BEST GUIDE FOR HEALTH’S IN THAILAND

I. First Things First

II. Healthy Food

  1. Cooked Food
  2. Cook It Yourself
  3. Reading Nutrition Labels

III. Hospitals

  1. Lowering Hospital Costs
  2. Affordable Private Hospitals
  3. Lowering Medication Costs
  4. Doctors and Surgeries
  5. Health Checkups
  6. Ambulance
  7. Going Without Health Insurance

IV. Staying Fit

  1. Free Fitness Options
  2. Finding Budget Gyms

V. Mental Health

  1. Get Help
  2. Three Emergency
  3. Call the Samaritans
  4. See a Counselor Now

 

I. FIRST THINGS FIRST

Health is the most important factor of our lives, yet it’s often ignore by many people. This is especially true for expats. We live in a new country and culture and don’t have immediate access to the healthy things we have back home.

What happens if you get sick? Do you know which hospital to go to? Do you know how to call an ambulance in an emergency?

To help you stay healthy in Thailand, we’ve come up with The Insider’s Guide to Health in Thailand: How to Eat Healthy, Stay Fit, and Lower Your Medical Costs.

The book is separated into three sections: eating healthy food, going to a good hospital, and exercising. These are the three most important parts of living a healthy lifestyle as an expat in the Land of Smiles.

In each section you’ll find out how to get healthy food, which hospitals won’t break the bank, and the places you can exercise at.

Hope you enjoy reading this book and enjoy your healthy lifestyle in Thailand!

 

II. HEALTHY FOOD

Thailand is like a kitchen of the world. You have many choices for healthy food in Thailand. If you want to cook food, there are many ways to get fresh ingredients, even right from the farm to your door.

In this section, we’ll take a look at how to find healthy food either by buying it or cooking it.

We also explain how to read nutrition labels that are sometimes only available in Thai.

 

1. Cooked Food

Restaurant

MSG can be found everywhere in Thailand: from street food to restaurants. It’s in Somtam.

It’s in the soup. It’s in fried rice. It’s in noodles. And it’s also inside sauces.

The definitive way to avoid it is too always eat food you cook it yourself. But this isn’t the case for everyone, especially for those who don’t know how to cook.

So, there’s one Thai sentence you should always keep in mind. And you should say it to the waiter every time you order your food. It is:

Mai sai chuu rod” which means “Don’t add MSG” in English.

Otherwise, you can go to healthy restaurants which can be found throughout Thailand. They only cook food with healthy ingredients, and most of the time without MSG.

An easy way to find this kind of restaurant is through wongnai.com. It’s a restaurant review website listing over 200,000 restaurants throughout Thailand.

After choosing the province or location, search the restaurant using the “clean food” keyword. You should see a list of healthy restaurants there.

 

Online

You can also order cooked healthy food online from various places and have it delivered right to your door–three meals a day.

These meals are for those who’re craving healthy food. They are homemade, cooked daily, and prepared in a healthy way with healthy ingredients. Some providers might even tell you about the calories and nutrition for that meal.

The menu is a mixed between Thai, Japanese, and Western cuisines. You can choose what you want to eat or let them prepare everything for you.

You may also have an option to choose between normal healthy food courses, food courses for losing weight, and food courses for building muscles.

These cooked foods come with a variety of packages: three days, five days, one week, even months. They will deliver healthy food to your door, three meals a day, five or six days a week.

It’s a convenient option for those who want to eat clean yet don’t have time to cook.

Because of the food varieties, it can be a good starter for your healthy eating habits. You can write down their menus and make them yourself in the future.

However, the convenience comes with a price. The average starting price for each meal is around 150 baht. Depending on the area, you might be charged with a delivery fee of 50 baht on average.

In addition, the food portions aren’t always filling.

Here’s a list of online cooked food deliveries in Bangkok. Not all of them have English websites. But their meals can be ordered via Line or facebook.

YummyDiet

Price: 2,250 baht, 6 days, 3 meals a day, ~125 baht per meal

 

Fox Box Diet:

Price: 2,149 baht for 5 days, 3 meals a day, ~143 baht per meal

 

Ezy Diet

Price: 2,649 baht, 6 days, 3 meals a day, ~147 baht per meal

 

Eatcleanbkk

Price: ~150 baht per meal

 

Fit Food Always:

Price: 2,500 for 5 days, 3 meals a day, ~166 baht per meal

 

SlimDelivery

Price: 3,570 baht, 6 days, 3 meals a day, ~198 baht per meal

 

 

2. Cook It Yourself

If you want to eat healthy, the best way to do so is to cook. It’s much cheaper than buying cooked healthy food. You can choose specifically what you want to add into your meals. And you have choices from healthy ingredients, including vegetables and fruits.

 

Where to Buy Ingredients

There are many places, no matter which province you live, to buy healthy ingredients in Thailand, from fresh markets to supermarkets. You can also order organic products and have them delivered right from the farm to your door.

Let’s take a look.

