With a long history of hospitality, Thailand is one of the world’s leading destinations for healthcare, welcoming patients from across the globe. Seeking medical treatment overseas used to be a novel concept, but the practice has grown exponentially over the past years, and now medical tourism is one of the biggest sectors of the travel industry.
If you’re new to this city as an expat, we know that this can be an exciting and confusing time. You’re looking for information about the most basic aspects of carving out a life in Bangkok, and while we can’t give you all the information you need, we can give you the rundown on healthcare in Bangkok. This site is an effort by Bumrungrad International to give you the healthcare knowledge you need so you can make informed decisions for yourself and your family.
Follow the links below to find the information and resources you need:
- Thailand's Healthcare Infrastructure : a clear explanation of how healthcare works in Thailand, including a guide on how to choose the right doctor for your family.
- Raising a Family in Bangkok : Everything you need to know to start your family planning
- Emergency: the numbers you need when the unthinkable happens.
- National Blood Center: if you need a blood transfusion, knowing your blood type and getting the right help are extremely important. Here’s everything you need to know.
The healthcare system in Thailand consists mainly of government and private hospitals. Here, we’ll give you a brief breakdown of how the system is divided and what sets these two systems apart.
The public healthcare system is funded by the Department of Medical Services and the Ministry of Public Health. The standard of healthcare in Thailand’s major cities is generally high, and as such the government hospitals strive to provide quality care for their patients. Thai nationals with a Universal Coverage Health Card or foreigners paying social security as part of their taxes receive free treatment at the government hospitals. Most of the healthcare staff at the government hospitals will often be primarily Thai-speaking, with some doctors possibly being able to speak some English.
There are several private hospitals within Bangkok, most of which offer healthcare that matches or exceeds the level of care found in hospitals in many western countries. Hospitals in Thailand are reviewed and accredited by two independent accreditation organizations. The major international hospitals, such as Bumrungrad, are also reviewed and accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). Bumrungrad International was the first hospital in the country to receive this accreditation back in 2002, and continues to maintain this accreditation at every recertification. There are additional advanced accreditations that private hospitals are using to develop best practices. For example, Bumrungrad was the first hospital in Thailand to recently receive CAP (The College of American Pathologists) accreditation. This accreditation ensures that the standards and practices used in the hospital laboratory to diagnose disease perform at the same levels as the top institutions that are benchmarked in the USA.
In the large private hospitals, most doctors speak English and many even offer language services for foreigners who may not speak English or prefer other languages beside Thai or English. From general practitioners to specialists and dentists, it’s possible to find care in English and even in another language. Other major provinces around the country have at least one major hospital where English might be spoke, with the numbers increasing in areas that are most popular among tourists.
Bumrungrad International dedicates a great deal of effort and resources to support the language and cultural needs of our international and expat patients. One such resource is the Medical Coordination Office
, which facilitates seamless transitions from the first contact all the way through after-care. This complete service is offered free of charge to our patients, and it’s a part of our ongoing efforts to provide not only excellent patient care, but also service that addresses the other human needs of being a patient in a foreign country.
Bangkok is a popular healthcare hub, which gives patients the advantage of having plenty of private and public hospitals from which to choose. While most specialists require appointments, walking in without an appointment is a generally accepted practice for routine visits. The larger hospitals also have websites and scheduling centers that make it very easy to set up an appointment. You can also find out more about the doctor accreditations and whey they have practiced in the past. Some Thai doctors have spent a portion of their career working overseas and may have practiced medicine in your home country.
The best place to start when looking for the right hospital is to first consider your needs and what medical issues, whether ongoing or genetic, are most important to you. Once you know what you want out of your healthcare, it’s easy to contact as many of the local hospitals as you’d like. Most private hospitals have digital inquiry systems that make it possible for patients to ask their questions which are then addressed by medical professionals to help you determine the details of your potential visit, including advice on finding the right doctor and treatment plan.
Almost every street in Bangkok is sure to have a convenience store and a pharmacy within walking distance, but it’s very important to consider the authenticity of each drug before you consume it. Common medications such as pain killers and antibiotics do not require a prescription and can be bought from most independent pharmacies. However, even in the case of antibiotics, it is in your best interest to ensure that your medication is coming from reputable sources.
