You’re almost a doctor now or maybe you’re already done. You’ve got a unique set of skills that only a few thousand people alive can claim to share. Stop and think about that for a second. What are your options now? Residency, start a practice, work for someone else. All of those have their pluses and minuses… How about a 4th option; traveling to exotic locations while working as a doctor?

It’s possible and other ND’s have done it and are doing it now.

In this episode of The ND Update we talk with Dr. Alison Chen about her time in Thailand working and traveling as a naturopathic physician. Dr. Chen Graduated from CCNM in 2013 and has been traveling since she passed boards. I first heard about her when she wrote this extensive post on how she had been traveling and working as an ND. In this podcast we go into further detail about her experiences. Press play to learn more about:

  • When to start planning your trip overseas
  • Why going overseas without a job lined up may be your best option
  • What services work best when practicing overseas
  • How much money to set aside when making the jump
  • The best spots in Thailand to find work
  • Work visa’s and whether or not you need one
  • How to price your services
  • The best times of the year to find work at resorts
  • Patient management
  • Traveling with partners and/or kids
  • Doing this all with just a backpack
  • What to put in your backpack
  • How you can live in Thailand for $1,000 USD per month

After the recording was over and I had a chance to relisten I followed up with Alison on some questions I had:

What prep did you need to do stateside before you left?.. Vaccinations?

No vaccinations; I got a 6 month tourist visa but you can get a 1 month on arrival (read more below). Make sure your passport is up-to-date (ie. 6 months and a few pages empty). I photocopied all my important documents.

Visa application – how does that work?

There is a 3 month and 6 month tourist visa that you can purchase ahead of time ( This wasn’t made clear to me so I’ll explain it to you the best I can.

With both the 3 and 6 month, you are allowed entry for 2 months without leaving the country, but at the 2 month mark you must go to a consulate (within thailand) and pay to extend your tourist visa for the last month (maybe $60-100). With the 3 month you have 1 entry, which means if you leave Thailand before the 3 months then you lose the rest of the time. So, if you plan on traveling to other countries before the 3 months is up but then stay for a longer duration after, you can ‘wave’ your visa. I.e. tell immigration as you are entering that you don’t want to use your 3 month visa yet and they will give you the automatic 1 month upon arrival visa instead (free) and you can use the 3 month visa later.
Similarly, the 6 month visa is a 3 month but double entry. So you can stay 2 month, extend for 1 month but then you must leave the country and re-enter for another 2 months with a 1 month extension at the consulate.

The tourist visas take a few weeks to send in and receive at the standard rate, but you can also pay for a 1 day visa at a $100 extra fee (I think).

If you get the 1 month on arrival visa (free) you can stay the whole month but then must leave the country to re-enter. Many of the airports are picky about having a return ticket. If you don’t have one, I’ve seen people just photoshop their original ticket and get away with it… lol.

At the one month mark, many people do a ‘visa run’, however as I was leaving Thailand there was a pretty strick policy going around to dissuade visa runs and people living long term in Thailand. In any case, Chiang Rai (in the North) have a very easy access to Myanmar and the islands have an easy (and cheap) flight to Kuala Lumpur. There are services that do 1 day visa runs to talk to some expats to find out about them. Most are around $40 there and back.

Or you can just make a trip to Cambodia, Vietnam, Philipeans, Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur, etc for a nice trip. I would definitely recommend Indonesia (Bali, Gili islands), Cambodia (Ankor Watt). I wrote about some of my travel spots on my website too.

Credit Card/Debit/Money – Can you use the same card you use stateside?

As long as you have a debit card with the ‘plus’ symbol then the atms work. You can only take out $300 (equivalent in thai bhat) at a time so you may want to bring USD (to exchange) and Bhat with you. There’s a hefty fine to use the ATM ($5) then also with your own bank ($5). So it does add up. I was able to find a Canadian bank account that waived the fees from their side. Most banks will if you speak with a financial planner and get a little chummy with them ;).

In Thailand… how do you get access your money once you’re there?

I just used my debit card. And I charged cash for my patients.

Do you have a part of Thailand you recommend people fly into?

You have have to fly into Bangkok. Note that there are 2 airports: 1 international (BKK- Sunvarnabhumi), 1 domestic/ within Asia (DMK- Don Mueng). There are free shuttle buses from one airport to the other, it takes about 45-75 min pending on traffic.

The domestic flights are cheap and will almost always go through Bangkok (DMK). So you may have to buy 2 separate flights if you want to travel from 2 areas within Thailand (other than Bangkok). I recommend Nok Air and AirAsia as the cheapest. Nok Air will allow you 1 carry on bag which can add up in cost with AirAsia as they charge per flight.

When you’re done watch this video interview Dr. Chen did with another ND who has traveled and worked, Dr. Adam Friedman. Really, watch it. You’ll learn a ton. See you in Thailand.