You've got your flight, packed your bags, watched about 27 YouTube videos, and checked double that in blogs for your upcoming Thailand trip. You're excited, and you're ready for a new adventure.
And oh boy, it's going to be an adventure. Thailand is very tourist-friendly while still keeping that Southeast Asian charm. I'm talking street food, gritty bars, temples, beaches, diving, and the sweet coconut-on-a-beach island life too.
You're not letting the excitement take you for a ride though, you know there's some things to watch out for, and on the top of your list is probably food poisoning - but it's not the only thing.
How likely is getting food poisoning in Thailand? How likely is it that I get sick? Can I drink the water? Do I need vaccines? These questions are bubbling around in your mind, and for good reason.
We'll go through the common sense things, vaccines, and other nifty precautions you can take to avoid getting sick in Thailand below.
1. Don't Drink The Water
The problem with the tap water in Thailand is that it's not treated to the standard you're probably used to. It has too many foreign elements in it that can make you sick and be a massive pain to your adventure.
Instead, for about 10-20 baht, you can get bottled water from the many convenience stores scattered around any location you'll visit.
2. Be Careful With The Ice
Not ice in terms of snow, you won't find that in Thailand! But the ice in your drinks.
Vendors selling iced coffee, or smoothies will put ice in the drink. Now the ice is most likely bought and is made from treated water. They'll look like hollowed-out cylinders, and that's the default.
But sometimes, you might find a sneaky vendor just freezing their own tap water to save money. This isn't very common, but be careful. If you see something suspicious like that, don't by the drink.
3. Buy From Established Street Food Vendors
Street food is a massive reason why traveling is so great, yet so many travelers don't get out of their comfort zone to try some for fear of getting sick.
I get it, you don't know where it's been, it might be collecting dust on the street, the hygiene might be bad, all healthy fears. But the reality is that most of the food is authentic, delicious, and very safe.
It's easy to avoid getting sick by buying from vendors that;
- Are a part of larger markets
- Are grouped together, aka. not alone
- Are busy with locals buying from them too
- Don't have the food lying around at room temperature
If you exercise common sense here, see that the food is being cooked fresh, straight off the heat, and everything looks clean - you're safe.
4. Get Vaccinated
Before you arrive in Thailand make sure you've got your Hepatitis, Tetanus and Rabies shots. Another thing to consider is bringing some Malaria prophylactic drugs like doxycycline for prevention but beware of this one.
Malaria is mostly gone in Thailand. The places you'll visit likely have very few cases if any, but the drug's side effects can make you sensitive to the sun, or make you feel sick - not worth it.
The best thing you could do to avoid things like Dengue Fever or Malaria is to make sure that when you're a place with a higher number of mosquitoes, spray that repellent on and cover up - other than that, you're good to go.
5. Wash Your Hands Frequently
This is a big one. Things are dirty and covered in bacteria. As a species, we all touch our faces, all the time...
Washing your hands frequently, before eating, and before touching your face is a disproportionate indicator of whether you're going to get sick or not. Having some rubbing alcohol with you also helps keep those hands clean for when you can find running water or soap.
A side note here is to not worry about the tap water when it comes to washing your hands (or brushing your teeth). It's only a problem when you ingest it.
6. Avoid Bad Air Quality
Just like the weather, each city will have an air quality forecast. In Thailand, like other Southeast Asian countries, this is super important especially if you're an asthmatic person.
Being on beaches and coastal towns is usually fine, but being somewhere in Bangkok can sometimes be hard for people who aren't used to dust and exhaust. In this case, a bad forecast for a week might warrant moving locations.
You can download the AirVisual AQF App to check air quality as needed. Other apps that are useful for Thailand are listed in the article below.
7. Increase Vitamin Intake
When you go on your Thailand trip, you're going to make major changes to your diet for the duration, and this is great. You'll get to try all different styles of Thai cuisine and its a whole dimension of exploring culture - but there's a downside.
It leaves you open for neglecting nutrients and vitamins that you'd otherwise get back at home. It won't be a balanced diet, you might not get all the food that makes your immune system work well - so you need some "nutritional insurance."
You can buy dissolvable vitamin tablets from any convenience store, as well as making a conscious effort to have a variety of different foods throughout the day to shape your macro-nutrient intake.
This will help you have a foundation level of nutrients in your system that should keep you away from illness.
If you follow these 7 steps, is it guaranteed that you won't get sick? No, but the chances of you getting sick in Thailand will drop tenfold. And I'm liking those numbers 😎
Making sure you have travel/medical insurance, and following these steps is all you need to enjoy your Thailand travel adventure without worrying about getting sick. You can go a step further and check out the list of Thailand FAQ's that'll make sure you don't run into other problems as well