How We Saved a Thousand Dollars by Getting Our Immunizations in Bangkok
(Yes, it's completely safe)
tBefore we traveled to Southeast Asia for the first time, I called a doctor in Canada to find out how much our travel vaccinations would cost. My heart sank when he told me that the initial consultation would be $60 CAD and each immunization I needed would be $150-$200 CAD. Thanks to advice by travel blogger Johnny Vagabond we got our immunizations in Bangkok at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute instead… and saved over $1,000 CAD.
Bangkok Healthcare is So Affordable
Remember that scene in The Hangover 2 when Phil gets shot in the arm and treated at a clinic? He walks out of the Bangkok clinic with his arm bandaged and a bewildered look on his face. “That only cost ten dollars!” he says.
It’s a funny scene, but I laughed because of how close to reality it is. Medical costs are so stupidly high in North America. It is amazing how cheaply you can get your travel immunizations and other medical care in Bangkok.
We were immunized at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute for a fraction of what it would have cost back home. The facilities were clean and modern, the doctors spoke English and were friendly. The vaccines were pre-packaged Red Cross supplies identical to what you would get in any hospital in the Western World.
Yes, we were getting jabbed in the arm and that’s never fun no matter what country you are in. However, the experience of getting immunizations in Bangkok was pretty painless and simple. To make things just a bit surreal, we were filmed for a promotional video to mark Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute’s 90th Anniversary!
Tips for Getting Immunizations in Bangkok at Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute
Here are some tips to make your visit go more smoothly:
- Be sure to take cash with you as the medical center does not accept credit cards. If you forget there is an ATM only a few meters away from the side of the building.
- Bring your passport with you, they will need to see it.
- If you can, find out your medical history and what vaccinations you already have before you go. However, this is not essential because there is an option to check “Not Sure” on the paperwork.
- You will need to know which countries you plan on visiting during your trip so that the doctor can tell you which diseases you will be at risk for.
- The institute closes at lunchtime for one hour between noon and 1pm so time your visit accordingly.
- You will need to wait for 15 minutes after your vaccination. This is to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. After that you will be good to go.
- Your arm might feel a little sore afterwards, so take it easy and get lots of rest that evening.
- If you have time, check out the snake farm directly behind the building. There are some pretty amazing snakes including huge pythons!
How to Get There
The Number 15 bus leaves from near Khao San Road and takes you almost to the door of the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute. Using Google Maps it is easy to find your way there on the Bangkok public transit system from anywhere in the city. Simply search for this address:
Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, 1871 Rama 4 Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 (662) 252-0161-4
What Did It Cost to Get Immunizations in Bangkok?
Registration Fee: 20 Baht = $0.65 CAD
Vaccinations for Typhoid and Japanese Encephalitis: 805 Baht = $25.95 CAD
Total: $26.60 CAD Each
What It Would Have Cost Back Home in Canada
When we were looking to get our shots in Canada, we spoke to a travel clinic in St. John’s Newfoundland. It would have cost $60 EACH just for the doctor’s consultation to find out which shots we needed. (We were traveling together and the shots required would have been identical, but they wouldn’t let us both sit in on the same consultation.)
After that, the cost of the Typhoid vaccination would have been $45 each and the two doses of Japanese Encephalitis vaccine would have cost $210 each. I don’t know if Lee’s shots would have cost more because he is not Canadian, but if we learned anything from the broken wrist incident, they probably would have.
However, even if they were the same as my costs, this is what our total bill would have come to if we had not gotten our travel immunizations in Bangkok at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute:
Doctor’s Consultation – $60 CAD
Typhoid – $45 CAD
Japanese Encephalitis Dose 1 – $210 CAD
Japanese Encephalitis Dose 2 – $210 CAD
Total: $525 CAD Each
That’s right, we would have stupidly spent $1050 between the two of us on vaccinations in Canada. Instead, we got the exact same immunizations in Bangkok for approximately $26 each.
What a savings!
We are even considering going back to get some other vaccinations for common tropical country diseases such as Yellow Fever.
Our logic is that a Yellow Fever shot lasts for 10 years and there is a good chance with our world-wandering lifestyle that we will end up in a Yellow Fever risk country in the next 10 years. So, we may as well get the vaccine while it is cheap!
