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Cosmetic tourism is on the rise. Every year, increasing numbers of Americans venture abroad to combine a nip/tuck with a vacation. Plastic surgery is often far cheaper abroad than it is in the US, allowing patients to get amazing results for a fraction of the cost. There’s a lot to think about when it comes to cosmetic tourism, not least where you’re going to have your procedure(s) done. That’s why I’ve put together this list of the 10 best cosmetic tourism destinations outside of the US.
I’ve paid close attention to each country’s regulations and standards but remember that a lack of regulations doesn’t mean you can’t find good care. For example, Thailand doesn’t have strict rules around surgery but it’s still home to some of the best doctors in the world. Conversely, the US has very high safety standards but bad apples still exist. The most important thing is that you do lots of research into your clinic and surgeon of choice.
Yup, the surgeon is definitely more important than the destination… but you’ve still got to go somewhere, and heading abroad can save you thousands. So without any further ado, here’s a list of the best places for cosmetic work outside of the US.
Thailand is no stranger to cosmetic tourism. In fact, you can actually book packages that include sightseeing tours alongside your surgery. Your dollar goes a lot further in Thailand – it’s possible to have excellent cosmetic work done for a fraction of what you’d pay in the USA. Many of the best doctors are certified by the American Medical Association or the European Association of Plastic Surgeons, so choose one who meets this criteria.
Bangkok is the cosmetic – and literal – capital of Thailand. Many of the best clinics and hospitals are here. It’s not as scenic as the rest of the country but the quality of care is what really matters. You can island hop after you’ve recovered!
However, if you really do want to feel as though you’re on vacation, Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai are also popular Thai cosmetic tourism destinations.
Best for: Thailand’s an all-rounder
Cosmetic surgery and a charming city break all in one? What’s not to like?
The Czech capital, Prague, is easily one of the coolest European cities, with an effortless, old-world style. However, it’s also one of Europe’s most popular cosmetic tourism destinations thanks to its affordability and high standard of care.
Cosmetic surgery regulations are reassuringly strict in the Czech Republic. In order to qualify, plastic surgeons require a medical degree, eight years of experience and a licence from the Czech Medical Chamber. The state closely monitors cosmetic surgery and tightly regulates clinics. At the same time, procedures are still around 50% cheaper here than in the US. It’s the best of both worlds.
Best for: safety regulations
Brazil is one of the most popular cosmetic tourism destinations in the world. It’s particularly well-known for butt lifts and body reshaping, but of course, you can get anything done here.
Sadly, part of the reason for the lower cost is down to a lack of regulation. It’s really important to do your research because you can’t automatically trust that surgeons are being held accountable. Look for a doctor who’s a registered member of the Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery. In order to get accredited, surgeons must obtain a medical degree, complete a three year residency, spend two years training in plastic surgery and pass an exam.
Best for: body reshaping
Turkey is one of Europe’s most popular – and affordable – cosmetic tourism destinations. It’s the world leader in hair transplants, performing 30% of procedures worldwide. Bariatric surgery (stomach stapling) is also very popular here.
It’s always important to exercise caution when selecting a clinic and surgeon, but Turkey has really upped its safety standards in recent years. In order to become a plastic surgeon, medical graduates have to undergo a 6.5 year residency and become a member of the Turkish Society of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery before they can begin practicing.
Best for: hair transplants and weight loss surgery
Malaysia’s a very up-and-coming cosmetic tourism destination, and it’s definitely worth paying attention. So what is it about Malaysia that’s so appealing?
For one thing, accommodation in Malaysia is very affordable. You can recover from your surgery in five star luxury digs and still save thousands of dollars. In fact, the only thing I’d say is expensive in Malaysia is alcohol, which you can’t have after surgery anyway.
English is more widely spoken in Malaysia than in Thailand, which is arguably Asia’s most popular cosmetic tourism destination. This makes travel easier in general and reduces the risk of any miscommunication with medical staff.
There’s a great choice of incredible surgeons here, including many expat and Malaysian doctors who earned their medical licences in the USA, UK or Australia.
In recent years, Malaysia has actually won awards for its cosmetic tourism industry. At the end of 2019, the International Medical Travel Journey named it the Medical Tourism Destination of the Year.
Best for: world-class clinics
Mexico is without a doubt one of the best cosmetic tourism destinations for US citizens. Surgery is up to 70% cheaper this side of the border, and it’s a relatively short and inexpensive flight to reach those sandy shores.
Liposuction in the US averages at around $6,000 but you can expect to pay about ⅓ of this at an internationally accredited clinic in Mexico. Hola!
Mexico ranks fifth worldwide for medical tourism. You can find many well-qualified surgeons here with years of experience. Despite popular misconceptions, Mexico has a good healthcare system and there are many excellent private hospitals to choose from.
Best for: liposuction
Another South American favorite, Costa Rica has the best health system in Latin America according to the World Health Organization. It’s growing in popularity as a cosmetic tourism destination, especially for those seeking breast augmentation and liposuction. There are plenty of excellent surgeons here, but check that yours is registered with the Costa Rican Association of Plastic Surgeons before handing over your hard-earned cash.
Best for: breast augmentation
South Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world, with the highest rate of surgery per capita. 1 in 3 Korean women in their 20s have had cosmetic work and it’s not uncommon for highschoolers to go under the knife. Parents sometimes encourage their kids to work harder by promising surgical procedures in exchange for good grades.
The majority of cosmetic work in South Korea focuses on the face. Skin whitening, nose jobs, double eyelid surgery and jaw shaving are among the most popular procedures.
South Korea is the only country on this list where cosmetic work isn’t any cheaper than in the United States – in fact, it can actually be more expensive. So why would you head to Korea?
For one thing, Korea is a developed country with one of the best healthcare systems in the world. The fact that cosmetic work is so commonplace in Korean society is also pretty reassuring; the country is a world-leader when it comes to plastic surgery. Instead of going to see a top-notch L.A. doctor, you could head to Korea for first-class treatment and the trip of a lifetime.
Best for: facial surgery
India’s medical tourism industry is booming thanks to the low cost of cosmetic surgery. Breast implants, for example, are around 80% cheaper in India than they are in the USA, so you can save some serious money.
India was originally popular for reconstructive surgery, i.e. correcting birth defects and injuries. However, over the years the extraordinarily low price of surgery made India into one of the world’s most popular cosmetic tourism destinations.
Best for: low cost surgery
Last but not least we have Panama, which is a pretty up-and-coming cosmetic tourism destination. You’ll save at least 50% on your surgery here. A face lift, for example, costs $7,500-$12,000 in the USA, but in Panama you’d pay between $2,500-$5,500. Many of the surgeons here trained in the US, so you can expect the same level of professionalism that you would at home.
Best for: face lifts
Finally, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: do your research!
Whether you stay home for surgery or travel halfway around the world, make sure you choose a trusted practitioner and take out health insurance to cover you just in case. For more on what you need to know about cosmetic tourism, check out this article.
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Your Luxe Lifestyle was founded by luxury world traveler Isabella Garofanelli bringing you the very best the globe has to offer in travel, lifestyle, and wellness.
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