 

Fresh Markets

Fresh markets are the cheapest place to buy ingredients. It’s cheaper and even more fresh than buying in supermarkets like Big C and Lotus.

Fresh markets usually open daily in the early morning or late afternoons while big markets tend to open all day.

However, options are more limited than other places. At fresh markets, you’ll normally find only seasonal fruits and vegetables. And some might not be in good condition.

Fresh markets can be found all over Thailand. You can ask your Thai neighbors or landlords, and they will point you to the nearest fresh market in your area.

In addition, there are some markets that are known for selling fresh and cheap ingredients including:

 

Bangkok

There are also hi-end fresh markets. They are cleaner than normal fresh markets and sell more quality and more expensive products including:

 

Santi Asoke in Nawamin is another noteworthy market. It’s famous for selling quality vegetarian-only ingredients in cheap price.

 

Chiang Mai

 

Phuket

A word of warning about fresh markets. It’s impossible to tell if fruit and vegetables have been grown with chemicals. Even if you ask if the produce is organic and vendors say “yes,” you should be skeptical and err on the side of safety–if you’re concerned about eating non-organic food.

One thing to look for on fruit and vegetables is signs that bugs have been eating the produce. If some parts of the leaves have been eaten, that’s usually a sign that it hasn’t been doused in chemicals.

And if you want to save money on buying produce at fresh markets, you’ll often find that vendors discount fruit and vegetables that look “old.” For example, if bananas aren’t perfectly yellow, people may not want to buy them and vendors will discount them–even though bananas that are turning brown are at their ripest stage.

If mangos or papaya have some bruising, you’ll  find discounts on these as well.

 

Supermarket

Fresh ingredients can be purchased at any supermarket in Thailand. It’s not the cheapest option out there but more convenient than fresh markets. Some stores even open twenty-four hours, seven days a week.

Price and quality depends on target customers of each supermarkets.

 

Macro

Macro is a supermarket that sells wholesale products to merchants. This results in cheaper prices than other supermarkets.

Recently, Macro has been opening new stores focusing on food and groceries in many areas in Thailand.

 

Big C, Tesco, and Max Value

Big C and Tesco, called “Lotus ” by Thais, are the same. They have a variety of products at similar prices and similar qualities. And they have been opening new twenty-four hour convenience stores in many areas.

Max Value is a new competitor of Big C and Tesco. Although they are slightly more expensive with less product variations, they compensate with a corner of organic products. The best part about Max Value is that it’s open twenty-four hours a day.

 

Tops Supermarket and Home Fresh Mart

Tops Supermarket (found on Central Group department stores) and Home Fresh Mart (found on The Mall Group department stores) are two supermarkets. They are more expensive than Big C and Tesco but offer more quality.

Home Fresh Mart will turn into a “Gourmet Market” in luxurious department stores such as Siam Paragon with more imported products.

 

Foodland, Lemon Farm, and Villa Market

These three supermarkets have much more variety of foods, especially on imported products, than other supermarkets. Prices at Foodland are the cheapest out of all the supermarkets carrying imported goods. But Lemon Farm and Villa tend to be more expensive.

However, at present, they have fewer stores throughout Thailand than the bigger supermarkets. But you can find them in Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya, and more popular places around Thailand.

 

Seri Market

Seri Market can be found at The Nine and Paradise Park, among other places. In addition to cooked food, they have fresh food vendors selling a variety of fruits and vegetables.

 

Online Delivery

Most of the supermarkets mentioned in the previous section have a delivery option where you can order their products from their websites and have them delivered to your place at a specific time.

Delivery fee is around 50 to 60 baht and most of them offer a free delivery service when you purchase more than minimum requirement of 500 baht to 900 baht.

Honestbee is a noteworthy online grocery delivery service. They have choices on stores, both minor and major, and can deliver groceries to your home within an hour.

Thailandpostmart is another great website from Thailand Post. In addition to local products, you can order seasonal fruits and vegetables from agricultural co-ops from each province of Thailand and have them delivered to your door.

However, currently the website is only available in Thai. You can use Google Chrome to have it translated into English.

There’s also another delivery option provided by a group of farmers. They can deliver fresh organic products from their farms straight to your home or at other pick-up locations such as gas stations or department stores.

Product choices depend on the season. You can choose what vegetables you want. Or you can order as a package starting at 2 kg with a mixture of five or six vegetables and eggs.

It’s cheaper than buying at supermarkets and even more fresh.

 

However, not all of them can speak English. You might need your Thai friend or partner to help ordering.

Here’s a list of recommended organic products providers:

 

The delivery service is also available for meats. However, the product will be shipped from fresh markets instead of meat farms.

Here’s where you can order meat online:

 

3. Reading Nutrition Labels

You are what you eat” is the important idea of living a healthy life. Before putting that snack or chocolate into your mouth, do you know how much fat and and how many calories you’re eating? Or does it contain MSG, preservatives, or trans fats?

Normally, this information is clearly stated on the nutrition label. However, here in Thailand, this information might only be available in Thai.

Here’s a list of nutritional words in Thai and their English equivalents:

  • ก. gram
  • มก. Milligram
  • แคลอรี่Calorie
  • กิโลแคลอรี่KCal.
  • พลังงานทั้งหมด Calories
  • พลังงานจากไขมันCalories from fat
  • ไขมันทั้งหมด Total Fat
  • ไขมันอิ่มตัว Saturated Fat
  • ไขมันทรานส์Trans Fat
  • โคเลสเตอรอล Cholesterol
  • โปรตีนProtein
  • คาร์โบไฮเดรตCarbohydrate
  • ใยอาหาร Dietary Fiber
  • น้าตาล Sugar
  • โซเดียมSodium
  • วิตามินเอ Vitamin A
  • วิตามินบีVitamin B
  • วิตามินซีVitamin C
  • วิตามินอีVitamin E
  • แคลเซียมCalcium
  • เหล็กIron

 

Here’s a list of words you’ll  normally see on the product packages:

 

  • ไม่ใส่Didn’t add
  • น้อยกวา่ Less than
  • มากกวา่ More than
  • ผงชูรสMSG
  • โมโนโซเดียมกลูตาเมตMSG (official name)
  • สารกนบูดั Preservative
  • กลูเตนGluten

 

 

III. HOSPITALS

Sooner or later you will get sick and need to go to a hospital for treatment. Although Thailand has many top-tier hospitals, you might want to save money and go with cheaper alternatives.

In this section, you will learn ways to decrease your medical expenses, including:

  • hospital costs
  • medication costs
  • doctor and surgery costs
  • ambulance costs

 

1. Lowering Hospital Costs

Government Hospitals

Government hospitals in Thailand provide a good level of care at a very affordable price. Being under the Ministry of Public Health, or medical schools, they can provide low-cost treatment that is usually two to three times cheaper than private hospitals, to both Thai citizens and international patients.

Unless it’s a small hospital in a rural area, doctors’ expertise and medical equipment in government hospitals are similar to private hospitals. Some big hospital runs by medical schools such as Siriraj Hospital, Chulalongkong Hospital, and Ramathibodi Hospital can even have better equipment than private hospitals.

Although public hospitals have been starting to charge foreigners more than Thais, they are still much lower than private hospitals, especially for serious cases requiring surgery and admission.

Government hospitals are also crowded. You’re usually required to get there early in the morning– like 6:00 AM– to queue up to see the doctor. Some people may get there even earlier than that.

Because of the time you need to spend at government hospitals, it might not be worthwhile spending your whole day there to get treatment for non-serious diseases.

However, for more serious cases that require surgery or several medical follow-ups, public hospitals are going to save you money.

Currently, there are no international language centers at premium clinics. Doctors, nurses, and staff can communicate in basic English–if that. So you may want to bring a translator or Thai friend to help you.

Here’s a list of government hospitals you can go. They are big hospitals with good facilities.

 

Bangkok:

 

In addition to these big public hospitals, there are hospitals that specialize in certain healthcare:

 

Children
Skin Disease
Ears, Eyes, Noses, and Throat Disease
Cancer
Mental Illness
Chiang Mai
Phuket
Other Provinces

Although your options for hospitals in other provinces are limited, there will be one main hospital in each province or district.

 

Premium Clinics

Premium clinics are basically an upgraded version of a government hospital but provide medical care while offering less wait time, and usually more experienced doctors. Some clinics are open all day, while others are only open after working hours.

Many doctors here are experienced specialists who even teach at medical schools.

Premium clinics are available at major government hospitals. The prices you’ll pay here are slightly higher than government hospitals, but a lot less than private hospitals.

In addition, you’ll find doctors at premium clinics with years of experience in both teaching medical students and treating patients.

Most of the time you’ll or by calling. You can’t

need to make an appointment, which can be done by either walking in make online appointments.

Here’s a list of recommended premium clinics in Thailand.

 

Bangkok

Siriraj Hospital

Opening Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 07.00 – 20.00
  • Sat – Sun 07.00 – 15.00
  • Closed on public holidays

Hospital Address: 2 Siriraj Hospital, Administration Building 2 Floor, Wanglang Road, Khwaeng Siriraj, Khet Bangkok Noi, Bangkok, 10700

How to Make an Appointment:Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 02-4199801, 02-4199802

 

Special Clinics KCMH (Chula Hospital)

Opening Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 08.00 – 20.00
  • Sat – Sun 08.00 – 12.00
  • Closed on public holidays

Hospital Address: 1873 Rama 4 Road, Pathum Wan, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 02-2565166, 02-2565175, 02-2565193, 02-2565194

 

Ramathibodi Hospital

Opening Hours:

  • Every day 07.00 – 16.00
  • Thu 16.00 – 18.00
  • Sat 07.00 – 12.00

Hospital Address: 270 Queen Sirikit Medical center, Rama 6 Road, Thung Phayathai, Ratchatewi, Bangkok 10400

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 02 – 2012211, 02 – 2010251

 

Rajavithi Hospital

Opening Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 16.00 – 20.00
  • Sat – Sun 08.00 – 12.00

Hospital Address: 2 Phayathai Road, Thung Phayathai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400

How to Make an Appointment: Walk-in/Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 02-3548108, 02-3548137

 

Vajira Hospital

Opening Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 16.30 – 20.00
  • Sat 08.00 – 12.00
  • Closed on public holidays

Hospital Address: 681 Samsen Road, Wachira Phayaban, Dusit, Bangkok 10300

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 02-2443900

 

Phramongkutklao Hospital

Opening Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 16.00 – 20.30
  • Sat 08.00 – 12.30

Hospital Address: 315 Thung Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 02-3544728, 02-7630329, 02-3544728, 02-7630329

 

Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital

Opening Hours:

Mon – Fri 16.00 – 20.00

Sat – Sun 08.00 – 12.00

Hospital Address: 171 Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital, Phaholyothin Rd., Khlong Thanon, Sai Mai, Bangkok 10220

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 02-5347914, 02-5347915

 

Chiang Mai

Sriphat Medical Center
  • Opening Hours:
  • Open 24 hours

Hospital Address: 110/392 Sriphat Bld. Inthawarorot Rd., Sriphum, Muang, Chiang Mai Thailand 50200

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 053-936900, 053-936901

 

Nakornping Hospital

Opening Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 16.30 – 20.30
  • Sat 08.00 – 12.00
  • Closed on Sunday and public holidays

Hospital Address: 159 Moo 10 Chotana Road, Donkaew Sub-district , Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai Province 50180

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 062-3104227, 087-1775436

 

Chiang Rai

Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital

Opening Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 16.00 – 24.00
  • Sat – Sun 08.00 – 24.00

Hospital Address: 1039 Sathanphayaban Road, Rop Wiang Subdistrict, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000

How to Make an Appointment: Walk-in/Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 053-910600, 053-711009

 

Mae Fah Luang University Hospital

Opening Hours:

  • Mon, Wed, Thu, Sun 16.00 – 20.00

Hospital Address: 333 Moo1, Thasud, Muang, Chiang Rai 57100

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 053-917564

 

Khonkaen

Srinagarind Hospital

Opening Hours: 

  • Mon – Fri 16.30 – 20.30
  • Sat – Sun 8.30 – 12.00
  • Closed on public holidays

Hospital Address: 123 Mittraparp Highway, Muang District, Khon Kaen 40002

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 043-366311, 043-366313

 

Songkhla

Hatyai Hospital

Opening Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 17.00 – 20.00
  • Sat – Sun 09.00 – 12.00

Hospital Address: 182 Rattakarn Road, Hat Yai, Songkhla 90110

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 083-5144033, 074-273100 ext. 3239, 6120

 

Phuket

Vachira Hospital

Opening Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 16.30 – 22.00
  • Sat – Sun 08.30 – 20.00

Hospital Address: 353, Yaowarat Rd., Talat Yai, Muang Phuket, Phuket 83000

How to Make an Appointment: Call one day prior to the day you want to show up.

Contact: 076-361234 ext. 1190

 

Making an Appointment: Tips for Public Hospitals

Although you can walk in to any hospital in Thailand and get treatment, it’s better to make an appointment by calling in advance. This is especially true for government hospitals.

By calling in advance, you won’t go to the hospital early and find out that the queues have been closed for the day, forcing you to wake up early to go to the hospital again the next day.

Since not all hospitals have international support, you may need to speak slowly and clearly on the phone.

Some hospitals might even have an online appointment service. But it may not function.

Good customer service may not be their first priority because of the significant number of patients they need to deal with each day. And from this reason, you might have to wait a few hours just to see a doctor for a few minutes.

Hospital staff are still helpful and friendly, but they won’t have much time to talk or take care of you. You may need to call them a few times in order to make an appointment or request information. So be patient with them.

 

2. Affordable Private Hospitals

You don’t always need to go to top-tier private hospitals such as Bumrungrad, Bangkok Hospital, or Samitivej.

Here’s a list of affordable private hospitals in Bangkok. The services, expertise, and standards you’ll get at these hospitals is comparable to the services, expertise, and standards you’l l get at some of the more expensive private hospitals in Bangkok, but at a lower cost.

 

Bangkok

 

Chiang Mai

 

Phuket

 

Many private hospitals have their own membership cards providing discounts to their services, including 10% off, out patient department, or OPD, fees and even 50% off room rates. You can get the card at the participating hospital for a fee. Some may even offer you the card for free.

However, these hospitals are unlikely to promote their own membership card. You should ask for it yourself at the information counter or at the cashier.

 

3. Lowering Medication Costs

Private hospitals are in the healthcare business to make a profit. Yes, they help you and give you excellent care. But they also need to make money. It’s just the way it is. So most private hospitals mark up the cost of medication, sometimes by 400%.

A private hospital in Bang Na can charge 200 baht for meds. You can buy it for 50 baht from the pharmacy. You have the right to decline buying medication from any hospital. In this case, ask for the list of meds you need and buy them at the pharmacy. Public hospitals and premium clinics don’t markup the cost of medication. But it’s best to check.

