Before I moved to Bangkok, Thailand to teach English, I made sure I took care of any medical issues I had before I left the United States. This had nothing to do with believing American health care or health insurance is better than that available in Thailand (it’s not!), but was because I wanted to make sure I arrived in Thailand ready to start my new teaching job and without any medical preparations still outstanding.
If you too are planning on moving overseas to teach English, no matter which country you will be living in, these are the types of medical issues you should be sure to deal with before you get on the plane.
Get the recommended vaccines – I didn’t have any vaccines before I moved to Thailand to teach English. That’s because I knew most of my time would be spent in Bangkok, so wasn’t too worried about contracting dengue fever, typhoid or malaria. Happily, in the 10 years I’ve lived here, I haven’t had any need for them either.
If you will be teaching away from a major city in the country you will be living in, however, or are simply concerned about basic health issues while you’re gone, you may want to look at the list of recommended vaccines for that particular country and make sure you schedule yours soon. You can find out more about the recommended vaccines for any country at the Centers for Disease Control website.
Get 6 months supply of medications – If you are on any mediations, you should ask your doctor if he can give you a prescription for at least a six month supply, as you will be going overseas to teach English.
You will be able to get most medications in just about any country you’re teaching in, particularly if you’re in a big city, but you don’t want to spend your first few weeks in country scrambling around to find vital medications, so take them with you and you’re guaranteed to be covered should any health issues raise their ugly head.
Get an annual medical checkup – You may have to have one of these done when you arrive in the country you’ll be teaching in, as they are often a prerequisite for a work permit. It still won’t hurt to have an annual medical checkup before you leave your own country, however, so you’re sure you don’t have any pressing medical issues before you get on the plane.
Health insurance – Having been to Thailand before I moved here to teach English, I already knew buying health insurance in Bangkok would be far, far cheaper than if I was to buy an international health care policy in the United States before I left. It was also likely to cover a lot more problems.
If you’re not too comfortable leaving the US without health insurance, however, (although you’ll be surprised at how cheap medical care is almost everywhere else in the world outside America), you might want to pay for a short-term policy of 30 days or less, as that will give you time to find a better one in country.
Don’t forget too, the school you work for may already be paying for one for you, so don’t forget to ask.
Take emergency contact numbers – Just in case you do have any medical issues while you are away, make sure you always have emergency contact numbers in your wallet or elsewhere on your person. After all, you don’t want to be taken ill in Beijing, Sao Paolo or Madrid, and not have the hospital or doctor have any way of contacting your family or friends.