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Cosmetic Surgery Tourism: A Tummy Tuck in Thailand, a Breast Augmentation in Brazil

You normally wouldn't pair 'surgery' and 'vacation' in the same thought, but a growing trend marries the two. They do so for a variety of reasons -- but the overriding issue is cost. Cosmetic and dental surgery in the United States is so expensive that it's simply out of reach to most people, whereas in a number of other countries, predominantly in South America and Asia, costs are considerably lower.

[In the spirit of bringing you reports on vacations that can only be described as "alternative," we give you this piece. Please note, we are not medical professionals and can in no way vouch for the doctors reported herein.]

You normally wouldn't pair "surgery" and "vacation" together, but a growing trend marries the two. Although cosmetic surgery travel is increasingly popular for a number of reasons, the overriding issue is cost. In the United States, cosmetic and dental surgery are cost-prohibitive; in a number of other countries, predominantly in South America and Asia, prices are considerably lower. Discretion is also a factor: It's easier to say, "I'm taking a two-week trip to Brazil" than letting everyone know you want implants. Additionally most Americans simply don't have the extra time, so it makes sense to use those available vacation days.

On the higher end of the cosmetic tourism scale is Surgeon and Safari (tel. + 27/11463-3154; They describe their service as "surgery, recuperation and rejuvenation away from public scrutiny;" and where better, than on an adventurous safari in South Africa? Their options include dental, ophthalmic, orthopedic, infertility treatment, hair transplants and cosmetic procedures. (Their general inquiry form with drop down menus is like ordering an operation and expecting them to ask if you'd like fries with that!) Choose your procedure, your surgeon, your accommodation, flights and safari options all on one page -- I'll take a business class flight, guest house accommodation, a wilderness safari, Dr. Rick Van Der Poel in Johannesburg and liposuction please! Prices aren't listed on this site (as they are on many others) but expect to pay a fraction of what these procedures would cost in the States or in Europe -- a facelift in South Africa is approximately $4,500 compared with around $10,000 in the US. Guests can choose to recuperate in a luxury hotel in Cape Town or Johannesburg or take a variety of different safaris as part of a one-off package price. You can even arrange for a pre-operative consultation in London to meet your surgeon and discuss any concerns.

Brazil is famous for its stunning women and by admission, many get a helping hand, so it is only natural that it is home to a number of cosmetic surgery clinics marketing themselves to foreigners. Cosmetic Vacations (tel. 877-627-2556; only uses surgeons licensed by the Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery and they work in conjunction with the Fluminense Clinic, which has visiting plastic surgeons from all over the world. More importantly, the Clinic's owner Dr. Ronaldo Pontes and his daughter, Dr. Giselle Pontes, are members of the International Society of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery. You can sign up for their e-mail newsletter and even enter a competition to win a free trip to Rio de Janeiro. Cosmetic vacation works with a specialist Brazil travel agent Must Travel (tel. 954/788-4332) and will arrange your accommodation (four hotels to choose from), airport transfers and pre-operative consultation. Their website also features links to Rio's tourism attractions and tourism information sites.

Get the best of both worlds by indulging in a cosmetic enhancement vacation with the safety of an ASPA registered surgeon. The Half Moon Club (tel. 866/648-6951; in Montego Bay, Jamaica hosts aesthetic surgery vacations and medi spa weekends with New York City plastic surgeon Z. Paul Lorenc (tel. 212/472 2900; in its on-site state-of-the art hospital, MoBay Hope Medical Center. The rates may be the same as they would be in Manhattan, but you get the benefits of the idyllic resort destination and the vacation feel. The Club has hosted several of these successful weekends, and apart from Botox, you can also get an eyelift and liposuction, recovering in tropical luxury.

Costa Rica is known for its natural beauty, and now increasingly, its medical and dental services. The Health Escape ( is another company offering its cosmetic and dental procedures predominantly to foreigners. A team of doctors, largely trained in the US and Central America perform a number of procedures as significantly lower prices that you would pay at home. Post-operatively, you will stay at the Las Cumbres Inn, a surgical retreat located 15 minutes outside San Jos¿, offering a private and intimate way to recover from plastic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, and eye surgery. All surgical procedure packages include transfers, accommodation, meals and post-operative care. Contact for pricing and further information about procedures.

