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Top 10 Countries for Medical Tourism and Overseas Healthcare

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Medical procedures are a fact of life.

Whether answering a medical emergency or resolving a more elective desire, many of us know someone – a family member, a friend, a neighbour or work colleague – who’s gone to seek medical care abroad.

The days of Westerners thumbing their noses at the idea of going to a foreign country for medical treatments are over. The soaring costs of medical insurance and the growing recognition of the excellence of medical professionals and healthcare providers outside the United States or the EU, have led to a burgeoning, global, medical tourism market.

Funnily enough, the best countries for medical tourism are probably not the ones you would expect. Emerging countries have created excellent healthcare systems, keeping costs low and providing medical care for a fraction of the price you would pay in most Western nations. 

The decision to seek medical treatment abroad goes hand in hand with Nomad Capitalist’s founding philosophy of going where you are treated best. As you expand your lifestyle and business abroad, health becomes an ever-increasing priority and being able to access quality medical care wherever you find yourself is extremely important.

That means finding destinations that offer the standards of excellence you expect and which can potentially save you major hassle and outlandish medical bills.

Medical tourism is on the rise and dozens of countries around the world, from Asia and South America to Eastern Europe, are cashing in. Agencies are being set up to promote less expensive healthcare costs to potential foreign visitors from developed countries where healthcare prices have exploded. Procedures that could cost six figures in the US or Europe often cost as little as four figures in these countries. At the same time, the best hospitals in these medical tourist hot spots have highly-trained, English-speaking doctors, just like you’d find at home, sometimes even better.

All the while, healthcare costs and challenges continue to rise in high-tax Western countries.

So, where are the best countries to access that expensive surgery, routine check-up or even that plastic surgery makeover you’ve been promising yourself?

To be honest, there are so many potential countries that it’s hard to narrow it down to ten. But here at Nomad Capitalist, we aim to please, so, in no particular order, let’s find out which medical havens made the grade.

10. Brazil

Conclusion Brazil Digital Nomad Visa

Owing to its image-conscious culture, Brazil has become the de facto global capital for plastic surgery medical tourism. While Mexico is the best-known country in the Americas for foreigners seeking care, Brazil stands out as one of the most medically advanced places in the region.

Looking good and feeling sexy is a priority in Brazil – almost to an extreme – so it’s no wonder the country is home to more cosmetic surgeons than anywhere else on the planet. Plastic surgery there is carried out in a hospital, not an office and doctors are highly trained.

In the past, medical tourism in Brazil was largely relegated to elective procedures. However, in 1971, the country built the first Joint Commission International (JCI)-accredited hospital in the world outside of the United States – Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in Sao Paolo – and now has more than 70 JCI-accredited hospitals.

Brazil might be renowned for the aptly named Brazilian butt lift but, beyond that, the country excels when it comes to orthopaedic surgeries, cardiovascular treatments and dental work. Plastic surgery costs as much as 60% less than in Western countries and surgeons can handle just about any procedure you can dream up. There are even veterinarians offering cosmetic surgeries on pets.

Brazil is home to perhaps some of the world’s most renowned plastic surgeons, like the late Ivo Pitanguy. Prices for top doctors can be as high as those in the US, so make sure to shop the lesser-known clinics if you want to save money. As ever, though, don’t sacrifice quality or personal safety to save a buck.

9. Mexico

Safest Cities in Mexico 2023 Cozumel

All major cities in Mexico have good-quality hospitals and the country’s proximity to the United States, plus the extensive crossover in medical training between the two countries, means standards for care are often equivalent to what you would expect ‘back home’ but with far less expense.

One specific area of focus for Mexico is dentistry. Any traveller along the US–Mexico border will spot the numerous dental practices that flank the roads south of the frontier. Prospective dental tourists all travel in one direction in this part of the world and countless patients are being admitted each year.

It’s advisable for expats looking for quality healthcare to take out private insurance. It’s also worth bearing in mind that many of the healthcare services in Mexico are government-run so, if you need to use them, you may incur a small fee. 

All the medical technologies, prescriptions and operations you would expect to be available in the United States are available in Mexico at a fraction of the cost. 

8. Panama

Panama is a top location not only for retirement or second residence but also for medical tourism.

Its private hospitals offer excellent medical care and are sometimes affiliated with major hospitals in North America that you may already be familiar with. International travellers can get insurance plans for a reasonable monthly rate that includes coverage for Panama and elsewhere.

