Medical tourism in Thailand has been steadily growing in popularity for years. As medical costs and health care prices increase, the expanding middle class in high- and middle-income nations have looked for cheaper treatment alternatives.
A favorite destination for medical tourists has always been Thailand. The warm climate, friendly locals, and world-class medical facilities are all factors that sway millions of people to come to Thailand each year for treatments of all kinds.
My first experience in Thailand was as a medical tourist in the early 2000s. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and found the cost of treatment in the United States was far too high.
My insurance at the time did not cover the full costs of the pricey US treatments, so I looked into other options and discovered I had worldwide coverage including Thailand.
I did my research, made travel plans, and came to Thailand where the whole experience was eye-opening. The hospitals could rival any in the United States and the care and attention to detail was something I had never experienced.
Needless to say, I returned to Thailand numerous times after that first visit and now call it my home. I was hardly a trailblazer, but since my first medical tourism experience, Thailand has exploded as a destination for treatments of all kinds.
What You’ll Learn in this Article:
- What Is Medical Tourism?
- Why Choose Thailand For Medical Tourism?
- What Are The Latest COVID Requirements For Medical Tourists In Thailand?
- What Kinds Of Treatments Can Medical Tourists Get In Thailand?
- How Can You Find The Best Hospital For Medical Tourism In Thailand?
- What Insurance Options Are Available For Medical Tourists?
- What Should Medical Tourists Prepare Before Traveling To Thailand?
- What Happens After You Arrive In Thailand As A Medical Tourist?
- What Are The Most Popular Medical Tourism Hospitals In Thailand?
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Thailand was one of the top five medical tourism destinations worldwide with income from products and services associated with medical tourists accounting for 0.4% of the country’s GDP.
When the Thai government decided to allow some international visitors back into Thailand following an international border closure, medical tourists were top of the list.
In this guide, you will learn all about medical tourism in Thailand, why it is one of the first choices for medical tourists, how to find a facility, and what your medical tourism insurance is if you want to have treatment in the country.
What Is Medical Tourism?
Medical tourism is when someone travels to another country specifically to receive medical treatment.
Initially, medical tourism involved people from developing countries traveling to better facilities in developed countries. However, in recent years the opposite has happened with the industry mainly focused on people from developed countries traveling to nations with cheaper medical costs.
The practice of going to another nation for medical treatments or the use of healthcare services is sometimes also referred to as wellness tourism or health tourism.
Medical tourism spending on services and products grew dramatically since the turn of the millennium and the industry is expected to worth USD 207.9 billion by 2027.
Reasons to Choose Thailand For Medical Treatments
Many countries are vying for medical tourist dollars. In fact, almost every country in the world has some form of medical tourism drive, with many countries specializing in specific procedures or treatments.
Thailand is no exception and is widely regarded as one of the top medical tourist destinations globally. Here are some of the reasons why:
Cost of Treatments & Living
The number one reason to choose another country for medical treatments is of course the cost. For major procedures, Thailand can offer prices that are a fraction of the cost in many western countries.
For example, according to medicaltourism.com, the cost of a heart bypass in Thailand is USD 15,000 in comparison to USD 123,000 in the United States.
Other major surgeries such as a spinal fusion (Thailand USD 16,800, United States USD 110,000), knee replacements (Thailand USD 14,000, United States USD 35,000), or hip replacements (Thailand USD 13,900, United States USD 40,364) are all significantly cheaper.
Even cosmetic surgery is a much cheaper option in Thailand with breast implants (Thailand USD 3,500, United States, USD 6,400), a facelift (Thailand USD 3,950, United States USD 11,000), and a tummy tuck (Thailand USD 4,000, United States USD 8,000) all costing less.
Beyond the cheaper surgical costs, there is an extremely low cost of living in Thailand. Food, hotels, shopping, and public and private transport all cost a fraction of the price when compared to most western countries.
Even if you were to add the cost of flights, accommodation, and living expenses while in Thailand, treatments would still work out as much more affordable than in the United States.
World-Class Facilities & Staff
It is worth stressing that while Thailand is very cheap for medical treatments, it does not lack in facilities, cleanliness, and expert medical staff.
There are two kinds of hospitals in Thailand; public or government hospitals and private hospitals. While public hospitals are generally average, private hospitals boast some of the highest standards in the world.
