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Medical tourism is booming, and people from all around the world have become accustomed to traveling overseas for medical care in another country. Around 8 million patients each year.

Much of the time it comes down to procedures being substantially cheaper overseas, or not being able to find the right treatment at home. And traveling to another country for treatment often means being able to avoid long waiting lists for elective procedures. Though some medical tourists are immigrants who return to their home country for care, and others travel simply so they can avoid questions from family and friends (having the people of Thailand see the bandages from your nose job isn’t quite as bad as walking down the street at home).

Whatever your reason for seeking medical procedures overseas, reports suggest this industry is bringing in between $20 billion and $40 billion per year. As such, many countries fiercely compete to offer high-quality health care at a good price.

The following destinations are leaders within the industry of medical tourism, and we have included information about the procedures they are most popular for. Just remember the golden rule: thoroughly research the clinic and the location before you go!

The Most Popular Destinations For Medical Tourism

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Thailand

Thailand is one of the world’s leading destinations for medical tourism, with the majority of procedures here costing 50% to 70% less than the same treatment in the western world. With over 1,000 public and private hospitals, it is reported that more than 1.4 million medical tourists are treated in Thai hospitals and clinics each year. MEDIGO curated clinics in Thailand are good way to ease the research and clear up the large amount of offers in the country.

Many people travel to Thailand for plastic and cosmetic surgery, and the country has earned a strong reputation as a leader in the field of gender reassignment, as well as burns and heart conditions.

Medical infrastructure in hospitals geared to foreigners is excellent, and the majority of the country’s doctors have been educated in either the western world or Singapore meaning they speak fluent English.

Mexico

Hospitals and clinics throughout Mexico treat more than 1 million foreign patients a year, most of whom are Hispanics from California, Arizona and Texas returning home for medical care.

Though there are a large number of Americans and Canadians who take advantage of the healthcare in Mexico too, with popular procedures including cheap dental implants and weight-loss surgery.

Dentist doctor

India

Offering inexpensive high-difficulty surgeries, India has become an incredibly popular destination for medical tourism, and the market is said to bring in upwards of $4 billion per year in India alone.

The country is known for eye, spine and heart bypass surgeries, and while a number of patients are coming from surrounding countries that offer far less developed health care, western tourists end up saving over 75 – 90%. Other “popular treatments in India include those for fertility, orthopedic, cardiac and oncology problems and organ transplants. According to the Medical Tourism Resource Guide, a heart valve is worth about $15,000, versus $150,000 in the U.S.”

Healthcare in India has become much more accessible since the Indian government implemented visa-free travel for countries like the United States, and a definite perk in traveling to India is that almost everyone with a higher education speaks English.

Doctor surgery

Malaysia

Malaysia has been described as one of medical tourism’s best-kept secrets, “with fluent English spoken everywhere and cost-savings comparable to India, in less culturally jarring settings.”

Around half a million medical tourists travel to Malaysia every year, with most of them coming from Asian countries, as well as the UK, Australia, and the Middle East.

The medical infrastructure and facilities here are highly developed, and healthcare costs are low. Malaysian hospitals are renowned for in-vitro fertilization, oncology, general surgery, and their sophisticated treatment for burns victims. Physicals and blood work are substantially cheaper here than most western nations.

The Most Popular Destinations For Medical Tourism

Brazil

Medical tourism in Brazil is all about the cheap plastic surgery. There are more professional cosmetic-surgeons here than in any other country in the world, and hospitals are capable of handling just about any kind of surgical procedure that you can possibly imagine. There’s even plastic surgery available for your pet!

English is widely spoken, and most of the major hospitals have translators to help break the language barrier for non-English speaking patients. The most famous clinic is Ivo Pitanguy Clinic in Rio de Janeiro, which has performed more cosmetic surgeries than any other place in the world.

Turkey

Turkey is a popular destination among tourists generally, and many European and American-trained doctors have taken up residence here, appealing to medical tourists from these regions. It has the most American-accredited hospitals of any other country, and with affordable healthcare, it is estimated that 32% of Turkey’s patients are medical tourists.

Patients travel for cardiac, cancer and orthopedic care, and the country has a reputation for being one of the best places in the world for eye treatments.

Laser surgery in particular is quite affordable here, costing approximately $1,100 for both eyes. The Dünyagöz Hospitals Group is a popular choice among foreign patients traveling to Turkey for eye-care.

