I know a thing or two about medical tourism in Thailand, both as a travel blogger (I participated in one of Thailand’s first media FAM trips promoting the industry) as well as a consumer.
Over the next several paragraphs, I’ll use both my personal and professional experiences with Thailand medical tourism to provide as objective an assessment as I can. I’m sure you’ve found plenty of ringing endorsements and angry rants online—balance is what you need, and what I’ll provide.
Even if you don’t end up traveling to Thailand for medical treatment, I do hope you find an affordable, accessible cure for what ails you. In sickness as in travel, it’s ultimately more about the journey than the destination, as wonderful a destination as Thailand is.
How I Discovered Medical Tourism in Thailand
Long-time readers of this blog may remember that I participated in a campaign about medical tourism in Thailand about a decade ago. What you might not realize is that this trip (a sponsored media or “FAM” trip) was actually my first paid travel blogging gig. It is because I expressed interest in Thailand’s medical tourism industry that I am a travel blogger today! (Depending on your opinion of me, this signifies either delightful serendipity, or cursed coincidence.)
On that trip, I not only learned about the wide array of services medical tourists can avail in Thailand, from diagnostics like an HCV test all the way up to procedures like open-heart surgery. I also visited medical tourism venues like hospitals and health spas around the country, and even got to avail some services myself. While medical tourism to Thailand is definitely not for everyone, it is at least as alluring a prospect as you’re probably thinking it is.
Thailand’s Most Popular Medical Services
It might sound crazy to get on a plane and fly to Bangkok for open-heart surgery or an organ transplant. However, due to the low cost and high quality of such medical procedures in Thailand, dozens (and, in some years, hundreds) of people from around the world undertake such journeys.
A less life-and-death pillar of medical tourism in Thailand involves plastic surgery, botox, hair restoration and other treatments of a cosmetic sort. Conveniently, you can often avail these services in casual settings, including popular shopping malls such as Siam Paragon, CentralWorld, Terminal 21 and the MBK Center.
Thailand, as a general rule, has a less restrictive regulatory regime than countries in North America or Europe—this, and not a discrepancy in quality, is what underlies the low cost of medical treatment in the Kingdom. This also applies to prescription drugs, many of which are available over the counter. Even those that aren’t cost considerably less in Thailand!
Chronic disease management
Many people who swear by medical tourism in Thailand are long-term consumers of it. Travelers (especially from the Middle East, for one reason of another) visit Thailand to manage chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure and any number of auto-immune diseases. All your medicine and doctor visits, plus Vitamin Sea—what could be better?
For many years, I exclusively sought my dental treatment in Thailand. While I’ve had to pause this during the Covid-19 crisis, I anticipate resuming this strategy sometime in late 2021 or early 2022. In addition to being much cheaper than dentistry in my home country, I find that dentists in Thailand are simply kinder, for lack of a better characterization.
Is Medical Tourism in Thailand Safe?
I’ll start with a legal note: Only your doctor can tell you what is and isn’t “safe” from a medical perspective. Speaking from my personal capacity, I have not experienced any major issues partaking in medical tourism services in Thailand. I did have a scary moment getting my teeth whitened once, but I believe this was due to the inherent sensitivity of my somewhat pearl whites, and not any mistake the dental office made.
Beyond speaking with your own physician, I encourage you to do your own research when it comes to medical tourism in Thailand. Read reviews of hospitals or medical offices you may end up patronizing; Google the doctors’ names to see if anything bad (or good!) comes up. Speak candidly with people you know who have sought medical treatment in Thailand, and seek them out if none exist in your inner circle.
Other FAQ About Medical Tourism in Thailand
How good is medical care in Thailand?
The quality of medical care varies considerably in Thailand, as it does it most countries around the world. In the best-case scenario, you’ll be treated by physicians who have been educated in the US or Europe and who use high-end equipment in a modern setting, but charge only a fraction of what you would pay in your home country.
How much does medical care cost in Thailand?
Costs for procedures vary from office to office, and from doctor to doctor. As a general rule, however, you can expect to pay between 10-50% of the what you would in North America or Europe for comparable treatment in Thailand. Root canal treatments are usually under $1,000 per tooth in Thailand, while open-heart surgery tends to cost between $10,000-20,000. In most cases, you’ll pay less for medical treatment in Thailand, even when taking into account travel costs, than you would at home.
Is medical care free in Thailand?
Thailand has a robust public healthcare system, which allows citizens and residents to seek free medical care at government-run hospitals and clinics. However, these places and services are not why medical tourists flock here from all over the world. Medical tourism in Thailand entails seeking premium treatment at affordable costs, not receiving remedial treatment at no cost.
The Bottom Line
As someone who has bought partaken in medical tourism in Thailand and documented the development of the industry, I definitely recommend digging deeper into the topic if it piques your interest. While not everyone benefits symmetrically from seeking medical treatment in Thailand, the generally high quality of medical services in the Kingdom compared to their low price generally signifies a good return on investment. With this being said, please understand that my personal and professional testimony does not and cannot replace the judgment of your doctor. If you have a health concern of any kind, seek the advice of a physician, not a travel blogger!