Staying in one of the major private hospitals in Bangkok is more akin to a luxury resort than a medical facility. If you have never experienced a hospital stay in Thailand you might be very surprised.
A top private hospital will offer rooms the size of studio apartments, often with balconies of views across the city. You’ll also find the latest medical equipment and staff who can speak English.
Usually, the doctors working in private hospitals in Thailand have trained abroad and boast certifications from a minimum of two medical associations outside of the country.
Due to the importance of medical tourism, the Medical Council of Thailand conducts regular checks to ensure hospitals meet international standards in terms of quality of care and facility.
Medical Treatment Packages
Something you may not have encountered in your home country is the use of medical treatment packages. These “deals” combine two or more treatments in one visit to save on the cost.
These packages may include surgery, cosmetic enhancements, or general health checkups. Usually, they are sold by a medical tourism company, however, many hospitals have adopted in-house packages for patients.
If you are planning on having two or more treatments while in Thailand, it is well worth inquiring about a potential discount or package with your chosen hospital.
Thailand Culture & Life
Of course, another reason to choose Thailand as a medical tourism destination is the culture and lifestyle in the country.
Thailand is a famous destination for all kinds of tourists due to its vibrant culture, tasty cuisine, friendly locals, and cheap lifestyle.
As a general place to visit, Thailand must top the bucket list of many travelers, and when entering the country for medical purposes, you could also take advantage of the many tourist attractions Thailand has to offer.
COVID Requirements for Medical Tourists in Thailand
Unfortunately, the recent coronavirus pandemic has temporarily changed how people can enter Thailand for medical tourism. There are many rules and regulations for entering Thailand at the time of writing including mandatory COVID insurance.
However, due to the importance of medical tourists, the Thai government has categorized those who want to enter the country for medical purposes as a priority.
Upon arrival in Thailand, you will need to conduct a 14-day quarantine in your chosen hospital. However, if you are coming for medical treatment the time in the hospital would have occurred anyway so it is not a huge issue.
After completing the quarantine period, and once fully recovered from your treatment, you will be allowed to enjoy Thailand as a tourist and travel to any part of the country depending on local restrictions.
When considering a visit to Thailand for medical treatment, make sure you have purchased COVID insurance with coverage of at least USD 100,000. This is an essential requirement for all visitors.
The easiest way to buy COVID insurance for Thailand is to use a local company such as Mister Prakan which offer low premiums and provides Thai government approved COVID insurance with a certificate sent along with your insurance policy.
Typical Medical Tourism Treatments
There is a broad range of treatments available for medical tourists in Thailand. These range from general surgery to cosmetic surgery, and even dental work. Some of the more common treatments include:
Surgeries & Diseases
There is a wide range of minor and major surgeries available for medical tourists in Thailand. Most of the major surgeries are performed in hospitals in Bangkok, while minor surgeries are available in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya.
Some of the more common major and minor surgery and disease treatments include:
- Heart bypass
- Heart valve replacement
- Hip replacement
- Hip resurfacing
- Knee replacement
- Spinal fusion
- Open heart surgery
- Coronary angioplasty
- Heart failure
There are many other surgeries available with some of the major ones available only in specialist hospitals.
Another treatment often used by medical tourists in Thailand is for cancer. Cancer treatments are extremely affordable and the warm weather is a bonus for anyone fighting cancer.
A wide range of hospitals offers cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiology, and surgery. You’ll have a choice between Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, and Udonthani as the destination for cancer treatments.
Depending on your circumstances, you could also choose a government hospital for your cancer treatment, available everywhere in the country. Prices are much lower but you will likely have to wait longer for your treatment.
There are also integrative cancer treatments available at clinics in Bangkok if that is something you wanted to look into.
Addiction & Rehabilitation Treatments
If you are seeking addiction or rehabilitation treatment, Thailand has much to offer. Addiction centers in Thailand are welcoming, friendly, and usually have English-speaking staff.
There are facilities in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Koh Chang that feature full detox programs with luxury accommodation and a wide range of things to do on-site. The cost for these facilities is much lower than in western countries averaging around USD 10,000 per month.
If you require speech therapy or physical therapy, there is a broad range of medicines and treatments available in Thailand’s major cities.
