Home Practice Health in Thailand, tips for safe travel

Health in Thailand, tips for safe travel

by Pierre To
13 minutes to read
Health in Thailand

The main things you need to know about diseases, the health system, and the medicines you can find in Thailand, to travel safely.

This page is a mixture of personal advice (coloured text) and recommendations from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs on what to know before a travel to Thailand.

Before departure

It is advisable to consult your doctor and dentist for a check-up, and to take out insurance covering medical expenses and repatriation.

Insurance is really advisable, every year many tourists end up in hospital, often due to a road accident, and cannot afford the costs.

The Thai government is currently considering a compulsory insurance system.

See our article :
Travel insurance: why a bank card is not enough

Entering Thailand with medicines

Travellers' attention is drawn to Thai regulations which require declaration and even prior authorisation for the import of medicines.

For example, people with ongoing medical treatment should check with the Thai embassy to ensure that the medication they are taking is permitted.

Rules apply depending on the nature of the medicines and the quantity allowed.

For some medicines, and for short term prescriptions, the Thai embassy will recommend to provide a prescription written in English and to declare the products spontaneously when passing through customs.

For others, importation may be prohibited or restricted.

Breaches of the rules could lead to various measures ranging from simple confiscation of medicines to, in some cases, imprisonment.

It is therefore strongly advised that before travelling on medical treatment, you check with theEmbassy of Thailand in Paris.

The Thai health system

The Thai health care system is of good quality, you will find English speaking doctors in most hospitals.

You will also find a large number of pharmacies and almost the same medicines (same quality) as in Western countries.

If you are in budget mode, go to public rather than private hospitals.

Fees in the private hospital chain "Bangkok Hospital", for example, can be up to 10 times (or even much more) than a normal consultation.

You should only go to these private hospitals if you have good insurance and be wary of the prescription of drugs to be purchased from their pharmacy.

Their goal is to make a maximum of profile, and thus to sell you a maximum of medicine, even useless, even dangerous (I say more in the comments below the article).

Health in Thailand: vaccinations

It is advisable to update your diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccination.

Other recommended vaccinations (depending on hygiene conditions and length of stay): typhoid fever, viral hepatitis A and B.

Other vaccinations: if you are staying in rural areas, vaccination against Japanese encephalitis may be necessary.

Rabies is endemic throughout Southeast Asia. The utmost caution is recommended with regard to stray animals throughout the country, including cities.

Prevention is based, first and foremost, on avoiding contact with suspect animals, and secondly on preventive vaccination in cases where there is a presumed risk of exposure (high-risk professions, young children, living in rural areas or far from the main towns).

Cases of rabies were reported in June 2010 in Bangkok and Kanchanaburi province.

In all cases, ask your doctor or an international vaccination centre for advice.

Food hygiene, water hygiene

If you have heart palpitations or feel particularly nervous after a good Thai meal, it may be due to glutamate or MSG.

Some restaurants abuse it to improve the taste of their food and some people are very sensitive to it.

You can ask to have no MSG in your food with this sentence:
Mesh flip-flop mesh pong chulotte na (don't use MSG), with krap (if you are a man) or khaa (if you are a woman) at the end of the sentence as a courtesy.

See :
Thai language, the minimum vocabulary to know on your first trip

But it is important to know that even if they do not add MSG, there is often MSG in the sauces and stock cubes used to prepare the dishes.

the only way to avoid MSG is to go to restaurants that advertise "MSG free", the vegetarian restaurants (raan ahan djé) or Muslim restaurants.

Frequent hand washing is recommended, as well as drinking only water in sealed bottles.

Water is now safe to drink in Thailand, but few people trust tap water.

See : Is it possible to drink tap water in Thailand?

Caution should be exercised when consuming local products in markets.

Avoid eating raw fish, meat and poultry.

Note: when Thais eat raw meat or fish, it is mixed with lots of spices, lemon juice and chillies which normally kill germs.

Update: there have been several reports in the Thai media of people being poisoned by eating laps (raw meat mixed with many spices), leading to hospitalisations.

Remember to adapt your water consumption to the heat and the activities you do.

The food is varied, and the hygiene conditions in the restaurants are generally satisfactory, although there are no systematic health checks.

Specific infant food is readily available in cities.

Health in Thailand: Mouth and Foot Syndrome

Foot-Mouth syndromeCases of "hand-foot-and-mouth syndrome" are regularly reported in countries in the South East Asian region.

