Many travellers and backpackers can be concerned about their health when travelling to Thailand. Having lived here for 3 and a half years I thought I would pass on some of my knowledge. Here is an assortment of health advice, travel tips and things to be careful about in Thailand.
Mosquitos in Thailand
Generally speaking Thailand is not a malaria area and there are risks only around the borders of Thailand with other countries. Most people do not need to take malaria tablets when visiting. However, dengue fever has been on the rise in recent years so I recommend covering up in the evening and using a strong DEET repellent. Buy before you travel here as it is hard to find strong DEET. I recommend this 50% one from Amazon.
Street food is one of Thailand’s pleasures and I have never been sick from eating street food. It is cooked hot and fresh right in front of you. There are some stalls where cooked food sits around for a hours and I would definitely avoid these places, particularly if eating meat. If you get a bad stomach in Thailand, before reaching for the Immodium, I recommend trying charcoal pills from 7/11. They are not as strong and I find work much more effectively. I think it feels more natural and is less likely to bung you up for 3 days and then you continue to have the same problem later on. This is what the packet looks like and you can usually find them near the till in any 7/11. If you contract diarrhea in Thailand you will most likely become very dehydrated so I always use electrolytes from 7/11 and I swear by coconut water too. (Also useful for hangovers from buckets…see below!)
Having Ice in your Drinks in Thailand
I never had an issue for this, until it came to drinking 50 baht mojitos in Phuket…and then I was pretty ill for a week afterwards. Lesson learnt: if the alcohol is unreasonably cheap, so is the ice! Avoid things like this in Phuket. That said, I have been sick once from ice in 3 years here so I don’t think it is something to go fretting over.
Drinking Buckets in Thailand
From Khaosan Road to the Islands you will always find a cheap bucket of alcohol to drink. While some people might recommend avoiding drinking buckets in Thailand, if you want to lesson the hangover, stick with a spirit and a mixer in the bucket rather than any of the mysterious cocktail mixes that end up with you and your sister vomiting on the journey back to Bangkok (true story.)
Drinking Tap Water in Thailand
The tap water in Thailand is not drinkable. You can buy plastic bottles from 7/11 and refill them at drinking water stations for 1 baht. You can often find these on streets and in residential areas. That said, I always use the tap water to brush my teeth in Thailand and elsewhere and have never had any problems because of this. I’m probably wrong but I feel maybe it builds up some immunity??
Travel Sick in Thailand
If you are unfortunate enough to get travel sick like me, then I cannot recommend strongly enough these travel bands. I am not even sure how they work, I think they have a bead that presses on a pressure point that is linked with nausea, but they really work. Whether travel sick in mountain roads like from Chiang Mai to Pai or seasick on a boat, these have really helped me. It might just be psychological but who cares if they stop you from vomiting right? Buy yours here. You can also buy seasick pills from most pharmacies in Thailand very cheaply as an extra back up.
Travel Thailand Tip: Ask to sit in the front of the minivan on long journeys. I also find I tend to get less travel sick on the big buses so I try to book them instead of a minivan if possible. You can book travel tickets using this website.
Colds in Thailand
Due to various establishments that blast the AC freezing cold in Thailand, I often find myself with a cold after staying in hostels or sleeping on night buses. Normally this isn’t a problem unless you want to go scuba diving and you cannot dive with a cold because you’ll be unable to equalize properly. Enter TIFFY tablets you can buy from any pharmacy or some 7/11s. They cost around 7 baht for 4 tablets and as these are not a strong tablet it’s no problem to combine with diving.
Do you need vaccinations to travel in Thailand? Before I came here, I was recommended to get Hep A, Hep B and typhoid. Every clinic seems to recommend different things but these are the ones that I got. I decided not to bother with the expensive rabies vaccine because if you get bitten you still have to go to the hospital, it just gives you more time and I figured I was never going to be that far away from an available clinic. I usually use the NHS website for advice about vaccinations in Asia.
Stray dogs can cause alarm in Thailand and my best advice is to just stay calm and steer clear. Most dogs here I have found extremely chilled out and not remotely interested in humans. However, you always hear a few stories. I read it is best to not look threatening, to yawn and look relaxed and calmly walk past them. If you do get bitten by a stray dog, rabies is a concern here so immediately find a clinic. Even small islands like Koh Lan or Koh Lipe have doctor’s clinics who can administer the first round of PEP injections. After that you will need 5 more injections over the course of 6 weeks.
Pharmacies in Thailand
I have found many pharmacies in Thailand to be full of helpful, English speaking staff. You can generally find what you need and for very cheap prices. You can also buy antibiotics over the counter in Thailand but this is obviously a fairly controversial thing to do so read up about it first.
Hospitals and Healthcare in Thailand
Thailand has some fantastic international hospitals…and some less fantastic hospitals. As long as you have health insurance, I would always use an expensive international hospital. The staff there speak English (or will find you a translator) and have always dealt with me efficiently and swiftly.
Disclaimer 1: I’m a teacher, not a doctor.
Disclaimer 2: This page may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase I may receive commission at no extra cost to you.
Want to know where and how to see the best wildlife in Thailand? One of the reasons that I am still so in love with Thailand is the nature and wildlife. From jungles and forests to oceans and mountains to beaches, Thailand has so many different natural habitats which makes it one of the most amazing countries to see nature and wildlife in South East Asia. There are many exotic animals found in Thailand and it is home to many native animals that we have the chance to encounter.
So, for the best places to see wild animals such as elephants, dolphins, whales, turtles, sharks, whale sharks, monkeys and more, continue reading my Thailand travel blog. I have recommended the best places for wildlife in Thailand, particularly ways to experience wild animals in their natural environment.
