How Much Does Laser Eye Surgery Cost in Different Countries?
Corrective vision surgery can give you 20/20 vision, but often has to be paid out of pocket. We investigate how much it costs in many must-see (pun intended!) destinations
|Last Updated: Dec. 21, 2017|
|Price Range: From $999 to $8,000|
|$1,400 and up: Croatia|
|$1,400: Cape Town, South Africa|
|$999: Tijuana, Mexico|
|Do You Need To Travel For Corrective Vision Surgery?|
Vicky Taylor wanted to see the world, but first she needed to be able to see.
As citizen of Sweden, Vicky was entitled to the tax-funded national healthcare system, ranked best in the world in 2010. However, as is the case in many countries with nationalized healthcare systems, "unnecessary" procedures such as corrective eye surgeries are not included. Vicky, about to graduate from University and on the cusp of starting her adult life, decided that settling for a state-determined standard of care was not good enough for her, and neither was her hometown standard of life. Vicky wanted to see the world, so she started with Bangkok, and LASEK eye surgery.
"I had already planned to go to Thailand for a vacation, and I knew they had good medical care and that a lot of people went there to have surgeries and so on," Vicky explained. "I booked everything by myself, the research, contacting the different hospitals and clinics and asking all my questions and comparing prices."
Vicky's research led her to decide on Bangkok Hospital, where her consultation, LASEK surgery, and aftercare, cost a total of 55,000 Baht (approximately $1,700 in 2014, when she got her treatment). At the point of this writing, Bangkok hospital lists corrective vision-surgery prices as between 64,500 Baht ($1,900) to 116,500 Baht ($3,400).
"They have specialists in all fields. Most of their doctors have studied abroad, and they are equipped to handle foreigners. When you enter there are information desks with English speakers, English signs and everything. it's not any different from a hospital in your own country," Vicky said, describing Bangkok Hospital. "Best money I've ever spent. My eyesight is 20/20 still 3 years later."
As opposed to LASIK, which may give patients perfect vision within a day, LASEK surgery requires approximately a week to recover from, and patients might not fully enjoy the benefits for another month. In Vicky's case, she had her mother accompany her to Bangkok.
"She decided to come with me for 2 weeks in Bangkok, really she mainly did it to get a vacation," Vicky said of her mother, helping as her medical travel companion. "I did need her help to look after me for the first few days. And once my eyes were healed she changed her mind completely (she's always worn glasses) and was considering doing it herself too."
Immediately after recovering, Vicky continued traveling to Cambodia, and even volunteered at a Marine Conservation project in Borneo, where she met the love of her life. She has since moved to Japan and started a blog devoted to sustainable tourism and conservation.
Though she couldn't have known it at the time, Vicky's decision to get her medical care needs met outside of her home country started a chain of events that completely changed her life.
"My mom's always thought I've been crazy, "You can't just leave", "You can't just do eye surgery in Thailand", "You can't just move to Japan", " You can't just buy a house in Japan". I proved her wrong on every single point," Vicky said, reflecting on her adventure so far.
Well Traveled endeavors to help people like Vicky take active roles in their medical care. To that end, we have researched the price of laser eye surgery across the world, and compiled a list of must-see places to get laser corrective surgery done for an affordable price. While no one's experiences are ever exactly the same—we can't promise that you'll fall in love and buy a house in Japan directly after—you never know how it might change your life!
Eye Surgery Price Range: Both eyes from $999 to $8,000
Prices for corrective eye surgery vary considerably across the world, and range in the low end at just over $1,000 US Dollars, to several thousand dollars. The highest price we found came from the London Vision Clinic, a prestigiously JCI-accredited vision center which lists standard ReLEx SMILE, LASIK, PRK/LASEK costs at 4,900 British Pounds, (approximately $6,324 USD), or High Profile treatment at £6,500 (approximately $8,389).
In the mid-upper range, the Market Scope 2015 Survey of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons listed an average US price of $2,077 per eye, or over $4,150 total. Most US American surgeons said they charged a flat rate regardless of the type of eye surgery, but about 25% said price would vary depending on whether the patient wanted LASIK, LASEK, PRK, etc.
In Southeast Asia, Latin America, and some parts of Europe, corrective eye surgery commonly costs less than half the US American price, at slightly over $1,000 for both eyes. For example, the $1,700 Vicky paid in 2014 for her LASEK is a fairly standard price, but appears to have inflated somewhat since then, as Bangkok has developed into a premier medical travel destination. Nowadays, Bangkok prices are still less than American and British prices, but no longer the lowest prices around. What follows is a hand-picked list of some of the lowest prices for corrective eye surgery (all under $2,000 for both eyes) in some of the best locations.