Ask your doctor to write down the name of your medication(s) and details of when you’re supposed to take it. But some medications are only available at hospitals, so be sure to get those while you’re visiting the doctor. The price of medication is also different at each pharmacy.

Medication at pharmacies inside supermarkets and department stores tends to cost more than medications in pharmacies on the street. And some pharmacies sell medications lower than other places, sometimes by 50% less, for the exact same medication and brand.

Here’s  a list of recommended pharmacies:

Bangkok

Chiang Mai

While you can legally buy medication at pharmacies, always consult with your doctor first. Buying the wrong medication can cause health problems in the long run. You also run the risk of making your condition worse.

You can also request the same medication but different brand. If a medication is too expensive, ask your doctor for a replacement. There can be cheaper brands that offer the same medication. One of the cheapest medications in Thailand is made locally by Government Pharmaceutical Organization, or GPO in short. Antibiotics (Dicloxacillin 500mg) from GPO costs less than 3 baht per pill.

Other brands might charge you over 100 baht for the same medication.

Another way to lower your medication costs is to sign up for a hospital membership so that you receive promotions and discounts. You can find more information about hospital memberships at the registration desks or cashier departments.

By becoming a member of a hospital, you can get up to 10% off hospital expenses. Most memberships are free or costs only a few hundred baht per year.

 

4. Doctors and Surgeries

Many doctors at top-tier hospitals were trained at government hospitals and still have a contractual obligation to work there.

If you find a specialist at a top-tier hospital, you can Google them and check where else they work. And you might have to look up the Thai spelling of their name. Or you can just ask the doctor directly.

This even works for surgeries. Equipment will be a bit older at their government location, but costs can be a fraction of what you would pay otherwise.

 

5. Health Checkups

Health checkup can be done at any hospital in Thailand. Check the above section for a list of quality hospitals at affordable rates.

There are also other private health checkup clinics. It’s cheaper than many private hospitals.

The notable one is Bria Lab, located in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

 

6. Ambulance

1669 is the number you need to save in your phone. It’s the number of the emergency ambulance service in Thailand with English speaking support. They will send you to the nearest hospital for free.

Or you may need to pay a few thousand baht or more, depending on the distance, for having you delivered to your desired hospital.

 

7. Going Without Health Insurance

There’s always a difference of opinion when it comes to health insurance in Thailand.

Some foreigners choose not to get, claiming the cheap costs of healthcare don’t justify the yearly expense of paying for a health insurance plan. Others swear by it and wouldn’t let their insurance plan expire for even a day.

According to brokers, the price for health insurance in Thailand is driven up by expats picking the most expensive hospitals and following a not too healthy lifestyle.

If you speak Thai, go to local hospital, and live a healthy life, skipping health insurance altogether might work out for you. In case you decide to forego insurance, it’s not the end of the world in Thailand.

You can keep your medical costs low while still receiving good coverage.

In addition to the tips mentioned in the above section, there are a few more things you should do if you want to go without insurance:

Carry credit cards: Even though required by law, some hospitals refuse emergency care if they believe you won’t be able to pay. Proving otherwise can be difficult if you’re unconscious. This is the reason you should never leave the house without some sort of ID and a credit card.

Stay Put: If you ever get admitted to the emergency department of a government hospital, don’t leave the building until you’re recovered if you don’t have the necessary funds on you. Even though hospitals are required to take in emergency cases, and more reputable ones will do that regardless if you are able to pay or not, once you leave the building, their obligation ends and they can and will discharge you.

But what happens if you run out of cash? In practice the hospital might keep you there, won’t allow you to be transferred out, and bill you for that time on top–until you paid whatever you owe them.

You can check newspaper reports and interviews that detail cases like this.

Unfortunately, things can go even worse. The half-brother of a Siam Relocation reader is said to have died because the hospital refused to give emergency treatment until funding was secured.

In the end, even if you yourself don’t consider it worthwhile to get insurance, keep in mind that it might be your relatives footing the bill if things go wrong.

 

IV. STAYING FIT

Staying fit in Bangkok isn’t easy. Liquid calories come in many forms, and with more holidays than months in a year, there always seems to be a good reason to indulge in them. Even if you set out to stay in shape, the city puts up quite a fight to keep you at your desk, on your bar stool, and in your bed. This section runs through your fitness options, costs, and methods.

 

1. Free Fitness Options

Even though Thailand is a lot cheaper than many European and North American countries for a great many things, fitness often does not seem to be one of them. Monthly memberships in popular gyms surpass what you would pay back home. Every so often though, there are budget options and real bargains to be had. If you don’t mind putting up with a bit of a commute, you can get access to top class facilities – some for free and some for about $1.10 a year.

 

Parks

While Bangkok doesn’t have a lot of parks, there are a few choices that allow for decent workouts, especially before 7:00 AM or after 5:00 PM if you don’t mind the Thai National Anthem at 6:00 PM causing a halt to all activities. Parks open as early as 4:30 AM with the last ones closing down at 9 PM.

