Medical tourism is becoming increasingly popular. Countries in Europe, Asia, and South-America offer medical care to people from other countries. The reasons? The high cost of healthcare in some countries, the long waiting times, and the easy and price of international travel.
But medical tourism is also people who go back to their home country for treatments or tourists that need medical assistance while traveling.
According to Patients Beyond Borders, nearly 8 million people from all over the world look for treatment elsewhere.
The most common procedures that are performed are cosmetic surgery, dentistry, orthopedics, reproductive, weight loss, and cancer. But also scans, tests and second opinions are often done in other countries.
I asked some fellow travel bloggers to share their experiences.
Todd from Over Yonda Adventures had a vasectomy in Thailand
I couldn’t believe how cold the surgery room was.. I had on a thin surgery gown, not that it did much anyway as it was hiked up around my waist laying bare my privates for the small crowd of nurses and surgeons to see. The only thought I could focus on was that the effects of the cold breeze from the air conditioning blowing across my nether regions was probably not giving them much to work with but plenty to laugh about. I had flown to Thailand from Australia specifically for a vasectomy. It was cheap and I had been able to book in the day before. Back home in Australia, no doctor would do the vasectomy for me. Mainly because I had no children and was in my mid 30’s. I had no desire to have children nor did my wife and together we had decided that a vasectomy was the best option for us.
10 minutes later and the surgeon was wiggling two tiny pieces of what looked like spaghetti at me. The surgery was done. The nurses had been kind, even though I felt they had giggled just a little too much, and the doctor was efficient and swift in the cold way that doctors always are.
20 minutes after walking into the hospital and I was walking out again. No tenderness, no limping and no tears. Just two days later and I was bouncing around horribly on a jet ski. That’s how good my surgery was.
Angelo from World Trip Diaries had Lasik eye surgery in Brazil
We went from New Zealand to Brazil for 3 reasons: to visit friends and family, to eat our way out, and to have my husband’s Lasik eye surgery done.
He’d never liked to wear contacts or glasses, and he couldn’t see without them, so when he had the chance, he jumped for it.
The cost of both eyes in Brazil was still smaller than of one eye in New Zealand. It was cheaper even buying the plane tickets for the whole family (it was 2 adults and 4 kids then). We headed straight to a reputable private eye clinic, had his tests done, and proceeded to surgery all in less than a week. Angelo really liked the treatment, the efficiency, and the results.
He should, ideally, have his eyes tested every year but since we don’t often go to Brazil, he’s never done it. He’s been free of eye problems for the last 3 years and everything was so smooth that he always says he’d do it again in a blink if needed.
Most doctors in Brazil speak English, so it should be easy to find one you like.
Kate from Our Escape Clause had a dental cleaning in Guatemala
Our first experience with medical tourism was very mild, and very interesting–exactly what you hope for when first dipping your feet outside your comfort zone!
“While in Guatemala last year, my husband and I got our teeth cleaned by a dentist in Antigua. We had heard that Guatemala was an excellent place to have dental work done for cheap and based on our experience, that’s absolutely true!
After almost a year of long-term travel, we looked up one day and realized that it had been a year since we had our teeth cleaned, and since we typically try to have them done once every six months, we knew it was time to have it done.
Our experience in Guatemala was excellent: true, the dental chairs and lamps were a bit more worn than we were used to seeing and the waiting room didn’t have air conditioning, but the treatment itself was smooth, professional, and (language barrier aside) exactly what we were used to back home in the USA.
Signing up for our appointments was a breeze (we added our names to a list one afternoon and were told to be back the next day at four), as was paying for it: $23 USD each was not bad for a dental cleaning!
Overall, we had a great experience and would definitely consider getting our teeth cleaned in Guatemala again.”
Last Kodiak had an accident while traveling in American Samoa
I was in American Samoa when the unthinkable happened. I got hit by a bus! The oversized jeepney won the epic battle and my calf was ripped open. There I was on the street in Pago Pago cut up.
What I was about to learn about is what is considered the best medical care in the South Pacific and the worst in the United States. I had to go under the knife at LBJ Medical Center in American Samoa.
Thirty minutes later, a long string to sew me up, and a dozen staples later, I was out the door in a wheelchair and given some crutches for the rest of the month to recover.
All in all, I lived through it. It was not the best care I have ever received but my legs do work so I can’t complain too much. I must say I would have much rather got treatment in Hawaii.
Talek from Travels with Talek needed urgent dental treatment as an expat in Mexico
I was an expat in Mexico City for four years. One night I bit into an ice cream bar while I watched TV and felt a slight twinge in a molar. The twinge turned into a pain that wouldn’t go away. As the pain intensified I came to the realization that I was actually going to have to deal with this but I had no idea how. Where do you get a dentist in the middle of the night in Mexico City?
