Medical tourism in Turkey: Sun, sea... and surgery!

  • Marc Smith, Flickr

There was a time when a souvenir of a holiday might be a stuffed donkey, a sombrero or a bottle of Metaxa. These days it’s increasingly common for Britons to return from a fortnight in the sun with a facelift or the beginnings of a restored hairline.

Medical tourism is a growth industry, with many countries offering procedures that are prohibitively expensive in the UK at far more affordable prices. The phenomenon began with dental implants. These cost upwards of £2000 a time in the UK, but can be obtained for a few hundred in Eastern Europe. Even if you add in the cost of flights and hotels, it is much cheaper to obtain the treatment in Hungary than Hounslow.

Why settle for gleaming new teeth though, when you can also have a full head of hair? Turkish hair restoration clinics are carving out a lucrative market by offering implants to overseas customers as very competitive prices. Upmarket medical clinics in Istanbul are also thriving, offering corrective eye surgery, liposuction and other cosmetic treatments more quickly and cheaply than in western Europe. Visitors from Germany, Holland or the UK can make savings of up to 60 percent on comparable treatments.

Turkey regards the business as a key addition to its tourist industry. "We see Turkey as a prime destination for medical tourism," Dursun Aydin, the head of the international patients department at the Turkish Health Ministry, said. "We have experienced doctors. Our hospitals are new. Turkey is relatively relatively inexpensive and the temperate climate helps too."

Turkey has had to adjust its tourism profile in recent years. The economic collapse in Spain and Greece has made the EU countries cheaper destinations for Mediterranean holidays. If Turkey can throw in a spot of liposuction or some hair plugs as part of a fortnight’s package, it could regain its competitive edge.

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