By Emma Patch
From Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
Traveling abroad for lower-cost cosmetic procedures remains a burgeoning industry, and hundreds of thousands of Americans do so each year.
Most cosmetic surgery is elective and not covered by insurance, and it costs a pretty penny. Travelers having cosmetic surgery should heed the advice of their doctors regarding how long they should wait before air travel after surgery.
So where are the popular destinations for affordable cosmetic surgery?
Thailand, which is fast becoming a global hub for medical tourism.
Although it may seem a far-flung destination for serious procedures, the accessibility of affordable and high-quality care makes it a popular choice for many.
Thailand attracted just short of 2 million overseas patients in 2019 for surgery ranging from gender reassignment to heart procedures, according to Patients Beyond Borders. Bangkok, the capital, can be reached via direct flights from most major cities around the world, although most U.S. flights require at least one connection. Round-trip flights from Houston via Tokyo were recently available for just over $2,000.
Francesca Landsberg, 65, of Philadelphia, was able to secure even-greater-than-average savings when she traveled to Bangkok for multiple cosmetic surgeries in 2022. Landsberg, who traveled for gender-affirming care, received breast-augmentation surgery and multiple cosmetic procedures as part of facial feminization surgery.
“I was very pleased with the results,” she says. “I was greeted with respect, and the care there is very good.” Landsberg’s package also included a 30-day stay in a VIP hotel room on location, allowing the appropriate time for recovery before returning home to Pennsylvania.
Cosmetic-surgery patients can expect to save anywhere from 25 percent to 50 percent on popular cosmetic procedures in Thailand. For example, one unit of Botox, which goes for an average of $16 in the United States, averages just $9 in Thailand, according to Medical Departures. Similarly, the average cost of breast augmentation in the United States is roughly $8,000, but in Thailand it averages $4,350. And rhinoplasty (nose surgery), which costs an average of almost $8,500 in the states, goes for an average of $6,500 in Thailand.
Turkey is another popular destination for patients. In 2018, Turkey welcomed more than 850,000 medical tourists from 149 countries, according to the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council. That figure has increased tenfold in 10 years. And although the pandemic caused a sizable dip in those numbers, just in the first half of 2022, Turkey attracted nearly 600,000 people for medical services, according to the website of USHAŞ, a Turkish state-owned healthcare company.
The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery also ranks Turkey among the top 10 countries performing the most popular cosmetic surgeries, including breast augmentation, liposuction and rhinoplasty. The average costs for those surgeries in Turkey are $3,720, $2,655 and $3,100, respectively; Americans can expect to save anywhere from 50 percent to 65 percent, on average, on the most popular cosmetic surgeries. Turkey also notably offers affordable options for patients seeking bariatric surgery, such as gastric band or gastric bypass procedures.
(Emma Patch is a staff writer at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. For more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.)
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