Last fact-checked: 12 July 2020
Considering traveling to Mexico for plastic surgery or other treatment? With healthcare facilities becoming increasingly popular south of the border, hundreds of thousands of Americans and Canadians are heading to Mexico for treatment, often saving thousands on a procedure that would be otherwise unaffordable back home.
But price isn’t the only driving force behind Mexico’s booming medical and dental tourism sector. The standard of care at hospitals has improved significantly—now on par with what you’d expect to receive in the US. Modern, often purpose-built clinics are also opening up in easy-to-reach border towns and staffed by highly-skilled surgeons, specialists and professional, English-speaking nurses.
Find out how you can save up to 70% on your treatment without having to compromise on quality in this Medical Departures’ destination guide for Mexico.
Mexico’s rich cultural heritage originates from the ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations, the influences of which are still evident today at the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites throughout the country. The first Europeans didn’t arrive in Mexico until the Spanish had colonized the country in the 16th century. This colonization spanned a three-hundred-year-period up until Mexico was granted its independence in 1821. The Spanish influence is still readily apparent throughout the country—the most obvious example of course being the language.
Today, Mexico is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, offering travelers a unique blend of Meso-American and European cultures through its modern beach resorts, ancient historical sites and colonial architecture. The country’s close proximity and similar climate to the southern US states has made Mexico a favorite vacation spot over the years; now, the country’s rapidly growing medical tourism industry is seeing a massive influx of international patients traveling here to take advantage of low-cost procedures that are readily in destinations like Tijuana, Cancun, Mexicali, Mexico City and Los Algodones, among others.
Mexico has three land borders: Belize and Guatemala to the southeast and the United States to the north. The rest of the country boasts some spectacular coastlines along the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
For medical tourists, there is no shortage of daily (and often direct) flights from across North America to all of Mexico’s most popular resorts and cities. There is also a number of crossing points along the US-Mexican border, making Mexico a convenient and very accessible destination for all your cosmetic surgery requirements.
The growth in popularity of medical tourism in recent years has been largely driven by the savings you can pocket compared to the cost of undergoing the same treatment back home. On average, savings of around 40-70% can be achieved on most procedures:
Breast augmentation in Mexico: average cost US $4,300 compared to US $11,500 in the United States.
Facelift in Mexico: average cost US $5,500 compared to US $18,000 in the United States.
Rhinoplasty (nose job) in Mexico: average cost US $3,300 compared to US $8,800 in the United States.
Because of the increase in international patient arrivals, competition between Mexican clinics has led to major advances in patient care and quality of facilities. In order to attract international customers, many clinics offer the latest technology and state-of-the-art equipment to ensure the quality of treatment received in Mexico is every bit as good as in your home country. Mexico is also home to a number of Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited hospitals, as well as other international accreditation agencies such as AAAHC and AAAASFI.
With the expansion of the medical tourism market, many hospitals are now tailoring their services to cater specifically to foreign patients. More and more doctors are fluent in English, and it is becoming increasingly common for many to have completed at least some of their training abroad—thus giving you peace of mind that the treatment you receive will be of the highest quality.
In recent decades, tourism in Mexico has become one of the country’s largest industries. As a result, you have a wide choice of idyllic beach resorts in which to relax or sleepy towns where you can soak up the culture and indulge in authentic Mexican cuisine (just remember to take in your sunsoaking prior to any surgery, as your doctor will advise you to stay out of the sun for a couple of weeks).
Thousands of US and Canadian nationals visit Mexico each year with a view to combine their cosmetic surgery with an exotic vacation; in many cases, the whole trip, including all expenses, will costs less than the procedure alone back home.
Note: Make sure that you plan your holiday itinerary in advance, and consult with your doctor to check what level of activity you can expect after your surgery is complete. Following certain major surgeries, you will be restricted to the confines of your hotel for several days.
Accommodation options throughout Mexico are plentiful. There are several hotel chains, such as Palace Resorts, Holiday Inn and Best Western, that operate throughout Mexico. By sticking to these larger chains, you will usually find the accommodation to be affordable, comfortable and clean, if somewhat functional. For a more traditional feel, you might want to consider booking into a local boutique hotel. The prices can vary, but this option will provide you with more of a traditional Mexican experience. Some are every bit as luxurious as those back home, minus the exorbitant price tag.
