Medical Tourism in 2021

Updated on April 2, 2021
a lady meditating by the water on her vacation

2020 brought a lot of changes to our world. Shopping online is now the norm, temperature scanners can be found at almost all store entryways, and safety and PPE signs can be spotted everywhere you look. Everyone now knows the difference between all the different medical glove types, too. Travel was stopped almost entirely as well, ruining the economies of countries reliant on tourism, and shattering the lives of millions.

Not only was regular travel brought to an almost complete standstill, but medical tourism as well. Prior to 2020, it was not uncommon for Americans and people from other more affluent countries to travel to cheaper countries to have medical procedures performed at less expense. 

More than Just a Holiday

Often the cost of a holiday and the selected medical procedure in another country could be cheaper than getting just the surgery done back home. With the service provided by certified medical professionals, often trained in the US or other Western countries, the pros of medical tourism far outweighed the cons. 

These pros are mostly centered around saving money, but also include getting a “free” holiday in the time surrounding the procedure, getting to travel to another country, enjoying new cuisines and learning about a different culture, and… did we mention saving money? 

Medical Procedures

Popular medical procedures often done in other countries include rhinoplasty, laser eye surgery, dental work, breast augmentation, and facial reconstructive surgery. With the ever-increasing cost of these sorts of procedures, however, the list of options available for medical tourist is almost endless. You may not even be aware of it, but it is highly likely that several people you know have taken trips overseas purely to have some sort of medical or surgical procedure performed on them in the past. 

Medical tourism isn’t always about saving money however, sometimes, such as in the case with South Korea, particular countries are chosen due to the skill of their doctors. As South Korea has a reputation as one of, if not the best countries for plastic surgery, people would often go there to seek out the best doctors to perform their surgery.

a doctor standing in front of a world map

Visas, International Travel, and Regulations

Other countries that are hotspots for medical tourists include: Thailand, Spain, The Philippines, Costa Rica, and India. Many of the clinics in these countries however that were once booming, are now struggling to make ends meet, and have laid off staff or even closed down entirely. With travel restrictions now in place, visa and quarantine issues, and medical testing and insurance expenses, the ease of traveling to get some work done appears to be a thing of the past.

“We’ve seen a huge drop in tourism over the last 12 months,” said Jet who runs a visa agency in Thailand. “While our visa services focus mostly on education visas, we would often arrange these for people who come to Thailand for medical work, and stay for an extended holiday afterwards, but not any longer.” The same story can be heard in any number of countries all around the world. 

While things are slowly opening up, the required paperwork, testing, quarantine rules, and constantly changing regulations can make getting a visa and traveling for medical procedures significantly more difficult than in the past. The pros of medical tourism still outweigh the cons, but by far less than before, and now with fewer options available for people with limited time who want to travel and get some work done without too much rigmarole. 

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