A lot of parks offer running tracks, some even allow cycling. Larger parks tend to have free workout equipment, though it’s more geared towards people trying to maintain mobility, rather than those who are looking for weightlifting or cardio workouts..

The open air aerobics classes you see throughout Bangkok’s parks every evening from around 5:00 PM onwards are a great budget alternative to subscription gyms. It can be a bit intimidating to join these classes as the only foreigner, but Gaby Domain wrote her own account which makes it seem a little less scary. Sometimes local supermarkets also have an aerobics Meetup.

Less eye- and ear-catching are Tai Chi groups meeting in the morning, as well as other groups in the evening – including a ballroom dancing group that meets at night in Lumpini park, which features the biggest selection of free open air classes.

Most of the activities you can discover by going for a stroll at the right time through the park – cardio activities are in the evening, while everything focused on mobility, flexibility and spiritual well-being in any form is more of a 5:00 AM to 7:00 AM activity.

 

University Facilities

Some universities offer sports and fitness centers that are available for use free of charge. The most prominent is the Chulalongkorn University Sports Complex which is near MRT Sam Yan. Especially if you’re staying a bit outside the city center, checking with your local university to see if there are any facilities you can use is a worth a shot.

 

Meetups

On meetup.com, you’ll find groups meeting up to exercise together. Most Meetups tend to charge a small fee or request donations in the range of 100 to 200 baht and are a way of exploring activities like beach volleyball or yoga. It’s a good way to meet some people, get a regular workout and discover new parts of the city.

There are also some free ones. Bangkok Runners is one of the biggest ones.

Of course, you can also start your own group, which is now easier than ever. Posting a message on the Thaivisa Sports, Hobbies & Activities forum, or in one of the popular expat groups on Facebook like Bangkok Expats, Thailand Expatriates DMK, or Bangkok

 

Home Sweet Home

A lot of apartment buildings in Bangkok offer fitness facilities that can be used free of charge by the residents. Usually those are of similar quality to what you find at a hotel gym: some dumbbells, resistance training machines, as well as some cardio machines.

If your place doesn’t have a gym, one of your friends might have access to one at their building and can take you along. Lots of people would love to have a workout partner to keep them accountable. Ask around on Facebook and you might be surprised who’s up for regular non-boozing activity.

If all else fails, there are also YouTube workout programs that require little to no equipment. Siam Relocation readers swear by the fitness workouts from Shelly Dose, Scooby the “German” Bodybuilder and FitnessBlender. Other workouts include Yoga with Adriene and Do Yoga With Me, which the subscribers at /r/Fitness recommend.

 

Youth Centers

Although not free, but at 40 baht per year, Youth Centers are among the best fitness deals you can find in Bangkok. In spite of the name, they’re open to anyone, locals and foreigners alike. Main reasons for people not using them more are fewer locations, shorter opening hours, a stricter dress code and a more extensive sign up process when compared to commercial gyms.

Sign Up Requirements
  • one, 1.5 inch photo
  • a copy of your passport
  • medical certificate issued by any hospital or clinic in order to use the pool
  • 20 baht to 40 baht membership fee

 

Gym’s Dress Code
  • top with sleeves
  • long pants
  • clean and dry sneakers to change in to
  • must bring a towel

 

Pool Dress Code

Staff don’t like seeing people in baggy beach shorts. Speedos are your friend.

 

Lumpini Youth Center

The Lumpini Youth Center in Lumpini Park is the cheapest air conditioned, centrally located workout option in the city. It’s also one of the newest ones having been completed in recent years.

Opening Hours

  • Monday to Friday: From 7:00 AM (pool), 8:00 AM (gym) till 7:30 PM
  • Saturday, Sunday: 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM
  • Holidays: Same as Saturday, Sunday (gym) or closed (pool)

 

 

Khlong Toei Youth Center

The Khlong Toei Youth Centre has a swimming pool in Benjasiri Park that’s open from 10am to 7:30 PM, though it’s a bit of a peculiar system: they have time slots starting at 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:30 PM, 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM that each last 90 minutes.

For every time slot you’re present, you have to pay 15 baht. So staying from 3:45 PM to 4:30 PM would cost 30 baht. Sometimes there are school classes there. You want to avoid the 6pm time slot since it gets super busy. Yearly fees, sign up requirements and dress codes are like the Thailand Youth Center at Lumpini Park.

 

Thai-Japanese Youth Center

The Thai-Japanese Youth Center is another 40 baht per year option. Even though its location halfway between Victory Monument and Central Rama 9 is a bit out of the way from public transport, it makes up for it in facilities: a well-equipped gym, an Olympic-sized pool, squash courts and a stadium with a football field that has a running track looping around it.

Unlike its more basic counterparts in Lumpini and Benjasiri Park, the facilities at the Thai-Japanese Youth Center exceed what’s provided at a lot of commercial gyms and sports clubs. While some of the equipment is a bit older, the place offers a comprehensive set of training facilities.

