Healthcare in Pattaya is generally good, with the quality of hospitals and clinics being high, mainly due to the large influx of visitors looking for cheaper treatment than they can receive in their own countries. Thais are talented at nursing, though specialist knowledge may not be as extensive. While tropical diseases are prevalent in tropical Thailand, there is a good hold on most of them and the risk is minimal. Most Western tourists, and indeed expats living in Pattaya, ensure they keep their inoculations up to date. Your local GP can furnish you a list of injections required before you travel, and most countries’ health ministries produce a health brief for visiting foreign countries.
The Royal Thai police, Tourist Police (and their volunteers) are around in large numbers, particularly when it’s busy at night, and are fast and efficient should anything occur involving a foreigner. Do guard your pockets and bag in busy spots as pickpockets and ‘snatch ‘n run’ motorcyclists abound.
While the vast majority of visitors to Pattaya encounter no problems, it is worth bearing in mind the safety risks. They include: caution against reckless driving (in or out of the city); ensuring you are insured should you partake in risky water sports activities; to avoid fake gem scams (visit nearby Chantaburi for real rubies or sapphires); and that sexually transmitted diseases are prevalent here. The violence in the southern three provinces of Thailand has not affected Pattaya and the strong police presence has minimised any risk to Pattaya from terrorists.
If you do have to visit a hospital, be aware that they charge considerably more than public ones, overcharging on imported medicines on the assumption that you’re covered by travel insurance. Often you can get an equally professional service at decent government hospitals, who are more ethical. More on Safety in Pattaya
Health in Pattaya
Common diseases and maladies to be aware of when visiting Thailand and Pattaya:
Diarrhoea: Most visitors have an upset stomach at some time during their visit to Thailand and it is often the result of eating unusual food, maybe too much chilli and unfamiliar spices, or just the change of water. The quality of hygiene in Pattaya is high, however, both in restaurants and food stalls, and you may well avoid this problem if you’re lucky. It’s a good idea, though, to always carry a small supply of tissues with you wherever you are in Thailand as not all toilets have paper. At restaurants, look out for the ‘Good taste, clean food’ sign outside, indicating that they have passed a health inspection for food preparation. A packet of Immodium tablets is also worth carrying to help in recovery should you happen to procure a case of the ‘galloping trots.’ Having activated carbon tablets (very cheap) in your stash is also worth considering.
Dehydration: Thailand is a tropical country that can easily drain you, especially if you have been drinking alcohol all afternoon. The temperatures in the cold season here (November-March) are still above 30°C for much of the day, and it’s not much cooler at night so you need to keep taking in liquids. If you’re out in the sun for long periods or pursuing outdoor activities, take plenty of water with you and wear a hat, particularly during the two hours either side of midday when the sun is at its strongest. The symptoms of dehydration include fever, breathing difficulty, fatigue and a very dry mouth. The best remedy is rehydration with water and electrolytes and these are widely available from pharmacies (ask for ‘O’ lyte or Dechamp), but the local hospital is the better option.
Dengue Fever: This is a nasty illness with symptoms similar to malaria, but often worse and potentially fatal. It is spread by mosquitoes in the same way as malaria, but these particular insects occupy stagnant water pools in more urban areas. They proliferate in unused rubbish dumps and swamps. Although there have been (unreported) incidences around the Pattaya area, the local government has successfully undertaken major projects to eradicate this untreatable disease.
Drinking water: Tap water in Pattaya is not potable, as with anywhere in Thailand. Bottled water is available wherever you are and is very cheap. Lorries, trucks, and motorbikes with side-cars deliver all over Pattaya and every shop you go in will have a supply of drinking water- 7-Eleven is the best bet. If you’re offered free water from a street stall where you’re eating, it will always be safe drinking water. In restaurants in Pattaya, free water treated by reverse osmosis process, or chemicals, will be offered and it’s perfectly healthy, but you can order bottled spring water if you prefer. Ice is always made from drinking water wherever you are. It is also very cheap (5 baht per kg) and is available even from the smallest shop and on the beach.
