South Africa

South Africa is cofounder of the African Union, and its economy is the largest within the group. It is also a cofounder of the United Nations and is known for its richness in different religions, cultures and languages. In the constitution alone, there are eleven recognized languages. Although English is regularly spoken in professional and public circumstances, it is only the fifth most common language spoken. South Africa is a very rich country, and it has more European and Indian influences than any other African nation.

South Africa has a reputation for cosmetic surgery (Medical Tourism in South Africa: Research Study). Since South Africa is such a diverse country, it is very accommodating to European and American travelers, who do not suffer from as much of a culture shock as from other medical tourist destinations. For many years, South Africa has been known for its advancement in medicine, starting in 1967 when the first human heart transplant was accomplished in Cape Town. Tourists from the U.S. and the U.K. can navigate easily around South Africa since all road signs are written in English. In addition, most South Africans from the commercial world speak English.

Most of the medical travelers to South Africa come for more than medical procedures. It appears that the number of vacation-surgery patients is increasing. Many people come to South Africa to relax, receive plastic surgery and be pampered in spas and hotels.

After cosmetic surgery, South Africa is known for dental services. The most popular procedures have been breast augmentation surgery, reduction surgery, facelifts, liposuction, eye surgery, fertility ministrations, ear surgery, rhinoplasty surgery and dental services.

Many medical tourists originate in Germany, Italy and the UK. The greatest influx of patients come from the U.K. and the U.S. due to South Africa’s low prices.


South Africa continues to be a prime medical tourist destination due to its highly trained physicians and alluring climate as well as low cost, and the phenomenon is informally known as “scalpel safari tourism” (Surgeon and Safari). Most patients stay for the diverse tourist activities that it has to offer (Discover Medical Tourism).

Low cost—Many medical tourists are attracted to South Africa due to its affordable price. Prices for medical procedures in South Africa range from one half to two thirds of the price in Europe and the U.S.

Quality of care—South Africa is known for its highly trained physicians in its major cities. Travelers are suggested to receive treatment in larger cities instead of rural areas, which are less developed. Large city pharmacies are quite westernized and provide a variety of medications. South Africa offers affordable medical tourism packages with beneficial exchange rates.

Tourist attractions—The country has sunshine throughout the year, extraordinary scenery, and numerous wild animals in native habitats. These attractions, combined with the lower costs for treatment attract thousands of travelers. Many health care providers and private clinics in South Africa have realized that their country’s tourist attractions can have a positive impact on the recovery process for their patients and encourage both post-operative relaxation and exploration.


Most visitors to South Africa stay in the country without experiencing theft or violent crime, but the possibility of becoming a victim exists. In urban areas such as Johannesburg, violent crime, including armed robberies, carjackings and muggings, is all too common. Visitors are advised to be on guard and aware of their surroundings at all times, and to avoid walking alone after dark in urban areas that are not frequented by tourists.

Aftercare— The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) website warns of some people needing further treatment in the UK due to “surgical complications” after operations abroad, including South Africa. A 2007 BAAPS survey found that over 80 percent of British plastic surgeons had seen complications in patients who had embarked on surgical holidays abroad. One of the causes was “being prematurely discharged from care.” 44% of surgeons who took part in the survey had seen patients who had their surgeries done in South Africa.

Health danger—Most of South Africa is malaria-free, but low-lying areas in Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces carry a risk throughout the year. Rural coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal are also at risk. In all areas where malaria is prevalent, the risk decreases in the months of June to September. Visitors are advised to take preventative measures.

Cost Comparisons



South Africa (USD)

Breast augmentation $7,613 $3,925
Face lift $11,813 $5,338
Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) $8,418 $6,120


United States (USD)

South Africa (USD)

Breast augmentation $8,000 $4,000
Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) $6,000 $4,000
Chief source: Compare the Cost of Elective Surgery Abroad, Treatment Abroad

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