See Wild Elephants in Thailand
I think Khao Yao National Park is one of the best places to see wild animals in Thailand and the most common place to encounter wild elephants. They are amazing creatures and despite all the elephant sanctuaries in Thailand (ethical or not?), the jungle is where they truly belong and to have the opportunity to see Asian elephants in the wild, and not in chains or in a camp, is a unique animal experience that I would love more tourists to take advantage of. Paying National Park fees ensures that that protected areas like Khao Yai National Park will remain safe and ethical places to see animals like elephants.
Wildlife Safari in Thailand: See Wild Elephants in Khao Yai National Park
I strongly recommend the wildlife safari called Greenleaf Tours as I thought they were fantastic and they have very knowledgeable guides and will even pick you up from Pak Chong, the town where the minivans from Bangkok arrive.
Want to visit the park independently? You can rent scooters from Pak Chong upon arrival from Bangkok and ride around 15 minutes until you get into the park. Like all National Parks in Thailand, you can camp overnight by renting equipment from the National Park office. Make sure to bring your own food.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Snorkel or Dive with Turtles around Thai islands
Seeing turtles when snorkelling or diving is definitely possible and you can have a good chance in some areas of Thailand. The island of Koh Tao is named after turtles although I have seen more when scuba diving around Koh Chang, Koh Phi Phi and around the Similan islands. All turtles I have seen here are Hawksbill turtles and are a smaller version of their cousins that I’ve seen in Indonesia but well worth a turtle spotting dive.
Koh Phi Phi Travel Tip: allow more time as the ferry has often taken longer than 2 hours for me.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Diving with Whale Sharks
The whale shark is the biggest fish in the ocean and are one reason why divers come to Thailand. They are generally spotted around Chumpon Pinnacle near Koh Tao and occasionally around Koh Phangan. Richelieu Rock, above the Similan islands is the dive site where I was lucky enough to see my first one and most divers will tell you this is the best dive site for whale shark spotting. Rainy season around Koh Tao and Koh Phangan sometimes brings more in and a few were spotted around June-July of this year (unfortunately not by me!)
Diving Thailand Tip: For dive trips to Richelieu Rock and the Similan islands, take a night bus to Khao Lak and book your diving in centres there. It can get busy so consider contacting a dive centre in advance to ensure your place.
These enormous monitor lizards can be found all over Thailand and even in Bangkok. They can grow up to a couple of metres. We regularly see them in Bangkok’s parks and have a good look when crossing over any canal as you can often see them swimming (and not what I thought was a crocodile on first glance!). They eat small birds and can climb trees. Despite many locals nonchalant attitude towards these massive lizards, they are actually extremely dangerous and their bite can be fatal to humans so approach with caution. Head to Lumpini Park in Bangkok for a good chance of spotting them.
Thailand Wild Animal Fact: The nickname for a monitor lizard is an extremely rude swear word in Thai
Wild Animals in Thailand: Monkeys
Thailand has a variety of different species of monkey. Macaques are probably the most common monkey that you can see on the mainland and also on some of the islands. They live in huge families so often where this is one, there are lots more. I love seeing them in Khao Yai National Park as they are still a respectful distance away from humans, whereas places like Lopburi you can see them but they can be aggressive and often steal items from visitors. I also heard some good advice once which was not to smile at monkeys – they see the act of baring your teeth as a threat.
Dusky Langur Monkeys – These monkeys are fairly rare but can be seen in various places around Thailand. I have personally seen them in Khao Sok National Park, Railay beach and Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.
Thailand Animal Abuse: Be aware that monkeys should be in the wild and never pay for a photo with a ‘pet’ monkey as monkeys are treated as a tourist attraction. They often have their teeth removed, are wearing nappies and on chains. Read here for more things to avoid doing in Thailand
Wild Gibbons in Thailand
These are one of my favourite animals to spot and to hear in Thailand. You can often hear their distinct voices but catching a glimpse of these tree-top dwellers is more difficult. You can often hear gibbons calling to each other at dawn and dusk. After watching a documentary on them I discovered that when they mate for life, their mating calls develop and become more complex and have a wider range as years go by. I’ve spotted these in a few different national parks around the country such as in Khao Yai National Park and Khao Sok National Park.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Spot Wild Dolphins in the Sea
Dolphins will always remain an amazing animal to me, no matter how many times I go dolphin spotting and I love seeing them when I am not even expecting to. I was told that on boat trips to Koh Similan, dolphins were spotted on average twice a week during dry season (October-May). I have recently been to Nakhon SI Thammarat to go pink dolphin watching which was an incredible experience, read about how and where to see pink dolphins in Thailand here.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Go Whale Watching in Thailand
During the months of August-November, huge Bryde whales migrate to Thailand to feast on anchovies in the Gulf of Thailand. I went last year and was lucky enough to see around 5 whales including a mother and calf and they even swam around our boat while we were having lunch. I did the day trip from Bangkok with Wild Encounters who were very professional, extremely knowledgeable and answered all of my many questions about whales.
Dive and Snorkel with Sharks around Thailand
If you are a shark lover then definitely consider a shark watching trip either diving or snorkelling. I have seen sharks around Koh Phi Phi and diving the Ao Nang islands near Krabi. I’ve spotted black tip reef sharks, bamboo sharks and once I was lucky enough to see a 3 metre leopard shark while diving in Koh Phi Phi. Thailand doesn’t have any dangerous sharks and some people think you have more chance of seeing them snorkelling than diving as the bubbles can scare them away. Some dive centres like the Adventure Club on Koh Phi Phi have a specific shark watching trip that I plan to try out in the future.