Top 10 medical tourism spots
If you arrive on a Communist-run island and have your passport and money confiscated by the authorities, one might say it just comes with the territory - or, you might actually be at Cuba's addiction rehabilitation clinics, where it is often standard procedure. Frequented by ordinary folks and famous figures too (Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona was one such client), Cuba's rehab villas are renowned for their professional service and effectiveness - along with a price around half of that in the US. Rehab here mixes balmy island living with no-nonsense regimes for keeping you stone-cold sober in seclusion, with the assistance of trained psychologists, doctors, sociologists and - of course - Caribbean breezes from the beach. If you want to follow in Maradona's footsteps you can book a stint of private rehab through an operator such as Grupo Cubanacan.
For a decade, UN and NATO employees in the Balkans, as well as expats, have hit the Macedonian capital for affordable, high-quality dental work. Macedonian dentists are generally well trained, and many speak English. Some even have webcams, so you can get the added excitement of watching your mouth being drilled too. Everything from check-ups and fillings to implant work and cosmetic dentistry is available, and at prices significantly less than in Western Europe or North America. Skopje's conveniently situated en route for travellers passing through Southeastern Europe, and offers a mix of history and nightlife. Flash your new smile in one of Skopje's numerous cafes, where the in-crowd love to be seen.
Some of the world's best medical treatment is found in Israel, and the country's state-of-the-art facilities have made it the destination of choice for many medical tourists. Although it is generally not a bargain, the services are wide and the skill level very high. Everything from IVF fertilisation to advanced cancer therapy is done here. Plus, the salt and unique nutrients in Israel's Dead Sea make this a much-visited place for those with various skin problems, as well as rheumatologic and lung conditions - and floating effortlessly on this super-saline body of water, amazingly situated below sea level, is a therapeutic experience in itself. For the ultimate therapeutic treatment, slap on some Dead Sea gunk, available at many of the area's hotels, and give yourself an invigorating mud pack.
Mix procedures with pleasures in Malaysia, another leading destination for medical travellers. Places like the beach resort town of Penang, on the country's northwestern coast, are popular for breast-enhancement surgery, and package-tour companies even offer such trips. It is good that a recuperative beach vacation is included, since doctors warn that long plane journeys after surgery can cause thrombosis. The dynamic capital, Kuala Lumpur, home to the Petronas Towers - some 451.9m high - is where more complex procedures (such as brain surgery for epilepsy) are performed. Some medical procedures at the Petronas Towers might help with epilepsy, but they will do nothing for vertigo sufferers who choose to access the 41st-floor skybridge.