Healthcare and medical care
The availability of healthcare services varies across Thailand. Bangkok has several private hospitals with both foreign and Thai doctors. Most of them have been trained abroad either in Europe or the United States. The Chiang Mai, Samui and Pattaya regions also offer comprehensive first aid services as well as routine and long term treatment.
Most of the doctors in tourist areas speak English. Doctors are usually available quickly and the price level is reasonable from a Finnish perspective. The prices vary, however, and you should check them on site. Note that there will usually be a separate charge for each examination, procedure or medicine. Most doctors are specialised in a specific field. A general practitioner is not necessarily easy to find. Only basic healthcare is available outside the tourist areas.
High-quality private hospitals include the Bumrungrad International Hospital and Bangkok Heart Hospital, both of which are located in Bangkok. In the Pattaya region, high-quality healthcare services are available at the Pattaya International Hospital and the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital, which is also located close to Pattaya. In Chiang Mai, at least the Chiangmai Ram hospital offers high-quality treatment. In Phuket, at least the Bangkok Phuket Hospital offers treatment of an international standard. In general, the Bangkok Hospital chain has a high standard of quality and its hospitals are available across the country (alongside Pattaya and Phuket, they can be found in Hua Hin, Koh Samui and Rayong, for example).
In larger urban areas, the doctors working at the hospitals commonly treat patients at small private clinics in the evenings. Receiving treatment is usually quick and effortless at these clinics. The price is also usually lower than in a large private hospital.
Travellers to Thailand should purchase comprehensive travel insurance. In case of illness, the trip home will be expensive and difficult to arrange without private travel insurance. Treatment is usually not started before the insurance company issues a confirmation or an advance payment is made. The hospitals often require payment in cash.
It should be noted that ambulance services are fairly primitive in Thailand. The larger hospitals sometimes have ambulances where emergency treatment can be started immediately. However, first response treatment is usually provided by volunteer organisations. Due to the frequent traffic jams, ambulances are rare especially in Bangkok. Moreover, cars do not always give way to ambulances.
If you suspect that your prevailing medical condition may require emergency treatment while staying in Thailand, it is recommended that you stay near one of the hospitals. This will ensure that you receive timely treatment when necessary.
The standard of the pharmacies varies. Hospitals usually have pharmacies connected to them, and it is a good idea to purchase your medicines there when seeing a doctor. The selection of medicines varies according to the standard of the hospital. The pharmacies commonly offer expensive original products and less expensive generic substitutes.
Please note that doctors in Thailand may prescribe more medicine for treating an illness than their colleagues in Finland would. Unnecessary medicine may be prescribed even for minor discomfort. If you receive a large amount of medicines or you suspect that medication might not be required for your ailment, you should maintain a critical attitude towards the medication. If necessary, get a second opinion.
Sources: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Embassy of Finland, Bangkok, Allianz, U.S. Department of State: A service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs