New research reveals just how readily Aussies would travel overseas to have surgical procedures carried out, and which surgeries they are more likely to go overseas for.

At least 15,000 Australians travel overseas for cosmetic surgery every year, spending a total of $300 million dollars abroad on medical costs[2]. Thailand is the most popular destination for cosmetic surgery tourists, followed by Malaysia[3].

A survey by global leader in international money transfers WorldFirst ( asked an independent panel of 1000 Australian adults which surgeries they would go overseas for if they needed surgery, did their research and were confident in the medical team they found.

The most common medical procedure Aussies would travel overseas for is dental work – chosen by 60 per cent of the survey respondents. Most dental procedures in Australia are not covered by Medicare, and major dental work such as veneers cost, on average, $1558[4].

The second most popular overseas surgery was cosmetic surgery: almost a third of Aussies (31%) would consider travelling overseas to get plastic surgery. In Australia, popular cosmetic procedures such as breast augmentation cost anywhere between $11,000 and $14,000[5], while in Thailand, costs are closer to $4000[6].

Surprisingly, 27 per cent of respondents would travel overseas for cancer treatment, and 18 per cent would consider having IVF treatments overseas rather than in Australia. According to WorldFirst’s analysis, a single IVF cycle in Australia can cost, on average, $9050[7].

While having surgery on vital organs overseas rather than in Australia was less popular, younger people were more confident in considering medical tourism for these procedures: 20 per cent of those aged 20 to 29 would go overseas if they needed surgery on vital organs compared with just 7 per cent of those aged 60 to 69.

The survey also asked if cost was the main reason to have surgery overseas, with 74 per cent of respondents agreeing.

WorldFirst Head of Foreign Exchange, Patrick Liddy, said: “It’s essential Aussies consider all the risks associated with travelling abroad for surgery, including foreign exchange risks. With costs being so important to three quarters of Aussies, they’ll need to take into account foreign exchange fees and the value of our dollar when paying for surgery and associated travel expenses. In recent trends we have seen the AUD move more than 7 per cent within a window as short as six to eight weeks. This could add $700 dollars to a $10,000 medical trip – and that’s excluding foreign exchange fees.”

“To help keep your medical costs down, WorldFirst can provide expert advice on the best time to make international payments to medical clinics, and secure currency exchange rates that are up to seven times cheaper than the big four banks.”

The surgeries Aussies are most likely to undergo overseas rather than at home

The surgeries Aussies would have abroad
Type of procedure Percent
Dental work 60%
Cosmetic surgery 31%
Cancer treatment 27%
Fertility treatments such as IVF 18%
Eye surgery 17%
Surgery on vital organs e.g. heart and liver 14%
Gastric bypass/banding surgery 13%
Organ transplants 12%