You will also discover a substantial backpacking culture evident throughout the country, with many hostels offering inexpensive, clean dormitory accommodation or, in some instances, private room hire. This can be a good way to meet fellow travelers and exchange experiences, although these budget options are not suitable if you need to rest and recuperate following your treatment.
On the whole, it is deemed to be safe to travel to most tourist destinations in Mexico. Reports in the US media regarding the ongoing drugs war tend to be exaggerated, with only 5% of municipalities having been affected. The US advisory has, in fact, stated that most major tourist destinations in Mexico are safe to visit. In general, most border towns are deemed safe, with hundreds of thousands of medical tourists receiving treatment each year without incident. By applying common sense and a little vigilance, you will be under no greater risk than if visiting any other major city around the world.
An increasing number of facilities are now equipped with the latest technologies from all over the world, and more and more doctors are becoming internationally trained. At Medical Departures, we make it our number one priority to ensure every clinic we partner with (and subsequently list on our site) adheres to the highest standards regarding equipment, hygiene and safety measures.
We carry out background checks on all doctors and clinics before listing them on our website, confirming professional memberships, qualifications and experience. Site visits are made to assess the suitability of each facility, and we post feedback and reviews from patients along with photographs to help you make the right choice of clinic for your plastic surgery.
While not a legal requirement, many of our partner clinics have affiliations and accreditations with international organizations, such as the Joint Commission International (JCI), giving you that added level of reassurance when you book.
There is always an element of risk involved when undergoing a medical procedure or surgery, regardless where you are in the world. That is why we insist that all of the doctors in our listings provide the necessary guarantees and warranties. However, this is merely a precaution as it is highly unlikely that you will experience any problems or complications with your treatment.
If you do encounter any difficulties, we will be on your side to rectify the situation for you. To this end, we can arrange additional medical insurance with a variety of providers to ensure that you are covered for all eventualities—even if an issue arises when you’ve already returned home.
Due to the growth in popularity of medical tourism, the vast majority of doctors on our website are proficient in the use of English; many have extensive experience treating foreign patients or having completed their studies abroad.
Although the main spoken language in Mexico is Spanish, most of the popular tourist destinations, and Mexico City, in particular, are bilingual meaning that communication should not be much of an issue. This is especially true with regard to the younger generation, who study English as part of their education, as well as professionally qualified businessmen and women.
Most facilities in Mexico have provision for accepting credit/debit card payments, personal checks or traveler’s checks, although if paying by credit card you may incur a 3-4% processing fee. Most clinics will also accept US dollars, but we recommend that you confirm with your clinic beforehand as to what their preferred method of payment is.
You can undergo treatment in Mexico at any time of the year, although you may want to plan your stay around the local weather conditions. Everybody has different tolerances to heat and humidity, and the varying weather systems within the country may dictate where and when you decide to book your surgery.
Northern Mexico tends to experience cooler temperatures in the winter months, while temperatures in the south of the country remain fairly consistent all year round. You should also be aware that it is not uncommon for both Mexican coastal regions to experience hurricanes during the summer and fall months.
Northern border towns and Baja California traditionally get very little rainfall and are therefore pretty dry all year round. When traveling further south you can generally expect more rainfall, and island destinations such as Cozumel tend to have higher humidity.
The most popular time of the year for tourism tends to be in the cooler winter months between December and February. If you’re planning on undergoing surgery during this time of the year, it is advisable to book your accommodation and treatment well in advance so as to avoid disappointment.
Most modern hotels and resorts are equipped to meet the needs of wheelchair users, with lifts and ramps making access to facilities fairly straightforward. Unfortunately, venturing outside of these resorts can cause problems as many of the sidewalks may not be particularly well maintained. You may encounter pot-holes or obstructions that can make navigation difficult.
Traveling by taxi will alleviate the majority of these difficulties, but it is worth noting that many of the bars and restaurants have fairly narrow doorways which can make access a little awkward.
A good hotel concierge should be able to advise and make any necessary calls when you are planning to go anywhere, for example, shopping malls, restaurants and cafes, museums, parks, etc.
