By Dr. Divya Nagpal Blog Published on - 15 September - 2023

Navigating Cultural Differences: Tips for Middle Eastern Patients Seeking Medical Care in Thailand


Medical tourism has gained immense popularity in recent years, with Thailand being one of the top destinations for individuals seeking high-quality healthcare services. Among the diverse group of patients arriving in Thailand, Middle Eastern patients are a significant demographic. While Thailand offers world-class medical facilities and skilled healthcare professionals, navigating cultural differences can be a challenge for Middle Eastern patients. This guide aims to provide valuable insights and tips for Middle Eastern patients seeking medical care in Thailand, ensuring a more comfortable and successful healthcare experience.

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Understanding Cultural Differences:

1. Language Barriers: Language can be a significant barrier when seeking medical care in a foreign country. In Thailand, English is commonly spoken in medical facilities; however, it may not always be the case. Middle Eastern patients can benefit from learning some basic Thai phrases or using translation apps to communicate effectively with healthcare providers and staff.

2. Non-verbal Communication: In Middle Eastern cultures, non-verbal communication plays a vital role in conveying respect and understanding. It's essential to be aware of cultural differences in non-verbal cues such as handshakes, eye contact, and personal space. In Thailand, the traditional Thai greeting, the wai, involves placing your palms together in a prayer-like gesture and bowing slightly. Understanding and reciprocating such gestures can help build rapport with Thai healthcare providers.

3. Time Orientation: Middle Eastern cultures often have a more relaxed approach to punctuality and time management. In contrast, Thailand values punctuality and adherence to schedules. Middle Eastern patients should make an effort to arrive on time for appointments and adhere to their treatment plans to maintain a positive relationship with healthcare providers.

Medical Etiquette in Thailand:

1. Modesty: Middle Eastern patients may have different expectations regarding modesty in medical settings. It's important to communicate your preferences regarding clothing and privacy to your healthcare providers. Thai healthcare facilities strive to respect patients' modesty and will often provide appropriate attire if needed.

2. Gender Preferences: In some Middle Eastern cultures, patients may prefer healthcare providers of the same gender. While Thailand offers a range of male and female healthcare professionals, it's advisable to communicate your preferences when making appointments to ensure your comfort and satisfaction.

3. Family Involvement: Family plays a significant role in Middle Eastern cultures, often accompanying patients to medical appointments. In Thailand, it's common for medical consultations to be one-on-one between the patient and the healthcare provider. Middle Eastern patients should clarify whether family members can attend appointments to avoid any misunderstandings.

Religious Considerations:

1. Halal Food: Many Middle Eastern patients follow a halal diet, which adheres to Islamic dietary laws. While Thailand offers a variety of halal food options, patients should inform their healthcare providers of their dietary restrictions to ensure proper meal planning during hospital stays.

2. Prayer Facilities: Middle Eastern patients may need access to prayer facilities or prayer mats to observe their daily prayers. Inquire about the availability of such facilities in the hospital or nearby areas to accommodate your religious practices.

3. Medication Ingredients: Some medications may contain ingredients that are not permissible under Islamic dietary laws. Discuss any concerns about medication ingredients with your healthcare provider, who can recommend alternative options that align with your religious beliefs.

Healthcare Planning:

1. Insurance and Payment: Ensure that you have comprehensive health insurance that covers your medical expenses in Thailand. It's essential to understand the terms of your insurance policy and the process for claiming reimbursement. Keep copies of all medical records, bills, and receipts for insurance claims.

2. Medical Records: Request copies of your medical records, including test results and treatment plans, to keep for your records. This will be helpful if you require follow-up care in your home country or wish to consult another healthcare provider in the future.

3. Consultation with Specialists: If you have a specific medical condition that requires specialised care, research and identify the appropriate specialists in Thailand before your trip. Schedule consultations in advance to avoid delays in your treatment.

Communication with Healthcare Providers:

1. Ask Questions: Don't hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification about your diagnosis, treatment options, and expected outcomes. Thai healthcare providers are accustomed to patient inquiries and value open communication.