Eye surgery

Singapore

Singapore has a global reputation for high-quality health care, especially when it comes to cancer treatments, and hospitals and clinics are beginning to partner with the government and tour operators in an attempt to promote medical tourism to wealthy foreigners looking to save money.

Procedures in Singapore are cheap, and the island is notoriously spotless and well organized. Patients gravitate here for general surgery and medicine, as well as cardiology, oncology and organ transplants, and English is an official language which helps.

Gleneagles Hospital was recently ranked as one of the world’s top-10 hospitals for medical tourism by the Medical Travel Quality Alliance, and according to the World Health Organization, Singapore is the best country in Asia (and the sixth best in the world) when it comes to health care.

United States

A huge number of American citizens travel overseas to escape the high cost of treatments here, however despite the expense, the US is a popular destination among foreigners who do not have access to the same level of technology or surgical expertise in their home country.

The US is home to some of the world’s top medical specialists, and the country is known for world-class care for the hardest-to-treat cases. Popular clinics among international patients include the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Laser eye surgery by Focus Clinic.

    38 Comments

  1. Interesting post! I knew that Thailand and Mexico were popular but some of these others are surprising – especially the US. We may have good technology but treatment here is out of control expensive! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Sally! I was surprised too when I read that the US was up there in medical tourism – I guess though for those who have the cash, the US has some of the best doctors and technologies in the world :)

  2. I didn’t know medical tourism was a thing. If I had known how cheap lasik is in Turkey, I would’ve flown there and got it done there. The flight + LASIK would’ve still been cheaper than me getting it done in the States!

    • Becoming a huge thing! And you’re right – half the time it’s cheaper to fly halfway across the world and have the surgery than it would be to have it done in your home country. Free holiday!

  3. You have to be very careful with medical tourism. It is great until something goes wrong! If you are back in your home country, you cannot go back to put things right. There are some ethical issues in places like India as well, for example birth surrogacy and kidney donations.

    • Absolutely Marie – best to research the clinic you’re considering thoroughly before you go through with anything. But that’s the same advice I would give for heading in for a surgery in your home country too.

      The nice thing is that you have companies like MEGIGO who list accredited clinics on one website which makes research a lot easier. But there are many, many reputable hospitals and clinics overseas which are up there with some of the best in the world. Just need to make sure you put some time into proper research so it’s all legit :)

  4. I saw so many signs for surgeries in Barbados this weekend. All i could think was that I hope I didn’t have ANY injuries that required medical care. Eek. I am way too chicken to try any of these procedures abroad, especially something elective. Really interesting to see people go to India for fertility treatments though. I did not know this. Very good to know!!

    • A lot of the time the hospitals and clinics abroad are just as good if not to a higher standard to the health care we have at home :) A lot of people have traveled overseas and been surprised by the high quality of organization and care :)

  5. This is a really interesting post and I was surprised by some of the destinations. It reminds me how lucky we are here in the UK to have the good old NHS free at the point of delivery. Long may it last.

    • We have very good care here in Australia too, though I can definitely see the reasoning behind traveling overseas to jump the queue for elective procedures :)

  6. This was such a great read. I have always heard about people traveling to receive medical treatment. It’s sad that people have to travel outside of their home country to receive treatment, but am thankful that there are alternatives. I’ve always heard that Thailand and Brazil were popular for plastic surgery. Getting treatment in Malaysia was quite a surprise since it’s the first time I’ve heard this country being mentioned :)

    • So glad you enjoyed the post :) It’s definitely an industry which is starting to take off – sad for sure in the sense that people are traveling because they can’t access affordable healthcare in many countries around the world.

      That being said, why not combine a surgery with being able to recover on the beaches of Thailand :D!

  7. This is so interesting and good to know. I have heard of friends and family who got breast implants, teeth whitening and other plastic surgery done in Thailand. I also considered getting my teeth whitened in Bali until I found out that you have to give up coffee for a month after!!! I once had a check up and cleaning done in Brazil for free by a friend of a friend dentist but it wasn’t the most hygienic surgery in the world ha h. Thanks for sharing!

    • Haha I’ve never been a big coffee drinker for some reason, but that’s good to know! And I think it’s a case of there are always going to be good and bad clinics in every part of the world – just have to do our research to make sure we’re heading into one which has a good reputation for hygiene :D!

