A popular tourist hotspot in the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand rightfully stands as one of the wellsprings of contemporary medical tourism. The country has gained widespread recognition as a credible health tourism destination. People travelling to Thailand usually plan their medical visits with sightseeing and their vacation plans.
Sharing the spotlight with two Asian neighbors - Singapore and India, Thailand, accounts for about 90% of the continent’s medical tourism market. Medical tourism in Thailand is growing at a yearly rate of about 16%. In the year 2012, medical tourism made up approximately 0.4% of the national GDP.
The Thai government has dramatically overhauled the medical infrastructure and healthcare system over the past decade in order to attract an increasing number of cross-border patients to the country. Also, the native population of the country is well-known for their hospitality and graciousness in serving their guests with utmost respect. This has earned the country the eponym of “The Land of Smiles.”
Hospitals in Thailand are equipped with the latest technology and provide high quality medical care. Patients are provided the finest medical treatment coupled with comfortable accommodation. Also, the hospitals in the country have a well-trained and highly experienced fleet of doctors and nurses.
Many of the doctors have received their training and certification in the US or the UK, thereby holding international experience which enables them to conduct advanced and sophisticated medical procedures safely.
Thailand has 15 JCI accredited hospitals which provide high-tech treatments in cosmetic surgeries, orththopedics and cardiology and others fields. Source: Walleigh via en.wikipedia.org
Personal care and attention is provided to patients in nearly all medical facilities in Thailand. Also, the people in this country are known for their warm and welcoming nature. Hospitals also provide additional patient-centered services like language interpreters and separate international wings to cater to medical tourists.
Thailand is home to Asia’s first Joint Commission International accredited hospital, the Bumrungrad International Hospital. The country houses as many as 50 other JCI accredited hospitals, (as of December 2015) offering excellent medical services.
Apart from the transgender procedures offered in Thailand, which often occupy the media limelight, hospitals in Thailand are also popular for a variety of other treatments and specialities like cosmetic surgery, cardiology, orthopaedics, IVF/reproductive medicine and dentistry.
Thailand offers medical treatments to patients at some of the lowest prices in the world, without the slightest compromise in the quality of care offered. In fact, the cost of medical treatment here, amounts to a saving of approximately 40%-60% of the prices paid for similar treatments in more developed countries.
Thailand has world-renowned spas and wellness resorts where one can avail alternative treatments like Thai foot massages, aromatherapy, Thai therapeutic massages, among others. Many of these resorts are also set in coastal surroundings, thereby making them more appealing to incoming tourists. Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine are also available here.
Medical spas in Bangkok provide relaxation techniques like aromatherapy with medical procedures under clinical supervision. Source: Aimaimyi via en.wikipedia.org
Overall, Thailand is a safe country to travel to. Physical attacks and crimes against women are lesser than many other South Asian countries. However, foreigners must beware of scammers. One should know the standard prices as many locals might try to overcharge tourists. While pickpocketing and theft are not common, they do happen. Tourists are always advised to keep their valuables and cash close to them.
A copy of one’s passport must always be carried along to avoid any run in with the local police. Drinking water in some areas of Thailand can be unsafe and unhygienic, which can be overcome by relying on bottled water. While going out during the night is safe by all means, it is better for tourists to travel in taxis rather than the tuk-tuks.
Healthcare in Thailand has advanced in the recent decades, primarily due to the development of the public health sector, which includes 1,002 hospitals and 9,765 health stations.
While the public hospitals in the country are operated by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), the private sector hospitals are under the direct control of the Medical Registration Division.
A nationwide universal health care system has been provided by the Thai government since 2002 covering 99.5% of the Thai population, and ensuring good quality and affordable primary healthcare services for all the citizens. This advancement of the healthcare system in Thailand has also been due to sizeable amounts of funds being invested in the medical sector, with total national expenditure on health amounting to 4.3 percent of GDP in 2009. These developments have made Thailand a hub for medical tourism, offering a variety of medical procedures at affordable prices.