$1,820: Amsterdam (International Vision Centers)
Amsterdam, the so-called Venice of the North is one of the world's top travel destinations. It seems that Amsterdam is on just about every bucket list for some reason or another, be it the medieval European architecture, the art history, the laid-back cafes, the bicycling culture, or the nightlife—Amsterdam has something to offer everyone!
Without a doubt, Amsterdam is the most expensive destination on our list, both in treatment prices and essentials, such as food, lodging, and entertainment. However, this dream vacation is a lot more attainable than most people think, with Skyscanner listing plenty of round trip flights between Amsterdam and many US cities for less than $500, and some for under $400.
In Amsterdam, laser corrective surgery can be provided by the International Vision Centers, which has has three locations: Amsterdam and Nijmegen in The Netherlands, and Düsseldorf in Germany. They specialize in refractive eye surgeries, and report that the high volume of surgeries that they perform every year allows them to retain many experienced specialists and keep costs very low. At IVC, the cost varies depending on the procedure, but consistent with their claims, their prices are indeed very low relative to the standard cost of living in Western Europe, with the price of LASEK or PRK at 1,598 Euros (approximately $1,820) for both eyes, or standard LASIK at € 1,798 (approximately $2,050) for both eyes.
Should you choose to receive your surgery from IVC, please do let them know that you were referred by Well Traveled, and contact us to let us know, as they do offer a Friend2Friend promotion, through which referrals are rewarded with cash bonuses.
$1,050: Lithuania (Ophthalmology Clinic Lirema)
A full 30% of Lithuania is covered in forest, which is a point of pride to its nature-loving people and the tourists that flock to the Baltic gem. Lithuania is home to a popular branch of tourism called Sodyba, or "Homestead Tourism", which are short or long term countryside rentals. With over 600 rural tourism homesteads to choose from, The Lithuanian Countryside Tourism Association has a site which ranks homesteads and allows you to make bookings, or you can make a similar search on Homestay.com, which lists both countryside and urban homestays for around $10-40 per night. If the countryside isn't your thing, Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, regularly ranks as one of the cheapest city breaks in Europe, "with a pint likely to cost below €2.50," according to The Telegraph.
Lithuania was also described by Ernst & Young as, "the fastest growing medical tourism destination in the Baltic States and all Nordic region," and is reportedly frequently chosen by Europeans as a medical travel destination due to prompt and exceptional service, modern technology, and a very good price-to-quality ratio. Common treatments to receive in Lithuania are: plastic and aesthetic surgery, dental services, heart surgery, health tests and other diagnostic tests, and of course, eye surgery.
In particular, the Ophthalmology Clinic Lirema is the biggest eye surgery clinic network in Lithuania, with locations in Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipėda. Lirema offers LASEK surgery (two eyes) for €880 (approx. $990), and FS-LASIK (two eyes) for €1280 (approx. $1440), with an additional €50 ($56) for consultation and preparation for laser eye surgery.
If you choose to go to Kaunas, there just happens to be the perfect attraction for your post-surgery recovery period. The Museum for the Blind, intentionally dark and located in the catacombs of St. Michael the Archangel Church, is less of an "museum" and more of an interactive experience, offering visitors a unique journey for the remaining senses.
After you are fully recovered, you can see the country’s premier pilgrimage destination and, "one of its most bizarre sights": The Hill of Crosses. The northern-Lithuanian hill contains more than 200,000 crosses, and is believed to be a place of miracles—so much so that it was declared a, “place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice" by Pope John Paul II. The Hill of Crosses is located near Šiauliai, where accommodations can be found for around $30 a night on Agoda.com.
$1,400 and up: Croatia (Klinika Svjetlost)
Croatia has gotten a lot of exposure lately as one of several major filming locations for HBO's wildly popular Game of Thrones series, but its popularity as a vacation destination long precedes the hit show. Located off the Adriatic Sea just east of Italy, and north of the Alpine Slovenia, Croatia has both sapphire waters as well as sunny skies to lavish upon its revelers, and often for a fraction of the prices of other more well known European coastal cities.
Besides the low prices, one thing that makes Croatia an attractive medical travel destination is the combination of easy-going cafe culture, with fun in the sun recreation, all within a short drive of each other, making it very easy to combine recreation with treatment recuperation.
For example, the Klinika Svjetlost is an ophthalmology center with locations in both the capital city Zagreb, as well as the beachside recreation destination of Split. If you were to plan a fast-recovery surgery like LASIK (approximately. $1,800-$3,000 for both eyes, from Svjetlost), Split may be a good place to do so, because you could plan a full and relaxing vacation in a gorgeous locale, ending with LASIK on the last few days. There are tons of fantastic tours around Split, such as Croatia sailing tours between Split and Dubrovnik, generally for a few days and a few hundred dollars total.