Medication distribution is not strictly regulated in Thailand, so vigilance is the responsibility of the consumer. When taking medication, the patient is also responsible for considering other factors such as counteraction with any existing prescriptions, and storage conditions such as optimum temperature control. This is why getting your prescriptions from your hospital or internationally-recognized pharmacies such as Boots and Watsons is so important.
Although the cost of healthcare in Thailand is considerably less expensive than comparable care in most western countries, paying for care is an important aspect of your planning. Payment for healthcare services is generally expected right away, as opposed to the billing options that may be available in some parts of the world. If you have insurance, the hospital will give you the appropriate forms to fill out and contact your insurance provider to arrange the payment. If you don’t have insurance, the hospital will expect full payment upon treatment, before leaving the premises.
It can be quite difficult to estimate costs for medical treatment in Thailand. In an effort to make this process easier for the patient, Bumrungrad has a program called REAL COST
, which offers free online access to the real costs you can expect to incur for most common procedures at the hospital based on what other patients have paid in the past. Using a tool such as REAL COST
can help you anticipate the costs and benefits of your treatment.
There are several major health insurance providers operating in Thailand, and whether it is through your employer or by purchasing a private plan, there are ways to ensure that you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having the right insurance plan for your life in Thailand. Most employers, international or local, offer health insurance coverage as part of their benefits packages for their employees. As private health insurance companies have different coverage plans for people based on age, health, and other factors, it’s smart to shop around and get the coverage that’s right for you.
If you need medical care while in Thailand, you can rest assured that the hospitals, local or international, have the necessary facilities to accommodate your needs. Many of Bangkok’s private hospitals feature a premium standard of patient care, with many doctors representing virtually every medical sub-specialty. Doctors in Thailand undergo a rigorous training and qualification process similar to those in the US, and it’s likely that you may even find a doctor here who studied and practiced medicine in your home country. Bumrungrad Hospital is home to more than 1300 physicians and surgeons, about 300 of whom hold US-board certifications and international fellowships.
If you’re planning to have a baby while living in Thailand, or have moved here with your children, rest assured that the city has the resources, facilities, and medical care to ensure that your pregnancy and childbirth will be as comfortable as what you’d expect back in your home country. Most international health insurance policies will cover maternity coverage, and benefits can include prenatal and postnatal care, costs associated with hospital delivery, treatment of potential complications during and after delivery, and even fertility treatment. For those who are using insurance, the best place to start figuring out what is covered under your policy is to check with your insurance provider.
There are many hospitals in Bangkok that offer prenatal and antenatal care, although these services are more readily available at the larger private hospitals. Because of the preference for more personalized care and services in English or other languages, most international patients typically choose a private hospital for carrying out this important chapter of their lives. Most international health insurance policies offer coverage on everything from prenatal care to postnatal care, and everything in between.
After giving birth, your doctor will determine the right time for you and your new baby to leave the hospital and start figuring life out there in the real world. Before then, make sure to discuss with your doctor all the little things you need to know about looking out for your baby’s best health, as well as working out the right follow-up schedule for the coming months.
You can expect to have several follow-up medical examinations for yourself and your baby in the first weeks, lasting well into the first year as your baby continues to grow.
Whether or not a vaccine is mandatory in Thailand, it is extremely important to make sure that your child receives all of the recommended vaccines in order to make sure that your child has the best chance at living a healthy life. You can see below our vaccination menu, and plan the best schedule along with your doctor.
Recommended Immunization Schedule
The following are general guidelines; important exceptions apply for specific individuals and situations. Please consult your doctor.
Recommended immunization schedule, by vaccine and age group Thailand
||For all persons in this category who meet the age requirements and who lack evidence of immunity (e.g. lack documentation of vaccination or have no evidence of previous infection).
||Recommended if some other risk factor is present (e.g. based on medical, occupational, lifestyle, or other indications).
Vaccination schedule according to Center for Disease Control (CDC), October 2014.
Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule Thailand
||Range of recommended ages for all.
||Range of recommended ages for catch-up immunization.
||Range of recommended ages for certain high-risk groups. Please consult with your doctor.
