What is medical tourism?

“Medical Tourism is a growing concept worldwide where people travel to another country for medical treatment at lower cost or to enjoy a vacation along with their treatment.”


The idea of having a dental, surgical or cosmetic procedures done overseas, rather than in your home country, has been around for quite sometime. But as of late, it’s becoming increasingly popular. With the extraordinary costs of medical services in the western world, those who don’t have insurance coverage are opting to take their business abroad.

These days, people are deciding where in the world they want to vacation, based on what medical procedures they need to have done! Need a teeth cleaning, root canal, or new crowns put on your teeth? Head to Mexico or Thailand where the costs are very low, and the dentists are reputable.

*Update 2017: If you’re looking to visit the dentist while in Thailand, check out Thantakit International Dental Center in Bangkok. We recently had our teeth cleaned and had two cavities filled. The dentists here are trained overseas (in particular, mine went to school in Germany) and are very professional. The office was clean and the overall experience was a positive one. In fact, our friend, Johnny, is in the middle of his Invisalign procedure with them and he too recommends Thantakit.

medical tourism thailand dentist

Do you need heart surgery and don’t want to be on long waiting lists, or can’t afford the bill? Travel to Bangalore, India, which has the largest heart surgery hospital in the world, with UK trained doctors. The recovery rates here are comparable with, or better than, those in the USA or UK.

As a bonus, those are all great countries to visit!

medical tourism medigo
Imagine holidaying in Thailand after you had $270 crowns put on your teeth!

In Canada, (even though its residents have full medical coverage) dental, optometry and cosmetic procedures are not included in the standard healthcare, unless you have extended insurance through your work. And even when you do have extended coverage, only a certain portion of the cost of teeth or eye procedures is covered. The price of a simple teeth cleaning varies from clinic to clinic, but the insurance only covers a set amount, which means you could end up paying extra money on top of what is covered by your insurance.

As an example, a basic exam and teeth cleaning at a downtown Calgary office in Canada costs around $350 – $550, without any extended insurance coverage. The same teeth cleaning in Cancun, Mexico costs 790 Pesos ($65 CAD). In Thailand it’s 597 Thai Baht ($23 CAD) and in Costa Rica a teeth cleaning costs 21,420 Costa Rican Colon ($50 CAD).

Needless to say, many Albertans are choosing to take their dental business south to the nearby country of Mexico!

Ok, so you know you want to take your business abroad, but the question becomes:

“How do I find a reputable, safe doctor overseas?”

Recently, we’ve been introduced to a fantastic website called This site lists various hostpitals and clinics all over the world from Turkey to Thailand. Independent reviews are given on the site from actual people who have had a personal experience from that clinic or hospital. The doctors are all credible and this site has been featured on CNN, The Daily Mail and The Guardian.

medigo medical tourism

Since we don’t have healthcare coverage from Canada anymore (oh how we miss Nick’s amazing insurance package from his old job!), we’re mindful of where we have our treatments done abroad. We want a clinic that’s hygienic, has professional doctors, and since the money is now coming out of our own pockets, it must be affordable!

When we were in Cancun just a month ago, we decided that would be the place to get a much needed teeth cleaning done. We checked out Medigo’s site and found Dentalia, a chain of dentist offices around Mexico, it looked and sounded good, so we decided to give them a try.

Medigo is a popular online search engine for doctors around the world

We were greeted by a bubbly woman named Beatrice, who spoke perfect English. The office was immaculate and the equipment was brand new. Nick went one way for his check-up with Dr. Porfirio and I went upstairs for mine with Dr. Velazquez. Nick’s dentist spoke quite a bit of English, while mine knew a few key words.

Between my basic Spanish and his basic English, we were able to communicate. However, when I couldn’t understand what he was saying, Beatrice came in the room and acted as translator – one of the many services this office provides to its clients, along with a complementary airport pick-up.

