An emergency accident in Thailand: call 1669 and 191
As a rule, people have a wonderful time while staying in Thailand, however, accidents happen too. Hot climate, crazy traffic, and unwanted food can sometimes lead to particular health problems among local residents, expats, and tourists. Of course, our intention is not to scare you from visiting Thailand but to inform you and advise you on what to do in the case of a real emergency. No one wants to be in danger, but there is always a possibility that something can go wrong. To avoid any risks, it is critical to take precautions and be cautious.
First of all, write down the most important phone numbers on your mobile phone. The first thing you should do is to call emergency services. The numbers you need to know are listed below.
Call 191 if you need to contact the Police
191 is a hotline of the Royal Thai Police. However, sometimes dispatchers do not speak English. In this case, contact the Tourist Police by dialing 1155.
1669 – In case of health emergency call this number
1669 is the general hotline in Thailand. After you call this number, a public ambulance will be dispatched. Approximate response time is 10 minutes for cities and 30 minutes from rural areas. Staff speaks English.
Other emergency numbers to call in Thailand
To contact an English-speaking operator, first, make a call to the Tourist Police, or call directly to one of an international hospital in Thailand. All the staff there is able to speak English and other languages.
Tourist Police – 1155
Ambulance and rescue – 1554
Air ambulance – 02 586 7654
Fire brigade – 199
National disaster warning center – 1860
Crime – 1195
Things you should always have in your pocket
For hospitals, it is very important that you can show your ability to pay for provided medical services. We recommend you to carry your insurance and a credit card to avoid misunderstandings with doctors and hospitals’ staff. Otherwise, you risk not to be served. Do not count on the hospitals’ responsibility to offer medical help to everyone in need. Medical treatment in Thailand can be extremely expensive and not every medical facility is willing to help people whose life is in danger.
The best option for all tourists is to get health insurance before going abroad. If you already have it, do not hesitate to call your insurance company and ask it to help you in the case of an emergency. In case you still do not have insurance and you are planning to go abroad, it would be wise to get covered or at least consider taking insurance in the country you are traveling to.
Health insurance in Thailand
If you did not get your insurance in your home country or you want to purchase it directly in Thailand, you can use an official online insurance coverage scheme or contact one of the insurance companies listed on Ogocare.
In 2014 the Government of Thailand presented an insurance scheme “Thailand Travel Shield” which was launched by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The scheme offers coverage for a wide number of unexpected events such as accidents, baggage loss, hotel cancellation, and many others.
If you prefer to work with a private insurance company, contact the insurance companies we have selected for you. They will work out a flexible coverage scheme which will meet all your requirements. They also will provide you with all the necessary pre-trip information. So before going to Thailand, you will already know everything about current weather, exchange rates, and emergency services.
Obstacles for an emergency service
Crazy traffic all over Thailand is a big issue, especially for Ambulance vehicles. Sometimes, due to big traffic jams, emergency services are merely not able to get you to the Hospital on time. In Thailand, delays are difficult to avoid, unless your location is close to a medical facility. In case your health needs to be monitored, stay in an area where hospitals are easily accessible.
Emergency transport departments are another problem. Frequently, public hospitals’ emergency departments are underdeveloped and need to be modernized. However, big private medical facilities have highly mobile units, where a health specialist will provide you with immediate medical help. Volunteer organizations, which are usually run by foreigners, also provide emergency services for free, however there you will not see health care experts who could improve your health condition.
You should be cautious while being in dangerous situations. Unfortunately, the public medical sector needs to improve. We recommend using the services of private medical departments.
If you are facing serious health issue and you are sure that on-ground transport will not be able to make it on time, then you can use services of private air ambulance companies. Almost all big hospitals have helipads.
This emergency service is usually more expensive than other options, but it guarantees you that you to get to a hospital in a short time. As a rule, each air ambulance vehicle is staffed with two pilots and two medical specialists who are able to provide medical help on the spot. In every case, a medical crew is different to meet the special needs of every patient.
For those who need a blood transfusion
Although the majority of blood stored in Thai hospitals is screened, some medical facilities, especially in rural areas of Thailand are not so precautious. However, this procedure is necessary since some blood can contain diseases like HIV or Hepatitis. The statistics show that around 4.5 percent of people in Thailand die because of HIV. So before any blood transfusion, make sure that a hospital has screened it.
We do not want to scare you, but to warn you about every possibility which may occur to you in Thailand. If you found out that you need a blood transfusion, immediately call hospitals with an English-speaking team which store only screened blood.
