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Medical Tourism - Destination - Thailand

General Informations


Thailand was one of the pioneering countries who first saw the potential in the medical tourism market and nowadays it remains a leading medical tourism destination. Thanks to a wide variety of specialisations ranging from alternative treatment to bariatric surgery and including areas such as cardiology, neurology and ophthalmology as well as the world famous cosmetic and plastic surgery, Thailand has one of the best reputations in the medical tourism market. This is also due to the confidentiality that Thailand offers and the fact that medical treatment can be combined with holidays. The relatively low level of safety in Thailand does not seem to deter tourists as 1.4 million are still attracted each year from the US (33%), China (29%), Japan (18%), UK (14%) and Middle East and Australia (6%). Future projections for Thailand are that revenues will increase from USD 2 billion (€ 1.3 billion) to USD 3 billion (€ 2 billion).

Localisation centre of mainland South East Asia. Bordering countries are Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia
Capital Bangkok
Biggest cities (population) Bangkok (5,705,061), Nonthaburi (264,651), Pak Kret (173,622)
Inhabitants 63,444,000
Politics parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
Religion Buddhism (94.7%), Islam (4.6%), Christianity (0.5%), other (0.2%)
Currency Baht (THB) = € 0.020100
GDP € 365,360 million, 0.79% of the world’s GDP
Official language(s) Thai
Climate tropical, dominated by monsoons. Average temperatures ranges from 30-36°C throughout the year
Time zone GMT +7
Happy Planet Index (HPI) 41

Cultural Aspects

General Culture

The culture of Thailand incorporates a great deal of influence from India, China, Cambodia, and the rest of Southeast Asia. For example, this results in the food being spicy with basic ingredients such as rice, various meats and vegetables. Thailand’s national religion, Buddhism, is central to Thai identity and belief. Thailand is a contradictory country with regards to its culture. On the one hand, it is very traditional and respectful and, on the other hand, it is a hub for prostitution and sex trafficking.


Thailand ranks 118 on the GPI, due to political instability.

Tourists Attractions and Sights

  • Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Po): in Bangkok is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage.
  • Grand Palace (Wat Phra Kaeo): the kings’ official residency from 1782 through the mid-20th century is located in Bangkok.
  • Wat Chiang Mai: is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai and was built in 1306 and is home to the Crystal Buddha.
  • Big Buddha: on the island of Ko Chen Fan is a 15 meter tall golden Buddha statue.
  • Phang Nga Bay: outside Phuket, is famous for its seascape, with its hundreds of limestone islets emerging from the sea.

Visa Requirements

Generally, a foreign citizen who wishes to enter Thailand is required to obtain a visa. However, there are 41 countries that are exempted and do not require a visa as long as they are travelling for tourist purposes and are not exceeding their stay for more than 30 days in a row. These countries include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bahrain, Brunei, Darussalam, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, United States.



Thailand has seven international airports, with the two largest ones situated in Bangkok, The Don Muang Airport and the Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Thailand has a well-developed road infrastructure, reaching throughout the whole country and rail system with international connections. The railway system is constantly expanding. In mid 2004, the Bangkok Subway opened which intersects with the Sky Train. Tuk-tuk (a local form of a taxi), buses and taxis are other popular means of transportation.


Thailand has a large amount of international hotel chains represented all over the country, such as Four Seasons, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Shangri-la Hotels and Resorts and Mariott Hotels and Resorts. The range of comfort and pricing varies tremendously in the country and accommodation can be found for only a few Euros up to hundreds of Euros per night.

With regards to recovery accommodation, the company HotelThailand.com have recently struck a deal with the Yanhee Hospital in order to help international tourists to find their treatment and a hotel to suit them. There are also a few hospitals that have deals with hotels to accommodate their patients during and after their treatment.

Health Care System

WHO ranking 47
Physicians per 10,000 population 4.0 (2008)
Nurses per 10,000 population 28.0 (2008)
GDP spent on health care 3.5% (2008)
Education period of doctors 6 years
Education period of specialists additional 6 months to 3 years

Health Care Providers

According to the WHO, 65% of Thailand’s health care expenditure in 2004 came from the government, 35% was from private sources. Within the hospitals, the doctors and specialists are not fixed to one institution, however, they may work in many institutions at the same time. This means they can perform an operation wherever the patient is located. There are currently 34 private hospitals and 100 public hospitals.