If it's just buttocks or breasts you are after, Venezuela may be your destination. The Caribbean International Plastic Surgery Centre (tel. + 58/295/267-2955; specializes in implants and augmentation for these two areas, but will also throw in additional procedures at discounted and "package deal" rates. It lists prices like Buttocks Augmentation (their signature procedure) starting from $6,600, Breast Augmentation from $3,500, Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) from $3,000 to $4,800 (obviously depending on the size of your tummy), Rhinoplasty (nose jobs) from $2,500 to $3,000, Rhitidectomy (face lifts) from $3,500 to 5,000, Liposuction from $2,500 to $3500, Reduction Mammoplasty (Breast reduction) from $3800 and even Intimate Feminine Corrections (I won't put in all the details here, this is a family website) from $1,500 to $2,000.

When visiting for buttocks augmentation as your main surgery, any of the above procedures that are compatible will have a 20% discount. They also offer special packages involving up to three compatible procedures. The center will assist you with accommodations, travel information and post-operative care.

Asia represents the cheapest cosmetic surgery solutions and countries such as Thailand have thriving aesthetic industries, dominated by its gender reassignment procedures. Cosmetic Surgery Travel ( is a travel company dedicated to planning your cosmetic or dental surgery vacation in Thailand and can arrange every aspect of your trip. They also facilitate orthopedic, cardiac and gastric bypass surgery, featuring an extensive menu of possibilities for those considering going under the knife. You make your surgery and travel plans with your own personal assistant, called a medical concierge. They develop a program and an estimated cost for everything plus arrange a pre-departure consultation with your doctor. Upon arrival at the airport in Bangkok you are greeted by a company representative, and your entire stay in Thailand is managed including post-surgery recovery and rejuvenation, based on your doctor's recommendations and your preferences. They feature five "packages," for example the "Tummy Tuck Package" which includes general anesthetic, cosmetic procedure, two to three-day hospital stay, six to12-day hotel or resort recovery and all transfers for $7,300. Or how about the "Eyelids lift with Under Chin Liposuction Package" which includes general anesthetic, cosmetic procedure, one-day hospital stay, three-day hotel or resort recovery and all transfers for $3,800. Airfares to Bangkok are additional.

The St. Carlos Cosmetic Surgery Clinic (tel. + 662/975-6700; located in Thailand is alternative that offers everything from cosmetic procedures to non-invasive holistic healing and spa services. Business is booming with the Center now boasting five clinics, two hospitals and the main center in the Bangkok area. The standard procedures are all offered, mammoplasty, rhinoplasty, face lifts, eye lifts and hair transplants, but alternative treatments are also available like weight loss programs. Accommodation starts at $86 per night in a deluxe room or $288 in a suite -- cheaper than any hospital bed in this country. Even meals prices are offered ranging from $8 to $12 for full meal room service. Procedure prices are provided on application.

Cosmetic Surgery Philippines (tel. 632/374-6092; is a clinic located in Quezon City, Philippines. Its surgeon, with the ironic name of Dr. Lasa, is the only Filipino plastic surgeon ever accepted for advanced fellowship training by the Foundation for Education in Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, at the Institute of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Atlanta, Georgia. Although not ASPS registered, he does have significant US training. You name it, Dr. Lasa does it, and all at super low prices. He even offers you the option of getting the budget implants made in China rather than the more expensive European versions. Some examples of pricing include:

  • Breast Augmentation (China-made implants): $2,000
  • Face and Necklift: $2,700
  • Liposuction (one area): $800
  • Reduction Rhinoplasty: $2,200
  • Tummy Tuck (abdominoplasty): $3,300

The "package" prices include operating room expenses in our outpatient surgery facility, all medications, cost of surgical implants (if any), the professional fee of plastic surgeon and the professional fee of anesthesiologist for major operations.

To help ensure optimal results and to limit risks and complications, consider the following before deciding to have cosmetic surgery in a foreign country: Do your research. You need to research the procedure, its benefits, risks and possible complications. You also need to research the clinic you choose, its surgeons and the country's certification laws. Most surgeons will be board certified in their own country, but requirements may not be as stringent as those in the US or Europe. Ideally you would want to find a surgeon who is American Board of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) or International Society of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) certified. Try www.plastic for information on plastic surgery procedures plus referrals to international ASPS Member Surgeons. Make sure you know all the costs up front, what the expected recovery time is and when you will be able to fly home. Ask to speak with former patients for referral and don't be afraid to ask questions -- surgery is serious business and you don't want to enter into any decisions lightly.