Certified therapists and specialists are plentiful for disorders and services including lung illness, strokes, Parkinson’s Disease, brain injuries, and much more.
Cosmetic, Reconstructive & Plastic Surgery
Thailand is an extremely popular destination for plastic surgery – both medical and cosmetic. You’ll notice that even beyond major hospitals, almost every street corner and mall have several clinics where a range of beautification surgeries are provided.
Some of the more common cosmetic surgeries include breast implants or reductions, facelifts, liposuction, tummy tucks, Botox injections, and sex reassignment surgery.
Thai doctors are very experienced in performing plastic and cosmetic surgeries at much lower costs than the prices charged in western countries. You’ll find major hospitals in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and other major cities perform a wide range of cosmetic surgeries.
There are also options for reconstructive surgeries to restore functionality and form following major accidents, burns, dislocations, and other incidents.
Coming all the way to Thailand for a simple health checkup may seem extreme, however, thousands of medical tourists arrive in the country every year for a general health checkup in one of Thailand’s major hospitals.
The reasons to do so are simple. The cost is much cheaper, the wait times in private hospitals are very short, and the whole process is extremely convenient and pleasant.
You can also plan a short holiday around your yearly health checkup, with hospitals around the country offering these services.
Dentistry work is very costly in many western countries, leading to an increasing number of people choosing Thailand as a destination for a range of dental treatments.
As with cosmetic surgery clinics, you will notice dental offices on almost every street corner in major cities such as Bangkok, creating high competition and low prices.
Common dental treatments for medical tourists in Thailand include teeth whitening, teeth cleaning, braces, fillings, root canals, implants, and bridges.
Beyond the hundreds of dental clinics dotted around the country, many major hospitals also have a department specifically for dental work, giving you a huge choice of places to get your dental work done.
Researching A Facility or Hospital in Thailand
If you have decided to have some form of medical treatment in Thailand, it pays to do thorough research to find the most suitable facility.
There is a wide range of options available and narrowing down your choice can help you decide which hospital or facility provides the services, treatments, and standards you desire.
When researching a facility, you should also check with your insurance company to see if you are covered for any treatments in Thailand. Some insurance plans cover worldwide treatments which can cut your costs even further.
If you’re looking for global health insurance that covers private hospitals in Thailand, you can compare a wide range of plans on Mister Prakan.
Check Hospital Services
The most important part of your research is to check that a hospital provides the services you seek. Many major hospitals in Thailand specialize in particular treatments while others offer a broad range of services.
When checking the services of a particular hospital, find some reviews from other medical tourists, and read about their experiences.
Choosing a hospital or facility that specializes in the treatment you seek will ensure you can recover quickly and comfortably during your stay.
Facility Factors to Consider
Once you have found a hospital that provides the service you require, you should now do some research on the facility itself.
Some of the most important factors to consider are the facilities, staff, and doctors. Find out the answers to some of the questions below to make sure the hospital is up to your standards:
- What are the rooms like?
- Do the rooms have amenities such as air conditioning?
- Do the rooms have private bathrooms and showers?
- Does the hospital provide an extra bed for your companion?
- Do the staff speak good English?
- Is the doctor experienced?
- What are the specialties of the doctor?
- How many similar surgeries has the doctor performed?
Asking these questions will help you feel confident that a hospital meets your expectations and standards. Much of this information is available online, but you can always contact the hospital directly for answers to questions you can’t find on Google.
Request a Quote
Getting a quote is a potential minefield if you do not provide the hospital with the correct information. Simply emailing or calling a hospital and asking for the price of a particular procedure can lead to inaccurate estimates.
To get an accurate quote, you should prepare your medical records and even inform your local doctor of your plans and have them write a description of your requirements to send to your chosen hospital.
Once you have gathered your information, send the hospital a detailed email with all relevant information attached. If you know the approximate dates of your planned stay include them also.
Initial quotes will likely include a breakdown of fees such as doctor’s charges, ICU and ward fees, service charges per visit, and exclusions such as food, medical equipment, etc.
If you’re unsure about the fees in your initial quote, you can request the cost of an all-inclusive package from your chosen hospital.
Using a Medical Tourism Company
If researching a facility or hospital by yourself seems like a daunting task you can always opt for a medical tourism company that arranges everything on your behalf.