Thailand has achieved near-universal health coverage through its 2001 health reforms. The “30-baht health scheme” was designed to provide equal access to quality care regardless of income or socioeconomic status. One important aspect of the plan was that no individual would be required to spend more than 30 baht (€ 0.60) per visit for either inpatient or outpatient care, including drugs. Since it was implemented 95.6% of the population is now covered by the insurance system.

General Medical Tourism Information

There are over 11 million tourists annually, mostly from Malaysia and Japan. Western visitors come mainly from the UK, Germany, Scandinavia and the US. In 2008, 1.4 million medical tourists were treated in this pioneering country generating USD 2 billion (€ 1.3 billion). It is thought that by 2012 the revenue will increase to USD 3 billion (€ 2 billion). The top hospitals reported having 40% of patients from abroad. It is worth mentioning that treatment has to be paid in advance.

The Thai government has established services and infrastructure in order to promote medical tourism and ease the inflow of international patients. There is also a private non-profit organisation, the Health Travel Industry Research Society of Thailand (HTRIS), whose goal is to promote and focus on the international health travel and medical tourism industry.


The largest tourist flows visiting Thailand for medical care come from the US (33%), China (29%), Japan (18%), the UK (14%) and Middle East and Australia (6%).


  • Quality: health care is of high standards, especially in private hospitals. Many doctors have studied or worked in the US, Europe, Australia and Japan. Medical technology is also highly advanced.
  • Confidentiality: as Thailand’s specialities are plastic surgery and gender reassignment, the country prides itself on high levels of patient confidentiality.
  • Cost savings: when contrasted with the US, one can expect cost savings of around 56% and when compared to the UK, 34%.
  • Holiday destination: a traditional holiday destination with 11 million visitors each year.
  • No waiting time: trips are planned in advance to eliminate waiting time.
  • Availability: Thailand has recently developed the first successful vaccine against the AIDS virus and is also a leading country for stem cell treatment.


The main areas of medical specialisation in Thailand include:

  • Alternative treatments
  • Cosmetic and plastic surgery (gender reassignment surgery)
  • Dentistry care
  • Cardiology
  • Neurology
  • Oncology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Orthopaedics (hip replacement)
  • Bariatric surgery (gastric bypass surgery)

Top Facilities

The top facilities have been selected using the following criteria’s, listed in order of importance: JCI Accreditation, ISQua accreditation, international orientation. In general national accreditation systems have not been taken into consideration, due to the fact that there are too many and judging them is out of the scope of this study. Jordan has four JCI accredited facilities. Thailand has seven JCI accredited hospitals. The top five facilities in the country are listed below:

  • Bumrungrad International, Bangkok
  • Bangkok Hospital Medical Center, Bangkok
  • Samitivej, Bangkok
  • Bangkok Nursing Home Hospital, Bangkok
  • Bangkok Hospital, Phuket


Strengths Weaknesses
  • Established holiday destination
  • Pioneer and leader in medical tourism
  • Medical tourism promotion
  • Quality of medical staff and treatments
  • Confidentiality is a high priority
  • Cost savings of around 56% compared to US and 34% compared to the UK
  • Availability of treatments
  • Safety is an issue as it ranks 118 on the GPI
  • Hub for prostitution and sex trafficking


Thailand was one of the first countries to attract medical tourists and remains a leading medical tourist destination specialising in cosmetic and plastic surgery in particular as a result of its reputation for confidentiality. The main issue for visitors to Thailand is safety as the country ranks 118 on the GPI. However, this does not seem to deter medical tourists as the country receives around 1.4 million foreign patients a year. These come from the US (33%), China (29%), Japan (18%), UK (14%) and Middle East and Australia (6%). It is thought that by 2012 the revenue will increase from USD 2 billion (€ 1.3 billion) to USD 3 billion (€ 2 billion).

