Medical Insurance in Thailand
I have travelled many times to Thailand and on numerous occasions have neglected travel insurance as I too am fairly fit and healthy. This time I nearly came a cropper.
I came to Thailand for a 16-day visit. We landed in Phuket and after 3 days I was getting a little frivolous in Tai Pan and stepped off a plinth approximately 12” high. As I descended I scraped my shin on the edge. I wasn’t concerned and just continued with my evening. On waking the next morning there was a few spots of blood on the bed sheets and a few scratches along with a little bruising on my shin. I bathed it and covered it with an adhesive dressing, onwards and upwards.
After two days it had become a little more tender and I was starting to become a bit concerned, but we were flying to Pattaya the next day, so I visited a pharmacy and was given a few tablets and dressings. The tablets were antibiotics so I assumed they would sort the problem.
On the day we were flying I was having difficulty putting weight on my leg, and after a few steps the pain subsided so not wanting to break up the party we went for the flight. I was in some pain during the flight and decided to spend a couple of days resting up in party land. That night in the hotel my leg had swollen to twice the size and some dark areas were starting to become evident.
It was time for action.
I made it to Pattaya Memorial Hospital at 4 AM and expected to be sent packing with some better antibiotics and a good supply of dressings. When I took my dressing off for the doctor, they immediately crowded around me looking worried and stuck a drip in my arm. I asked when I could go back to the hotel and they insisted I wasn’t going anywhere but upstairs to the ward. This was the first day of the curfew so the only bright side was that my friends were having their party spoiled too. Nasty thought, I know, but at least I felt like I wasn’t missing out too much. I now realise that this injury was perhaps more serious than I first imagined.
I spent 6 days in hospital on antibiotic drips. I could not walk on my leg at all during this time and couldn’t even bear having my leg in a downwards position as the pressure was unbearable. Then I spent 6 days as an outpatient, returning for two hours per day on antibiotic drips. I had a drain cut in my leg out of which they appeared to pull a large spider with 100 legs. In the scrambled Thai / English I understood it to be a blood clot turning to an abscess.
The drain in my leg was packed with gauze each day and then pulled out to clean the inside. This process was repeated every day. I nearly cried more than the baby in the next treatment room as it was a tickly prickly pain each time and was very uncomfortable.
I missed my flight home and had to wait for a few more days to get permission to fly. I finally got back to the UK (not that I really wanted to return) on 10th June. My accident happened on 19th May.
The care I got in Pattaya Memorial Hospital was wonderful. Hats off to those great doctors and nurses at Pattaya Memorial Hospital who really worked hard to make my stay as pleasant as possible.
Also, a big thanks to the insurance company which I can strongly recommend. InsureAndGo is available online, £40/year, the best value I have had for a long time. They took care of everything and all I had to pay was the £100 excess. There were no quibbles and they contacted me every day to see how I was progressing. Truly helpful.
Do not travel without insurance. It is too cheap to be ignored and if I had not had it and at the very least I would have had to pay the 25,000 baht per night which soon mounts up. I could have been out of pocket to the tune of perhaps £10,000…for a scuffed shin. Anything more serious could result in a life-changing bill, not to mention the potential life-changing injury you might not be able to pay for.
I saw another dark side to the typical farang on holiday in Thailand. During my visits to the treatment room I came across several guys who had been in altercations with Thai men. The trait they all appeared to have in common was that they didn’t know when it was better to shut up and walk away. All had verbal diarrhea and continued to be belligerent even after they had clearly suffered a beating.
I believe that this is the main reason why guys get into these beatings (the farang will never win). If it is something minor, apologise profusely, offer to pay if it involves a relatively small amount and walk away as fast as possible. I have never had a problem in many years of visiting Thailand – a smile and a good dose of common sense works wonders.
A couple of young French guys appeared during my first spell in the ER and they were the most foul-mouthed, aggressive individuals I have ever encountered. It was all I could do to not tear out the drip and confront them. The doctors and nurses were polite at all times but the verbal abuse in English would have been intolerable in any situation. I speak French and the things they were saying were shocking. They should have been ejected.
Their injuries were relatively minor but they bullied their way into the treatment room dressed only in shorts and demanded treatment. When the nurses explained that they can't just treat someone without checking them out thoroughly and that it is not a free hospital but a private one, they started shouting about having to pay and that it is free in France. I would have told them to go back to France then. They even took the opportunity to try to molest a long time lady friend of mine who had helped me get to the hospital. Truly sickening behaviour, especially against people who quite literally save our lives. I wish I knew who had given them the beating, as I would gladly have paid them to repeat the exercise with a little more vigour.
I started to feel really embarrassed at their behaviour and the fact that I am essentially viewed as being one of them. It's little wonder that Thai people often take the law into their own hands with these Neanderthals, and the fact that it doesn't happen more often is the big surprise.
Anyway, a lesson learned by me – always get even minor wounds checked and cleaned up immediately. The Thailand incubator breeds some nasty superbugs and they are lurking everywhere. I cringe when I see farang tourists walking barefoot in the streets, their feet black from the grime. All it takes is one nick and they could be in my old hospital bed. Let’s hope these words help someone else to avoid my experience.