Saving money by using local services

In researching how to prepare for an around the world trip, one will surely find any number of useful checklists that mention everything from booking air travel and lodging to what to pack, registering your trip with the state department, and setting up a Skype account so that you can call home cheaply.

Two of the classic “must-dos” are to consult a travel clinic about what immunizations one might need and to bring along a number of appropriately sized and composed photos for visas. While we looked into completing both tasks before we left on our extended trip through Southeast Asia, it made more financial sense to wait and take care of them on the road.

The same situation that makes our travel possible – the flexibility of my wife being in graduate school and my lack of full time employment – also makes health insurance an expensive luxury that we can’t afford. While I was up to date on all of my shots, my wife was not. Even the cheapest low-cost clinic in the Bay Area quoted almost $700, primarily due to the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine. Thankfully, our first stop was Bangkok which is home to the Thai Travel Clinic at Mahidol University. On our first day we hired a taxi to take us to the campus, not far from our hotel. Even with the map provided on their website, it was hard to navigate the many buildings, but we eventually found the Faculty (College) of Tropical Medicine and walked in.

After registration, we went to the intake nurse and waited to see a doctor for consultation. We had a ten minute conversation wherein we discussed the vaccines needed and about whether to get Malaria pills. His advice was against them, an opinion not shared by U.S. clinics. His reasoning was that the region is fairly low risk, with only 1 or 2 cases per year of tourists getting sick from Malaria, and the side effects of the pills can be unpleasant. Treatment, if caught early, is very good. Whether the Thai are too lax, or the U.S. overly cautious, we’re not certain, but we took his advice. We then took his prescription down to the pharmacy to get the vaccines and to the injection nurse to administer them. The cost? 1029 Baht, about $33, saving over $600.

Before we left home, we went to our local Walgreens to get a stack of passport/visa photos to take with us. After taking the pictures, the photo associate asked how many we wanted, and was surprised when we asked for a dozen each. This isn’t such an odd need when one is expecting to travel through several countries, but it is clearly against their pricing model of $9 per pair of photos with no bulk discounts. “Most people only get one.” she said. We thanked her for her time and left. In Bangkok, we went to a small photo shop across from the hotel and got 24 photos meeting the visa format requirements for 300 Baht – under $10 – saving us almost $100.

While taking care of as many administrative details as possible before leaving home is good practice, sometimes it makes more sense to wait until one arrives at their destination.

Posted by | Comments (3)  | September 30, 2010
Category: Travel Health, Vagabonding Advice

3 Responses to “Saving money by using local services”

  1. Matt | YearAroundTheWorld Says:

    I bookmarked that Thai Clinic, I’ll need to get some more shots when I get up that way.

  2. Scott Says:

    Even with health insurance that Japanese Encephalitis was an expensive shot.

  3. Stephen Says:

    Thanks for the info. I got the same advice about the malaria pills at the Red Cross clinic in Bangkok, and was looking for other opinions.