While English is not very widely spoken by locals in the country, most of the reputed hospitals in Thailand, especially Bangkok have English speaking doctors. English is the primary language used in most big hospitals, and hence medial tourists should not have any problem in communication. However, one must phone the hospital in advance and ensure the availability of English speaking doctors. Additionally, hospitals in Thailand are known to have large international patient desks, which provide translators on over 33 languages.
The cost benefits and possible savings in any medical treatment, continue to be major incentives for medical tourists seeking treatment in a faraway land. What makes Thailand an attractive destination for medical tourists is the fact that most of the procedures are available here at one-tenth of the price paid for them in the US, UK, Australia and other developed nations. Medical tourists hailing from Japan, Asia and the Middle East make up a large part of the market for hospitals in Thailand.
According to forecasts, Thailand will increase healthcare spending by 8 percent annually to reach $18.7 billion by 2018, up from an estimated $12.8 billion in 2013. Typically, a coronary angioplasty costs around $28,200 in the US while the same is available at $4,200 in Thailand. A heart bypass surgery costs around $123,000 in the US while in Thailand, one has to pay only $15,000 for the same procedure. This shows the considerable difference in the prices paid for treatments in Thailand as compared to the developed countries.
The procedures available to medical tourists arriving in Thailand vary diversely, ranging from cosmetic and plastic surgeries to cardiology and orthopaedics. Cross-border patients arriving in Thailand also seek medical services like dental procedures, bariatric surgery and ophthalmology.
Cosmetic and plastic surgeries are the medical procedures which are most sought after by healthcare tourists in Thailand, which boasts of some of the best cosmetic surgeons in the world. Also, cosmetic procedures are generally available at half the prices in Thailand as compared to the prices paid for them in first world countries.
Bangkok and Phuket are the leading medical tourism destinations in Thailand. Primarily, the two hospitals have set the standards for medical care in Thailand, namely the Bumrungrad international Hospital and the Bangkok hospital and Medical Center. Both are located in Bangkok, making it a premiere destination among medical tourists from across the globe.
The Bumrungrad treats over 4,000,000 patients every year and has made medical tourism its major focus. On the other hand, the Bangkok Medical Centre sees an inflow of around 150,000 international patients annually. The Suvarnabhumi International Airport, situated in the heart of Bangkok makes this city easily accessible from various corners of the world. Also, this airport has a special desk set up by the Bumrungrad Hospital in order to cater to incoming medical tourists.
Most of the medical tourists coming to Bangkok arrive here for cosmetic/plastic surgeries and dental treatments. However, the hospitals in this city offer a variety of treatments like LASIK corrective eye surgery, IVF/reproductive medicine and major heart surgeries that are becoming increasingly popular.
Bangkok and Phuket are popular among patients because of their accessibility and dedicated concierge services centres in their hospitals. Source: Mr.Conan via wikipedia.org
As a tourist in Thailand, one must keep the following factors in mind-
The Thai people have great love and respect for their King. Hence, one must not say anything negative about the monarch, as this might offend the locals and put them in an uncomfortable position.
While dressing is not much of a concern in most parts of the country, tourists must dress conservatively while visiting temples and wats. Women must make sure to cover their legs and shoulders, and men must preferably be dressed in white.
The Thai national anthem is played out loud in all public places twice a day. When one hears this, they must stand still and pay respect, until it is over.
Language is not a barrier in the big cities of Bangkok and Phuket, where the locals speak fluent english. However, in smaller islands and villages, language can pose a problem. Thus, one must acquaint themselves with some basic phrases in Thai language for ease.
Thai food, known for being spicy, is a combination of several flavours, herbs and spices. Rice is the staple food in the country and is eaten in almost every meal, often served with a Thai Curry or soup.