  8. I find it fascinating how medicine in different countries can be so different but all solve the problem. I am Chinese and there are a lot of medical practices or treatments that I find really effective. At the same time, some medicine in the US are just quick and easy to solve the problem as well.

    • Absolutely JoJo – it’s definitely interesting to see how different methods of medicine are used throughout the world to cure similar problems. Nice to know we have options too in case one method of treatment doesn’t work :)

  9. This is a really interesting post. Eastern European countries are popular among Irish people for dental work. It’s amazing the difference in price.

    • Thanks Marteen – crazy how every country seems to have a go to in terms of medical work. Usually seems to come down to the close proximity of the countries which offer cheaper medical … for us in Aus Asia is the go-to :)

  10. As a doctor/travel blogger, I found this article fascinating Meg but particularly surprised to find the US there too, for similar reasons to other readers have commented on! Had no idea Mexico was also renowned for medical tourism.

    • I was really surprised by the US at first too! Almost doesn’t fit the theme of the rest of the blog because the healthcare is so expensive there, but I guess it does have some of the leading doctors and specialists in the world which is the big draw for those who can afford it :)

  11. This is really interested. I have known that people travel to other countries for specific surgeries and treatments, but I’ve never heard it called medical tourism. I know a friend of mine went to Mexico for cancer treatments, but I doubt she would’ve called it medical tourism. Interesting idea…

    • Glad you liked the post Paige! I’ve only started hearing about medical tourism as an official term over the last few years – I guess it’s the act of combining medicine with travel, so why not give it an official name :D!

  12. I didn’t know so many people went to Thailand for medical tourism. I’m glad transgender people can go for gender reassignment. Thailand is so beautiful and the people are so friendly.

    • Thailand is one of the best countries in the world for gender reassignment – and the nice thing is there’s not as big of a stigma here as there is in other countries, so it’s a much friendlier and safer environment than most when it comes to this kind of operation.

  13. This comes as a breath of fresh air, by which I mean a different subject and an important one at that. Medical tourism is growing like never before and being in Bangalore, India, I can vouch for this as we see quite a large number of people from across the world flocking to some of the better known hospitals for treatment.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience on seeing medical tourism grow in India Voyager. I think it’s only going to continue to grow :)

  14. Interesting post! As a medical professional, I highly recommend everyone to do research before doing any type of procedure especially overseas just because I’ve heard horror stories about procedures going really wrong and people ended up getting sepsis. Thanks for sharing Megan!

    • Thanks Janna! Yes, absolutely, research is the most important thing to do before committing to a medical procedure overseas. It’s surprising how many people are willing to stake their health without completing thorough research first, but there are many fantastic hospitals overseas of very high standards for those who are willing to put in the time to find them :)

  15. I dont now if i would go to any of listed medical destinations, In Central Europe is also popular Slovenia and Croatia with modern clinics and top doctors, i would be more trusting to those two than Brasil or Turkey.

    • Each of the countries listed is like anywhere else in the world – there are great hospitals, and then there are bad ones. It’s just a matter of doing your research to make sure you’re getting a high quality standard of care :)

  16. Recently, I have been writing articles on Mexico and I read it is quite popular. Thailand too.

    I also read somewhere that South Korea is very famous for its plastic surgeries. Lately, however, there have been many fake doctors who ruined the faces of young ladies… Ouch.

    I loved reading this article and shared it. Thanks, Megan!

    • Ouch – sorry to hear that there are fake doctors popping up onto the scene Sven. Just highlights the importance of completing thorough research before you commit to anything.

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge :)

  17. Great

  18. India is booming rapidly in the medical tourism industry. People from across the world coming to India for affordable and best medical treatments that are costly in their countries. With the growing demand of tourists coming for medical tourism in India, many top hospitals are offering cost-effective treatments with world-class facilities to take care of the needs of their patients.

    • Absolutely Mariya, India really is coming out in front as a leading medical tourism destination. Especially in the Asian Pacific region :)

  19. Thanks for sharing nice information about medical Tourism. Through medical tourism, a patient gets high-quality medical treatment and also enjoying a new part of the world in recovery time. Last year one of my friends took cosmetic service in Mexico for medical treatment.
     

    • You’re welcome Adam, I’m glad you enjoyed the post – and that your friend had a successful and happy experience in Mexico. Mexico is a great place for medical tourism :)

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