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A Comprehensive Guide To Medical Tourism: Definitions, Types & Top Destinations

Medical tourism is a great way to maintain, improve, or restore one’s health through foreign healthcare facilities that provide world-class, highly specialized medical treatment. The global medical tourism market generates billions of dollars annually ($32.02 billion in 2021) and is expected to rise by 12% in 2022.

old dentist signadvanced dental healthcare can be found around the world

Taking the figures above into account, it can be assumed that the topic of medical tourism touches many people across the globe, especially when it comes to the best destinations for health tourism in terms of quality, availability, and continuity of care. In the article, you’ll find the definition of medical tourism, its types, pros and cons, and the best country for health tourism. Read on to discover more!

What is health tourism?

Health tourism, or medical tourism, is the term commonly used to describe international travel with the purpose of receiving specialized medical treatment or wellness services. This term can be applied to two types of people. The first group includes people from less developed countries seeking high-quality healthcare in developed countries due to better technologies, specialists, and treatment unavailable in their home country. The second group refers to people from developed countries who want to save money by traveling to less developed countries for low-cost medical treatments. Medical tourism can also be caused by the unavailability or illegality of some medical services or drugs in one’s home country. 

Is health tourism a prospective field for travel specialists?

The international travel levels soared at the beginning of 2022, creating more earning opportunities for travel specialists and agencies. However, the tourism industry remains exposed to new COVID-19 variations, the war in Ukraine, and global economic conditions.

Despite this, the medical tourism sector has a promising economic outlook. This multibillion-dollar market is predicted to grow by 12% in 2022, allowing travel agents to continue operating profitably. Therefore, travel companies may consider modifying their strategy and brand identity, and requalifying their staff in order to jump into the growing field of travel. To find high-quality medical visuals for your brand, check out the Depositphotos stock content platform with an ever-growing library of authentic imagery for every occasion. By browsing, you can find and download high-quality, licensed pictures for your projects. 

Advantages of medical tourism

Disadvantages of medical tourism

10 common types of health tourism

1. Bariatric surgery

People undergo bariatric surgery, often known as weight loss surgery, to lose excess weight and lower the risks of life-threatening diseases caused by it. Bariatric surgery comprises operations that limit a person's food intake, as well as procedures that alter people's gut hormone levels, resulting in healthy hunger and satiety levels.

2. Cosmetic/Plastic surgery

Cosmetic or plastic surgery is commonly used to improve a person's look or to remove signs of aging. It includes cosmetic surgery for slimming, lifting, augmentation, hair transplantation, laser skin resurfacing, botox injections, and many more procedures. 

3. Cardiology

Cardiology deals with diagnosing and treating defects and diseases of the heart and blood vessels. It includes congenital heart defects, coronary artery disease, heart failure, electrophysiology, and valvular heart disease.

4. Dental or Dentistry

People frequently seek dental clinics in foreign countries to find advanced dental healthcare services or save money. Because this type of tourism often does not require significant medical intervention, it allows patients to combine dental care with a vacation.

5. Eye surgery

Being one of the most fragile organs, the eyes require highly specialized medical treatment when it comes to eye surgery, also known as ophthalmic or ocular surgery. Therefore, patients with vision issues often choose medical tourism to get the best treatment.

6. Ears, nose, and throat surgeries

Ears, nose, and throat surgery, also known as ENT or otolaryngology surgery, refers to surgical operations performed on the head or neck area to treat problems with the ears, nose, or throat. People choose to fly overseas for these kinds of surgeries since they demand highly skilled specialists, as well as a lot of modern equipment and technology.

7. Fertility treatment

Fertility treatments include medicines, surgical, and assisted conception procedures that improve a person’s chances of successfully conceiving a child. When it comes to the birth of a new person, many people don’t want to take risks and prefer to choose the best options available on the market.

8. Orthopedics

Patients often tend to choose medical assistance abroad to properly treat their musculoskeletal system (bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues.) Orthopedic surgeons usually treat musculoskeletal injuries, spine disorders, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors, and congenital disorders.

9. Organ transplants

Organ transplantation is a high-risk medical procedure that requires the best specialists and equipment; therefore, it’s better to conduct this type of procedure in places with advanced technology and therapy. Organ transplantation may also be carried out in other countries due to a donor's location.

10. Rehabilitation

Through training and therapy, rehabilitation aims to enhance and restore a patient's functional capacity and quality of life to their pre-injury state. Many countries lack rehabilitation centers, forcing patients to seek treatment abroad.

6 best destinations for medical tourism


Canada is named the best country for medical tourism in the 2020–2021 edition of the Medical Tourism Index (MTI). The overwhelming demand is the result of universal, inexpensive, and high-quality health care. However, the influx of medical tourists to the country comes primarily from the United States. The US healthcare industry is more expensive for patients than the Canadian healthcare industry due to higher product and labor costs, as well as higher overhead costs. In addition, given Canada's general tourism attractiveness, a patient's medical treatment can be augmented by the opportunity to explore interesting and calming tourist sites.


Singapore also ranks high in the 2020–2021 edition of the Medical Tourism Index, but comes second by a narrow margin. Despite being one of the most expensive countries in the world, Singapore's healthcare system still remains competitive in relation to other developed countries. World-class facilities, high health standards, affordable medical treatment, and a favorable destination environment makes Singapore attractive to medical tourists. Before the global pandemic, the country welcomed over 500,000 foreign medical tourists each year. The majority of them came from Indonesia, with roughly 250,000 Indonesian patients.


Japan is known for its advanced technology and longevity, so it's not surprising that a lot of people choose this country as a medical tourism destination. Japanese doctors have achieved remarkable results in treating cancer, particularly colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer globally. Thus, colorectal cancer patients in Japan have a five-year survival rate. The majority of foreign medical tourists come from mainland China.


Out of 46 destinations ranked within the 2020–2021 Medical Tourism Index, Spain took fourth place. The country owes this to its magnificent destination environment, excellent travel experience, safety, and quality of its medical facilities and services. In addition, the World Health Organization recognized the Spanish healthcare system as the seventh best in the world. As a result, a growing number of international tourists are coming for treatment, especially for advanced cosmetic, dental, and orthopedic procedures.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom ranks fifth in the latest edition of the Medical Tourism Index. The country is known for its rich cultural heritage and world-leading medical institutions. Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, St Bartholomew's Hospital, St Thomas' Hospital, and the London Clinic, one of England's largest private hospitals, are just a few examples. Because the healthcare standards in the UK are so high, many international leaders come here for treatment. However, it may not be the most economical option.

Dubai, UAE

Last but not least is Dubai, one of the world’s most dynamic medical tourism markets. Dubai ranks sixth in the MTI globally, but first in the Arab region. Due to the attractiveness of the destination, Dubai draws a lot of investments, which helps build state-of-the-art medical facilities with cutting-edge technology. The UAE government also assists in the country’s medical tourism by launching the Dubai Health Experience (DHX) brand. Its goal is to improve Dubai’s healthcare facilities and place the city on the global health tourism map.

Bottom line

When it comes to your health, deciding on the ideal medical tourism option might be difficult. Therefore, use this comprehensive guide to skip the headaches of looking for the best destinations for medical tourism.

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