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  • Visa

Medical tourism in South Africa

Africa is both a source and destination for patients who are part of a global phenomenon known as health tourism or medical tourism. The behavior of traveling abroad for health care is already too late, unavailable, unable to pay, or prohibited in its own country of origin.

Medical tourists can be categorized into two types:

  • First, the usual North-South medical tourists from Europe and North America travel to get treatment in South Africa’s world-class private medical facilities. The country is also marketed by medical tourism operators, entertainers, and service providers as a cosmetic surgery destination with accompanying tourist experiences (such as a gambling game).
  • It has also become a hub for fertility treatment and detox and one of the best destinations for transplant and stem cell tourism.
  • The second one is medical tourists from within Africa. Recently, South Africa has become a destination for middle-class “medical tourists” from other African countries. More significant numerically is the use of public health facilities funded by the South African government by medical tourists from neighboring countries for various health needs.

Rapid Growth of Medical and Wellness Tourism in South Africa

Medical tourism is an emerging market that has grown in several African countries in recent years, including Egypt, Mauritius, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, etc.

The north-south dimension of medical tourism in Africa is dominated by European tourists seeking low-cost, high-quality specialist medical services and aesthetic and reconstructive surgery in Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, and Tunisia.

The South-South dimension is characterized by African nationals seeking quality specialist medical services and primary health services, primarily in India and increasingly in various African countries.

Some Medical Tourism Facts About South Africa

  • As per the Health and Beauty Spa Industry in South Africa 2017, more than 700 spa facilities are now in the country, employing more than 5,500 people.
  • The total annual expenditure of medical travelers in South Africa exceeds R1.5 billion. More than 90% of this is generated by medical travelers from tourism, which clearly illustrates the overall economic importance of this form of medical travel.
  • The actual number of medical travelers is currently 300-350,000 per year. Lesotho is the source of the most significant numbers (140,000), followed by Botswana (55,000), Swaziland (47,000), and Mozambique (38,000).

Ranking of South Africa in Health and Medical Tourism

  • In the 2019 Global Healthcare Index, South Africa strongly holds 49th rank out of 89 countries.
  • In medical tourism, its rank is 28 out of 46 destinations.
  • South Africa ranks 20 out of 46 destinations to discuss the quality of facilities and services.

Treatment Facilities in South Africa

Besides essential treatments, South Africa is famous for its affordable plastic surgery procedures as fertility treatments.

According to a health tourism report in 2017, the most common treatments preferred by medical tourists who visit South Africa are different types of plastic surgery procedures. These procedures are breast augmentation, liposuction, rhinoplasty, Lifting, and slimming of the abdomen are some of the most popular cosmetic surgeries.

Other treatments available are:

  • Dentistry
  • Obesity surgery
  • Heart surgery
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Organ transplantation

Many medical tourists come from around the world, especially for IVF affordability. Today, the country is ranked as a leader in medical tourism by the South African Development Community in the African health tourism market (Medical Tourism SA, 2014).

South Africa is the becoming first and foremost choice of medical tourism. Why?

South Africa’s strong performance in the $3.2 billion digital health and life sciences market is underpinned by strong infrastructure and supportive government policies. Millions of medical tourists see the difference today and seek healthcare facilities in South Africa.

Here are some significant factors for the growth of well-being tourism:

Low-cost healthcare facilities:

There are two health care systems in South Africa

  1. Major subsidized public sector: covers around 70-80% of the healthcare sector
  2. Small(about 10-15%) private sector provides very high-quality medical care.

Price comparison for medical treatments:

  • IVF costs around $7550 in South Africa, while in the USA and the UK, it costs around $10000.
  • Intrauterine Insemination fee is about $400, while in the UK, the USA, and Australia, it is between $900 -$1500.
  • Breast-lift / Reduction in SA is $4100, whereas, in USA, UK, and Australia, it is between $4500-$8500.
  • Spinal fusion costs $8000 in SA while the same treatment’s cost is above $80000 in the USA, UK, and Australia.
  • Dental treatment and implants cost between $850-$1000 whereas the same treatment in USA and UK is around $2000-$2500.

Better healthcare infrastructure, advanced technology, and less waiting time

  • The latest data shows that there are over 400 public hospitals, more than ~200 Private hospitals with approximately 30,000 beds, and more than ~600 private clinics in South Africa.
  • State health authorities directly manage large public hospitals. Small hospitals and primary care clinics are administered at the district level. The National Department of Health directly manages the 10 major teaching hospitals.
  • In the Global Innovation Index 2019, South Africa ranks first in the category of regional innovation leaders. This shows the country’s tenacity to find ways to support all of its citizens, especially those fighting poverty and chronic disease like HIV.
  • The full-body X-ray scanner is manufactured by Lodox Systems, a South African company that is very helpful in detecting chronic diseases.
  • In the mid-1970s, a new method of cataract surgery was developed at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto by Selig Percy Amoils, a specialist in retinal disorders.