Health hazard in Thailand
Before you go to Thailand, we would like to share some important information with you. Thailand is a country with a hot tropical climate which is a perfect environment for the propagation of different bacteria and viruses. There are various health risks you should be aware of.
Japanese encephalitis is common in Thailand’s northern provinces which may cause serious damages to the brain. Usually, this disease is transmitted by mosquitos. Be careful, and cover your body at night and use repellents scaring off insects. If you have mild symptoms which are close to the ones of the flu but if you are not sure you should visit a hospital.
In border regions of the country, there is a particular risk to contract malaria. However, it is not a big issue in other parts of Thailand. We should inform you that malaria in Thailand is resistant to some medicine. Advise local doctors to get appropriate precautions against malaria.
From May to November there is a rainy season in Thailand. During this time, you should be aware of another disease, dengue, which is also transmitted by mosquito bites.
Other diseases are water-borne. To avoid things like cholera and leptospirosis, we strongly recommended you to drink only decontaminated and bottled water. You should also be careful in flooded locations. Avoid drinking tap water since it is dangerous. You can either install a water filter in your apartment or buy bottled water which is more than affordable and can be found in every store.
Before you go to Thailand, you should always consult your local doctor to get all vaccinations and injections. Some vaccinations should be done every ten years, keep it in mind. HIV is another health problem in Thailand which is usually common among sex workers.
During rainy season you should also bear in mind that storms can lead to flooding and landslides. Lakes, caves, and waterfalls became a dangerous attraction to see. Koh Samui rainy season starts in November and ends in March. Plan your trip in advance to have an opportunity to fully enjoy the beautiful nature of Thailand. Otherwise, you can get stuck in your hotel rooms or face more serious consequences.
In March and April, there is a high possibility of smoke haze. It may cause bad air quality in the northern parts of the country. Smoke haze can lead to bronchial problems or asthma. To be updated, check the official information on air pollution which is provided by the Singaporean National Environment Agency. The Agency publishes reports on all countries of the ASEAN region.
Health services in Thailand
Thailand is well-known for its healthcare services quality, Bangkok especially. Modern medical facilities are usually equipped with advanced technological devices and have teams of highly-skilled and educated specialist who are able to speak English and other languages. Some doctors graduated from Western universities and are ready to provide services of international standards. Nurses are also able to speak different languages and had web good medical training. However, in rural areas of Thailand, the quality of medical services may be not that good. Frequently, medical staff do not have a good knowledge of English and were not trained overseas.
Thailand has about 1,000 hospitals both in the public and private sectors. The best medical departments are located in Bangkok. Sometimes in order to get the most comprehensive treatment, patients all over the country go to Bangkok’s hospitals.
If you need to get medical assistance in Thailand, first of all, call the Tourist Police in 1155 which will later direct you to a hospital with English-speaking staff. You can also directly call Emergency Service of Thailand at 1669 or one of the private hospitals.
It is important to mention that most doctors practicing in Thailand do not have one permanent place of work. Frequently, surgeons and physicians have numerous timetables at many different hospitals which are usually scattered all over the city. That is why health specialists of Thailand have to go from one medical department to another to provide help to everyone in need. They also can combine work in both the public and the private sector. That result in their extremely long hours of intense work.
So if you have an issue right after your surgery has been performed, there is a possibility that your surgeon is already operating in another hospital and is not able to provide you with immediate help. Sometimes health practitioners try to help you by phone consultations.
Different health sectors
Thailand Health Care has three sectors. There is a public, or government-provided health sector, a private sector and a non-profit sector with operating non-governmental organizations.
Government health care services
Healthcare of Thailand which is funded from the budget of the Department of Medical Services and regulated by the Ministry of Public Health. The Ministry of Public Health is obliged to monitor the quality of public health services, control government-funded hospitals and medical staff working in there.
Usually, public hospitals which are funded by the Government of Thailand provide good medical services. However, we should warn you, that almost always these public medical facilities are staffed with local residents. It leads to a long waiting time spent in a hospital’s hall. Some medical departments do not have modern and technically advanced facilities. All Thai citizens have a Universal Coverage Health card which covers all medical treatments offered by public hospitals. However, on Sundays doctors are not working for free. Universal Coverage Health Cards are issued by the National Health Security Office.
However, these cards are not available for non-residents of Thailand and you will have to pay for every performed procedure. Although there are no restrictions on providing medical assistance to foreigners in public hospitals, some services for non-residents may be more expensive for them than for Thai nationals. The approximate number of hospitals funded by the government in Thailand is 900.
