Did you know that you can save money on your travel vaccines by traveling to Thailand? One of the ‘to do’ items on the lists of travelers who are about to set off on a trip around the world is getting the proper vaccinations. In the United States, our healthcare system is notorious for being overpriced, and many of the shots that are needed for travel to far away destinations are considered unnecessary or “elective.” Therefore, many insurance companies in the US won’t cover a number of travel-related vaccinations. The cost of these vaccines can really add up, but one way to help keep the expense down is to get your shots in countries overseas, such as Thailand!
Medical Tourism in Thailand
Now before you freak out, you may be surprised to know that Thailand actually has good healthcare facilities. In fact, “medical tourism” is a pretty large industry in Thailand; people travel here specifically for some procedures that are too expensive back home. So if you are planning a trip to Thailand, you might as well consider if you need any medical work done too! (We’ve also had dental work done in Thailand too.)
(In fact, there is a really great episode that Morgan Spurlock did specifically about Medical Tourism in Thailand in his documentary series “Inside Man” — definitely check it out!)
As we prepared for our Around the World trip, we knew that we were going to need almost every vaccine out there. But when we priced it out in the states, we realized it was going to cost each of us a couple thousand dollars; mainly because insurance wouldn’t cover anything beyond basic, routine shots. So we decided to get our routine shots at home (those that were covered) and get the rest of the “elective” CDC travel vaccinations in Thailand.
Getting our Recommended CDC Travel Vaccines in Thailand
Thailand was the first stop on our overseas trip, so it was a perfect place to get our vaccines since it was at the beginning of the trip. We did our research well in advance so that we knew exactly what shots were needed for the countries that we plan to visit in the coming years, and we found a hospital in Bangkok that offered what we needed.
So on our first full day in Bangkok, Thailand we headed to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases at Mahidol University in Bangkok to get poked with a bunch of shots! A great way to spend our first day, right?!?! We arrived at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and got the process started. One thing to keep in mind is that you do NOT need to have health insurance to get vaccinated in Thailand, but you will have to pay. However, the price is reasonable (as we will share below).
A Unique, but Effective, Process in Thailand’s Hospitals
It was interesting to walk into a hospital in Thailand for the first time. We approached the front desk and told them what we needed. We filled out the new patient paperwork and handed it to them with our passports. They left, and returned shortly with our new patient identification cards. Then we were sent upstairs to the doctor’s office for the vaccines
When we arrived in the doctor’s office, we were greeted by smiling nurses who took down our vital stats and made note on our files. We told them the exact vaccines that we were looking to receive, then we sat in the waiting room until we were called. Within about 15 minutes, we were called to see the doctor.
We walked into a small room and shut the door behind us. The young doctor sat at his desk and reviewed all of our files with us, going over each vaccine that we identified that we needed. He then advised us on any additional vaccines or treatments that we may / may not need, such as malaria tablets, depending on where we planned to travel. After all was confirmed, he wrote out the official prescriptions, made a note in the system, and gave us our paperwork. Then we were sent back out to see the nurses.
** Read about how Liz broke her foot while traveling in China
We returned to the nurse station with our paperwork and they made a final review, then they sent us downstairs to pay for the vaccines. So we headed back downstairs and went through the payment process, much easier than here in the States! Then after we paid, we were sent over to the pharmacy (same building but next to the cashier).
When we arrived at the pharmacy, we gave them our paperwork and they pulled out all the proper vaccines, and put together in a nice packet for each of us. They too made notes in the system and sent us back upstairs with bags of our vaccines. Pretty interesting process, but hey, it works!
We returned to the doctor’s office to see the nurses, this time with our bag of vaccines. The nurses then took us into a patient room where they prepared each vaccine carefully, sterilizing the trays and using latex gloves, then they injected us. The injections went very quick, and the nurses were quite skilled; I’ve actually had shots that hurt worse in the states!
Afterwards, they had us stick around for a bit to make sure we felt well, then we headed out. Overall, it was a good experience and I would recommend that other travelers keep this option in mind.
In the end, we paid about $300 total for each of us to get 5 shots…that’s 10 shots at an average of $30 each. And one of those shots in particular, Japanese Encephilitis, costs more than $300 in the states for just 1 shot (and it’s a series of 3 of them in the States, where it is only 1 shot in Thailand).
Why Are Vaccines Inexpensive in Thailand?
The bigger question is why is healthcare so insanely expensive in the States?! But one of the reasons that these vaccines are cheaper is because that some of them, such as rabies and Japanese Encephalitis, are routine in Thailand; where they are not usually given in the States.
Since they are bought in bulk in Thailand and given to children as a part of their routine vaccinations, the price is less. In fact, when we told the nurse about why we were getting the shots in Thailand, she told us that about 70% of their patients are foreign…for the same reason, it’s cheaper!
** Read More – How to Buy Travel Insurance
Getting our Vaccines in Thailand Worked Out Great!
So if you plan to do some traveling in the future and you want to be prepared with all the vaccines you need, look into getting those shots overseas, and Thailand in particular. You will save a lot of money, and the experience is just as good as back home. Even though the process is a little different (running around with our paperwork and picking up bags of vaccines), it totally works, and everyone is kind and helpful during the process.
Planning a Trip to Thailand? Check out our Complete Travel Guide!
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