If you are venturing to Southeast Asia, save yourself hundreds of dollars and get your immunizations in Bangkok. You’ll have so much more money left over to spend on spicy Thai curry, amazing foot massages and private bungalows on white sand beaches!
Note: I am not a doctor and the information in this article should not be considered professional medical advice.
This is really useful to know. I had a similar experience in France. My one concern in such a situation would be whether you could contract something before reaching the clinic in Bangkok- is there any advantage to having the vaccinations before you go just to be safe for this reason alone? Either way, congrats on saving all that money!
Most people who just visit Bangkok don’t usually get vaccinations. In big cities there is usually a very low risk of contracting anything worse than a hangover. If you are heading out of the cities vaccinations are probably a good idea.
There is little advantage to getting them before you go unless they are free in your home country, you are not going to catch these diseases in Bangkok in 2 or 3 days and if its the difference of hundreds of dollars (which can get you a looong way in South East Asia) there is no question that its a better idea to get them done on arrival in Bangkok.
Do you need an appointment or can you walk in? Also, do you know if they have Hep A & B and Japanese encephalitis?
We didn’t have an appointment, we just walked in.
I know for sure they have Japanese encephalitis because we got that vaccination. I’m not sure if they have Hep A & B but I’m sure they probably do.
Where did you get your second dose of Japanese encephalitis?
Hi Doreen, We got it a few months later when we returned to Bangkok again after travelling in other parts of Southeast Asia.
Is it kind of scary how much everything cost here compared to in a different country? I know my husband had back surgery which cost close to 90K in USD in the United States. Thankfully the insurance company paid for all of it. However, they will not pay for a second surgery if he needs it and if he does he said he will go to India. They have world class hospitals there and they would only charge him 3K for a surgery that in the US has not went up to 150 thousand!
So glad to hear that you went for your shots in BKK — it’s an amazing difference. In the US, my Yellow Fever shot was going to cost $160 by itself. I managed to get 5 shots in BKK for less than $100. Definitely worth the tuk tuk ride 🙂
That is such a good idea. Thanks for the info! I would never think to get them done in the country of destination. It would make sense that it’s cheaper if the general cost of living is cheaper. Cost of healthcare is generally overpriced the further west you go, especially in the United States!
This is an amazing idea – I always pay tons to get immunizations in the US before going abroad. However, sometimes don’t they want you to be immunized before even entering the other country? It’s a very small risk, I’ll admit, but I thought there were rules about that. I may be wrong, though.
In some countries they do, but in Thailand it was not necessary. We didn’t have to show any proof of vaccinations when we entered Thailand, so there was no problem getting them as soon as we arrived and then laying low in Bangkok and waiting for them to kick in before exploring further afield.
One thousand dollars? That is very expensive, in the UK the consultation is free, and you only have to pay if you need certain special jabs, a lot of the time it’s free, sometimes it costs around 5 GBP.
They rip you off over here with Doxycycline (Malaria Pills) though, it can cost hundreds of pounds for a few months supply, but you can get them at pharmacies in Bangkok for a few pence each, it’s the same product.
Nice tip though, I bet some people out there might save a lot of money after reading this! I laughed at the photo of you being filmed!
Slice, you’re very lucky to live in the UK – the NHS is such an amazing system!
Haha, being filmed was very awkward, especially as they were jabbing needles into me!
That is correct. Medical cost are only a fraction here in India, than what you would spend in western countries. In fact, the some people come here as medical vacation. The dental treatment is costing not more $10 including 3 sittings.
The reason being that insurance companies have most of risks covered in the price of medicines.
Do they give shots for STD also? I think I have something I need a shot for…
Not sure how serious you are but as this is Bangkok I will assume you are genuine. The clinic is only really a travel shot clinic. Make sure you visit the hospital, in Bangkok its pretty cheap.
Yeah, I don’t know this sounds like a n amazing idea, but realistically for most travels who only spends a couple of days (maybe a week in Bangkok while on the indochina backpacker curcit, it might be risky) in bangkok before heading on through the country either up North or down South the vaccines would not have taken affect in those two or three days before you visit more rual areas of the country. What do you guys think about that?
