How I Saved Hundreds on Travel Shots

How I Just Saved Hundreds on Travel Shots


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!

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Chinamatt October 15, 2010 at 7:35 pm

If I had known about that I would’ve stopped in Bangkok before heading to China 5 years ago. I had no insurance and had to pay a few hundred for my shots (fortunately, I had my Hep B shots before college).
.-= Chinamatt´s last blog ..Same Difference =-.


wes October 15, 2010 at 7:40 pm

When I traveled to India 10 years ago, I got several stabs and a script for anti-malarials in the US — all of it cost me a little over 100 bucks. Things have definitely changed since then…


ayngelina October 15, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Interestingly enough in Colombia there are also great deals. With problems with Yellow Fever on the coast, they offer FREE vaccinations in Santa Marta to everyone. How cool is that? In Canada it was going to cost me $170.
.-= ayngelina´s last blog ..The ethics of being robbed =-.


Michael Hodson October 15, 2010 at 10:49 pm

This is a great tip. I remember what I spent on my shots and pills was a big, big expense. Though the doctor I did it with was really happy about it.
.-= Michael Hodson´s last blog ..Photo Journal- Barichara and Guane- Colombia =-.


Christy @ Ordinary Traveler October 16, 2010 at 4:04 am

Good to know! I guess the only thing would be making sure not to do anything stupid until the vaccinations take effect. :)
.-= Christy @ Ordinary Traveler´s last blog ..Australia is One Big Party Wave 1 =-.


Ahimsa October 16, 2010 at 7:41 am

I have to say I just didn’t get my shots. It was admittedly a gamble, as I headed through a couple malaria zones (and got bitten by a monkey.) But everything ended up okay; I don’t think I’ll ever get shots again.
.-= Ahimsa´s last blog ..Photo of the Week- In the Hood =-.


Erica October 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Shaun and I are trying to figure out this dilemma. I’m half wanting to wait until we hit Mexico. Between Shaun and I, here in Austin (and even after hoping that the Travis Country health clinics provide some we need), we’re looking at ~$700 between the both of us.

.-= Erica´s last blog ..Road Trip to Burning Man- Reno to San Francisco =-.


Robin October 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Essentially, a smart move. I’d take my own needles though. I had dentistry done in Chiang Mai but I took my own dentistry needles. I also bought generic versions of Malarone in Cape Town to take into Southern Africa. Ended up using very few of them and sold them to someone else going further into malaria zones. In India I bought 10 asthma inhaler refills that for the cost of the ones I was getting on prescription in the UK. In Bangkok I got two really nice pairs of reading glasses for 10th the cost of the ones I buy here in NZ. Some deals to be had for sure!


wes October 17, 2010 at 11:53 am

I can’t blame you for being wary of the needles. For my shots, they were included in the packaging — one shot doses, right out of the box…


Audrey October 16, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Great advice! We didn’t get vaccinations in Bangkok, but got them in Saigon and Hanoi. The quality of care was great and I think we paid something like $5 for a Japanese encephalitis and a couple of dollars for malaria medicine. Such a better deal than the United States!
.-= Audrey´s last blog ..Eat Your Heart Out- Tuscany! =-.


wes October 17, 2010 at 11:58 am

Ooh, I didn’t even think to check in Saigon or Hanoi. I was stuck in Hanoi for a week – would have been a great time to take care of it.


Mitch October 16, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Mine cost $797 AUD back home, because I was out of date in childhood stuff. But frankly, medicine is something I don’t mind not skimping on, and having taken care of in a Western country.
.-= Mitch´s last blog ..DAY 159- The Waiting Room =-.


Mitch October 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Oh, and malaria medicine is pointless in SE Asia unless you’re going to be living in a shack in the depths of Laos for the entire rainy season. I met few travellers who even bothered with it to begin with, and of those that did, all had eventually given up on it.


wes October 17, 2010 at 11:55 am

I haven’t bothered with malaria meds either. Tried Larium ten years ago and it made me miserable. I’ve met more than a few people who’ve contracted Dengue Fever — it seems like a bigger risk these days and there’s no vaccine.


Nomadic Chick October 16, 2010 at 7:42 pm

LOL. This Robin is a one person drug dispensary. I should follow that lead. Good on ya for getting cheapie shots. I stuck it to the place who laid me off and got my a lot of my meds covered. Heh.
.-= Nomadic Chick´s last blog ..Gypsy Bits and Bytes =-.


wes October 17, 2010 at 11:55 am

Nice score on the free shots! My insurance was too cheap…


Gray October 16, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I am just blown away by this. My Hep A shot to go to Europe cost almost as much as these shots combined cost you. It just goes to show medicine does not need to cost as much as it does in the US, we are totally getting screwed. Anyway, excellent information, Wes!
.-= Gray´s last blog ..The Water Shortage in Las Vegas =-.