Conversely, something that requires more recovery time, like PRK (approximately $1,400 for both eyes, from Svjetlost) could be done in the quiet capital of Zagreb, where there's not a lot of noise and a cafe on every corner. You could arrive in Zagreb, get treated first, and see how quickly you heal before setting off in vacation mode. Even if you need several days to recover, accommodations in Zagreb are quite affordable, starting at about $30 a night.
Regardless of which surgery you get and where you choose to do it, you should definitely consider a side trip to Croatia's Plitvice Lakes National Park. This system of 16 lakes, often connected via cascading waterfalls, is considered one of the most beautiful natural sights in Europe and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The brilliant turquoise color of the water is absolutely gorgeous, as are the serpentine pathways that allow you to walk over the water and along rock walls. There is also a boat ride included in the price of admission, and private boat rentals, for an additional fee. The only downside to how beautiful and accessible the national park is, is that it can become quite crowded during high season, and you may be stuck behind a bottleneck of slowly-walking selfie takers.
Possible crowding notwithstanding, Plitvice Lakes is a spectacular sight to behold, and should not be missed. Just make sure you plan for all day, wear lots of sunscreen, don't get carried away with the selfies, and always watch where you're going! If you want to be taken to Plitivice from Split, Tours4Fun offers a Split to Plitvice tour. Or, if you're in Split but don't want to go all the way to Plitvice, there is also Split Luxury Cruise with the Blue Cave and Snorkeling in the Blue Lagoon, and Kayaking in Split (for only $40!).
$1,400: Cape Town, South Africa (John Hill Eye & Laser Centre)
Cape Town has the distinction of being the site of the first human heart transplant, performed in 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard at the Groote Schuur hospital. South Africa continues to be a medical tourism destination for neighboring countries as well as long-distance travelers, due to good services, low prices, as well as linguistic proficiency—English is one of the 11 languages officially recognized by the South African government, and is spoken quite commonly and with a distinct accent.
Cape Town offers the benefit of being on the opposite hemisphere for travelers from the USA or Europe, meaning that if they come to Cape Town to avoid the winter chill they experience at home between November and February, they will be greeted with long, sunny, days, with temperature highs of approximately 24 Celsius (75 Fahrenheit). Both because of the abundance of sunshine, as well as exquisite coastline and mountain so close to city life, Cape Town has long been a favorite destination of all sorts of adventure-seekers, offering opportunities for surfing, mountain-climbing, kayaking, safaris, scuba diving, and even shark cage diving!
Just on the other side of the famous Table Mountain National Park, Dr. John Hill of The John Hill Eye & Laser Centre has been performing refractive surgery since 1984, and has performed over 60,000 refractive procedures, including over 45,000 LASIK cases. When he is not improving people's vision, he is busy improving the collective knowledge-base through writing and speaking, having published over 60 scientific articles and has lectured on all 5 continents. The John Hill Eye & Laser Centre offers a fully-inclusive price for refractive surgery priced at R18,900 (approximately $1,450 US Dollars) for both eyes, which includes custom ablation, as well as follow ups and repeats if one is in the approximately 4% of patients that ends up needing additional care. The John Hill Eye & Laser Centre also offers a special discounted price of R17,900 (approximately $1,375 US Dollars) for cash payments, or to Well Traveled readers, if you mention this site.
It should be noted that, while Cape Town is a world-class adventure-sports, shopping, and wine-lover's dream, and consistently a top tourist destination, it is also one in which traveling with a trusted companion is important. Robberies and other petty crime can occur, and tourists are always advised to be prepared, informed, and reasonably on-guard. In other words, though this should be common-sense, we'd like to make it a point to mention that coming here by yourself and vision-compromised is not a great way to enjoy the city. All travelers, and especially medical travelers, should always carefully research plans prior to embarking on travel, and not stumble into anything haphazardly.
When traveling to South Africa, inexperienced travelers should consider contacting a professional guide, such as Intrepid Travel. Intrepid offers a wide variety of guided trips, including Active South Africa, Cycle South Africa, and Cape Town and Winelands. If you are an experienced traveler and just need some ideas, Expedia has produced an excellent general-interest travel inspiration video. Lastly, for the most adventurous, there are Top 10 Things to Do in Cape Town, as decided by The Vaga Brothers.
$999: Tijuana, Mexico (IDOC Instituto de Oftalmologia)
Okay, so Tijuana may not be on many people's Must-See lists, but Mexico definitely should be. With no less than 34 World Heritage sites, some of the largest and oldest pyramids on earth, climate that ranges from hot, dry, desert, to wet rainforest, to beachside paradise, and famously vibrant holidays and festivals, Mexico is one of the most visited countries in the world, and for good reason.