All these new advancements give South Africa the advantage to keep ahead in medical tourism. Therefore millions of people seek medical treatment there.

The scenic beauty of South Africa:

From an ecological point of view, South Africa is an incredibly unique and rich country. The World Wide Fund for Nature: South Africa estimates that South Africa is the third most bio-diverse country in the world and has one-third of the world’s plant species and 8% of the world’s plants. The country has a well-maintained network of protected areas and is known worldwide for its conservation practices.

Along the country’s southeast coast, the Garden Route stretches some 200 kilometers through some of South Africa’s most breathtaking coastal scenery.

Cultural resource and language diversity:

In addition to its biodiversity, South Africa also has a unique cultural diversity. The cultural environment encompasses much more than unique museums and archaeological sites. It also includes mission settlements, slave occupation sites, ritual urban spaces, rock art sites, rock formations, and natural landscapes that are of national and international cultural significance.

South Africa is known for the Zulu culture, where warriors carry shields, as well as their beehive huts and their bead-work and basketwork.

Most people, especially in the medical sector, speak the English language, so tourists seeking medical care find ease in south Africa. Many private hospitals also provide a translator to remove the language barrier and make communication clear with international patients.

Best Hospitals in South Africa to Check for Medical Tourism

  • Netcare Hospitals:

Netcare Hospitals are leaders in the provision of private healthcare in South Africa. Netcare’s comprehensive quality programs, aligned with international evidence-based best practices, underpin the treatment provided by specialist doctors and the care provided to patients by our professional nursing staff.

All Netcare hospitals in South Africa are also benchmarked against the ministry of Health baseline national standards.

This has 57 owned and managed hospitals, including 4 public-private partnership (PPP)hospitals.

Facilities available:

  • Cancer care and cardiac care facilities
  • Bariatric facilities and robotic-assisted surgery
  • Transplant and burns facilities services


  • Life Kingsbury Hospital:

Situated in the capital of South Africa, the hospital was established in 2014, providing holistic healing environment and excellent facilities for high-quality treatment.

The hospital has 229 beds, 11 rooms, an accident and emergency room with a doctor on call 24 hours a day, and the latest diagnostic and monitoring equipment.

There are some new facilities implemented, such as a Kidney station for dialysis treatment of people with acute or chronic kidney failure. New technologies include the first da Vinci X surgical robotic system in Africa.

  • Ahmed Al-Kadi Private Hospital:

The hospital has 163 beds and 4 Operating Theaters, including laminar flow, which works 24/7.

Facilities include; High Care Unit, Intensive Care Unit, Labour Ward, and Maternity Ward with Labour Ward.

Besides, it also has Medical Ward, Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit, Paediatrics Ward, Perumal & Partners Radiologists, and Surgical Ward.

  • Lenmed Private Hospitals:

The first Lenmed Clinic in Lenasia, which opened its doors in 1984, is now the Ahmed Kathrada Private Hospital. Lenmed hospitals are deeply rooted in the historic landscape of Southern Africa. They have provided exceptional private care to the communities they serve for over three decades.

Medical treatment services:

  • Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Stroke
  • Pediatrics
  • Oncology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Obstetrics

Things to Keep in Mind When Traveling to South Africa

  • Medical tourists traveling for less than 90 days do not require a visa.
  • Use travel insurance and medical insurance as they can save a lot of bucks and time.
  • Do not flash your expensive items publicly as it can be an attraction for thief s and buggers.
  • Do not walk down the streets at night. 90% of crimes in South Africa occur at night.

To Conclude

Health tourism is obviously beneficial to the private health system in South Africa, concentrated in urban areas, which means that medical tourism in South Africa will essentially be an extension of urban tourism. The range of health tourism products can be combined with South Africa’s immense scenic beauty, great climate, cultural richness, wildlife, and nature parks.

South Africa has a long tradition of improving medical and scientific understanding. As the country strives to expand its knowledge in these fields, it will continue to improve many of its citizens and people worldwide.


  • Dr Adhya

    Dr Adhya is working with Expert Chikitsa since 3 years as Medical Content Writer. She holds master degree in medicine. Currently busy with writing content about different Surgeries, Best Doctors and Hospitals. She is passionate about writing on Cancer, Cardiac, IVF, Neurosurgery and Aesthetics.

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