So what are the top countries for health care travel? In each of these countries listed below, medical tourism services are gaining ground: The number of reliable agents, recovery accommodation and travel support services expands each year.

Costa Rica: Nearly 15% of international tourists visiting this ecological paradise take advantage of its medical services, mainly cosmetic surgery and dental care. San Jose and its surrounding area are home to hundreds of board-certified doctors, surgeons and dentists. Costa Rica is one of the top five medical tourism destinations for Americans.

Hungary: Long known for its mineral springs, lakes, baths and spas, Hungary has more dentists per capita than any other country. They are found not only in Budapest, but also in a small town of 30,000 (Mosonmagyaróvár) near the Austrian border, which has 160 dental offices. Many European Union visitors come here for major dental care, including cosmetic oral surgeries, full-mouth restorations and implants.

India: More Americans travel here for cardiac and orthopedic procedures than for all other treatments combined. India offers top private hospitals, especially in the larger cities of Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. Medical travel to India is growing by 30% a year, thanks to increasing numbers of Americans, Canadians and Europeans—especially those seeking expensive cardiac and orthopedic surgeries. These often cost tens of thousands of dollars less here than in their home countries.

Malaysia: With more than a quarter of a million medical travelers each year, Malaysia compares favorably to India, Thailand, and neighboring Singapore in terms of its medical facilities, skill and costs. As well as having special burn treatment centers, Malaysian hospitals have created “well-man” and “well-woman” packages that include extensive, low-cost physicals and tests promoting preventive care. A battery of tests, including blood work, bone density scan, chest X-ray and treadmill, usually runs just $340, compared to $2,500 in the U.S.

Singapore: A medical tourism veteran, this tiny Asian nation—with a population of four-and-a-half million—has a health care system that the World Health Organization ranks as the best in Asia and sixth best in the world. It’s no wonder that Singapore attracts many international patients. Singapore’s specialties cover a broad range, including cardiology and cardiac surgery, gastroenterology, general surgery, hepatology, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics and stem cell therapy. Recent additions include the $300-million Biopolis, a seven-building, 2-million-square-foot biotechnology research center that opened in late 2003. The Biopolis includes a stem cell bank, thanks to Singapore’s liberal laws on using human embryonic cells for research.

South Korea: One of the world’s most technologically and scientifically advanced nations. South Korea has earned a reputation for spinal surgeries, cancer screenings and treatments and cosmetic surgeries. Many South Korean hospitals are fully digitized, with electronic health records as the standard. Daegu, in the center of the nation, hosts a well-known herbal medicine market dating to the 17th century. On the southern seacoast, Busan attracts many medical travelers to the local Hanyang University Medical Center for low-cost, comprehensive health screenings.

Thailand: An established leader in cosmetic surgery, with an excellent medical infrastructure. Thailand turned the crash of its baht currency in the late 1990s into economic opportunity by attracting patients from nearby Japan, Vietnam, China and South Korea. Eventually, Westerners joined the flow to Bangkok and Phuket, primarily for elective surgeries whose low cost more than makes up for the long flight and other travel expenses.

This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. All views in this article are opinions of the Expats Pensions team. We specialise in helping people that have left the UK evaluate the possibility of taking their UK pension with them. For further information please visit

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