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Buying Eyeglasses in Thailand

The price of eyeglasses in Thailand can range from US$ 2 for reading glasses purchased on the street to US$ 500 and up for special glasses.

While in general, things of a medical and dental nature in Thailand are a bargain, that is not always the case with eyeglasses. Part of the reason for this is that most urban Thais are very style conscious and glasses are not just for seeing. In addition, there is a certain amount of manipulation by sales staff to steer you toward expensive items or even things you don’t need.

The information below comes from a very informal survey of a handful of Thais and expats conducted by yours truly. Based on that survey, here is some general info, anecdotes and advice.

Ordinary reading glasses are available nearly everywhere. They can be found in markets, shops and street stalls. They run from US$ 2 to US$ 3.

Prescription glasses from optical shops start at about US$ 40 but it is easy to spend up to US$ 100. Bifocals are at least double that. Bifocals with lenses that darken in the light run about US$ 175 -US$ 250. Bifocals with fancy frames can run up to US$ 400.

You can buy prescription glasses at any of hundreds of optical shops throughout many cities in Thailand. The free eye exam will be done by an optical technician. They will probably steer you toward expensive frames and possibly glasses you don’t need. One person paid US$ 400 for bifocals. He swears he takes his glasses off to read as they make things worse. Caution is in order.

You can also buy glasses at hospitals where you will most likely see an MD specializing in eyes. Unlike an optical shop, you may be charged a nominal fee for seeing the doctor – perhaps US$ 20. Those surveyed did not find any difference in the services of an optical shop and hospital.

If you already have frames and just need new lenses, you can get regular lenses for about US$ 25 and have them put in your old frames. This is by far the cheapest way to go. Bifocals and special lenses are more expensive.

Only one person surveyed wore contact lenses. He pays US$ 40 for six pair of disposable lenses. He provides an optical shop with the prescription.

In general then, you might say that lenses are somewhat of a bargain in Thailand but frames can add significantly to the price.