Its a fair point, I still think the chances of picking up these diseases in Thailand is very small* and the savings in cash outweigh the very small risk. (*Unless you go working on a farm) I am obviously by no means a doctor but I have read many different opinions from much smarter people than myself and come to the conclusion that there is little benefit in paying the $500 extra.
My second point would be that most of these vaccines last years, so you may as well get yourself protected against everything that you are likely to need in the next decade, not just your time in SE Asia.
Is it just one shot that you need for JE vaccine in Bangkok?
Here in the UK I’d need to get 1 and then another after 28 days, I don’t have enough time before i leave but am wanting the vaccine if possible.
Also do you know how long it kicks in after?
We got two shots for JE, one when we first arrived in Bangkok and then one about 4 months later after travelling around Malaysia and the Philippines. We told the doctors that was our plan and they seemed fine with it.
There is some official info at the NHS website: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Japanese-encephalitis/Pages/Vaccination.aspx
Kelly – Do you know if the clinic sold/prescribed malaria medicine while you were there? I have no medical insurance in the states currently and am wondering how and if you should take the meds. Thanks for posting this, I am definitely going to be hitting up that clinic the day I land.
Thanks for the very useful post!
I’ m travelling soon in Thailand and I was wondering if you happened to know what JE vaccine you’ve been given? Was it Ixiaro (2 shots 28 days apart) or IMOJEV (single shot)?
This would be very useful for my trip planing.
Thanks a lot again!
I would also like to know this answer as well! I will be traveling to Bangkok soon and will be getting the JE vaccine upon arrival. Will I need to come back to Bangkok 28 days later after the first shot? How much does the first shot protect me while I wait for the second one? Also how long does the vaccine last? Sorry for all the questions, but I really appreciate your time in answering these!
Great information, thank you. I had all my shots in Canada before I left for Chiang Mai, Thailand. Thank goodness my employment health plan paid for them all.
But I can tell you that getting professional dental cleaning at a highly rated dental clinic in Chiang Mai only cost me 600 Baht….. about $22.00 Canadian. (Dental 4U on Thapae Road, not far from Thapae Gate)
(When you’ve been going regularly to the dentist all your life…. you have an instinct the tells you when you’ve had a very good cleaning from the Dental Hygienist.
The service and cleaning I received in Chiang Mai, Thailand were top notch in my opinion. )
In Canada for instance… at the Linwell Park Dental Centre in the Niagara Region, the same treatment would cost $220.00 Canadian for someone walking in off the street that wanted the same professional cleaning.
You’re talking ten times the cost.. to get the same treatment in Canada for professional teeth cleaning that would cost only $22.00 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
If your going to Thailand or some other south Asian country in the next few months…. get your treatment there… save a lot of money. Just research online to find the best clinics…. talk to people and ask for references …then go to the clinic and see how well it is taken care of and you will get a good idea if they are good.
Thanks Robert! You’re absolutely right. I got my teeth cleaned and some fillings done last time I was in Bangkok and the quality of dental care was fine and it cost me a mere fraction of what it would have cost in Canada!
This is awesome! i’m so proud of myself because i thought of this on my own today and this is the site i stumbled upon first when i googled my idea. my one question is, did you have to return to the place to get your second shot? it my understanding that you have to wait a week between your first and second japanese encephalitis shots. i’m also wanting my rabies shot, and here in canada they make you wait 7 days after your first and 21 days after your second to get your 3rd. well if you can’t help me maybe i can search the info myself. thanks for the words!
Another clinic you could go to is MedConsult Clinic! It is in central Bangkok and extremely accessible. It was really a great experience for me and so much cheaper than getting my vaccination back home. Dr. Donna (who runs that clinic) is actually British but has bean practicing in Thailand for years so it was really nice to have an english speaking doctor. I would recommend her for things other than vaccinations as well!
Thanks for the recommendation William. It’s great that you have found a good quality doctor in Thailand for a much cheaper price than back home!
Good advice. Vaccinations are much cheaper in-country. Dr Donna’s clinic is well known as the only western style clinic. She covers everything, not just vaccinations, at a reasonable price, and will treat the problem not just dump you with a variety bag of expensive medicines.
