Everybody knows that taking vacations is healthy, and that enjoying a good trip has the power to increase our well-being, by giving us the opportunity to disconnect from the burdens of daily life. And undoubtedly Thailand has a lot to offer along these lines! However, when planning your trip to Thailand, it is advisable to take your health into account, since carelessness on this matter could shorten or even ruin your long-awaited vacation. So while it is not the fun part of the trip, we need to talk about Vaccines to Travel to Thailand.
Spending part of your holidays in a Thai hospital instead of a paradisiacal island is nobody’s idea of fun, and no one wants to travel such a long distance just to bring back home the memories of a medical facility.
And the problem is not the standards of Thailand’s hospitals. Quite the opposite. Many of Thailand’s health facilities and hospitals are top-notch, to the extent that Thailand is a popular destination for medical tourism. But no matter how good medical facilities in Thailand are, hospitals are always much less interesting than Chiang Mai temples, Bangkok nightlife, floating markets or the Phi Phi islands, among many other destinations in the land of smiles.
One of the aspects you should consider when planning your trip to Thailand are the existing diseases in the country, and which is the best way to protect yourself from them. Vaccines are the most effective way to protect yourself from the most dangerous diseases that you could catch while traveling in Thailand.
In this InThailand article we solve the most frequent doubts among travelers: Is there any mandatory vaccine to enter Thailand? What jabs are recommended to get before traveling to Thailand? How far in advance should you get vaccinated to travel to Thailand? And many other questions.
Mandatory Vaccines to Travel to Thailand
💉 Yellow fever
Yellow fever is the only mandatory vaccine required to enter Thailand for those travelers coming from a country where yellow fever is endemic. All 42 countries where yellow fever is endemic are in Africa or South and Central America.
Yellow fever is an infectious viral disease that is acquired by mosquito bites, and can cause very high temperatures, vomiting, back pain and sensitivity to light. But don’t worry, there is no yellow fever in Thailand. It’s just that they don’t want you to bring that disease into the kingdom.
- Countries in Central and South America with Risk of Yellow Fever Transmission: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela.
- Countries in Africa with Risk of Yellow Fever Transmission: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda.
You can also consult on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand website where you can find the list of countries which require Certificate for Yellow Fever Vaccination.
Travelers coming from any of the countries listed above must carry a yellow fever vaccination certificate, showing that they have been vaccinated at least 1o days before flying. It is possible to get vaccinated upon arrival in Bangkok (it costs 700 THB) but there is a remote possibility that you will be forced to stay in quarantine for 6 days.
⚠️ Remember to double-check your full travel itinerary before flying to Thailand: even if you only transited for more than 12 hours through an airport in any of the countries listed above, you will be expected to carry your certificate to prove you’ve been vaccinated.
In the event that due to age or health reasons you cannot be vaccinated, you must carry an English-language vaccine exemption certificate issued by an official authority in your country.
Recommended Vaccines to Travel to Thailand
Although the risk of contracting any of the diseases mentioned below is low, they are related to the most common accidents that a traveler can have in Thailand.
Getting these vaccines before traveling to Thailand is useful although not essential, both for those traveling with an agency tour package and for those traveling independently.
💉 Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis
Tetanus is a bacterial disease caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. Its spores lie scattered almost everywhere, and the disease can be contracted due to infection of wounds that are not cleaned or treated in time, or that are not cared for properly. The infection affects the nervous system causing muscle spasms and stiffness. You can catch it regardless of your age, and among those who do get the disease, death rates are high.
Diphtheria is a disease caused by the bacillus Corynebacterium diphtheriae, which can only be found in humans and affects the upper respiratory tract: nose, mouth and pharynx, generating respiratory obstruction. It can also affect other parts of the body, such as the conjunctiva, genitals, cervical ganglia, heart, and peripheral nerves. It is transmitted from person to person by air or physical contact, and children are the most vulnerable.
Whooping cough (pertussis)
Whooping cough is a bacterial disease that attacks the respiratory tract: nose, nasal cavity, mouth, throat (pharynx) and larynx. The main symptoms are a strong cough and vomiting. It can only be hosted by humans, and it is highly contagious. Its transmission occurs by direct contact with the secretions emitted by a sick person, or by droplets of saliva.
It is convenient to get these vaccines to travel to Thailand. Especially tetanus, since anyone can suffer a minor accident that leaves open wounds. For example accidentally cutting yourself with a metal object, or falling off while riding a motorcycle.
Among the vaccines for Thailand that you can get to protect yourself from these diseases are:
• DTaP. Protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
• DT. Protects against diphtheria and tetanus.
• Tdap. Protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
• Td. Protects against tetanus and diphtheria.
If you were not vaccinated in childhood, it is advisable to get this jab, and especially if you are going to travel. These are international vaccines for Thailand that you must take into account.
