While urban horror stories can make a trip to Bangkok seem frighteningly dangerous, few travellers experience anything more than an upset stomach and the resulting clenched-cheek waddles to the bathroom. If you do have a problem, Bangkok has some very good hospitals.
- Bangkok has a bad reputation for air pollution, and on bad days the combination of heat, dust and motor fumes can be a powerful brew of potentially toxic air.
- The good news is that more efficient vehicles (and fewer of them thanks to the BTS/Skytrain and MRT/Metro) and less industrial pollution mean Bangkok’s skies are much cleaner than they used to be.
- Thailand has seen a number of nasty influenza strains in recent years, most notably the bird (H5N1) and swine (H1N1) varieties. That said, it’s no worse than any other country in the region and is probably better prepared than most of the world for any major outbreak because the government has stockpiled tens of millions of Tamiflu doses.
- If a place looks clean and well run and the vendor also looks clean and healthy, then the food is probably safe. In general, the food in busy restaurants is cooked and eaten quite quickly with little standing around, and is probably not reheated. The same applies to street stalls.
- By the standards of most visitors Bangkok is somewhere between hot and seriously (expletive) hot all year round. Usually that will mean nothing more than sweat-soaked clothing, discomfort and excessive tiredness. However, heat exhaustion is not uncommon, and dehydration is the main contributor.
- Heat exhaustion symptoms include feeling weak, headache, irritability, nausea or vomiting, sweaty skin, a fast, weak pulse and a normal or slightly elevated body temperature.
- Treatment involves getting out of the heat and/or sun and cooling the victim down by fanning and applying cool, wet cloths to the skin, laying the victim flat with their legs raised and rehydrating with electrolyte drinks or water containing a quarter teaspoon of salt per litre.
- Heatstroke is more serious and requires more urgent action. Symptoms come on suddenly and include weakness, nausea, a hot, dry body with a temperature of more than 41°C, dizziness, confusion, loss of coordination, seizures and, eventually, collapse and loss of consciousness.
- Seek medical help for heatstroke and begin cooling by getting the victim out of the heat, removing their clothes, fanning them and applying cool, wet cloths or ice to their body, especially to the groin and armpits.
HIV & AIDS
- In Thailand, most cases of HIV transmission occur through sexual activity, and the remainder through natal transmission or intravenous drug use.
- HIV/AIDS can also be spread through infected blood transfusions, although this risk is virtually nil in Thailand due to rigorous blood-screening procedures.
- If you want to be pierced or tattooed, be sure to check that the needles are new.
More than Thailand’s main health-care hub, Bangkok has become a major destination for medical tourism, with patients flying in for treatment from all over the world.
The following hospitals have English-speaking doctors.
Bangkok Christian Hospital Modern hospital in central Bangkok.
BNH Modern, centrally located hospital.
Bumrungrad International Hospital An internationally accredited hospital.
Samitivej Hospital Modern hospital in Bangkok.
Business is good in the teeth game, partly because so many fa·ràng (Westerners) are combining their holiday with a spot of cheap root canal or some ‘personal outlook’ care – a teeth-whitening treatment by any other name. Prices are a bargain compared with Western countries, and the quality of dentistry is generally high.
Bangkok Dental Spa Dental-care centre with a spa-like environment.
DC-One the Dental Clinic Dental clinic with reputation for excellent work and relatively high prices; popular with UN staff and diplomats.
Dental Hospital A private dental clinic with fluent English-speaking dentists.
Siam Family Dental Clinic Private dental clinic in central Bangkok.
Pharmacies are plentiful, and in central areas most pharmacists will speak English. If you don’t find what you need in a Boots, Watsons or local pharmacy, try one of the hospitals.
Water & Ice
- Don’t drink tap water, but do remember that all water served in restaurants or to guests in offices or homes in Bangkok comes from purified sources. It’s not necessary to ask for bottled water in these places unless you prefer it.
- Ice is generally produced from purified water under hygienic conditions and is therefore theoretically safe.