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10 essential tips on travelling healthy in Thailand

There are many things that savvy travellers can do to ensure that they stay safe and healthy when travelling in and around Thailand.

Here are our top ten hints and suggestions for making the most of paradise.

  1. Get travel insurance

    Even for the young, fit and healthy accidents and misfortunes do occur and it is always best to err on the side of caution when going abroad. If your health insurance doesn’t cover overseas medical expenses, make sure to get travel insurance prior to take off. This will cover you in the face of illness as well as any accidents that occur as a result of outdoor activities, diving, rock climbing etc, as well as any scooter or motorcycle mishaps. Be sure to read all the fine print before your trip regarding payment of medical charges and ensure that you hang on to all medical reports, documentation and invoices for claiming purposes.

  2. Stock up on mosquito repellent

    Due to the dangers associate with mosquito bites in Thailand it is important that travellers practice strict mosquito avoidance throughout the trip. Try and avoid mosquito breeding grounds or areas with a high mosquito population, apply and reapply a DEET-containing insect repellent on exposed skin as often as necessary, and wear clothes with long sleeves and pants.

  3. Stay away from stray dogs

    Due to the high prevalence of street dogs as well as wild monkeys in some parts it is also best to avoid contact with animals so as to minimize the risk of contracting rabies. If rabies is left untreated it is fatal and medical advice should be sought immediately after any animal bite or even a lick from an infected animal. Pre-travel vaccination is also a good idea for those who want to be extra careful.

  4. Prepare your first-aid medical kit

    It is also an excellent idea for travellers to carry a compact medical kit for any possible problems that may arise. Ideally the kit should contain antifungal and antibacterial creams, antiseptics, antihistamines, paracetamol and medications for any gastro issues, coughs, indigestion and fever. For tourists with pre-existing medical conditions it is advisable that all medications be packed in clearly labelled original containers as well as a signed and dated letter from your doctor explaining your medical conditions. It is also recommended to bring along double your usual dose in the event of theft or loss.

  5. Rent a motorbike only if you are an experienced rider

    A large percentage of hospital visits for tourists in Thailand are as a result of a road accident on either a scooter or motorbike due to visitors not having adequate biking experience, faulty rental motorbikes and the sheer chaos of the road and traffic rules. Therefore it is absolutely crucial to ensure that travellers select safe modes of transportation while exploring the tropical country. It is advisable to use metered taxis for longer distances or tuk-tuks for shorter distances and to ensure that you do not get onto a rented scooter or motorbike without a valid license, helmet, as well as the necessary experience.

  6. Always use a sunscreen

    Sun exposure is also important for travellers to be mindful of. Using a sunscreen and constantly reapplying is essential when island-hopping, snorkelling, swimming or just sight-seeing around the various cities. Covering up exposed skin with loose clothes, hats and sunglasses will also help with sunburn. Heat stroke is also fairly common for visitors of Thailand as it can take a while for people to adapt to the hot, tropical climate. The symptoms include nausea, weakness, fever, dizziness, disorientation and even collapse and loss of consciousness.

  7. Stay well hydratated

    Another tip to avoid heat stroke is staying hydrated. Drink plenty of safe drinking water when exploring to prevent swelling of the feet and ankles, excessive sweating and muscle cramps due to strenuous activity in the heat of the day. Carry a big bottle of water with you when sightseeing or on any tours and make sure that you are sipping from it every thirty minutes.

  8. Consume only bottled water

    While a top travel tip when in Thailand is staying hydrated, it is also crucial for travellers to only drink safe and uncontaminated drinking water. Be sure to only drink from sealed water bottles and to avoid drinking water from jugs in restaurants or street stalls. Ice blocks are another concern as it is impossible to know what water has been frozen. Complete avoidance is probably best for those who wish to avoid upset stomachs or any water-borne diseases and illnesses.

  9. Carry layers with you to protect from air-conditioning

    Due to the extreme heat outside and the blasting artic air-con in shopping malls and buses that Thais are so fond of, can mean that tourists get sick as a result of rapid and extreme change in temperature. A way of avoiding this is to carry layers with you wherever you go, sarongs, light jackets and scarves are easy to remove and can keep one’s body warm or cool depending on the temperature.

  10. Do consult a doctor

    Another thing to be mindful of is to consult a doctor or medical practitioner if you or any one travelling with you is running a high fever for longer than 3 days.

If you get sick or injured in Thailand, do not hesitate to consult a doctor. Thailand boasts a great network of private and public hospitals and you’ll be in good hands. For minor health concerns or issues such as food poisoning, a cough, a cold or infected cuts or abrasions, travellers should seek out the nearest pharmacy or locate a local clinic with an English speaking practitioner on duty. These clinics are generally very affordable (from THB200 for a consultation) and offer reliable healthcare and advice as do the majority of pharmacists in Thailand.

For more serious issues such as an ongoing fever, a motorbike accident, serious and relentless vomiting and other concerns that are beyond the scope of a clinician or pharmacist, travellers can opt for either a government hospital or an international hospital. While both options offer reputable and excellent healthcare, the government hospitals are generally very crowded and getting seen to can take hours and hours of waiting. Although more expensive (from THB600-1000 for a consultation), international hospitals are probably the best option in the event of a serious sickness or injury and due to medical tourism being a big business here, means that the standard of care is excellent. Be sure to triple check your travel insurance details prior to your trip so that you’re well aware of all the options available to you.

Featured photo by Jordan McQueen on Unsplash

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