Thursday, 20 February 2014

We're going to Thailand! Visas and vaccinations...

My lovely girlfriend Emily and I are going to Thailand for eight weeks, from the end of February until the end of April this year. We're really excited to get away and experience such a different culture for a while, not to mention enjoying the hot weather whilst it is raining so much in the UK! We've booked flights via STA Travel, which we found to be slightly cheaper than even buying the same flight through the flight operators website directly. It also worked out a bit cheaper as we got 'youth' tickets for being under 26 years old. We're flying into Bangkok, where we have booked our first two nights accommodation on Khaosan Road, which is 'backpacker central' in Bangkok. Following advice from friends, here we plan to visit a local travel agent who will help us plan our onward travels for the eight week adventure.

As we are planning to go to Thailand for 56 days, we need an extended tourist visa which allows us to stay in Thailand for up to 60 days. There are different rules and lengths of time you are allowed to stay in the country, based on whether you cross the border to places such as Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. We opted to get the 60 day visa in case we want to stay the whole 56 days in Thailand. It's super important to research which visa/s you need for different countries as you really don't want to fall foul of law enforcement in another country, never-mind your own!

We read on the Thai Embassy website that you need to apply for the visa in person at the London Embassy. You need to drop in your passport on a midweek day and collect the following midweek day. We stupidly didn't read all of the information properly and discovered after booking our coach tickets that you can actually apply by post, and that there is also a Birmingham office we could have gone to - just a short distance from where we are staying with family while in the UK. It wasn't a wasted trip though, as we caught up with lots of friends while in London and also visited the awesome Science Museum and Natural History Museum while in the area.


Researching travel vaccinations has been very confusing to say the least, as there is so much conflicting information between even the most legitimate websites. I'll write about our experiences below, but please don't take this as fact or advice if you are reading this as part of your own research. 

We booked appointments with the nurse for three consecutive Mondays. We had a very limited amount of time in the UK between getting back from the Alps and our outbound flight to Bangkok, and based on what a lot of websites said, we thought this would be enough time for the full course of vaccines we need.

After chatting for a long time to the very helpful nurse, we decided that we definitely needed the Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccination, which was free on the NHS. We also opted for the Hepatitis B vaccine which everyone we spoke to and every website unanimously say we should get. This cost £90 for a course of three vaccines. We also opted to get the Rabies vaccine, which costs rather a lot more, costing £174 for three vaccines. It turns out that our dates were wrong, as we needed our third boosters three weeks after the first vaccine, so over the space of a month, rather than three weeks. The nurse said that having two doses is a whole lot better than having none and suggested we have the final booster when returning from Thailand. We are planning to do more travelling after the summer, so it's still worthwhile completing the whole course.

We were given three options for Malaria tablets. For all options, you need to plan ahead where you will be at what times, as you need to take the medication a couple of days before entering an area where you are likely to contract Malaria, one each day while you are there and for varying amounts of time afterwards. It is not advised to take the tablets for the whole duration of your trip, so you really do need to plan this out carefully. The cheapest option often give people psychotic dreams, which we thought sounded rather unpleasant! There is another option that is an antibiotic, but we decided against that one also. That was because it makes you more prone to sunburn, you have to take it for a whole month after you leave the Malaria danger zone, along with other side effects. The option we opted for was Malarone, which has minimal side effects, but comes with a bigger price tag. Malarone as a branded medicine is now unpatented, so the nurse was able to prescribe this as Proguanil and Atovaquone, so it cost a lot less than Malarone itself. This cost £64.75 for 37 tablets on a private prescription.

Other than getting our tetanus boosters as they were a little out of date, our final medication choice was Cholera vaccines. This was available as an NHS prescription, consisting of two doses of drinks, taken one week apart. It tasted surprisingly good! After both sets of jabs we had quite achey arms and felt pretty rubbish for a couple of days. Thankfully these side effects don't last long and we didn't experience anything horrible other than tiredness and feeling like we had a bit of a cold.

Now that we've got all of this sorted, we need to get our packing sorted. We haven't even got round to sorting all of our winter sports gear out properly yet, and we need to buy summer clothes, rucksacks and other travelling gear. Blog post about that coming soon.

Left: Me being a wuss while having jabs! 
Right: Drinking Cholera meds in style in Starbucks

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