Avian influenza (bird flu): There has been a lot of press coverage of this disease, but it appears to have receded from its frenzy in 2003. The only known cases in humans so far have involved people who are in daily contact with infected poultry. There is, as yet, no proof that avian flu can be spread between humans, although scientists are carefully monitoring the situation. Chicken products across Thailand are considered safe to eat and Pattaya City Hall has a large staff in their Environmental Health
Department carrying out regular checks. Thailand has taken the threat very seriously and the situation is being closely monitored by local and international health experts. Unless you have been advised otherwise by your foreign travel advisory bureau, there is no need to be alarmed by this or refrain from eating chicken (cooking chicken kills any bacteria that may have existed). However, the situation is constantly changing and we advise you to keep abreast of the info presented at the sites listed at the bottom of this page.
Malaria: Pattaya is a malaria-free area so you needn’t worry about antimalarials when visiting this resort. However, in this tropical weather mosquitoes are a pesky annoyance and they generally strike at dusk. Covering yourself with white clothing is the best preventative measure, along with applying DEET-based repellents – natural DEET-free products are also readily available in supermarkets and pharmacies. If you plan a trip over the Cambodian border, though, you should take precautions as the WHO considers this area as a non-malaria-free zone. Some malarial strains have been found to be immune to many Western drugs so consult your doctor before you leave, or consult a doctor here before you go to Cambodia.
Hepatitis: This nasty disease affects the liver and is found in various strains. The symptoms are roughly the same, but the seriousness and methods of transmission differ markedly. Hepatitis A is usually spread through contaminated food and drink. This results in a fever, headaches, chills and fatigue. The best remedy is to eat properly, have plenty of rest and just wait for the symptoms to pass. It is pretty rare in Pattaya due to basic cleanliness being practised, particularly in the city.
Hepatitis B: This is more serious, with the ‘yellowing’ of the skin being an obvious sign, with long-term liver problems likely. Sexual activity is the usual method of contracting Hepatitis B. Hepatitis C, D and E are rarer and can be lethal, with no known vaccinations. Due to its affect on the liver, drinking alcohol during the long recovery period is seriously discouraged.
HIV: The spread of HIV/AIDS in Thailand has supposedly been checked by the government’s widespread campaign encouraging condom use, although this claim leaves a lot to be desired. Help groups among sex workers have reported a surprisingly high level of awareness among prostitutes of the importance of safe sex. Other methods of transmission are low risk here, and hygiene levels in hospitals and other risk areas for contact with blood are generally of a high standard. Syringe-sharing is known to occur among drug users, though this is not considered widespread. Males engaging in the sex industry need to always wear a condom!
Pesticides: They are widely used in Thailand, particularly by the poorer farmers who have no education as to the harm they can cause. Many vegetables receive several types of toxic spray, both to repel insects and to make them look better; in some cases by the use of dyes. Actual poisoning is rare, but minor stomach problems can result. Restaurants in Pattaya and the eating stalls are careful to buy fresh, healthy vegetables which are plentiful here, and will also take care to throw away anything dubious. Organic vegetables are available in the larger supermarkets but are comparatively expensive. Naturally, the cheaper the restaurant you are eating at, the less care that may have been taken in procuring healthy ingredients and the less they tend to change their cooking oil.
Rabies: It is best to avoid dogs in Thailand full stop. There are many ‘street dogs’ in Pattaya and indeed across Thailand, and bites are not infrequent if you try to get too close and you may well pick up some fleas. Rabies is not uncommon in Thailand and infected dogs usually display symptoms of aggression, madness, and in later stages, foaming at the mouth. Rabies is carried in the saliva of the animal and can prove fatal, even in cases of the licking of open wounds.
Venereal disease: The sex industry is a reality in Thailand, particularly in Pattaya. Due to the practice of safe sex, resulting from the fear of AIDS from both partners, the incidence of sexually-transmitted diseases has been reduced but has by no means disappeared. Herpes is a common complaint here and syphilis and gonorrhoea are still a significant threat. If you use a condom, you’re unlikely to suffer from any of these. There are a large number of clinics in Pattaya specialising in STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) should you be unlucky or careless.
The large number of pharmacies in Pattaya means that you’re never far from medicine. Most pharmacists speak fair English in Pattaya and will advise as to the best medicines. Vaccines are available, but not generally suggested unless you are going to country districts where wild animals are occasionally infected as well. Should you get bitten, any open wounds should be immediately cleaned with iodine (or even with any available spirits) before going straight to the hospital for treatment and injections. In Pattaya, an effective Dog Warden scheme minimises the risk in the city.