*Two doses of HepA vaccine are needed for lasting protection. The first dose of HepA vaccine should be given between 12 months and 23 months of age. The second dose should be given 6 to 18 months later. Children and adolescents who did not receive the HepA vaccine and are at high-risk, should be vaccinated against HepA.
Applying for a birth certificate for your newborn need not be a daunting task, especially if you deliver at a private international hospital. The staff at the hospital will help you ensure that you have met all your legal expectations as an expat having baby in Thailand. The registration process for a newborn is typically carried out in the District Offices across the country, although most hospitals have programs set in place for obtaining the document for you. The Thai government will only recognize a birth after it has been registered at the District office, which must be done within 30 days of your baby’s date of birth. Because the official government forms are all in Thai, your best bet is to arrange for this registration through your hospital. Once you obtain a Thai birth certificate, the next step is to contact your own embassy and provide them with a copy, often translated into your own language.
Your child will only qualify for Thai citizenship if at least one of the parents is a Thai national. Otherwise, your child is considered an immigrant just like you and must apply for the necessary visa in order to stay in Thailand. If you’re in Thailand for work, it’s very likely that your employer already has procedures set in place to help you obtain the right visa for your child, so get in touch with your company’s Human Resources representative.
When you’re ready to leave the hospital, you’ll be given your child’s health record. This health record can be printed in English if you’re at an international hospital. Once you’re issued this document, make sure that it stays with your child at every medical appointment until they reach the age of 18. It is going to be your child’s most complete medical history from birth all the way through adulthood.
Many people to travel to Bangkok to receive fertility treatment at one of the city’s famous centers. If you find that you’re ready to have a family but unable to conceive without some help, don’t be discouraged. Many hospitals and standalone clinics in Bangkok feature fertility and IVF centers to help couples explore treatment options for infertility. During this time consuming and emotional process, you can take comfort in the fact that there are many people in the city who are grappling with the same challenges. It’s smart to do your research and find out which center’s approach will work best with your own desires. Take into account important factors such as language support and location when making your decision. Approach your treatments with a spirit of openness and take full advantage of the process by connecting with others in your community who know the challenges you’re facing.
This non-profit organization aims to provide support for new and expectant mothers in Bangkok. Through these services, you can connect with other new moms and moms-to-be, sharing information and taking part in discussions about raising a baby in Bangkok.
If you’re raising a child with special needs, then the importance of a support group can’t be overstated. The special challenges as well as joys associated with having developmental and behavioural challenges are best to be met with others who know the same challenges. The Foundation encourages independence, confidence, and pride for people with special needs, to celebrate their lives and encourage their potential and success.
At some point or another, most of us have thought about what we would do if we got into an accident, or had a sudden health failure, or even worse. By definition, an emergency situation does not give us time to make arrangements while it’s happening, which is why it’s important to have an emergency plan already in place.
If you don’t speak the local language, your best bet is to contact the emergency contact number of your nearest international hospital. The key is to eliminate or shorten your points of contact so you get help as quickly as possible, so get to a doctor right away and then you can let the hospital know that you prefer to be moved elsewhere, such as Bumrungrad, if you prefer. But most importantly, just get to your nearest hospital.
has a 24-hour Emergency Ambulance
service that connects to English-speaking medical professionals. Just dial 02 011 5222
|Police (General Emergency)
|Ambulance and Rescue
|National Disaster Warning Center
|Narenthon EMS Center (Nationwide)
|Erawan EMS Center (Bangkok area)
|Bumrungrad Hospital Ambulance
||02 011 5222
|Private Air Ambulance (Siam Air Care)
||02 586 7654
One of the biggest problems that face foreigners in an emergency situation is the issue of blood transfusions. It is recommended that you and an emergency contact know your blood type in the event of an emergency. If you end up needing an emergency blood transfer, and your blood type is RH Negative, please note that this blood type is not common among Thai people and is therefore in very short supply. The National Blood Center does keep a supply of this blood type, and the Central Blood Register has a register of donors, in case an emergency blood donation is needed.
- The National Blood Center