emergency service number is 1669; 191 will contact the police; and 1155 is an emergency number dedicated to helping foreigners in Thailand.