Brooks October 17, 2010 at 7:37 am

Just kicked public health here $620, including $480 for just JE. I’d been hearing concerns over the efficacy of some vaccines acquired overseas, but shoulda just nutted up…


wes October 17, 2010 at 11:57 am

I can’t speak for the efficacy but these were all professionally-packaged shots from big name pharmaceutical companies. I’d like to think that the Red Cross knows what they’re doing…


Ayla October 17, 2010 at 4:56 pm

i LOVE you! literally have appointment booked tomoro to get all the jabs… il be passing that up now. thanks for this post!


wes October 17, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Cool! Glad to help :)


Ted Beatie October 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I had a very similar experience, and a very similar post just a couple of weeks ago;

The Thai Travel Clinic, also in Bangkok, at Mahidol University saved us over $600!
.-= Ted Beatie´s last blog ..Life on Gili Air =-.


wes October 19, 2010 at 9:54 am

Oh man, ya beat me to it :)


Dave and Deb October 25, 2010 at 11:30 am

Thanks for the information. That is good to know. When we need a booster for our shots, we will be heading to Bangkok. Thanks to Audrey too for letting us know about Vietnam. With a little research there are always options eh:-)
.-= Dave and Deb´s last blog ..Cape Point- South Africa Snapshot Sunday =-.


rentals cape town November 17, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Vaccines are important on a foreign trip, but don’t you need to take them a good period before you travel in order for them to be effective?


Adam Pervez April 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Man, thanks a million for posting this info. I just canceled my vaccination appointment here in Denmark and I’ll take care of this stuff somewhere else. Thanks for saving me money! :)


Scott Lennon April 5, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Just got my shots in Bangkok today thank to your advice. It cost 2,870 baht. Compared to the $500 I was quoted back in the states. I guess I owe you a beer.



Jess April 11, 2011 at 2:46 am

This is brilliant! I frequent Asia and have been trying to escape the added cost of vaccinations. On numerous occasions I have had the, “But do I REALLY need this? What is the worst symptom..” conversation with the nurse.


wes April 11, 2011 at 9:41 am

Haha! I do the same. The doc suggested that I get inoculated for cholera, which I didn’t think I needed. Then I realized it was only $20 and thought “why not?”


Stephen April 18, 2011 at 10:48 am

Thanks for the good advice here, Wes. I went to the same clinic, got 3 shots, and I’m pretty sure we had the same doctor because I couldn’t read his writing either. Did he recommend you not go on anti-malarials? Because he told me the anti-malarial medication didn’t work on many of the strains in Borneo, Laos, and Vietnam. Said it would be better to go to a hospital for treatment immediately after getting symptoms. But that sounds kind of scary.
Stephen recently posted..Getting Soaked at Songkran- the Thai New YearMy Profile


wes April 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Oh cool, I’m glad to hear you saved some cash. I didn’t request anti-malarials, so we didn’t’ discuss it. On my first trip abroad, I took Larium for a couple of months — it made me so sick that I almost wished I had malaria. I’ve met quite a few other travelers who aren’t taking any as well. It’ a roll of the dice however you approach it, I think.


wes April 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Also, I have yet to meet someone with malaria but have met three people with Dengue Fever. And there’s no inoculation for that, so avoiding bites is the best you can do.


Lindsay Cronin July 17, 2011 at 5:18 am

This sounds awesome! Great tip – has anyone done this in Mumbai? That is our first stop and I would like to get them as soon as we arrive to avoid beign unprotected. Thanks


wes July 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm

I haven’t heard of anyone doing them in Mumbai, but I imagine the Red Cross has a presence there. I’d ask around on the Lonely Planet and BootsnAll forums…


John August 31, 2011 at 5:33 am

I just wanted to pass this along…You can select a country from their list and it will tell you if there is a travel clinic there or not.


wes September 1, 2011 at 1:38 am

Nice find! Thanks.


Kelly Dunning February 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Wow that is amazing. Thank you so much for this info! You have saved us literally hundreds of dollars!


Astrid November 24, 2012 at 4:14 am


Thanks for the awesome info. I’m in Bangkok at the moment and looking into getting my shots. I’ve heard people can get quite sick from the Yellow Fever vaccine. Did you have any trouble with health getting all of those vaccines at once?



wes November 26, 2012 at 11:42 am

I had no problems at all but everyone is different, I suppose. My arm was tender for a day, but that was it. And the nurse administering the shots was *good* — I hardly felt them. I highly recommend it — a couple I know did the same and saved over a grand total.


Wisnu T Hanggoro November 13, 2013 at 9:10 am

This is very good and worthy information. You have given a path to have the vaccination. Thank you very much for the posting.


Sydney North November 30, 2013 at 5:19 am

This is really good information to know if you need your vaccinations while you are travelling. I had mine done by the GP in the UK before leaving home so didn’t have to pay at all.


dan April 2, 2014 at 11:46 pm

Thanks for the info!

Does anyone know if this is still the case now in 2014?


wes April 3, 2014 at 6:12 am

As far as I know, yes. I’ll be back in Bangkok next month and am thinking of grabbing a couple more stabs….


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