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After arriving in Koh Samui on Friday and having a great first day at the beach and pool with Reuben, things started to go down hill. As you probably know from my Facebook updates, I spent the next seven nights in hospital. Here’s what happened and what it was like in hospital in Thailand.


Bethaney in ICU, Hospital in Koh Samui, Thailand

Bethaney in ICU, Hospital in Koh Samui, Thailand

What happened?

Sunday morning, a sore throat started. It didn’t feel so bad so I soldiered on. By evening I started feeling chesty. By Monday morning I was having a full blown asthma attack. I took some meds and waited for them to kick in but they didn’t and by Monday evening I decided I needed to go to the emergency room. Lee called the reception of the hotel we were staying in and asked if they had a car that could take us to the hospital. The hotel manager was obviously concerned and decided to accompany us. He checked that we had travel insurance and took us to the Bangkok Hospital Samui which is supposed to be the best private hospital on the island. I was admitted quickly and taken to the ER. The ER staff were good, not amazing, but seemed to be doing all the right things – oxygen mask, nebuliser, IV line. After an hour or so they took me up to the ICU. Lee and Reuben left me to it… it was getting late, they hadn’t eaten and the doctor said I’d been in for the night so I didn’t see the point in them being there. I didn’t really want them there anyway as it must have been scary for Reuben.

Once I hit the ICU I started to go down hill, I could only breathe when I was on the nebuliser. My blood oxygen levels were dropping dangerously low. My chest was closing in. Not being able to breathe is the worst feeling in the world. The more scared and stressed you get, the harder it is to breathe. It’s a vicious cycle. The worst was yet to come however. Later that night I got my lungs suctioned. There was so much mucus in my chest and I couldn’t cough it out. Probably one of the worst things that has ever happened to me! It took four nurses to do it. One to suction and three to hold me down!

The doctor was concerned it could be pneumonia so I had a chest x-ray. Luckily, it came back clear so for the rest of my hospital stay I was treated for acute bronchitis. Having asthma on top of that really complicated things as my lungs go into protection-mode when they sense infection so shut down to protect themselves. Not the smartest thing when you can’t breathe anyway!

After two nights in the ICU, I was improving so was moved to the ward. It took a whole week of antibiotics, nebuliser and steroids to get my lungs back to functioning on their own without additional oxygen.


Lunch in Hospital in Koh Samui, Thailand

Lunch in Hospital in Koh Samui, Thailand

What’s it like in hospital in Thailand?

The Bangkok Hospital Samui is a private hospital. The doctors spoke excellent English and seemed to know what they were doing. The ICU nurses were fantastic – obviously really well trained, spoke great English and were very caring. (One of them braided my hair each morning!) The ward nurses were a step down. Some of them spoke English, some didn’t. Some seemed competent, some didn’t. I found being in hospital completely exhausting. The ward nurses didn’t seem to understand the concept of rest and I was only getting a couple of hours sleep each night. They didn’t seem to sync the medication times with observation times so I was given a round of meds at midnight, obs at 2am, meds again at 6am. It was infuriating and by my last day I was screaming at them to get out of my room and leave me to sleep!

I had a private room in the ward which was huge. It had a TV with cable, kitchenette, bathroom and fold out couch. I think it’s common for Thais to come in and sit with their family the whole day and night if they’re in hospital. The nurses thought it was strange that Lee and Reuben would only come in for short visits of an hour or so, once or twice a day. They assumed that they’d be staying overnight.

I had a choice of western or Thai food at each meal. The food was a bit hit or miss. Sometimes it was good enough to eat. Sometimes it was avoid at all costs! I could have done without being feed streaky bacon and sugary orange drink every morning for breakfast. Breakfast was at 8am, lunch at 11.30am and dinner at 4.30pm. I found it really hard to eat all my meals in the space of nine hours and was often starving at night!

On the whole, the hospital wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great… but then a hospital stay never is. I’m glad I ended up at the private hospital. I’d hate to see the standard of care at the local hospital if what I got was first-rate care.


Bethaney in Ward, Hospital in Koh Samui, Thailand

Bethaney in Ward, Hospital in Koh Samui, Thailand

What does it cost to spend a week in hospital in Koh Samui?