The medical staff here is mainly English-speaking and Panama is a well-connected and well-developed country. It also boasts one of the world’s freest economies and almost anyone can visit here visa-free for 180 days each year.

Like Mexico, Panama is home to numerous, fully qualified dentists who offer significant savings on procedures such as dental implants that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the US.

7. Costa Rica

Like Panama and Mexico, Costa Rica is one of the region’s most developed and expat-friendly countries. The nation is one of the safest and most popular destinations for retirement, uses the US dollar and offers excellent choices for medical tourists.

Most people choose to make the most of both public and private options in this country to access the healthcare they need. Costs for major operations or visits to the doctor are often a quarter of the price they would be in the US.

Costa Rica’s medical tourism sector welcomes 70,000 visitors to the country each year. Many of those health-conscious tourists travelled to this Central American nation seeking affordable dental care. The dental tourism niche is booming in Costa Rica. Expect to pay in the region of US$800 for a titanium replacement tooth implant, which would cost a minimum of US$5,000 in the US or Canada.

Even with plane tickets and accommodation, that’s still a bargain. If you’re interested, Costa Rica is also among the best countries with a territorial tax system.

6. Czech Republic

the czech republic

The Czech Republic is an excellent healthcare option in the heart of the European Union. It offers many of the high-level services you’d expect but at a much better value than its counterparts in the Western part of the continent.

Prague is considered a haven for retirees and entrepreneurs alike, but it’s also developing a burgeoning reputation for offering top-quality medical services like teeth whitening, fertility treatments and cosmetic surgeries.

Brits can save up to 60% compared to the UK on cosmetic surgeries. Examples include:

  • A breast enlargement procedure with silicone implants for GBP£2,300, which includes one to two nights in a clinic in Prague
  • Nose reshaping for around GBP£2,400, which includes one night in the clinic.

Prague is one of our best-value European cities for living and the Czech Republic is generally a low-tax European base. Even if you’re visiting purely for medical reasons, this country has much to offer and is worth considering for other business or lifestyle opportunities.

5. Turkey

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Turkey, a country at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, has a growing medical tourism sector that is also worth considering. World-class health treatment centres, spas, dentists, and cosmetic surgeons are readily available there.

The country is particularly is well-known for its eye health specialists who operate in a sector where the most expensive ocular procedure costs around US$3,000 – significant mark-down on most Western costs. As this country grows economically and focuses on its relationship with the EU, keep a close – ahem – eye on the medical tourism industry.

We’ve previously discussed Turkey as an interesting option, particularly for investors from the Middle East and elsewhere who want a middle ground and base in the region that is increasingly pro-business and offers excellent connectivity to the rest of the world via Istanbul.

If you’re interested, check out our Turkish citizenship by investment article.

4. India

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India has become a top health tourism destination for high-end surgeries at inexpensive prices. India specialises in inexpensive bypass surgeries and other top-level medical procedures for medical tourists. Stories of Westerners travelling to India and saving 75% over home country costs for major procedures – travel costs included – are not uncommon.

The country is estimated to have a US$9 billion medical tourism industry serving overseas patients, thanks to its two million visiting patients. Meanwhile, the Indian government is easing restrictions on citizens of multiple countries, making it easier for them to travel to India visa-free and with fewer restrictions. US citizens need a visa to enter the country and that will cost around US$100.

Widely known for its advanced medical services and equipment, the medical service’s doctors tend to be highly trained due to large medical tourism cities like Chennai and Noida filling half their hospital beds with foreign patients. The language barrier is less of an issue for English speakers here and Indian hospitals often bring in translators for non-English speaking foreigners.

Healthcare costs in India can run as low as one-tenth of those in the US or Britain so, perhaps unsurprisingly, popular treatments here include bone marrow transplants, eye surgery, hip grafting and replacement.

India is also a top destination for cardiac bypass surgery at facilities like the Asian Heart Institute, where the procedure can cost less than US$10,000 compared to more than US$100,000 in the West.

3. Thailand

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Thailand has long been one of the best medical tourism destinations in the world, with low healthcare costs and excellent service for expats. In fact, Thailand is so popular in this industry, that medical tourism is growing by more than 20% a year. Bangkok is home to Bumrungrad Hospital, where Nomad Capitalist’s founder, Andrew Henderson, recently went for a total health check-up at very little cost.

