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Nosing out the best deals

01 February 2012


I split my tooth on popcorn. I might have opted for having the tooth yanked and left it at that, but it was in my smile line and eventually my face would cave in over time, my teeth spreading apart like broken piano keys. So, a few hundred dollars later – $800 to be precise for the initial consultation and work – and I am on the way to a very costly implant. (You could buy a good second hand car for what I will eventually pay my dentist.)

Bemoaning the fact – to anyone who would listen – that dental work costs so much in Australia, a friend asked me if I’d thought about the latest holiday trend: cosmetic surgery/dentistry tourism? It seems I could go to Thailand or the Philippines for my procedure, and have a week soaking up the sun or sitting in a Thai spa, airfares, accommodation, meals, etc, and all that would cost me less than I am going to pay for the procedure alone at home.

As far as I’ve been able to ascertain from reliable friends researching the ‘medical-travel’ trend, here’s the lay of the land. A growing percentage of people are choosing to travel to destinations around the world to undergo surgical procedures of their choice, shop, spa or sightsee in no particular order. 

And there are any number of stories – successful and not – attached to a trend that is just waiting for the sensational scrutiny of evening TV current affairs programs. 

Voluntarily undergoing surgery of any sort is not my idea of fun, or a holiday. As with all “extreme” travel choices, you need to do your research before making any decision.

A Thai eye-lift or maybe a hip replacement may look extremely tempting on paper until you develop a full picture of the costs, risks, insurance and legalities of your decision. Usually the work done is ‘guaranteed’ by the hospital, but you must check what that means and be aware that ‘travel insurance’ won’t cover procedures – or consequence. And if there are complications arising from surgery, you better have read the fine print. Some agents have Australian plastic surgeons that they refer their clients to if the stitches come unstuck – so to speak, and there have been enough reports on the subject to know that nasty infected wounds are not uncommon, at home or overseas. 

The advice from insurance experts is to “build a full picture of the costs”, including:

“Required medications after surgery

“All fees (hospital, anaesthetist, nursing, etc)

“Visa and other travel costs

“Travel insurance, to cover you for other claims not related to the surgery

“Additional time off work for pre-op checkups”


Additional risks
 to consider:

If something goes wrong, what recourse do you have? 

Keep in mind you’re ‘recovering’ (and that is the operative word here, so your general health is already compromised and you need to take that into consideration), making you more susceptible to bugs: flus, malaria, dengue fever, etc. 


And, if all that still doesn’t stop you short, here is an ‘inconclusive’ guide to where to go for what:

Korea (that’s South Korea): calf reductions, facial cheek shaves

Thailand: tummy tucks, in fact, the expertise here runs to just about anything, including gender reassignment

Spain: breast enhancements

Prague: facelifts

US and Costa Rica: Rhinoplasty


And the number one procedure of choice, I’ve been told, is Rhinoplasty (the nose job).