227,000 Thai Baht!!!!!! That’s about $9000 NZD or about $7000 USD and included everything down to the meals, toiletries and take-home meds. My travel insurance picked up the bill. I have my travel insurance through Travel Insurance Direct. They provide travel insurance for Kiwis and Aussies and it’s definitely the best option on the market for longer term travellers as you don’t need to have a return ticket, you can extend the policy beyond 12 months and can start it on the road (unlike many other insurers).


If you’re interested to see how Travel Insurance Direct compares to World Nomads, I did a comparison post when deciding on an insurer last year.

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Showing 32 comments
  • Sharon

    oh wow, I’m sorry, Bethaney, that sounds horrific 🙁 So glad that you got the care that you needed, even if it wasn’t the best at times and that you are ok now. It must have been terrifying.

  • Laurel- Capturing la Vita

    What an incredibly scary experience. I am so glad you received such wonderful care and that you are ok. Travel insurance, travel insurance, travel insurance!!!

  • Arianwen

    Wow! How scary! I’m glad you’re ok now. It sounds like it wasn’t such a bad experience as you might expect from a foreign hospital. That’s reassuring to know!

  • Jenna

    Yikes! That is scary. I am so glad you got better and got the care you needed. And that the bill was covered by travel insurance.

  • Amanda Kendle

    Eek, you poor thing. The lung suctioning bit had me grimacing. Sounds truly awful. Glad you are doing better and you didn’t have to foot the bill either. Getting sick is one of the scariest parts of travelling, I think. Fingers crossed you never need to test out any other foreign hospitals!

  • worldtravelchef

    Great read Bethany. Glad you made it out ok. I was in the same hospital about a month ago. Hernia operation which went well. Know what you mean about interruptions as I experienced the same. I found it better than our local Cairns base hospital which was good.
    Take Care

  • Kerri

    Wow! How scary, but glad to hear you are feeling better. The cost for care is absolutely amazing. If that had been in the US it would have been at 10 x that.

  • Bronwyn Joy

    Wow! Scary stuff. I’m glad you were able to get good care, although I would not want to have paid that bill out of pocket!

    I’ve found that good travel insurance takes some shopping around, so it’s nice to have some feedback. At least they got some advertising for their troubles in your case!

  • Sam @

    Its lovely to hear a good outcome for a change!
    We have heard so many terrible stories lately of travellers being injured or getting sick OS without travel insurance. Good on you for having it!!

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    I am such a wuss when it comes to even having a cold. I can’t imagine how it would have felt to be in a foreign hospital for an entire week! Glad to hear you’re back on your feet.

    • Claudette Edwards

      Just came out of a hospital stay in Perth Australia. Trust me, it was no better than your experience. I was annoyed all night by loud staff who don’t even bother to speak quietly. Woken rudely to nurses hooking me up to blood pressure machines, sticking a thermometer in my mouth and a pulse monitor on my finger. Then an hour later someone wanting to take a blood test. 2 hours later my drain needed measuring and I was given an injection which made me sick. I really wish they had left me to rest, the next day I was as sick as a dog from lack of rest. Breakfast was cornflakes with skim milk and a cold piece of cardboard toast. I would have loved some fresh fruit 🙁 Nothing beats a cool quiet dark room 🙂

  • Jason

    Oh no! So sorry about that!! I hope you are feeling better and never have to go through that again! But what an amazing price. A week for $7000 USD including ICU! Hell, one day in ICU in the US would cost twice that! Does your insurance cover expenses in the United States as well? And what sort of price does it cost per month! Thanks so much for the information!! Much appreciated.

  • Linda McCormick

    Blooming ‘eck, sounds like you had it pretty bad! Asthma is a total nightmare, isn’t it? At least they were smart enough to take you to ICU before it got too out of hand, so sounds like they did a really good job. Glad you survived to tell the tale 🙂

  • Reply

    Wow! Thanks for sharing. We are really glad you are ok. Would be interesting to see how the hospital itemized the charges. The lack of sleep would have driven us crazy too…sounds so stressful. We are glad you are feeling better and we look forward to seeing some good news posts soon. Take care 🙂

  • Karisa

    OMG Bethany, I don’t know how I missed your updates!!! I’m so glad you’re ok and that the hospital staff spoke English. My friend was hospitalized with Dengue fever outside of Bangkok and no one spoke English-she was terrified. Hope you’re all better now!!

