Tigers & Root Canals

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Filed Under:   Travel

Most people who don’t have high-paying jobs think they could never afford a 30-day trip across the world doing virtually anything they want for fun. But it’s possible. I know this because Elisabeth and I just did it!

Initially, you need to start by living within your means. The key is to get ahead because you’ll need some money to play with, no doubt.

But you can experience the trip of a lifetime for a lot less than you might think. Here’s a secret to help you travel further, faster:

Medical tourism. Total savings: $3,000+

When I told people I was traveling to Thailand, a number of people asked me what I was doing there. Every conversation went something like this:

Me: “Well, I’m actually having some medical work done there. I plan to get LASIK and have a root canal.”

Them: “Really? That’s interesting. I could have sworn you weren’t a psycho.”

Me: “Actually, it’s quite safe. Europeans have procedures done there all the time.”

Them: “But I thought you wanted to live to see your children.”

Me: “I do. I’ve done a lot of research. And I’m confident I’ll save a lot of money.”

Them: “Can I have your MacBook Pro after you die of infection from their dirty scalpels?”

Me: “No.”

Them: “OK, have fun!”…(what a nut case)

Me: “I can still hear you.”

Them: “Whatever, you’ll be dead in a month.”

If you’re willing to overcome the (wrong) assumption that Americans are the only ones capable of performing safe surgeries or providing effective health care, you can save THOUSANDS.


Let me tell you a story. After our nation was founded, Americans worked hard. Really, really hard. Parents sacrificed so their kids could go to secondary school. The best and the brightest students continued on at seminaries and colleges of higher learning. And some became doctors, nurses, and medical researchers.

American free enterprise encouraged these medical professionals to start businesses, improve technology, and develop drugs. Sometimes they would come across something big, something that could save millions of lives or eradicate diseases. They changed the world and pioneered modern medicine. Meanwhile, people in undeveloped countries often struggled just to put food on their plates.

Fast forward around 150-200 years. America accomplished great things like sending a man to the moon first and developing some of the best technologies in the world. But other countries were catching up.

Some of their school systems actually became more intense than American schools. For example, Chinese students went to school 6 days a week, with longer hours, and a longer school year.

After these students from other countries graduated, many of the smartest students came to the United States to learn from the best college professors in the world. They often worked even harder than their American counterparts, and they excelled. They returned to their countries with a top-of-the-line education.

And while this was happening, another major shift was occurring. The American health care system grew and grew. But not everyone could afford to pay, some some had to pay extra to subsidize this health care.

This leads us to where we are today.

America still has the best health care system in the world, hands down. Our doctors, equipment, and access to care are unparalleled. But some of the developing nations have almost caught up. They buy some of the same equipment. They use the same drugs. (An estimated 80% of the substances used to make or package drugs sold in the US are made in other countries, according to one source). Many of their doctors and professors are trained by American doctors in American hospitals, so they know what they’re doing.

But when they return to their home countries, they charge less because:

  1. The cost of living is so much lower overseas, so they can have a comfortable living by making a smaller profit.
  2. There aren’t as many lawsuits, so their malpractice insurance is substantially less.
  3. They don’t have to charge paying patients extra in order to subsidize the health care system.

As a result, health care in many nations now costs a FRACTION of what it does in the United States. According to an article by the University of Delaware publication UDaily:

The cost of surgery in India, Thailand, or South Africa can be one- tenth of what it is in the United States or Western Europe, and sometimes even less. A heart-valve replacement that would cost $200,000 or more in the US, for example, goes for $10,000 in India–and that includes round-trip airfare and a brief vacation package. Similarly, a metal-free dental bridge worth $5,500 in the US costs $500 in India, a knee replacement in Thailand with six days of physical therapy costs about one-fifth of what it would in the States…Cosmetic surgery savings are even greater: A full facelift that would cost $20,000 in the US runs about $1,250 in South Africa.

Some of the most popular countries for medical tourism include Argentina, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hungary, India, Malaysia, South Africa, and…drumroll, please…Thailand.


Which leads me to our recent trip: I just saved over $3,000 by traveling to Thailand and doing several medical procedures there. That was more than the cost of airfare and lodging for 2 people for 30 days!

The first procedure was LASIK eye surgery. I wanted to do this in the good ol’ US of A. But after being lured to Syracuse by an advertisement for $800/eye, I found out the real cost for me: $3,580 total + possible add-ons.

There was no way that was happening. But the good news is that I found out I passed their tests and was a candidate–although apparently I have ridiculously large pupils (something I am proud to share with Ariel).

They treated me like a VIP, bringing me drinks and food, and even giving me a private room so my pregnant wife could rest. The facilities were top-notch, and I had researched online to know the laser they used was state-of-the-art, even nicer than many of the lasers used in American offices. I had the consultation and surgery done in one day. Total cost: $1,691.70. Savings: $1,883.30+

I also had some dental work done. First, I wanted a routine dental cleaning. This was done by Ph.D. in dentistry. A Ph.D. Maybe that’s normal for you, but it seems like I normally get a recent community college grad who seems more interested in Coronas than cavities.

Then I had a root canal procedure. My dentist in NY referred me to a specialist who quoted me $2,000, with no discounts for paying cash or not having dental insurance. Since my tooth didn’t hurt, I politely told him, “NO FREAKIN’ WAY.”

I’m 100% certain the dental care I received in Thailand was superior to what I would have received in the US. Over several visits, the dentist carefully drilled and finished the root canal. Total cost for cleaning & root canal: $916.09. Savings: $1,153.91.

You can easily see how paying for the medical care your insurance won’t cover overseas can save you BIG TIME.

Is there something you’ve been putting off? New eyeglasses? Elective surgery? Do it in conjunction with an overseas trip and it can make that $4K trip possible.