I’m always a bit nervous when it comes to the dentist, but the doctor was very gentle. It turned out that I had 3 cavities, while Nick had none! The check-up, the cleaning, the x-rays and the fillings were all simple and easy. I’ve had some painful dental experiences in the past, but at this office, I even opted to have 2 of the fillings done without any numbing or anesthetic.

Dr. Velazquez promised that it wouldn’t hurt, so rather than walking around with a limp face, unable to eat for a few hours, he suggested we try it, but if I said it hurt too much, he’d stop and administer the numbing needle.

dentalia cancun dentist
The dental office was clean and the doctor was professional

I didn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t believe it. Me, the girl who has a very low pain tolerance didn’t need any anesthetic for two cavity fillings!

Our experience in Mexico at this clinic was a very positive one and we would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for affordable dental care overseas. Here’s a picture of the prices of some of this clinic’s procedures:

dentalia dentist prices
The prices are much cheaper than in Canada or the States – note the big price is pesos, not dollars!

Still not convinced to have a procedure done abroad? Check out this list of top countries around the world for medical tourism. Many of which are great for cosmetic procedures too.

It may seem scary to visit the doctor or dentist in a country other than your own, in a place where your language isn’t spoken. However, in most of the major hospitals and clinics around the world, many of the doctors will speak English, and even more have been trained in western countries such as the USA, Canada or the UK.

Do your research and look for reviews online before settling on a clinic and you’ll be fine. The amount of money you’ll save by having a treatment done abroad will be worth the flight, plus, you’ll get to go on vacation 🙂

What do you think? Is having a dental or surgical procedure done abroad a risky thing? Have you ever visited a hospital or clinic overseas? What was the experience like?

A special thanks to Medigo for providing us with a very overdue teeth cleaning, which ultimately led to the finding of cavities! As always, all thoughts and opinions remain our own, despite any complimentary services received. 


Medical Tourism-

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Written by

Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift are the owners and founders of Goats On The Road. Together they have been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and have more than 20 years of combined experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship. Their expert advice has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider,  WiseBread and Forbes and they also spoke at the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul about the business of travel blogging.

Learn more about Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift on their respective author archives on this site and on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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24 thoughts on “Medical Tourism: What it is, and Why You Should Utilize it

  1. I do all my healthcare in India now. I get the same brand contacts, great lenses, professional teeth cleanings, etc! At crazy low prices of course.

  2. I’m due for a teeth cleaning and I’ve been trying to figure out how to find a good dentist in Jakarta, so honestly the time of this post is perfect! I don’t have health insurance back in the U.S. so I’m really hoping to get any doctor visits out of the way before I go back there. It really is amazing how inexpensive certain procedures can be abroad…or rather, it’s crazy how costly they can be in the States (and apparently in Canada, too!). Anyway, glad to hear you guys had a good experience. It gives me hope and I’m going to check out that website right now!

  3. We have had our teeth cleaned in Chiang Mai twice now. Great service for the price, top notch doctors and equipment for a fraction of the price we pay in the USA.

  4. Will have to check out the recommended doctors, there are a few things I have been putting off while I am on the road. Thanks for sharing!

  5. That’s awesome you had a pain-free dentist visit! My last dentist, before our trip, was terrible and up until going to her I had never known visits to be painful. I am not looking forward to rooting around and finding a dentist now that we’re back.

  6. Awesome! And why not, right? People think it’s too scary to get work done abroad, but in reality, the care is typically great and for a fraction of the price!

    I once got Prada glasses in Iran for $50, including lenses! – so, they were probably “Frada”, but still, $50 for lenses and glasses? I then got a pair of prescription sunglasses as well for $50. Great deals 🙂

  7. Whoo hoo! Glad to hear it Justine. It’s so true, the cost of procedures in Canada and the US is unreal. We honestly had a great experience and I hope you do too 🙂

  8. Exactly! Glad to hear you’ve had a good experience in Chiang Mai. People need to not be scared of having work done abroad. The service is good, the Doctors are usually western trained and the cost is so cheap!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. You’re welcome 🙂 We’re happy to promote and share Medigo’s website. It makes finding a doctor abroad much easier. Good luck to you!