  • Rachael

    You’re a trooper! Glad you got through it. What a helpful post for anyone worried about getting sick overseas. Enjoy the rest of your time there.

  • Melissa - The Mellyboo Project

    OMG! That’s so scary! I had a mild asthma attack in the Dominican Republic – my own fault- induced by too much scuba diving and spa time in the sauna/hot room/cold room circuit. I completely understand though. Not being able to breathe (in another country where you don’t speak the native language, to boot) is terrifying!

    I AM shocked at the price of your visit though! Seems very expensive for Thailand! Especially considering when I had extreme food poisoning and almost died in Melbourne, Australia my 4night-5day visit was only $2100AUD (which luckily was also covered by my insurance company and paid back asap).

    Glad to hear you’re okay though!

  • Linda ~ Journey Jottings

    Gee – That’s one hell of a scary story of how quickly a wonderul trip can take a turn for the worse when your health fails 🙁
    So happy you had excellent travel insurance to take the pain of payment away – I’m still wincing from your description of three nurses holding you down –
    Hope your convalescence goes smoothly and you feel 100% again super smart 🙂

  • Shelly Rivoli

    Eek! So glad you could get the help you needed and come out okay – makes you think about where you travel, in case, and the importance of travel insurance. Be well!

  • Penny Sadler

    Bethaney, I followed your story on FB. I’m so glad you’re ok. Please don’t do that again!

  • Jill

    Blimy! bit scary. We use TID as well. Pretty good.

    hope you’re feeling better!!

  • Jennifer

    Holy cow!! Well, I’m glad you’re okay now. I will file this under “most usual hotel review I’ve read this month.” 🙂

  • Val-This Way To Paradise

    Wow!! So glad that you are OK. And this is a great example of why it’s good to have travel insurance!

  • wanderingeducators

    i’m so sorry, bethany – and SO glad you’re ok now. WHEW!

  • Terry at Overnight New York

    Nice looking room, all things considered, right down to the artwork behind the bed. Still, I can see why your family didn’t want to spend the night like the locals and their relatives. Hope you won’t be checking in again.

  • Micki @ The Barefoot Nomad

    Oh Bethany, I’m so glad to know that you’re OK. That must have been truly scary for all of you. You know, though, I would have thought the stay would have been less? I was in the hospital in Trang, Thailand for three days and the bill came out to only about $700 USD. Now, this was about 10 years ago, so maybe prices have gone up?

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel

    Yikes, what a scary experience! I have asthma too and I know first hand how bad things can get when bronchitis hits.

  • Gabi (The Nomadic Family)

    How scary! I’m glad you’re ok now.

  • 365-days-in-paradise

    Hi Bethaney, My name is Nathalie, we are a french family traveling for one year. It seems that we crossed each other at the Bangkok hospital in Koh Samui. My husband and my daughter were incorporated (sorry for my english) for dengue fever on saturday the 16th and we just exit today on sunday the 24th of november. One full week. We stood all the family at the hospital as we were on the road leave koh samui and to go to Laos. I have done some videos about the hospital. I use to translate in english but this time I didn’t take the time to translate. You can have a look on our website if you want.
    We were very lucky to be ill and go to the bangkok hospital, they are very good and very nice also.
    Now I am going to discover your website,
    Good travel and take care from mosquitoes, the dengue fever is very strong for adults and for children.

  • Chris Riches

    Good report, my sister in law is in the same hospital right now, in the ICU, its good to know she is probably being well looked after

    • Bethaney Davies

      Oh no, Chris. What’s the problem with her? I’m sure she will be well looked after there though.

  • Claudia

    It looks like I have just read an old post. But I would love to comment anyways. I understand how you felt. I have asthma, and it is well under control now and hasn’t bothered me in years (but I am on constant medications to prevent it and have a yearly check up). Swimming regularly also helps a lot. About 7 years ago, when I still had tonsils (I had them removed exactly a year ago, at the age of 38!!), I got tonsillitis. My throat was completely swollen. On top of that, perhaps due to the constant coughing, I started having an asthma attack. I remember taking medications and going to bed. I could not breathe, I could not fall asleep. At 4 am I crawled upstairs and asked my dad to take me to the emergency room – I then collapsed on his bed. I collapsed again in the emergency room. They put me on a nebulizer and all. It was truly horrible! I must imagine it is even worst when this happens away from home…

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