The hospital was modelled after the famed Mayo Clinic in the United States and its electronic medical record service impressed Microsoft so much that the tech giant bought the entire project.

There is no denying that Thailand’s medical system is prized for offering a wide range of surgeries and other procedures at affordable prices. Many doctors here have been trained in Western countries or Singapore and speak excellent English, as do the nurses.

When the baht crashed in the ’90s, Thailand used the currency crisis to rethink many of its strategies and, as a result, opted to try to attract medical tourists from around Asia, mainly for cosmetic surgeries.

It was a superb investment of time, effort and vision.

Today, Thailand is a haven for inexpensive plastic surgery and non-elective procedures. A facelift that might cost between US$20,000 and US$80,000 in ‘The Land of the Free’ might cost around US$6,000 in Thailand. Meanwhile, heart-valve replacement surgery can cost around US$25,000, an 80% discount over US prices.

Experts recommend sticking to Bangkok rather than the coastal resort towns for access to the best doctors and care.

2. Singapore

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Though expensive, Singapore has one of the most sophisticated hospital systems in the world. The country’s status as one of the world’s freest economies and a highly developed nation has made it a medical tourism hub for years for both Asians and Westerners.

Cancer treatment is a top specialty here, especially at the globally renowned Gleneagles Hospital. But, while that particular facility is justifiably ranked among the world’s top medical destinations, many other local hospitals also offer excellent care.

The World Health Organisation ranks Singapore as the best healthcare system in Asia. While some observers claim that Singapore’s efficient, somewhat socialist healthcare system is a model for the rest of the world, personal responsibility is a key driver that keeps healthcare costs here reasonably low.

Be advised that you will pay more here than in places like Thailand, but the quality of life in Singapore is second to none. One US-based grocery chain had a policy of paying the entire hospital bill, including travel costs for two, for any employees who got hip and knee replacements in Singapore.

If you’re looking for the most developed country in the world with the least expensive surgery, Singapore should easily fit the bill. But again, be warned – recent stories of increasing costs and rising healthcare standards in other countries are causing medical tourism to shift to other parts of Asia.

1. Malaysia

Malaysia Passport

Malaysia hosts well over half a million medical tourists, mainly from Asia, each year due to the country’s developed infrastructure and low costs.

Malaysia has built medical facilities that rival Singapore and offer much lower prices. At the same time, the country has set up agencies to attract hundreds of thousands of medical tourists for procedures for anything from burns to heart conditions.

The general consensus is that, as Singapore gets more expensive, Kuala Lumpur is picking up the slack. Its prices are competitive and its facilities and services are on a par with all of its regional rivals. English is more widely spoken in Malaysia than in say, Thailand, and the infrastructure is better than in countries like India.

Like other Asian countries, Malaysia first saw medical tourism as a way to diversify its economy during the Asian financial crisis. Prince Court Medical Centre, where Nomad Capitalist’s founder, Andrew Henderson, saved around US$2,000 when he got sick in Kuala Lumpur, was ranked the number one hospital for ‘patients without borders’ by the Medical Travel Quality Alliance.

Malaysian hospitals offer services such as in vitro fertilisation at around one-fifth the price of Western facilities. They also provide sophisticated treatment for burns victims as well as total physicals, including blood work for a few hundred dollars, which compares to a price of several thousand dollars in the US.

Medical Tourism for Inexpensive Healthcare  

If you’re looking for top-quality healthcare, our top 10 countries can point you in the right direction and are excellent alternatives to the often overly expensive and unsatisfactory options available in the West. 

In addition to our list, other countries are also marketing themselves as destination choices for foreign patients and medical tourists. In recent years, Jordan has seen millions of patients cross its borders and has received a top-five ranking for medical tourism from the World Bank, while Colombia is also fast rising as a medical tourism hub. 

With so many worldwide choices, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Western doctors, dentists and hospitals to justify the exorbitant prices they charge for health care.

Still, the question remains – would you go overseas for inexpensive health care?

So, if you’re wondering what the right choice is for you, let us help you make the right choice. Our team at Nomad Capitalist helps high-net-worth individuals find the place where they’re treated best. No matter what you seek – financial independence, personal growth, or medical care – reach out to our team today and get started on your journey to where you’re treated best.

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