Thailand is one of the safest countries in the region for the traveler. The risk of contracting illness or disease is minimal provided basic care is taken over food, water and sexual contacts.
No vaccinations are required for entry into Thailand except for yellow fever for travelers arriving from endemic regions (parts of Africa and Latin America). Immunizations for tetanus, polio, rabies, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis and hepatitis are advisable (but not essential) before travel to Southeast Asia.
In Bangkok or upcountry, drinking water straight from the tap is unadvisable. Like the Thais, use only a reliable brand of bottled water or boiled water from the tap. Be wary of ice, which may come from a questionable source, and is often manhandled unhygienically. Cylindrical ice cubes with a hole through them are usually produced and delivered under hygienic conditions.
Choosing food and restaurants is pretty much a case of common sense. If the restaurant or food looks dirty, then avoid it. Also stay away from shellfish, no matter how good that dish may look, and raw or fermented products such as ‘pla ra’ (fermented fish), which are known to harbor parasites. Steer clear of suspicious-looking meat dishes that may have been cooled and reheated. Fruits and vegetables should be washed or peeled before eating.
For the frequent traveler, diarrhea is almost inevitable. Just a change in drinking water and food can trigger an attack. These are generally not cause for concern though. When diarrhea strikes, it’s important to guard against dehydration by drinking lots of fluids such as weak tea or rehydration salts dissolved in water. Avoid food for a while to avoid recurrence.
According to the government’s Department of Communicable Disease Control, Bangkok and most provinces in the central region as well as major tourist resorts such as Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hua Hin and Samui Island have been free from malaria for decades. All cities in Thailand are malaria free and no special precautions against this mosquito-borne disease are recommended. Outside these areas some risk remains, especially in mountainous and border regions. Tourists planning to visit these areas are advised to take general precautions against mosquito bite.
HIV/AIDS is spreading at worrying speed in most Asian countries and this is largely the result of unprotected sexual contacts and intravenous drug use. In Thailand, more than 80% of known cases are the result of heterosexual contacts. The best protection against HIV is avoidance of all forms of casual sex, either with prostitutes or with otherwise healthy-looking persons. Next to this, the best protection is through ‘safe’ sex using a latex condom.
For further information, contact the International Communicable Disease Control Section of the Ministry of Public Health, Tel. +66 2 286 5114, the Airport Health Office, Tel. +66 2 535 1482, the Port Health Office, Tel. +66 2 249 4110.