The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Thai taxes: how are those roads and hospitals paid for in Thailand?

Written By: herbrunbridge - Feb• 05•11

Mercs and BMWs pay a hefty road tax in the Land of Smiles

One day a few years back, one of us here at WoWasis had to go to a hospital in Thailand on an emergency basis. We got all stitched up, and paid nothing. Why? Here’s another question: why are Thai roads so damn good? (Compare them with the Philippines, which has some of the worst roads known to humankind).

The answers to these questions lie in the Thai tax system, which charges the rich to pay for the poor, and charges those who are perceived to be making a personal health-risk decision to pay for those making an attempt to stay healthy. Here’s how it works:


For most new cars and trucks, a 300% “road tax” is charged at purchase. Think of it: if you were in the U.S., and bought a $25,000 USD pick-up truck, your final price would be $100,000. For luxury vehicles in Thailand (e.g. BMW, Mercedes, Porsche), the tax is 600%! Meaning a Porsche, for instance, might cost 400,000 Euros, This is how road construction is paid for. It’s also why poorer people tend to buy used cars and trucks. No road tax there.


You’ve probably seen those nasty cancer pictures on the packs of cigarettes sold in Thailand. The Thai government has decided that smokers and drinkers spend more time in the hospital than those who don’t. So they imposed a 500% tax on alcohol and tobacco. WoWasis is having a beer right now for which we’re going to be charged 120 baht. That beer would have been only 20 baht, but then they taxed us 500%. And they use that tax to pay for hospitals that people can use essentially free (a Thai friend pays 30 baht each visit). And that’s why we didn’t pay anything when we had to go.

That’s how Thais go to public hospitals and pay essentially nothing. If they want to go to a private hospital, the Thai government pays 50% of the cost. Still a bargain.

As a visitor, every beer you buy supports the hospital system. And if you’re buying a new pickup truck for your Thai girlfriend’s family, congrats on agreeing to do it before you knew the costs, and enjoy your financial road-rash!

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