Private Health Sector is well-known in Thailand for it’s up to date medical facilities and equipment. Because of the quality of private sector services, Thailand became the leading destination for tourists seeking medical assistance in Southeast Asia. Many people around the world go to Thailand to get high standard cosmetic and plastic surgeries and other health care procedures. There are almost 500 private medical facilities all over Thailand.
Every private hospital in Thailand is well equipped and has a team of highly-skilled, educated and experienced specialists who are willing to perform medical services of the best quality. These hospitals mostly attract foreign visitors, as personnel knows English and other languages. Some of them have also been accredited by international health commissions as JCI.
Those who cannot afford expensive medical treatment and need immediate help can contact volunteer non-profit organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. If you need to see a general practitioner (GP), you will be able to find them almost in every hospital or private clinic. General Practitioners perform a diverse range of medical treatments and their services are more affordable. Unfortunately, Thailand does not have a medical plan which would offer expats specific medical help. However, expats who are working in Thailand generally will be covered by their employers’ health insurance. In other cases, expats may purchase health insurance from a private insurance company.
Before signing a contract with a health insurance company, do not forget to check terms and conditions since some companies also include life insurance. You can always alter a contract and have only health insurance. To get health insurance, do not forget to have your passport or ID with you. For those who want life insurance, you need to have a work permit in Thailand. If you do not have any health insurance, a hospital may ask you to prove that you have the financial ability to pay for your treatment. This is especially common in private hospitals. If you have health insurance, just inform a hospital, so it can contact your insurance company to get the payment. It is a common practice that patients are not allowed to leave the territory of the hospital until they completely pay their bills.
Ambulance in Thailand
If an accident occurred and you need to call for an ambulance, dial the phone number 1646 which will work in Bangkok. If you are situated in other regions of Thailand, call on 1669. The ambulance vehicle will transport you to the nearest hospital with an emergency department. However, keep in mind that you can ask to be transported to a hospital of your choice. Be ready to give an exact address. But your request may be denied depending on an ambulance team.
It would be better, if you decide to use services of well-known, recognized private hospitals over the same services of “rescue” departments, as frequently they do not have medical professionals aboard. Below the listed phone numbers of the best private hospitals in Thailand.
Private ambulance services in Bangkok:
If you have a minor health care problem, you can always go to a drug store. They are usually open from 9 am to 9 pm, however, you can find some that are open 24-hours. Almost all drug stores have English-speaking pharmacists. If all drug stores in your area are closed, we recommend you to visit a hospital. All pharmacies are easily recognized by a green cross on a white background. Usually, they work on a daily basis, but some of them work only a few hours on Sunday.
In many cases, you will not need any medical prescription. If you know what medicine you need, just go directly to a pharmacist and they can also give you some advice in English.
Our best advice for you is to get health insurance
Language barriers, traffic jams, a wide range of emergency services contacts and especially the cost of medical services in Thailand are the great obstacles you may face while trying to solve an emergency situation. Considering all the difficulties, the best advice we can give you is to obtain health insurance.
Invest in good health insurance
To avoid difficult situations, we highly advise you to obtain good health insurance which will cover all possible medical expenses. Keep in mind that even a minor medical treatment in Thailand can be very expensive. Before going to Thailand, it would be wise to purchase good health insurance which will not cost you a lot but will cover all possible medical expenses. This small and simple step may save you from being in a very difficult situation where you do not have enough money to pay the hospital’s bills. Do not forget to always keep your insurance card (as well as bank and ID card) in your wallet, so you can prove your paying capacity to the hospital.
Make sure that your insurance company is able to provide you services in your native language 24 hours a day and available from any country in the world. It is also important that the company will direct you to the best emergency service in Thailand which is the best for your particular case.
Please, do not forget to take your ID, bank and insurance card anywhere you go, like that you will minimize all possible risks. Bank and insurance cards will serve as a guarantee of your financial ability to pay for medical services.
Be safe while staying in Thailand
Thailand is a country offering a wide variety of medical services of high quality. In big touristic cities, it is not a big problem to find a medical center that meets all international requirements and standards. Facilities of private international hospitals and clinics are supplied with the best hi-tech equipment, doctors and nurses speak different languages for the convenience of foreign patients. Some medical departments also offer services of interpreters.
However, you should be ready for all possible emergency scenarios. Do not forget to write down phone numbers of emergency services and keep your insurance, ID and bank cards in your pocket. All these simple precaution steps will help you avoid risky situations. We hope that this information will keep you safe, during your stay in Thailand. We want to remind you one more time that it is very important to have health insurance since medical services in Thailand can be extremely expensive.
Be careful and have a good time in Thailand!