Laser Eye Surgery Abroad
More and more people are travelling overseas to have laser eye surgery because of how cheap the procedure is in foreign destinations compared to in the UK.
Patients can save up to 50% on the price of laser eye surgery abroad in countries across Europe and in territories further afield, such as Asia and South America.
The act of going overseas for laser eye surgery means that you will incur additional costs including flight and accommodation costs. This will drive up the overall cost of the procedure, and can put you more out of pocket than if you had laser eye surgery at home.
Why Get Laser Eye Surgery Abroad?
The popularity of medical tourism – the act of jetting off to another country exclusively for a healthcare procedure – has been growing in recent years, and laser eye surgery is arguably one of the most popular of all international medical procedures.
A large part of this comes down to the expense of the surgery. Rules and regulations established by the NHS dictate that the procedure can only be performed free of charge on patients with degenerative diseases that leave them at risk of blindness.
For all those wishing to have laser eye surgery to correct non-sight-threatening visual impairments such as myopia (short-sightedness) and hyperopia (long-sightedness), they are left having to fund the treatment themselves.
This leaves many of those unable to afford the cost of private laser eye treatment in the UK looking overseas for the procedure due to the cheap prices advertised by clinics abroad.
How Much Does it Cost to Have Laser Eye Surgery Abroad?
The average cost of laser eye surgery in the UK is around £1,000 per eye, but many overseas countries do charge significantly less for the same procedure. It can be possible to save up to 50% on the cost of laser eye surgery by travelling abroad.
Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Poland offer much cheaper laser eye surgery, as well as some Asian countries including Malaysia and Vietnam. There are some destinations however, where laser eye surgery is in fact more expensive than in the UK, including Belgium and the USA.
The tables below provide you with the average price of laser eye surgery in different countries around the globe:
|Country||Average Price (Per Eye)|
Rest of the World
|Country||Average Price (Per Eye)|
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Will There Be Other Costs?
Of course, the cost of laser eye surgery abroad does not begin and end with the procedure itself. There are a number of additional expenses that will need to be taken into consideration, including:
- Flights: many nations based far from the UK offer far cheaper treatment. However, once you factor in the cost of flying to such a faraway destination are your savings eliminated in one transaction?
- Accommodation: you will need to arrive in the country a few days before your treatment won't be able to fly for at least a week after your procedure, which means that you'll need somewhere to stay during this time. That's not a problem if you have family or friends in the country where you are having surgery, but if you're staying in a hotel the bill could add up.
- Local costs: you will need to factor in the cost of things such as food, drinks and local transport when having laser eye surgery abroad. If you are staying in a hotel, it is likely that you will be unable to cook meaning you'll have to eat out far more than you ordinarily would.
- Aftercare: consultations, follow-up appointments and medication might be charged as extra on top of the price you are quoted for laser eye surgery. Follow-up appointments will often require you to return to the country where you had surgery, meaning flights, accommodation and local costs will not be a one-off payment.
- Lost earnings: because you will be unable to fly home for a week following surgery, this could translate to a week of lost earnings from your job. Many people can return to work with 24 hours of laser eye surgery if they have the process completed domestically.
Is it Covered by Insurance?
If you are looking to have laser eye surgery abroad, you will not be covered by conventional travel insurance which is designed to cover unexpected medical emergencies that may arise while you are overseas. What's more if you are travelling exclusively for a medical procedure using a standard travel policy, you may find that the entire policy becomes completely invalid, with most insurers refusing to pay out even in the event of lost luggage or a delayed flight!
Any health tourist should instead take out specialist medical travel insurance, which is typically far more expensive. Again, this will not cover the cost of the procedure itself, but you may be able to protect yourself against issues beyond your control such as the procedure being cancelled by the clinic or unexpected medical complications.
You should shop around for one of these specialist insurers in much the same way as you would a standard travel insurer, and ensure that all your needs are covered. Failing to do so could result in a very expensive trip. An example of a specialist medical insurer is Medical Travel Shield.
Can I Get NHS Funding?
The NHS will only fund your laser eye surgery if you are at a significant risk of permanently losing your sight if you do not have the treatment. Even if you do qualify for NHS laser eye surgery, there may be a long waiting list until you can have the procedure.
Any British national is entitled to seek treatment in another EU country and have the procedure paid for by the NHS (that's just the laser eye surgery itself – not the flights or accommodation) if they are facing a wait of longer than 18 weeks. You should speak to your local healthcare provider if this applies to you.
What Else Should I Consider Before Getting Laser Eye Surgery Abroad?
There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding whether to have laser eye surgery abroad, with the cost being just a small part of your final decision. Perhaps the two most important things to think about are which country to have your treatment in, and which clinic to choose once you have decided on a destination. You can research clinics yourself online, or use a medical tourism agency who will be able to source and recommend clinics for you.
- Flying: are you a nervous traveler? If so, perhaps it's not ideal to pick a destination that involves long flights either way, as the idea of a medical procedure alone could be enough to make you a little apprehensive.
- Healthcare practices: some overseas destinations have less strict healthcare regulations and a poorer standard of patient care than in the UK. This can make the surgery more risky and leave you feeling dissatisfied with the care you were given. Research what healthcare legislation is in place in a country, and whether it is rigorously enforced.
- Facilities: is the clinic that you are interested in clean, well equipped and operating to the highest possible standard? Research the clinic’s accreditation and read reviews from former patients.
- The surgeon: are you confident that the individual performing the laser eye surgery is qualified and competent? Whilst many overseas surgeons are highly skilled, it is difficult to know exactly what training they have had. Carry out research into the credentials of the surgeons operating at a clinic, and look up whether former patients recommend them.
- Language: do you speak the language of those working in a clinic, or do you believe that they can communicate fluently in English? Remember, you will need to have consultations and follow-up appointments with the surgeon in question, and must feel confident that they will be able to clearly answer any questions you have.
- Aftercare: will the clinic offer aftercare, or take your money and leave you to fend for yourself? Also check whether the clinic will rectify any complications that might arise during surgery and what insurance they hold over any malpractice or errors.
What if Something Goes Wrong?
Any medical or surgical procedure comes with an element of risk, and laser eye surgery is no exception. While it is usually a very safe treatment, it is believed that many individuals that embark upon laser eye surgery abroad suffer from epithelial ingrowth (a painful growth of cells growing inside the cornea) – something that affects considerably fewer UK patients, thanks to most domestic clinics boasting state-of-the-art facilities.
Faced with the possibility of complications arising, it is essential that you take out medical travel insurance as you may well need to call upon the services of your insurance package if you need to delay your flight home and hotel stay, or make a claim against a surgeon. There is still no guarantee that your insurer will pay out in such circumstances however, which is why it is particularly important to check the small print of your policy.
If problems persist (or present themselves) once you have returned to the UK, get in touch with the surgeon that completed the procedure and ask for advice. You should also consult with your GP. It is worth letting your local healthcare authority know in advance if you are planning to travel abroad for laser eye treatment, as this will help them understand what medical problems you may have developed.
Is it Worth Getting Laser Eye Surgery Abroad?
Obviously the choice is yours, but there are very few compelling reasons to choose an international location for your laser eye surgery. The price savings will quickly be cancelled out by flight and hotel costs, and most well-known UK clinics offer interest-free payment plans to help you spread the cost of your treatment over a year or more.
Arranging your laser eye surgery within the UK ensures you will receive quality care from an accredited professional, using equipment at the cutting edge of technology that is less likely to result in problems, and enjoy full access to proper and dedicated aftercare.