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Taking care of your health insurance

If you are considering a long-term relocation to Thailand, addressing the health care needs of you and your family should be an integral part of your advance planning.

Thailand boasts a selection of excellent private international hospitals, as well as public government-funded hospitals. There is no access to free health care, so insurance cover is vital to make sure you receive the best care when you need it most.

Health care

The health care system, which is ranked 47th by the World Health Organization, is divided between private international and government-funded public hospitals. Many require a guarantee of payment for bills, which can be expensive and may delay treatment.

Private international hospitals

These offer excellent quality and employ many English-speaking doctors. Most private hospitals in Thailand will have an International Liaison Department that includes English-speaking staff who can liaise with. Many will have English-speaking operators. The Ambulance and Rescue emergency number is 1554. If you require an English-speaking operator for any other emergency, call the Tourist Police on 1155.

Public government-funded hospitals

Often crowded, and with limited nursing care, it may fall to family or friends to carry out tasks like feeding or cleaning the patient. To request an ambulance from a government hospital in an emergency you can dial the General Emergency number 191 (Thai language only) or Tourist Police 1155 for an English-speaking operator.


There is a plethora of pharmacies in Thailand, both in cities and in more rural areas. A mixture of independent and chain outlets, all are recognisable by their white signs with a green cross or lettering. As it’s not compulsory to have a prescription to obtain medication in Thailand, many locals go direct to pharmacies, which has led to overuse of antibiotics in the country.

Travelling with medication

If you’re travelling with prescription medication which contains psychotropic or narcotic substances, you’ll need to apply to the Thai Food and Drug Administration for a licence. Some medications that are legal in your country of origin may not be approved in Thailand, so be sure to check with your doctor before you. It’s always a good idea to travel with an authorised list of your prescription medications.

Health insurance

In light of the potential health risks and the substandard public health system in this country, it is essential for expatriates to obtain private health insurance before travelling to Thailand. Not only does it guarantee access to the best private facilities, it is a legal requirement for any expatriates working in the country.

Many locally-operated insurance companies only provide cover up to the age of seventy. Aetna International provides the experience and knowledge needed to ensure that you find the high-quality coverage you require and have access to the best possible treatment – whenever and wherever it’s needed.

Other risks

Every country carries its own risks which it pays to be aware of in advance, and it’s always important to check for news of any outbreaks or political unrest before you travel. Though vaccinations are recommended, some diseases do not have vaccines, so make yourself aware of the best ways to keep you and your family safe. Visit here for up-to-date information on political unrest or contagious diseases and search for ‘Outbreaks’ or ‘Important News’.


Cases of locally transmitted Zika Virus have been confirmed in Thailand. It’s recommended that you discuss your travel plans with your doctor, particularly if you’re pregnant.

Malaria is a risk in areas of Thailand near the Burmese border. Before entering these areas, take an antimalarial drug prescribed by your doctor and protect yourself against bites by applying DEET-based repellent and wearing clothing which covers your arms and legs.

Follow the same precautions to guard yourself against Dengue fever, a virus spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination, and the virus, which can be fatal, poses the strongest risk during the rainy season (May - November). The majority of cases have been reported in the Central Plains.

Thailand has had outbreaks of avian flu. A handful of cases have been fatal. For your safety, avoid coming into close contact with domestic, caged, or wild birds.

As of 2016, the prevalence of HIV in adults in Thailand was 1.1%. You should follow all recommended precautions to avoid exposure to this disease.

For people suffering from chronic bronchial conditions or asthma, it’s worth noting that during the months of April and May there is often a smoke haze across the northern and north-eastern regions of Thailand. The poor air quality may affect your condition. You can check with the Meteorological Service Singapore for air quality reports here.

Waterborne risks

Cholera and leptospirosis have been reported in Thailand, so always drink bottled water and take precautions in any flooded areas or during contact with water.

Schistosomiasis is a parasitic infection which travellers can be exposed to during swimming, wading, or washing clothes. The World Health Organization has suggested that the transmission of Schistosoma larvae may have been interrupted in recent years, meaning the risk to expatriates is relatively low.


Tourism from the UK and United States saw 1.9 million people visit Thailand in 2016. While most trips are free from trouble, there is a high risk of terrorism in some areas and there have also been recent incidents in Bangkok. It’s important to monitor media reports before you travel and to be vigilant. Try to avoid making political statements in public and remember that criticising the political coup is illegal in Thailand.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently advises against all but essential travel to the following provinces on the Thai-Malaysian border: Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Southern Songkhla province.


Although petty crime is not common in Thailand, there have been recent incidents. It’s wise to guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers when walking on busy streets or travelling in open vehicles. Make sure you keep your credit or debit card within view during transactions, as cases of fraud have been reported.

It is wise never to accept drinks from strangers, or to leave your drink unattended, as there have been occasional incidents of drinks being drugged in tourist areas.

If you have any questions about health when in Thailand, give us a call and we’ll be able to answer your queries.

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