Ball Out on Medical Care in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai isn’t just the place to go for noodles, cheap massages, and to chat with monks.  It’s also the place to GET YOUR LIFE...quite literally. You can get a thorough health check, get a root canal or fillings, or even get plastic surgery for a fraction of what it would cost you in the US or the UK.  

I contracted an ear infection over the Christmas holidays and end up going to the emergency room at one of the best hospitals in the country, Chiang Mai Ram.  Had I been in the US, the ER visit alone would’ve cost me a minimum of $100. The process was so well organized, I saw an ENT specialist within 20 minutes of arrive.  The specialist cleaned my ears out and gave me an Rx.  The visit ran me about $35 (USD) including the prescription.

Thailand is one of the world’s top medical tourism destinations owing to its excellent internationally accredited hospitals and low-cost medical treatment.  The best hospitals have top English-speaking doctors and nurses, state-of-the-art equipment, and an incredible patient care process.

During our UpRoot to Chiang Mai from November 1st - 30th, I wouldn’t be surprised if people take advantage of the incredible healthcare available to them in the city.  In fact, I recommend it. It’s a great idea to devote some time to getting preventive care, dental care, or cosmetic surgery, if you’re into it, while you’re already in the city.

Preventive Care

A basic health check in Chiang Mai can include a physical exam and consultation, a complete blood count, chest x-ray, test for diabetes, kidney function, a uric acid check, a lipid profile for cholesterol, liver function, and a urine examination.  You can get basic health checks for anywhere from $20 - $100 depending on the facility you decide to use.  Several of the hospitals here offer a complete package specially desgined to catering to foreingers.  Some will also offer comprehensive health checks that may include an ultra-sound, intense liver functioning tests, exercise stress tests, and check you for signs of cancer.  

Some of our Wanderists did health checks while we were in Chiang Mai for three months, it ran them about $40!  It really is a great idea to take an afternoon during your UpRoot and head to one of the clinics or hospitals to get a health check

Dental Care

If you need any serious dental work - root canal, bridge, or braces - your best bet is to get it done in Thailand, especially if you’re already going to be there.  It will cost you significantly less than in the US AAAAND you get a vacation along with it, SWEET!

In the US, I was quoted a price of $75 per filling after insurance for my daughter.  In Thailand, the filling cost $35 without insurance.  Back home in the states, I paid $700 after insurance for a bridge.  That same bridge would’ve cost me 10,000 Baht without insurance, that’s roughly $300. My daughter is DYING to get braces, we’re going back to Chiang Mai to get them done. Why? Because without insurance it costs 30,000 - 45,000 Baht to install. That’s $900 - $1,200 without insurance. The base cost for braces in the US is $3,000 - $6,000.  The low end of that is with insurance.

Listen, my next trip to Thailand, I’m coming back with a whole new set of teeth! LOL.

Cosmetic Procedures

Whether you’re just trying to do some body sculpting or you want a full on cosmetic change like breast implants or rhinoplasty, these follow the same themes as we’ve noted above. It costs far less in Thailand than in the US.  In fact, there are hotels connected to hospitals with packages and programs dedicated to performing your procedures and taking the absolute best care of you post-op.

Actually, there are also shops in every mall in Chiang Mai that perform minor cosmetic procedures. Yes, I said in the mall!  You can buy a new dress, grab some botox, and pick up a pair of shoes, all in the same mall. 

Prescription Drugs

Some medicines in the United States will cost you an arm and a leg WITH insurance in the United States. I’ve been taking Albuterol inhalers for my severe asthma for 30 years.  Unfortunately, my doctor is only allowed to give me 2 refills with each prescription so each time I run out, I have to visit him ($40 copay) and then pay for the medicine ($30 per inhaler), and that’s after I’ve paid my insurance premiums each month ($200+). 

You have no idea how excited I was to walk into a pharmacy at the airport in Chiang Mai and ask for an inhaler, have it handed to me WITHOUT a prescription and promptly pay about $7 USD for it...and it cost more because I was at the airport.  I paid $3-$5 for them at other stores. 

You should absolutely take the time to check if any medications you may need which require Rx in the US are available over the counter in Thailand. That said, be careful with how many you bring back, we’d hate for you to get stopped at the airport for drug trafficking...and subsequently see you on Locked Up Abroad.  EEK!

All this said, it’s important to do your research in advance.  No matter where you choose to manage your healthcare, make sure you’re choosing reputable doctors, great facilities, and comparing prices.

UpRoot to Thailand for a month and enjoy the beautiful Yi Peng festival, spend a weekend at an Eco Village with elephants, meditate with the monks...and get yourself some affordable medical care.  Bring me back a few inhalers, would ya? :-)

Chiang Mai

Nov 1 - 30