Top Facility Chart

Thailand Bumrungrad Hospital Bangkok Bangkok Hospital Medical Center Samitivej Hospitals Bangkok Nursing Home Hospital Bangkok Hospital Phuket
Location and website Bangkok www.bumrungrad. com Bangkok www.bangkokhospital. com Bangkok www.samitivejhospitals. com Bangkok www.bnhhospital. com Phuket www.phukethospital. com
Accreditations or certifications JCI, ISO and HA (National) JCI, ISO, HA (National) and TEMOS JCI, ISO and HA (National) JCI JCI, ISO and HA (National)
Capacity of hospital beds 554 beds 400 beds 720 beds (3 hospitals) 225 beds 200 beds
Possible for accompanying person to stay in room Yes, in private rooms Yes, in private rooms Yes, in private rooms Yes, in private rooms Yes, in private rooms
Medical tourists 400,000 international patients from 190 different countries 40% of all patients; 82% stem cell patients, 56 of them Americans (75%) 40% of visitors are from Europe, US, Japan, Scandinavia and Middle East Information N/A >150,000 foreign patients annually
Number of medical staff doctors/nurses >1,000 specialists, over 800 nurses 650 physicians and 700 nurses 400 physicians and 600 nurses 440 physicians 60 physicians
Type of rooms available (prices) Private single / deluxe rooms and suites (€ 54 to € 500) Private single / deluxe rooms and suites (€ 80 to € 280) Private single / deluxe/ executive rooms and suites (€ 80 to € 300) Private single rooms and suites (€ 160 to € 463) Private single rooms, Suites & semi-private rooms
International patient department Yes, they organise all the arrangements Yes, they organise all the arrangements Yes, they organise all the arrangements Yes, they organise all the arrangements Yes, they organise all the arrangements
Adaptations to cultures and nations Yes, in food, language and religious habits Yes, in food Yes, in food Yes, in food Yes, in food
Languages spoken by staff Thai, English, German, Korean, Japanese, Arabic and Chinese plus 109 interpreters Thai and English, and interpreters for 26 languages available Thai and English Thai and English, German Thai, English, German, French, Italian, Filipino Japanese, Russian
Marketing of the facility/USP Offices in 22 different countries who arrange travel, visa help, email contact and insurance coordination and promote the hospital from location Their USP is hightech technology which they promote through the internet and conferences; online promotion Shares at stock exchange market, cooperating with major international health insurance companies (e.g. promotion of Chivawattana card giving different membership discounts) Special promotion of Chivawattana card that gives different discounts depending on the membership Special promotion of Chivawattana card that gives different discounts depending on the membership
Specialisations Cardiology, dentistry, dialysis, IVF, neurology, orthopaedics, rehabilitation, gynaecology, digestive diseases, oncology , paediatrics, diabetes treatments and ophthalmology Oncology, orthopaedics and cardiology Paediatrics, obstetrics, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, oncology and dentistry Ophthalmology, gender reassignment, plastic surgery, paediatrics, cardiology, dermatology, physiotherapy, orthopaedics Dentistry, orthopaedics and rehabilitation

Price Chart (in €uro)

Treatment Average Price Bumrungrad Hospital Bangkok
Cardiac bypass 7,349 7,191
Gastric bypass 7,887 8,142
Knee replacement 6,680 5,620
Hip replacement 8,017 6,485
Hip resurfacing 12,025 7,566
Botox treatment 200 103
Breast augmentation 1,937 1,297
Facelift 1,603 1,758
Liposuction 1,837 N/A
Dental implants 1,336 1,945
Rhinoplasty 802 1,470
Lasik eye surgery 1,130 988

Note: All prices are estimates, and may vary widely from source to source depending on services included in the estimate (i.e. doctor’s fees, hospitalisation, administration costs or the patient’s age and medical history). Due to non-disclosure strategies of the various locations, it was not possible to make a clear separation between those factors. All prices given for the specific facilities have been provided by the hospitals/clinics themselves via email or telephone contact. The prices are given in Euros (€).

N/A means either that treatment are not available in the specific hospital, that a price estimation cannot be found or that the medical facility did not disclose the information. For the average prices, printed literature has been used before researching sources on the internet.