Tijuana, also, has undergone a metamorphosis in the past few years despite, or perhaps related to, the spike in cartel-related territory disputes. As tourism from the United States decreased between 2007-2011, Tijuana had to find a city identity unrelated to catering to the American tourists that had previously provided such a consistent income for so many years. When it looked inside itself, it found that it had the stuff to develop into the budding art and design capital Tijuana has become. With this, and now that the crime level has gone down, Tijuana has reclaimed its position as a mandatory must-do on any southern California trip itinerary, as well as an entryway to one of the most interesting, beautiful, and delicious, countries in the world.
Tijuana is incredibly cheap and easy to get to from San Diego: tourists can take a $10 bus, take a $2.50 train from San Diego mass transit and walk across the border, you can drive your own or a rented car, or you can even take an Uber (though there have been some issues reported with that). It's important to note that though it only takes about half an hour to get from downtown San Diego to Tijuana's city center, the opposite trip will not be the same. It can take 2 or 3 hours to get back in the United States.
There is only one way to get from Tijuana to California quickly: use a Fast Pass. Commonly-called the "Medical Pass" or "Medical Fast Lane" because it is so commonly used by medical tourists, the Fast Pass essentially lets you skip the long line on the way back into the USA. As an individual person, getting a Fast Pass would require you to register ahead of time and pay over $300, but a lot of hotels in Tijuana go through the paperwork to get into the program and give passes to their guests. However, the passes are generally subject to availability, so if a speedy border crossing is important to you, make sure to contact the hotel ahead of time to confirm Fast Pass availability. Also, in order to use the Fast Pass lane, you and everyone in your car must have an ID with the RIFD chip—e.g. a Passport card, a Border Crossing Card, a new Permanent Resident card, or an enhanced drivers license. Be warned: passport books and regular drivers licenses will not work!
If you're looking to see better and start with seeing Mexico, you can start in Tijuana at the IDOC Instituto de Oftalmologia. IDOC is a provider of LASIK and other ophthalmology services, which offers LASIK and PRK (but not LASEK) on both eyes for $999 US dollars, or $575 for only one eye. Located in Tijuana's Zona Río, it may even feel like you never left the United States—except for the price tag, or course.
After your surgery at IDOC, there are plenty of recuperation options nearby. If you'd like to treat yourself, the K Tower Hotel is an "urban luxury" hotel literally a 5 minute walk from the IDOC. A more budget friendly option is the 3 star Hotel Hacienda del Río, also 5 minutes away in the other direction, with rooms for about $90 a night. For the even more budget conscious, there is the 2-star and $40 range Hotel Fiesta Tijuana, which is a 15 minute walk or 5 minute drive away from IDOC.
It should go without saying that even though Tijuana's uptick in violence has ended and is a generally safe for tourists, especially in the more upscale neighborhoods, it is nonetheless another place to be cautious when walking alone or at night. As usual, taking a friend or family member with you when traveling, and especially when traveling for medical care, is highly advised.
Do You Need To Travel For Corrective Vision Surgery?
Of course not! For some people, the stress of travel outweighs the benefits of saving money. We often say that travel is not for everyone, medical travel even less so. Not to mention, though LASIK patients generally recover within a day or so, LASEK might take up a week to recover from, which could mean a lot of days in a hotel. Additionally, a small percentage of people do end up needing follow-up care after laser eye surgery, and if you're one of those people, that would mean you either need to return all the way back to the site of your surgery, or have follow-up care at home from someone other than your initial surgeon.
All the same, people like Vicky Taylor can attest that one adventure leads to another, and sometimes you don't know what you're searching for until you decide to go out and look for it. Or, to put it another way:
“The world can only appear monochromatic to those who persist in interpreting what they experience through the lens of a single cultural paradigm, their own. For those with the eyes to see and the heart to feel, it remains a rich and complex topography of the spirit.”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
The question is: how do you want to see the world?
Disclosure: This post was not sponsored in any way. To plan your own corrective vision treatment, search Well Traveled for Opthamology centers, or filter search results to include medical facilities for which Well Traveled has eye treatments listed. This post includes affiliate links to Skyscanner, Homestay.com, Travel Talk Tours, Tours4Fun, Intrepid Travel, Expedia, Amazon, and agoda, but affiliate relationships did not influence content recommendations. Prices mentioned converted from local currency to USD using exchange rate at time of writing, but will fluctuate and should be considered a rough guide, not a guarantee. Always research facilities and confirm prices before committing to any treatment.