Rabies is a disease that is transmitted between animals and can pass to humans, and it affects the nervous system. Contagion occurs by contact with the saliva of an infected animal or human, usually through bites and scratches.
The most common variety is furious rabies, and its main symptoms, which appear after an incubation period, are hyperactivity, excitement and phobia of air and water. The patient usually dies from cardiorespiratory arrest. Another less frequent variety is paralytic rabies, which produces a gradual paralysis of the muscles that eventally leads to death when lungs stop breathing and heart stops beating.
In Thailand you should be especially careful with dogs and monkeys. Contagion of rabies has occurred when tourists try to play or take a selfie with monkeys, or when the mischievous primate jumps on the tourist to steal food and ends up taking a bite. And although it is rather uncommon, sometimes a traveler gets bitten by a grumpy street dog. Not too surprising, taking into account that there are a zillion stray dogs roaming in the streets of Thailand.
If you are already vaccinated against rabies, in case of an animal bite you must still get urgent medical assistance. But it will only give you a scare and a couple extra jabs. Depending, of course, on how enthusiastically you have been bitten.
💉 Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is an infectious disease, caused by the virus of the same name, that affects the liver. The early symptoms of Hepatitis A are fatigue, muscle aches and fever, among others. And, in a more advanced state, the skin acquires a yellowish color.
The cause of infection can be contact with a sick person, and drinking liquids or eating fish or other food which are contaminated with the virus. You can also become infected by unprotected sex.
Hepatitis A vaccine is usually administered in childhood, so it is another of the vaccines for Thailand for which you will have to check your vaccination history.
💉 Typhoid Fever
Typhoid Fever is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica Typhi, which affects several organs and can be fatal. It is usually contracted by eating food or drinking water or other fluids contaminated by feces of an infected person.
Its symptoms include high fever, headaches and muscle aches, lack of appetite, diffuse abdominal pain, vomiting, and constipation or diarrhea. Also a dirty whitish tongue and ulcers on the palate indicate its possible presence.
There are two kinds of vaccine to prevent typhoid fever:
• Inactivated: vaccine administered by injection.
• Attenuated: orally administered vaccine.
In addition to vaccination, it is necessary to be careful with the food and drinks you ingest. The administration of this vaccine for Thailand must be done at least 2 weeks in advance.
Recommended vaccines for trips with special characteristics
Some people -and this is perhaps your case- like to travel in rather unconventional ways, more oriented towards adventure and contact with nature, or they like to explore remote rural areas off the beaten track. Others may intend to have an extended stay in the country, with student visas or work permits, in order to volunteer or carry out a work/activity in remote areas of the land of smiles.
In addition to the diseases that we have discussed so far, these alternative travelers may be more exposed to other diseases and, although the risk of contracting them is not high, it is advisable to assess the particular risks and decide if it would make sense to get an extra jab.
If you are one of those travelers, pay attention to the following Recommended Vaccines to Travel to Thailand:
💉 Hepatitis B
Like hepatitis A, it is an infectious disease that affects the liver, and it is caused by the hepatitis-B virus. Transmission of hepatits B can occur through contact with contaminated blood or secretions, and through unprotected sex.
Early symptoms include fever, lack of appetite, muscle aches and fatigue; later jaundice -skin and eyes acquire a yellowish color-, very dark urine, vomiting and inflammation of the liver and spleen. This disease can become chronic, although in many patients it is asymptomatic.
Hepatitis B vaccine is usually administered during childhood or adolescence. In the case of unvaccinated adults, it is generally recommended for various situations, including travel abroad.
💉 Japanese encephalitis
Caused by the virus of the same name, this disease is transmitted by mosquito bites, but not from person to person. It occurs in rural areas of Asia, and the risk of contracting it is higher in the case of travelers who spend long periods in rural areas, or who are volunteering in a rural sector.
Most of those infected have no symptoms. In case symptoms appear, they can range from a feverish state to encephalitis (due to brain infection). The result can be fatal and, in approximately 50% of cases, causes permanent disability.
The vaccine is recommended for those who plan to spend at least a month in an area where Japanese encephalitis occurs, or for those who travel for less than 4 weeks but spend most of the time outdoors in affected areas. The vaccine is administered in two doses, the second 28 days after the first and at least one week before the trip.
Cholera is an infectious disease that affects the intestine and is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Its transmission occurs through the consumption of water or food contaminated by the feces of infected people.
Its most distinctive symptom is severe diarrhea, usually watery and abundant, in some cases accompained by vomiting. However, it is estimated that 75% of those infected have only mild or no symptoms. This disease can cause death, and each year kills between 100 and 130 thousand people in the world.
The vaccine is administered orally, and travelers are recommended to get it if they plan to travel to an area where the disease is endemic. In the case of Thailand, it is recommended for long stays in areas where sanitary measures and infrastructure are scarce or deficient.
Obviously this vaccine to travel to Thailand is not a substitute for maintaining good personal hygiene and taking reasonable precautions with food and drinks.