Thanks for writing up this article. I’ve got a question about the Japanese Encephalitis vaccination. Was it one dose or two doses in Thailand? If it was two did you have to go back to the clinic to get a second shot?
How long after your JE vaccination did it become effective? I’ll be in Bangkok briefly & then onto Laos & some rural areas so would like it to get to work rather quickly..
I’m going to Bangkok followed by Vietnam and Bali, and so I need to get a few shots including Japanese Encephalitis. I’m now considering getting these down in Bangkok but as you mention you only got one shot and then returned to get the second, but the first shot be enough to protect you when you continue your travel?
In many countries, certain vaccines are free, especially if there are regions within the country experiencing certain diseases endemically. Brazil for example, has yellow fever vaccine free but because vaccine takes 10 days to work and there is a large YF problem there, it’s better to fly into Buenos Aires, Argentina and get a free vaccine there, and explore for 10 days before visiting Brazil! In Mexico, YFV seen is about $7 or free, but this spring I couldn’t find it there. I do buy my asthma rescue inhalers there for $2.50 because just north of the border, in good old U.S.of A, they are hundreds of dollars and require prescription! Can you imagine?? Life saving medication…
Thanks for the tips, Meagen! That’s great that you can find the vaccine so cheaply in so many places around the world.
It is pretty terrible that you can get the same asthma inhaler for $2.50 in Mexico, when you’d have to pay hundreds of dollars for them in the USA. The US healthcare system is quite scary!
Anyone know what the costs are in Thailand in 2019 ?
Need Japanese Encephalitis inoculations for in Laos but are £200 in the UK !!
Depends on which clinic you go to. The Thai Travel Clinic, at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok…. is the one I’m a bit familiar with. I can highly recommend them.
II’m also a bit familiar with the excellent Pastuer Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Just be careful what clinic you go to. Do your research.
Don’t go to just any old clinic you see along a street, or some doctor that a strange tuk tuk driver recommends.
Japanese Encephalitis vaccine… (CD JEvax, Imojev) is about 500 Baht… $16.00 U.S.)
Inactivated JE vaccine is about 440 Baht… $15.00
Price is per dose…. so if it is a series of two shots…. just double the price…
Those prices are as of November 21, 2018 Might be the same price now..or a tiny bit more.
For getting your Travel Vaccines in southeast Asia… I only know about Thailand and Cambodia. (But I’m sure there are a few good clinics in the other countries. You just have to research.)
In Phnom Penh, The Pasteur Insititue is highly respected and trusted. The Institut Pasteur du Cambodge (IPC), with an international staff of 220 people, is a research and public utility Institute under the patronage of the Cambodian Ministry of Health. It belongs to the International Network of Pasteur Institutes with whom it develops ongoing collaborations.
You can get all your travel vaccine shots there very very cheaply.
The reason these vaccines are so cheap in that part of the world are…some “travel” vaccines in the western countries are actually the routine ones in tropical countries. . Such as Hepatitis B vaccine and JE vaccine; these two vaccines have been included in Thailand’s national program of immunization for many years. They give it to every person in Thailand in their childhood. So they have to use a huge amount of vaccine per year when compared to the western countries. Therefore they can get a much lower price simply due to the economy of scale.
Also, like many medications, the pharmaceutical companies usually set the price structure different from country to country. The GDP and the purchasing power of people in each country are among the factors that they consider.
In Thailand, there is the excellent Thai Travel Clinic, at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University. Very, very low cost. But there are also a couple other good clinics.
What vaccines besides YF do you guys recommend to get in Thailand? I’ll be in Bangkok & Phuket. I want to visit Tanzania or Kenya one day for a safari, and some jungles, Brazil and elsewhere, also Galapagos. I visit several countries a year so any good vaccines to get?
And good clinics in either city?
Meagen… check out the CDC Travel vaccine site… https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list
You enter the countries you are going to.. .and then the CDC will tell you what vaccines you should get.. .
Yes, I’m going to travel to Brazil next month. I already took yellow fever vaccine. Because I know the chance of affected by yellow fever in Brazil is very high. I always very conscious about my health and I don’t want to bo sick while I’m traveling. If you are going to travel overseas then you should go through the proper travel vaccination depending on your travel location.