While extremely convenient, there are some drawbacks to using these services. For instance, the total costs may be higher as you will pay a service fee to the medical tourism company. You will also not be in direct contact with the hospital and instead, get information via a company agent.
However, if convenience is what you seek there are plenty of Thailand-based medical tourism companies you can research.
For medical treatments and procedures, Medical Departures is one of the biggest and longest-established medical tourism companies in Thailand.
For cosmetic surgeries and treatments, you can use a company such as Beauty Med which specializes in arranging such procedures.
Insurance Options for Medical Treatments in Thailand
An important factor to consider when going to Thailand for medical treatment is the insurance options. Firstly, you should check with your current insurance provider to see if you are covered for any expenses while visiting Thailand.
If you don’t already have a health insurance plan, or your policy doesn’t cover treatments in Thailand, you can compare and purchase worldwide health insurance options from a trusted Thai provider such as Mister Prakan.
Beyond looking into health insurance plans that may cover some or all of your medical expenses, you should consider travel insurance for Thailand.
Travel insurance plans can give you peace of mind if anything should happen during your trip including lost luggage, lost or stolen items, flight delays, and other incidents.
One more insurance consideration is the latest rules for travel to Thailand in regards to COVID-19. All visitors to Thailand, including those arriving for medical tourism, must produce a certificate showing COVID insurance coverage for at least USD 100,000.
The easiest way to meet this requirement is to buy a COVID insurance plan from a Thai government-approved company. Mister Prakan is the best provider of COVID insurance with fast approval and certification delivery.
Preparing to Travel to Thailand
There are a few things to prepare before entering Thailand for medical tourism. Due to the current coronavirus situation, you should check the latest COVID requirements for entering Thailand.
In terms of accommodation, there is a wide range of options available. From luxury hotels at great rates to Airbnb condos, you can find all types of places for the duration of your stay in the country.
If you will stay in Thailand for an extended period, consider looking into long-term condo or villa rentals. Many landlords will accept three- or six-month contracts at very low rental rates.
You should also keep an eye on the latest travel updates provided by the Thai embassy or consulate in your home country. Keep an eye out for the latest entry requirements and any travel warnings.
One other factor to consider when preparing to travel to Thailand is accessibility. If you are in a wheelchair or have difficulty walking, Bangkok may become a daily struggle for getting around.
While hospitals have great facilities for disabled people, public transportation and moving around to visit tourist places may be quite difficult.
After You Arrive in Thailand
Usually, your chosen hospital or facility will send you instructions and guidance about what to do after you arrive in Thailand.
It is important to note that presently all arrivals in Thailand must undergo a 14-day quarantine immediately. However, some hospitals have been selected as quarantine venues so you can complete the quarantine period there.
Depending on your arrangements, the hospital may have already provided transport from the airport to your accommodation and for the duration of your stay. If not, private transport such as taxis is cheap and widely available.
In most cases, hospitals will require upfront payment in the form of a deposit, or sometimes for the full amount, before the procedure. This is common practice and nothing to worry about.
If you have health insurance coverage for Thai hospitals, the staff will liaise with your insurance provider and sort out all of the details without your involvement.
Once the procedure is complete, you will need to arrange follow-ups and consultations with the doctor. If you require your medical records, the Thai hospital can provide them in English to take home.
Top Tips for Medical Tourism in Thailand
- Research Different Hospital and Facility Options
- Look into Medical Tourist Packages and Multi-Procedure Plans
- Contact Hospitals Directly for Quotes
- Check Whether Your Insurance Provider Covers Treatments in Thailand
- Be Prepared with Travel Insurance, COVID Insurance, and Health Insurance
- Research and Plan Your Trip to Thailand
- Allow Extra Time for Follow-Ups After the Procedure
Popular Medical Tourism Hospitals in Thailand
|Aek Udon International Hospital
|Bangkok Christian Hospital
|Bangkok Hospital (Nationwide)
|Chiang Mai Ram Hospital
|Nirunda International Aesthetic Center
|Pattaya International Hospital
|Praram 9 Hospital
|Saint Louis Hospital
|Wattana International Clinic
Hopefully, with this guide, you will gain a better understanding of medical tourism in Thailand and why millions of people every year choose the Land of Smiles for their medical needs. If you think we have missed any important information or want to tell us about your medical tourist experience in Thailand, please leave us a comment below!