While living in Bangkok, I was lucky enough to get very inexpensive vaccines needed to travel to more ‘remote’ areas in Southeast Asia, and also a Rabies series! I like to think at this point I am a pro at the Thai Travel Clinic, so here is some information about my experience there:
What the Vaccination Clinic offers:
Really cheap vaccinations and counseling for which shots you actually need to get:
When Reid and I went in for our Japanese encephalitis and Typhoid shots, our grand total came to about 40$ for both sets of shots, the doctor’s fee, and medical supplies. The Japanese encephalitis shot alone was quoted at 300$ in the US, which was not covered by insurance.
The doctor basically told us (in excellent English) not to take antibiotics for malaria because it was extremely unlikely that we would get it based on the amount of time we were spending in ‘remote’ regions, and that it would do more harm than good to our system. He also basically said if we did get it, we could always be airlifted to one of the best hospitals in Asia (Bumengrad Hospital in Bangkok). I was so glad that he advised us not to do it, as most travel clinics will tell you that you absolutely should take antibiotics.
Shots I received at the clinic:
-Hepatitis A (very cheap)
-Rabies vaccine (5 shots)
Bonus: we went in without an appointment and registered, saw a doctor, and received our shots in less than an hour. I would, however, recommend setting an appointment because sometimes the doctors are out of the office if no one is scheduled to come in. It’s super easy to do online here: Thai Travel Clinic
Where it is:
The travel clinic has recently moved to a snazzy new building on Ratchatewi, right by Victory Monument BTS. The building itself is called The Hospital for Tropical Diseases (don’t let that scare you, I saw no strange maladies during my 8 or so visits). If you need directions, go here.
The staff is very helpful, friendly, and speaks excellent English. I always had a lot of fun chatting with the nurses and we got to know each other quite well during my rabies series, since I had to go in 5 times over the course of one month.
For the basic Travel Clinic website, click here
What happens if you get bit by an animal in Bangkok:
If you get bit by an animal in Bangkok, or Thailand for that matter, you should immediately go to the Travel Clinic for a consultation and clean-up. They can treat your bite for you and recommend a course of action. If the owner of the animal is unknown or the animal has not had its rabies vaccine in a while, they will probably recommend you get the series and the immunoglobulin shot. I think most people who come in for the shot have been bit by a monkey or stray dog.
The immunoglobulin shot is like a super vaccine that will work immediately to teach your immune system how to fight off the Rabies virus before it reaches your brain. In order for it to work, they inject a very large amount of it, usually near the bite and also elsewhere for maximum efficacy. This shot is literally hundred of dollars in the US and only cost me about 30$ in Thailand. I also read horror stories about how painful it was which almost convinced me not to get it, but it wasn’t bad at all. I had to get a huge amount shot into my ass and it just burned a little bit. The only painful thing about it is that the fluid is very viscous (thick) so it has to be injected slowly, which can take up to 45 seconds.
*It’s important to note that Rabies is a very serious virus and that if untreated or left too long without treatment, it will kill you. There is also a higher incidence rate in Thailand of Rabies than in Western countries, probably due to the high number of stray animals. It’s very cheap and easy to visit the clinic, so there’s no reason not to if you’ve been bit. Go as soon as you possibly can!
**If you get bit outside of Bangkok, go to the nearest ER to get the immunoglobulin shot.
What the hell is the Snake Farm?:
Ok the name ‘Snake Farm’ really cracked me up when I first heard it. Since immunoglobulin is very expensive and difficult to produce, the travel clinic usually doesn’t have any on hand. If you do need to get the immunoglobulin shot in Bangkok, you will have to go to the Snake Farm. It sounds like one of the many random attractions you find in the mountainous areas of Thailand (crocodile show! snake show! butterfly farm!) but it is actually a very serious and helpful place (although I think they do tours…). At the Snake Farm they research and maintain vaccines and treatments for a myriad of poisonous bites. The website isn’t great, but you can find contact information and directions in English here.