Your Guide to Cosmetic Treatment Abroad

Danielle Lowe
By Danielle Lowe

Danielle Lowe is the Marketing Manager for, the UK’s largest aesthetic information website. 

Sun, sea, sand and surgery... Should I go abroad for cosmetic surgery or treatment?
It’s easy to be tempted by the idea of ‘sun, sea, sand’ and a quick ‘nip and tuck’; combining a holiday with a whole new you. Sadly, it’s not always as easy or as glamourous as it sounds, and there are some important things to consider if you’re thinking of having cosmetic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, hair transplantation or laser eye surgery abroad
Making your decision based solely on the reduced price of some treatments that are available abroad is not a wise choice. Depending on how far overseas you’re considering going, Europe or indeed further afield, these considerations become more and more important.
In most cases any pre-treatment discussions or counselling is done in the UK via some kind of broker, a non-medical salesperson acting as a third party between you and the clinic. Usually, you will not meet the practitioner or surgeon who will carry out the procedure until you arrive in the country, and often not until before the treatment, which you have generally already committed to (and paid for), actually happens. This is not ideal as you have no medical consultation before you spend money to step on a plane, no time to go away and think about it or cool off, and you can’t easily back out if you change your mind, especially if getting a refund will be difficult. 
If you’re set on this option, and you can afford to, make a trip abroad just for the consultation with the actual practitioner, before committing yourself to anything. Consider taking someone with you when you meet with them, together with a note of any questions you’d like to ask during the consultation. You can then discuss your impressions together afterwards, go home and properly think it through before deciding whether to proceed or not.
Alternatively, try to use clinics abroad that have links with a UK-based clinic so that consultations can be done with a UK-based practitioner or with the actual individual who will treat you when you go abroad if they make regular trips to the UK clinic for consultations. 
Going abroad For Cosmetic Surgery?
It’s important that you understand exactly what is being provided as part of any package deal, including any before and aftercare. 
You will need to know where a procedure will be carried out, and where you will be cared for in the recovery phase – sometimes you can be left to your own devices in a hotel, which is not ideal, especially if you have travelled alone. Knowing who will be there to look after you, if anyone, and what their clinical qualifications are is key.
While abroad, you must be able to communicate with the person who will be treating you in order to ask questions and understand the answers. Will you need a translator?
You need to be able to ask them about their qualifications and expertise in the procedure you are interested in. You may want to ask how many times they have performed the operation, what the risks of the procedure are, and how often complications occur. Not all countries have the same regulatory framework as those in the UK and Ireland, so standards may vary considerably.
Remember that any UK-based regulators who are responsible for regulating and checking private practitioners and/or clinics, do not cover procedures carried out abroad or vet the practitioners involved. Unfortunately, they will not be able to help you if you have any problems whilst overseas.
Going abroad for cosmetic treatment is just like going abroad for business or a holiday, you will need to think about travel insurance policies.
Not all standard travel cover includes help if something goes wrong during or after an elective medical procedure, so you should look to take out a bespoke policy and tell any insurance broker about your exact plans for treatment.
How safe are cosmetic treatment's abroad?

The European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC), which replaced the old E111 system, do not cover you for going abroad for medical treatments.

It is designed to reimburse the cost of state-provided healthcare services for emergency treatment that becomes necessary whilst you are abroad in the European Economic Area (EEA), following an illness or accident.

The EHIC will not cover your medical expenses if you are going abroad specifically to have the treatment and then end up in a local hospital.

It’s important to also check whether the practitioner and clinic abroad have insurance which covers your procedure and whether it takes into consideration that you are from another country.
Asking what will happen if something goes wrong either during or after the procedure could be a game-changer.
For example:
  • What follow-up care is available at the clinic should there be complications while you are abroad?
  • How will you get back to England if you need to?
  • If you have complications on your return to England, do they have arrangements with a UK clinic to care for you or will you just be left to seek emergency help from the NHS? The latter can be a traumatic experience.
Normally with any cosmetic treatment, there is a need to return to the clinic to check how the results have gone and whether any further treatment or revision is required. Factoring in the cost of a repeat trip abroad is often forgotten or simply ignored in the end due to expense, which could affect the long-term effect of the treatment.
Although it may cost a little more to have certain cosmetic treatments in the UK, we believe that the risks (and unexpected costs) of going abroad, make staying on home soil for treatment a preferable and more advisable option.
Your guide to cosmetic treatment's abroad
Things to remember when thinking about cosmetic surgery...
  • Do it for you
  • Don’t feel rushed or under pressure
  • Cheap is not always the best option
  • Do your own research about the treatment and learn as much as you can
  • Speak to more than one clinic or practitioner
  • Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable in your decision
  • If it doesn’t feel right, or you don’t fully understand what you have been told, then don’t do it!
Want to read more in our guide to cosmetic treatment series?
Guide to Cosmetic Treatment - Which Treatment?
Your Guide to Cosmetic Treatment - Which Clinic? 
Your Guide to Cosmetic Treatment - Which Questions to Ask
Your Guide to Cosmetic Treatment - First Clinic Visit
Take a look at our full Guide to Safe Cosmetic Treatment here. 

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