Every year, millions of people travel the world for medical care. Recuperating in one of the world’s great tourist destinations is one of the more pleasant “after-effects.”

For everything from routine dental work to life-saving surgeries, well over 1 million Americans annually go overseas in search of medical care. And for many, once the treatment is over, the vacation begins.

Once the treatment is over and you’re fit to leave, you’re free to turn your medical trip into a full-fledged leisure trip. What’s more, many international destinations are building medical facilities that actually double as quasi-resorts, so you can enjoy your visit in their country without even leaving the hospital grounds.

Some go for medical help they can’t afford to get at home, others to gain access to alternative treatments they can’t get in the United States at any price. Either way, they’re going in steadily greater numbers, slowed in recent years only by the travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And many will honor your existing health or dental insurance.

Medical facilities that cater to foreign patients vary in size, equipment and the skill levels of their staffs, but they all have two things in common — the care they offer is often vastly cheaper than what’s available here, and more of them are springing up all over the world.

Mexico welcomes about a million medical tourists a year, for everything from cosmetic surgery to advanced cancer treatments.

Just across the border from Arizona, the town of Los Algodones is home to about 6,000 people and more than 350 dentists. Nearly all of them rely on American patients, who cross south for quality dental work as much as 75 percent cheaper than in the US.

Bumgrungrad International Hospital, Bangkok

Far to the south on the Yucatan Peninsula, there are clinics and hospitals devoted almost entirely to medical tourists. And the country is planning a medical tourism mega-center called Health City — said to include shopping malls and convention space, spas, housing areas, luxury condos, office space and entertainment areas, along with space dedicated to scientific research.

This has not gone unnoticed across the Caribbean, where the Cayman Islands is planning a Health City of its own.

One of the biggest and most prestigious medical tourism centers in the world is in Thailand. The facilities at the Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok include VIP suites, airport concierge and VIP airport transfers, shopping, restaurants and their own bookstore.

Your hospital have its own pharmacy, right? Sure, it does. Does it have one on every clinic floor? These guys do.

Thailand is one of the world leaders in medical tourism, but Singapore and India are not far behind. It’s a growth industry, and almost every continent is looking to cash in on it.

And that very much includes Africa.

South Africa is already considered the medical tourism leader on the Mother Continent, with a wide range of procedures available from top-caliber medical professionals. Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt are not far behind. They’ll soon face competition from Algeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania. And many more of Africa’s 55 sovereign nations are explloring the possibilities.

If you want to explore the possibilities of medical tourism for yourself, you first need to do a bit of research:

  1. Find which facilities in which countries offer the specific type of care you’re looking for.
  2. Get information of the quality of care offered by the facility in the country you have in mind.

There are organizations to help you do this, private non-peofit groups that measure the level of expertise and quality of care at medical tourism facilities. One of the biggest is the Medical Tourism Association.

The US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has an entire page devoted to medical tourism, its potential benefits and its risks (and yes, there are risks), along with helpful advice and suggestions. And always, always, talk to your own doctor before you do anything along these lines.

That said, medical tourism could offer you a safe and cost-effective alternative. And Trips by Greg is ready to help.