Health care in Thailand is generally good and inexpensive. In fact, people from all over the world come here for everything from routine plastic surgery to fertility treatments. The nicest private hospitals in Bangkok look more like five-star hotels than health care facilities, and doctors often speak three or four languages and have been educated in the United States, Europe, or Japan as well as Thailand. In other major cities, you’ll also often find good private hospitals with doctors who speak English.

Doctors often speak three or four languages and have been educated in the United States, Europe, or Japan as well as Thailand.Public hospitals are sufficient for many issues but are not always staffed with nurses and doctors that you will be able to communicate with. They may also seem substandard in terms of service and hygiene compared to health care at home and to the quality of care you’d receive in private hospitals. Unless you are really strapped for cash, use private medical facilities instead of public ones. International health insurance will almost always cover you at private hospitals. There are two exceptions to this rule. If you speak Thai well or have a partner who does, you may be able to navigate the public system sufficiently. In more rural areas, even where there are private hospitals, public ones may have better facilities or staff.

A new building at Srinakarin hospital in Khon Kaen,Thailand.

A new building at Srinakarin hospital in Khon Kaen,Thailand. Photo © Panutphong Wimonsophonkitti/123rf.

When you arrive here and before you get sick, find a hospital you are comfortable with (general practitioners are rare in Thailand, most doctors you’ll see are specialists). Ask colleagues and friends where they go and whether they can recommend any particular doctors. As with most other places in the world, the bedside manner of doctors in Thailand differs dramatically from stoic “just the facts” physicians to more sensitive types. You may find you don’t need the most luxurious hospital and prefer a smaller, more local one. Or you may love that your hospital offers you tea in the waiting room. If you have a medical condition that requires a specialist, do some research before you arrive to identify some good candidates. If you’re outside Bangkok, you may find you need to travel to the capital for treatment if you want the best-regarded specialty doctor.

If you are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant in Thailand, good obstetricians are all over the country and some very nice maternity units can be found at higher-end hospitals; at some you can even rent suites so your partner can stay with you while you recover. Mothers accustomed to being shipped out after a couple of days will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of care given new moms, as the medical industry in Thailand focuses on plain old-fashioned caregiving as much as technology. Be warned that the majority of women in Thailand opt for cesarean births and will even schedule them with their doctors at convenient times for both the mom and the doctor. If you want a vaginal delivery, make sure that you select a doctor who has a lot of experience and is comfortable with your choice, consider hiring a doula, and be prepared to keep advocating for your choice through to the end.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Living Abroad Thailand.