The fastest way to get there is a motorcycle taxi from the Rama 9 subway station or the Victory Monument skytrain station.

 

Running

In recent years, Bangkok has experienced quite a boom in running. It’s gotten to the point where the most popular running routes become crowded after work hours. This boom also extends to races: if you’re competitive minded, there are now several shorter and longer races, including marathons, to choose from.

Tracks and Loops

The most well-known running tracks are inside Lumpini Park, Benjakitti Park, Wachirabenchathat Park, and Chatuchak Park. Due to their central locations, these parks are also among the busiest ones. There’s a number of other parks and stadiums scattered throughout the city that offer loops of similar and shorter length, which might be more convenient.

Since training for a marathon isn’t that fun on a 2.5km track, it might be worth heading out a bit further for your longer runs.

Rama 9 Park offers a 5km loop with lot of corners, features and well manicured gardens. You can even link it with the 4km loop in Nong Bon Park, or the Nong Bon Swamp Park as Google Maps calls it. If you don’t mind backtracking, it can be extended to become a 15km long route.

Bangkok’s “green lung,” Bang Krachao is another choice for long distance runners or athletes in search of scenery. Known for cycling, it features a 14km loop that can be done by runners just as well.

Also, there are routes along the canals and back alleys that would be impractical to describe in specifics. The best way to discover those is to join a running club. Not only will you get to exercise and do some urban sightseeing, but also meet like-minded runners.

Running Clubs

Bangkok Runners is a large group of foreigners who run in Lumpini Park and Benjakitti Park. Also, they do runs through Bang Krachao, BTS line runs, and the above described routes through back alleys and along canals. Aside from Bangkok, they also do trips out to places like Khao Kheow and Khao Mai Keao for trail runs.

Hash House Harriers also has a chapter in Bangkok. They tend to go for runs every Monday, followed by a calorie-replenishing beer-drinking and socializing session. The after-run beer is included in the running fee, which is 200 baht for men and 150 baht for women.

Races

Like other sports, running has become a lot more popular in recent years. If you want to take part in a race, you should sign up early as the bigger races tend to sell out. While some experienced runners argue that the best races are to be found outside of Bangkok, the city offers a number of interesting competitions.

There is the Thai Sikh Run in March, the Supersports 10 Mile International Run in July, the Bangkok 10K International Run in October, the Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon in November, as well as a host of other smaller runs scattered throughout the year that can be found on sites like Amazing Field, Gotorace, Jog And Joy, Run Thailand and the huge Facebook group WingNaiDee: Running Event. They also have a website with more details.

 

Swimming

A lot of the mid- and high-end apartment buildings come with swimming pools, some come well maintained, some come in colors suggesting they are capable of photosynthesis.

Free swims aside, the cheapest swimming pools are to be found at Benjasiri Park, Lumpini Park, and at the Thai Japanese Youth Center, which has an Olympic-sized pool. At 40 baht per year, they are a steal. Though some charge a per visit fee as well. Come prepared though since they require some documents and a medical certificate. See the as-good-as-free section above for more details on these places.

A fancier indoor option with more liberal opening hours are the Virgin Active gyms at EmQuartier and Empire Tower that come with twenty meter swimming pools. But their branch at West Gate doesn’t have one. Depending on the club and duration of your membership, you’ll pay 3,000 baht per month for access.

If you don’t have time to sign-up for the Youth Centers and just want to use a pool during a short stay in the city, the following places offer one-day passes.

 

Cycling

Over the last years, cycling has gained a lot of popularity. Whether that’s part of the general fitness boom or due to them shaving off an hour of some people’s commute, it’s hard to say.

Websites like Bicycle Thailand cater to dedicated cyclists by covering the best bicycle shops, tour operators and routes, as well as keeping a list of bicycle blogs in Thailand. For those in need of a quick rundown on scenic and performance routes as well as bicycle groups you can join, check out the list below.

Performance Tracks

If you’re serious about your cycling, you should check out the 23km green cycle track at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Richard Barrow has some more details on best times to go and what to bring. For track cyclists, there’s the free Hua Mark Velodrome at Rajamangala National Stadium Ramkhamhaeng.

The Peppermint Bike Park is your best bet in Bangkok if you want to give your mountain bike a spin, or rent one at 100 baht per hour. You can find more details for these places on the FindYourSpace blog, including opening hours and admission fees.

Scenic Routes

If scenery trumps training, you might want to get off the beaten track so to speak. We share you a few good routes around the city that not only let you rack up some kilometers but also give you something to see around town. Here are his favorite ones: A 40km route winds through the swamps south of the Suvarnabhumi Airport runway. Parts are on streets, parts are on concrete paths, and you can watch planes landing and storks breeding. The course can be modified somewhere around Thana Place King Kaeo Village, which gives a few more alleys and pathways to explore.

A 50km route starting from BTS Bearing takes you through small villages all the way down to the seaside. have a stop at Bang Poo and feed the seagulls there. If you go on a weekend, stop at Wat Bang Bang Phli Yai Nai at the old market.