This disease is usually associated with different viruses (Coxsackie and enterovirus), with the EV 71 enterovirus strain identified as responsible for the outbreak in 2012, and described as particularly aggressive.

The disease mainly affects children aged 3 months to 11 years and manifests itself as fever, small blisters in the mouth, palms and fingers, soles of the feet and on the buttocks.

There is currently no vaccine against this type of virus. Good hygiene practices can minimise this risk.

It is strongly advised to consult a doctor immediately if any of the following symptoms appear: dehydration (dry mouth, weight loss, etc.), neck stiffness, convulsions, persistent headaches and breathing difficulties.


Several cases of cholera have been recorded since the beginning of 2010.

It is recommended to pay attention to the quality of food and its proper cooking, to avoid eating raw vegetables, shellfish and any unpeeled or unwashed fruit or vegetable.

It is also advisable to use bottled water rather than tap water and to wash your hands regularly.

Health in Thailand: Vector-borne diseases

Malaria (malaria)

Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bites of mosquitoes which requires the use of individual protection measures (sprays, creams, electric diffusers, mosquito nets, etc.)

In addition to these measures, you should also take the appropriate medication for each individual: you should contact your regular doctor or a travel advice centre.

The treatment should be continued after the return to France for a variable period of time depending on the product used.

The borders with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia are classified as zone 3. In the rest of the country: no chemoprophylaxis.

See also : Malaria in Thailand, should you take anti-malarial treatment?

And my advice rather than taking chemical treatments with many side effects:

Artemisia Annua, a natural antimalarial treatment

Natural anti-mosquito remedies: 8 methods to protect yourself


Dengue is an endemic disease in Thailand. An epidemic of dengue fever is currently raging throughout the country, particularly in the north and centre.

The disease is spread by a mosquito, which is active during the day, so the usual protective measures should be followed (long clothing, mosquito repellents for use on the skin and clothing, electric diffusers).

As dengue fever can be potentially serious, it is strongly recommended to consult a doctor in case of fever (taking aspirin is not recommended).

Papaya leaves and seeds are used successfully in some countries to combat dengue fever:
Papaya and its fruit, the papaya, use and medicinal properties
Dengue can be treated with papaya leaf juice

Japanese encephalitis

This disease, which exists only in Asia, is transmitted by mosquitoes in rural areas. Human cases have been reported in the northern provinces of Vietnam.

These cases can be fatal or result in severe neurological damage.

Therefore, vaccination against Japanese encephalitis may be necessary (to be done at a local medical centre).

In the context of a tourist trip, it seems that physical measures (long clothing, repellents, etc.) are an effective weapon.


Bacterial infectious diseases, potentially fatal, transmitted by ticks, fleas, lice or mites.

It can be evoked by an infectious syndrome associated with skin manifestations. Treatment is based on antibiotics. Prevention is based on wearing long clothing and repellents.

Skin examination after passing through a potentially infested area (bush, forest field) is recommended.

Health in Thailand: Influenza

There has been a resurgence of influenza virus infections overall.

Personal note: there is a medicinal plant that is very effective against the different forms of flu, it is theandrographis paniculataFa Thalai Chon (ฟ้าทะลายโจร), you can easily find it in capsules in pharmacies.


Many cases of influenza A (type H1N1) are reported in Thailand. For more information, you can consult the website of the French Embassy in Thailand www.ambafrance-th.orgor by calling the Thai call centre on 02 590 1781.


Avian influenza has been diffusely present in Thailand since the end of 2003, with periods of apparent lull and recovery.

It is an animal (poultry) viral disease that is exceptionally transmissible to humans. Be sure to avoid eating raw or undercooked food products, especially meat and eggs.

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or with a hydro-alcoholic solution. If you develop a fever while you are in France or after your return, it is advisable to consult a doctor.

Health in Thailand: HIV infection (AIDS)

AIDS is far from being eradicated and it is therefore recommended to take all the usual precautions in this matter and to avoid risky behaviour.

Other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

I add this part because you can't talk about health in Thailand without thinking about STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

According to a Laotian newspaper, STDs are on the rise in the country and many Laotian women come to work in Thailand in various sectors, including the sex industry.

Dangerous animals

In addition to mosquitoes, which cause the above-mentioned diseases, there are other dangers, such as snake, jellyfish, scorpion and scolopendra stings.

For more information about this and methods of treatment, please see our article :
Dangerous animals to know in Thailand

Source : http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr

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