As I was preparing for this trip, I was a bit shocked when I found out how much I would have to spend on vaccines. Even though I had insurance, a single shot for Yellow Fever was going to cost $140 (my HMO gave me a whopping $20 discount).
I’d be lucky to cover the basics for less than $500, which is about 2-3 weeks budget in, say, Laos. There had to be a better way.
Spending a little time online, I found that the Red Cross offered cheap immunizations in Bangkok, my first stop. So I got a free Tetanus stab, courtesy of my HMO, and saved the rest for later. In Bangkok, I found my way to the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute –after wandering about lost for a good hour– and within thirty minutes, I walked out a happily-immunized traveler.
The process was easy: I filled out a very basic form and paid 20 baht ($.70) to be registered and have my blood pressure taken. Then I was sent to door #4, where a pleasant, English-speaking doctor consulted with me, asking where I was going and recommending vaccines. The consultation cost 50 baht. That’s right: for less than $2, I spent 5-10 minutes talking to a doctor. And I’m pretty sure he was a real doctor, because his handwriting was atrocious.
Door #2 was my next destination, where I paid for the vaccines and consultation/service, then headed back to the doctor’s office. A nurse carefully administered the shots, the assistant filled out my yellow card for my passport and I was a free man. No lollipop.
For less than $100, I got vaccinated against Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, and Cholera.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a good solution for anyone traveling for a short period of time — some vaccines take awhile to take effect. But if you’re planning on traveling for a couple of months or more, a little research could save you some serious money.
Directions in Bangkok: The Memorial Institute sits at the intersection of Rama 4 and Henri Dunant Road, not far from Bangkok’s central shopping district. The easiest way to get there is to take the BTS Sky Train to the Siam stop. From there, it’s a 50 baht tuk tuk ride to the Institute — I had drivers quote me as much as 250 baht, but eventually found one for 50. Don’t bother asking for the Red Cross Center, as they’ll drop you off at the hospital next door and you’ll wander around aimlessly (voice of experience here).
The Institute has a snake farm right behind the main building — they raise the snakes to provide anti-venom and it’s become a bit of a tourist draw. Tell the driver you want to go to the Snake Farm on Rama 4 and he’ll drop you off right at the curb.
Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, 1871 Rama 4 Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 (662) 252-0161-4
Happy (and safe) travels!