If you choose to undergo your treatment in one of the border towns, you might experience substantial delays at border crossings when leaving and entering the United States. Even with the introduction of designated lanes catering for medical tourists, you may well still experience delays as customs clears traffic heading back into the US. We strongly advise that you have a plentiful supply of bottled water to hand to avoid dehydration.
Obviously, local weather conditions may also be a concern, especially if you are traveling to a coastal destination during the hurricane season. Always check the local weather forecast before you travel so that you can be properly prepared for what nature throws at you.
You may have heard a lot about Mexico's drug cartel problems. While there are certainly pockets of the country that should be avoided, the country offers its 36 million annual travelers places to go that do not experience any drug-related violence.
Mexico is classified as one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world and contains approximately 12% of the world’s total biodiversity. There are more World Heritage Sites in Mexico than any other country in the Americas, with no fewer than 33 sites dotted all around the country—ranging from the Pre-Hispanic City and National Park of Palenque to the more contemporary Historic Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco.
You can choose to stay in Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast, a destination renowned for its lively nightlife, historic cobblestoned streets and pretty beaches. Alternatively, Cancún is situated on the Yucatán Peninsula, alongside the Caribbean Sea, and is a popular spring break destination for students thanks to its miles of golden coastline and frenetic nightlife.
Whether you’re looking for adrenaline-fuelled activities such as abseiling or water sports, or would prefer a more sedate voyage of discovery exploring the many museums and art galleries, you will be sure to find exactly what you need in Mexico.
The easiest means of traveling to Mexico is by plane, with hundreds of flights available daily from many cities throughout the United States. There are also direct flights available from most major European airports and even some from Asia, although if you are flying from Australia or New Zealand you will need to fly into Los Angeles first and change to a connecting flight from there into Mexico.
If you choose to drive into Mexico, be aware that your US automobile insurance will not be valid across the border, but it is relatively easy to obtain the necessary cover before you travel. If driving a foreign plated vehicle, you will not be allowed entry into Mexico without the necessary permits. Again, this is a relatively straightforward process and can even be completed at border checkpoints. However, you should be aware that there can be lengthy delays at checkpoints as stringent checks and searches are carried out on most vehicles.
There are no longer any intercity trains into or out of Mexico, so traveling by rail is not an option. However, a train service does run from San Diego to the border of California/Baja California. Good intercity bus links with a variety of operators also offer competitive rates that can be booked through a central computerized ticketing system.
If you are a US, Canadian, EU, New Zealand or Australian national, there are no special visa requirements to enter Mexico. You will have to fill out a Mexican government tourist card—or Official Entry Immigration Form (FMM), which is processed and stamped by Mexican immigration before you can enter.
Los Angeles: 1350 miles, 3.5 hours
New York: 1817 miles, 5 hours
Montreal: 2004 miles, 5.5 hours
London: 4808, 12.5 hours
Auckland: 5921 miles, 15 hours
Sydney: 7012 miles, 18 hours
Check out our full listings in Mexico to find the perfect location and surgeon for your treatment.
If you’re ready to book, see below for ways to get in touch or speak to our Customer Care Team if you’ve any questions about having plastic surgery in Mexico.
Da Silva, Chantal. Thousands Of Americans Are Crossing The Border Into Mexico Every Year To Get Affordable Medical Treatment. News Week. 18 May 2019. https://www.newsweek.com/thousands-americans-cross-border-mexico-affordable-medical-treatment-each-1426943
Megadiverse Countries. Bioversity A-Z. Website accessed: 24 January 2020. https://www.biodiversitya-z.org/content/megadiverse-countries
Travel.State.Gov. U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs. Website accessed: 24 January 2020. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html
UNESCO World Heritage List. Website accessed: 24 January 2020. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/
Mexico. Lonely Planet. Website accessed: 24 January 2020. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/mexico
Border Crossing/Entry Data. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Website accessed: 24 January 2020. https://www.bts.gov/content/border-crossingentry-data
Getting to Mexico. Rough Guides. Website accessed: 24 January 2020. https://www.roughguides.com/destinations/north-america/mexico/getting
Best Boutique Hotels in Mexico. Oyster. Website accessed: 24 January 2020. https://www.oyster.com/mexico/hotels/roundups/best-boutique-hotels-in-mexico/
Mexico Tourist Card. Website accessed: 24 January 2020. https://www.mexicotouristcard.com/
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