2. Informed Consent: Ensure that you understand and provide informed consent for any medical procedures or treatments. Ask for explanations in a language you are comfortable with and request written documentation if needed.

3. Second Opinions: If you have concerns about your diagnosis or treatment plan, you have the right to seek a second opinion from another healthcare provider. Discuss your concerns with your primary healthcare provider to facilitate the process.

Cultural Sensitivity:

1. Be Patient: Cultural misunderstandings may arise, but it's essential to remain patient and understanding. Thai healthcare providers are generally respectful and willing to accommodate cultural differences when made aware of them.

2. Express Gratitude: Expressing gratitude and appreciation for the care you receive can go a long way in building positive relationships with healthcare providers. A simple thank you in Thai or a polite gesture can make a significant impact.

3. Feedback: If you encounter any cultural insensitivity or have suggestions for improving the healthcare experience for Middle Eastern patients, provide constructive feedback to the healthcare facility's management. Your input can help enhance the experience for future patients.


Navigating cultural differences when seeking medical care in Thailand as a Middle Eastern patient can be challenging, but with preparation and understanding, it is entirely manageable. By embracing cultural awareness, effective communication, and planning, Middle Eastern patients can ensure a positive healthcare experience in Thailand. This guide serves as a bridge between cultures, promoting mutual respect and cooperation between patients and healthcare providers in this increasingly globalised world of medical tourism.

Read Also: Medical Tourism in India Statistics 2022


In Middle Eastern cultures, it is customary to show respect for authority figures, such as doctors. Patients may be hesitant to ask questions or disagree with the doctor's recommendations. In Thai culture, it is more common for patients to be assertive and ask questions. · In Middle Eastern cultures, it is common for men and women to be segregated in healthcare settings. In Thailand, it is more common for men and women to be treated together.
· If you do not speak Thai, it is important to find a doctor who speaks English. You can also bring an interpreter with you to your appointments. · When speaking with your doctor, be clear and concise. Avoid using slang or idioms that your doctor may not understand. · Be prepared to answer questions about your medical history and symptoms. · If you do not understand something your doctor says, ask them to explain it again.
It is important to be upfront with your doctor about your cultural objections to any medical procedures. Your doctor should be understanding and willing to work with you to find a solution that is agreeable to both of you. · In some cases, you may need to seek medical care in your home country if you are unable to find a doctor in Thailand who is willing to accommodate your cultural beliefs.
· Some of the best hospitals in Thailand for Middle Eastern patients include: o Bumrungrad International Hospital o Bangkok Hospital o Siriraj Hospital o Phyathai Hospital o Chulalongkorn Hospital · These hospitals offer a high standard of care and have English-speaking staff.
· The costs of medical care in Thailand vary depending on the type of care you need and the hospital you choose. However, in general, medical care in Thailand is much more affordable than in the United States or Europe. · For example, a heart bypass surgery in Thailand costs around $10,000, compared to $100,000 in the United States.
Middle Eastern patients who are seeking medical care in Thailand will need to apply for a medical visa. The visa application process can be completed online or at a Thai embassy or consulate. · The requirements for a medical visa vary depending on the patient's nationality. However, in general, patients will need to provide proof of a valid passport, medical insurance, and a letter from their doctor stating the purpose of their visit.
· When packing for a trip to Thailand for medical care, it is important to pack the following items: o Prescription medications o Medical supplies, such as bandages and pain relievers o A copy of your medical records o A translator, if necessary o Comfortable clothing o Sunscreen and insect repellent
· Before your trip, it is important to do the following: o Research hospitals in Thailand that offer the care you need o Book your appointments in advance o Get travel insurance o Learn some basic Thai phrases
· During your stay in Thailand for medical care, you can expect the following: o To be treated with respect and compassion o To have access to high-quality care o To pay a fraction of the cost of care in the United States or Europe
· There are a number of resources available to Middle Eastern patients travelling to Thailand for medical care. These resources include: o The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs o The Thai Embassy or Consulate in your home country o The website of the International Patient Care Group