I tried calling an all-night dentist but got no answer. As the pain intensified I decided to get to a hospital emergency room. While looking for a taxi I saw the only money I had on me was about two dollars’ worth of Mexican currency. At this point, I was becoming desperate and couldn’t imagine making it to a bank. I stopped a taxi and asked the driver to take me to a hospital emergency ward knowing I had no money to pay him. He kept asking which hospital I wanted to go to and I just wailed in pain hoping he’d just take me to any hospital. We arrived at a local hospital and I told him I didn’t have any money but I gave him my address and told him to come look for me.
In the hospital, they were highly efficient and professional. A dentist gave me an injection that relieved my pain immediately. This lasted long enough for me to get back to the United States and get a root canal from my regular dentist.
The lesson learned from this is to have a plan in place to address medical emergencies so you do not get caught off guard.
Dental Treatment in Russia, South Korea, Japan and Thailand (A Social Nomad)
My husband, Nigel’s, requirement for dental treatment started in Ekaterinburg, Russia, when the pain of an abscess forced him to a non-English speaking dentist. Antibiotics, a lancing and an x-ray with telephone support from another dentist who did speak English got us on our pre-booked Trans-Siberian train. Antibiotics were also acquired in South Korea and then Japan, mainly with sign language and a great deal of kindness.
The problem with tourist visas and a relatively tight schedule are that stopping for several days for treatment means you run the risk of overstaying your welcome!
It was Bangkok in Thailand before we had enough time to breathe and seek long-term treatment. An extraction of the offending molar, followed by repeat visits over the next 12 months gave him implant and then a crown on top. All provided with superb service, at a reasonable price in great surroundings.
We’ve returned to the clinic in Bangkok several times since, for cleanings and check-ups. Dental tourism in Thailand is big, especially for the Australian Market – and now, of course, us too.
Danni from Cathy traveling needed medical treatment after an accident before going on a holiday
Two days before flying out to Italy I found myself sitting in emergency begging doctors to fix my hand thanks to an unfortunate accident with hot candle wax. I was advised that if I kept the hand completely dry (easy) and change the bandages every 2 days (not so easy) I would be ok to travel. Changing the dressing was a painful process and one my partner found very distressing.
We found many helpful chemists throughout our travels who would take me to their back room and gently change the dressing. Luckily Italian is my second language.
By the time we got to Sardinia on day 11 the blister was looking quite nasty and we were advised to see a Plastic Surgeon in Sassari. My father’s family originated from Sardinia and my surname was well known so I was tended to quickly. Anyway, If I wasn’t in so much pain I would have been laughing.
The nurses with full makeup all looked like they’d had plenty of work done and I couldn’t see any facial expressions. While the very good looking plastic surgeon was tending to my hand the nurse was sitting on the hospital bed scrolling through her phone – Instagram perhaps? Was I part of a comedy skit? On our last day in Sardinia, we found a “Guarda Medica per Touristi” (a medical center for tourists) in a lovely little town called Pula.
Our next stop was Amalfi and we decided to visit a “Pronto Soccorso” (Emergency Room) in Salerno. It was a very rundown building and it felt like we were walking through an asylum with people walking down the corridors in full scrubs. The 2 nurses were trying to tell me they couldn’t help me and that I had to do it myself and using my best Italian and a quivery voice I had to beg them to help. I was very fortunate that I spoke the language and that the only out of pocket expenses was the dressings and 16 euros at the medical center for tourists. I missed out on swimming in the beautiful waters of Sardinia but the trip was spectacular nonetheless.
From another point of view: Ana from Merry-go-round Slowly worked at a plastic surgery clinic in Lithuania
Let me give you an opinion of medical tourism from the other side. For a couple of years, I used to work in a plastic surgery clinic in Lithuania, which was receiving patients from abroad. Many would come from Scandinavia and the main reason was, of course, a rather big difference in prices between our countries. To put it simply, the patients were coming to us to save money.
However, cheaper, in this case, does not mean worse quality. To the constant surprise of our patients, they realized that the treatment they received is usually of the better quality then they would have received at home. It was especially obvious if the surgery they had here was not the first one, and they had a chance to compare the healing process, the scars and the general communication with their surgeon.
So, if you are planning a surgery, I would definitely recommend checking some clinics abroad. You must do a bit of research on the qualifications of the surgeons and make sure you will be able to communicate fluently with either the surgeon directly or with the personnel of the clinic. But if your planned surgery is not complicated, but a routine one, traveling abroad can be a great way to get a good quality one, and a little trip in addition to it.
Did you have a medical treatment in another country?