Living in Bangkok is — like so many things in Thailand — a study in contrasts. On the one hand, quite a few foreign residents are backpacking globetrotters trying to spruce up their budget by freelancing as English tutors, for instance.
At the other end of the income scale, Bangkok provides numerous opportunities to the high-level executive to lead a jet-set lifestyle comparable to Zurich or NYC. Of course, neither of these extremes is representative of what life in Bangkok is like for the average expatriate.
If you consider relocating to Bangkok, you should take special care of your health. Going to see your family doctor in preparation for your life in Bangkok is a key point on any pre-departure checklist. First of all, your physician should see to it that you get the immunizations required for living in Bangkok.
These immunizations should include vaccinations for tetanus, diphtheria, polio, pertussis, MMR, influenza, and hepatitis A, most of which you may probably have. Moreover, for longer stays, you should also get immunizations for hepatitis B, rabies, typhus, and Japanese encephalitis.
Further shots to protect yourself against TBC or cholera are only necessary if your move to Bangkok involves working as a medical practitioner, an NGO employee in a slum, etc.
Unfortunately, living in Bangkok makes you more prone to tropical fevers, gastrointestinal infections, or respiratory diseases. Depending on where you come from or have lived before, you may be used to the malaria prevention measures and hygiene rules that life in Bangkok necessitates.
Please talk to your doctor about taking proper steps against malaria, dengue fever, and chikungunya, as well as about food and drinks safety. If you suffer from asthma and similar diseases, you might want to get professional advice on how Bangkok, with its traffic chaos and air pollution, could affect your lungs.
Moreover, you should take out comprehensive medical insurance, either with a private Thai provider or with an international company, before starting your expat life. Of course, everybody hopes not to fall ill during their life in Bangkok, but if it should happen, you want to be prepared.
Thailand’s public health insurance system does not offer adequate care and reimbursement options to most expatriates. Therefore a private medical insurance policy frequently becomes inevitable.
Once in Bangkok, you may quickly find out that Thailand does not have a health system based on primary care. Patients do not have a family doctor whom they go to see for minor ailments, medical check-ups, and referrals. Therefore, when you choose a private clinic as your go-to place for health complaints, make sure to ask them if they have a general practitioner on the staff.
There is a primary care physician (Med Consult Clinic) in the Racquet Club Building on Sukhumvit Soi 49/9, catering especially to British expats living in Bangkok. However, most healthcare for foreign residents involves attending a doctor’s office hour at a private clinic or getting medical advice from specialists.
Living in Bangkok has the distinct advantage that excellent medical care is available, but it does come at a price. Most hospitals expect you to pay upfront for standard consultations, minor treatments, and medication, or to make a down payment on stationary treatment and surgery.
You should have a cash account or a valid credit card for medical expenses incurred while living in Bangkok. Also, for emergency situations, you should carry your insurance papers with you and know where the nearest private hospital is. Note down their emergency number. If something should ever happen to you, phone or make someone call the clinic directly.
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