Another 50km of cycling also starts at BTS Bearing and goes to the “green lung” Bang Krachao and finally to Soi Suksawat where an old Muslim community is. At Wat Bangna Nok, you take a 10 minute ferry ride to the other side of the Chao Praya river. If you go on a weekend, be sure to stop at the Bang Nam Phun Floating market.

Clubs

While there’s no specific expat cycling clubs, the Thailand Cycling Club, or TCC, provides some info in English. Most of their events are announced on their Facebook page. A number of Twitter users get out on a regular basis; a search there can also find you some biking buddies. Another option to find co-cyclists is to check the Thaivisa cycling forum.

 

2. Finding Budget Gyms

University and youth center facilities aside, the cheapest workout facilities tend to be the small scale indoor and outdoor gyms scattered throughout the city. Good for doing free weight workouts or using some cardio machines, these are a decent upgrade over your own building’s or hotel’s facilities. There will be plenty of treadmills, elliptical machines, barbells, dumbbells, squat racks, and similar equipment. 

Indoor gyms come with showers and lockers and are often in townhouses near residential areas. The cheaper choices will be without air condition or even outdoors jungle gyms, so be prepared to get a good sweat going.

Depending on location, prices tend to vary between 100 baht and 400 baht for one day. These kind of gyms also make up the majority of places that offer day passes. Monthly prices tend to be between 700 baht and 2,000 baht.

The easiest way to find a gym in this category is to ask the local motorcycle taxis on your street for fitned, or fitness. Also, you can check the day pass gym listing below. Most of them fall under this category. There are a few budget chains like Fitness 7 and Tony’s, which offers an amazing deal on a yearly membership, but most of them are single branch gyms.

If you’re looking to join classes or travel a lot, you can also check out GuavaPass. It’s a month-by-month subscription that allows you to join the classes of any of their partners.

There are a lot of smaller, independent and higher end gyms in Bangkok that are part of it. Offered programs range from AquaBiking and Crossfit to Yoga and Zumba. Downside is that you are not able to go to the same class more than three times per month. Gyms use it as a marketing tool and will try hard to upsell you when you come in on a GuavaPass.

 

V. MENTAL HEALTH

Mental health is one of the least talked about, but most important, issues for foreigners living in Thailand. For the most part, daily life is easy in Thailand, but there will be days when it seems like the fabric holding your life together tears and your world falls apart. If this is the case, it’s important to have some emergency contacts on hand or schedule an appointment with a mental health professional.

 

1. Get Help

If you see a counselor or therapist, they help you find the problem. They assess you. But they won’t label you with a mental illness. Though your treatment begins at the first session.

If you suffer from a mental health issue, the counselor works out a treatment plan with you.

If your unhappiness isn’t a mental health issue but your response to a life event, for example a loss, relationship trouble, or hardships adjusting to Thailand, the counselor can help you by working through the process with you.

It might be a good idea to go. Talk it through with an experienced counselor. The counselor refers you to a psychiatrist if you need medication.

Remember counselors are there to help and advise you. But you’re the one who makes the decisions.

 

2. Three Emergency Tips

  • call the Samaritans
  • see a counselor this week

if your crisis is life threatening, go to an international hospital and ask to see the psychiatrist on duty

Mental health services are confidential. They won’t pass anything you say to another person, unless you’re a danger to yourself or others.

 

3. Call the Samaritans

The Samaritans are a worldwide organization that offer a twenty-four hour crisis hotline staffed by trained volunteers. In Thailand, you can call the Samaritans English language service twenty-four hours a day, seven hours a week at (02) 713– 6791. But this is a callback service. You get a call back from them within twenty-four hours. There’s also a Thai language service on (02) 713– 6793 that is live from 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM. The Samaritans are anonymous, which means you don’t even have to give your real name.

The Thai government has two crisis hotlines in Thai as well. Call 1667 and 1323.

 

4. See a Counselor Now

Counselors aren’t available twenty-four, seven. But if you can wait until the next morning, email a counseling center below or a private practitioner of your choice right now. Stress you’re in crisis and see them as soon as possible. And don’t cancel.

Counselors and psychotherapists won’t judge you. And together with you, they can work out what’s happening with you. And they can create a treatment plan for you.

Two well-known counseling centers in Bangkok are NCS and PSI. They can find you a counselor. Private practitioners also see you on short notice if you’re in crisis.

And, although counseling is a process that lasts several weeks or months, people report the first session with a counselor makes a difference to their mental well-being.

Counselors can also refer you to a psychiatrist in case you need medication.

In a Life Threatening Crisis, See the Duty Psychiatrist at an International Hospital

You can also walk into any international hospital, twenty-four, seven. Ask for the psychiatrist on duty. It’s vital the psychiatrist speaks good English. Don’t talk about mental problems with a family member or friend. Hospitals ask you for payment or insurance. But don’t let that deter you if you’re in crisis. Your health is vital.

In Bangkok, Bangkok Hospital and Manarom Hospital have dedicated psychiatric units.

But any psychiatrist can help you in an emergency. 

FREE QUOTE