Thai noodles also known as Pad Thai noodles are commonly served both in restaurants and street stalls. These noodles are a preparation of rice/egg noodles with flavoured meat (mostly beef, chicken or pork). That said, vegetarians may face a problem as most Thai dishes have either meat or egg. Besides the local cuisine, one can find restaurants serving mediterranean, Indian, Chinese and Italian cuisine, although not in abundance.
Clothing in Thailand varies between modern western wear and traditional Thai wear. Light materials such as cotton or linen are recommended, especially during the summer heat. Thai people are known to be extremely proud of their culture and traditions, and thus one must refrain from disrespecting their culture in any way. However, since the country is a hub of medical tourism, its culture has absorbed the differences in the food and dressing choices of the millions of patients that come to the country.
Thailand is located in South Asia and its climate can be classified as hot and humid for most part of the year, with long monsoons. Thailand has 3 main seasons, the hot season (summer period) which lasts from March to June, the wet/monsoon season, which begins in June and may last as long as October, and the cool season which lasts from November to February.
Temperatures can be as high as 40 degrees during the summer months, with humidity of over 80%. In the monsoons, continuous rains cause problems of frequent flooding, as well as a high humidity of over 90%. Thus, the best time to visit Thailand is during the cool season, when humidity is at its lowest and cool winds maintain a pleasant weather (18-25 degrees).
Also known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand provides a range of luxurious, yet adventurous travel experiences. From relaxing beaches and tranquil mountains to bustling cities, Thailand allows its medical tourists to enjoy it all.
The Krabi province is home to a number of Thailand’s most famous tourist destinations- Railay beach, Monkey Beach, Long Beach, Maya Bay and Phuket- where tourists can enjoy water activities such as diving and snorkelling. Patients in the process of recovery must, however, consult their doctors before doing such activities. One can also spend time recuperating in Bangkok, home to several temples and ancient relics including Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), The Grand Palace, Wat Po and Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn).
Tourists, interested in wildlife and nature, must visit the Pai Canyon in Northern Thailand and the Khao Yai National Park, known for its elephants, exotic birds, monkeys and other tropical animals. Other places of interest include a trip to the historic city of Ayutthaya, and the wat of Doi Suthep and Doi Pui. One must not miss the famous floating markets of Thailand, where tourists can shop and enjoy several local cuisines.
For medical tourists, in particular, a number of health and wellness spas are available, where they can relax after their surgery.
One can find a variety of public transport options to choose from in Thailand, ranging from the 3-wheeled rickshaws, known as tuk-tuks, to the modern skytrain system in Bangkok. Other popular options are the buses (BTS), subway, ferries and trains. Particularly, the city bus system is a convenient option while in Thailand.
Flights can be used to travel both to and around Thailand. While the major cities in the country have international airports, a number of domestic flights are also available for travel between cities. Airport buses and metered taxis provide a convenient way to get to these airports.
Most tourists from Western countries arriving in Thailand require a 15-30 days visa and can apply for visa extensions if required. One can also apply for a non-immigrant visa if they arrive in the country for medical treatment which gives them 90 days to stay in the country, provided they produce proofs of the medical treatments being received from a licensed facility.
As per the latest regulations, medical tourists from countries like Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are allowed to stay in Thailand for medical treatments without a visa. However, they are supposed to produce proofs of medical treatments being received here from a licensed facility.
Hospital accreditation is an essential tool that helps medical tourists judge the quality of healthcare provided by any particular hospital or medical center. The Thai HA Accreditation is a healthcare facility accreditation awarded by the Institute of Hospital Quality Improvement and Accreditation (HQIA). This is an independent organization that evaluates the quality standards of both public and private medical facilities in the country. Moreover, the Joint Commission International (JCI) is an international body awarding healthcare accreditation to hospitals and clinics across the globe.
Thailand is home to 18 JCI accredited hospitals, all of which ensure high standards of patient care and infrastructure. Medical tourists planning a visit to Thailand can rely on such accreditations to ensure same or even better quality of healthcare as their home country.
Interested in getting medical treatment in Thailand? Check out these popular medical tourism hospitals in Thailand.