  10. I know! I’m such a wimp, I hate needles and dentist visits, so I can’t believe I had two fillings without freezing! So amazing.

    Thanks for the comment 🙂

  11. I’m an American who has spent some time in Jordan. I recently got about $5,000 worth of dental work done for $600. I also had a baby in Jordan for about $500. Things like CAT scans, MRIs, EEGs, etc. are MUCH cheaper and can often be done on the same day your doctor determines they are necessary. Also, it is common for doctors to have the necessary equipment right in their offices. Most doctors, for example, have ultrasound equipment and will not send you to a separate clinic to do imaging unless something more intensive is required. Medications are also generally much cheaper, and you can, in many cases, ask for further discounts. Jordan (especially Amman) is a prime medical tourism destination in the Middle East and home to many US and UK trained physicians. Most doctors speak English and are generally very friendly and accommodating to their foreign patients. I was a bit hesitant to have a baby overseas but it turned out to be a great experience. One of my children had surgery in Jordan and was also treated very well.

  12. I am in Korea right now and am getting all of my medical needs covered while I am here! I had a root canal ($30) and new crown ($200) done a couple of months ago. Tomorrow I am getting some wisdom teeth pulled, and I have already gotten a couple of cleanings because they are only $9!! Next up is the eye doctor for new prescription, contacts and cool new glasses!

  13. Hi Amel,

    Thank you for sharing your experience in Jordan. I’m not surprised that it was a positive one and in fact, the Middle East is becoming quite well known for its medical tourism benefits. One excellent aspect that you touched on is the fact that you didn’t have to wait to be seen or sent to another office for tests – in the West, there can be huge wait times.

    Thanks again for the comment 🙂


  14. Wow…$9?! That’s incredible! Imagine what you would’ve spent on all of those treatments in a western country? Crazy savings in Korea.

    Thanks for sharing. Cheers.

  15. Medical Tourism is a big deal and will continue to grow rapidly. This is because, as you say, there are many great services offered at great prices. And it also is due to significant problems with the current medical systems in the rich countries (though Asian rich countries are doing much better than others – Japan, Singapore…). There are still issues to work out to continue the trend – such as rich countries insurance coverage often not covering much cheaper services elsewhere (though in some places this is changing some – it sure makes sense for the insurance companies).

    I also had my teeth cleaned recently in Chiang Mai and posted about it

  16. I had a filling repaired and a cavity filled, as well as a clean and polish from a fabulous Cuban dentist in Managua, Nicaragua. Couldn’t recommend it enough, especially since she provided me with documents so that I could claim it on my travel insurance! Great article, which is helping to spread the word about more affordable healthcare.

  17. Hey John,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree, there are lots of issues with medical services in Western countries which is why people are going abroad for their medical needs. Thanks for posting about your experience in Thailand as well 🙂

  18. Fantastic!!

    Thanks for sharing your experience in Nicaragua 🙂 That’s great that you were able to claim it as well. More and more people are starting to go abroad for their medical needs, and I’m not surprised – it’s cheaper and oftentimes people have to wait months just to see a doctor in the west! Crazy.


  19. I had never heard of medical tourism until a couple of years ago when I was living in Chennai, a big centre for it. At first the idea kind of weirded me out, but when I think of it logically, it makes sense!

  20. It totally makes sense! Did you have procedures done in Chennai? Thanks for commenting.

  21. It’s also good to point out that there are procedures available in places like Mexico that aren’t available back home – not because they’re dangerous, but because our health care bureaucracy takes a long time to approve new treatments. I’ve been looking into treatment in Monterrey, because they offer options that aren’t available for me at home.

  22. Well Nice Information On The Given Topic, Very Helpful In Every Manner For Us, Will Be Visiting Again For More Useful Info On The Topic

  23. I am a fellow Canadian. And I would like to know what u do for insurance once your Canadian insurance runs out or do u just continue to use world nomads?

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