Medical tourism in Tijuana is booming. Thousands of Americans travel across the border for healthcare each year. People commonly travel to Mexico for dental procedures, to purchase prescription medications, to receive specialized treatments, and for cosmetic surgery. Healthcare in Tijuana is not only of high quality. It’s also affordable and accessible. Offering state-of-the-art facilities, English-speaking medical staff, and easy accessibility, Tijuana is an excellent choice for medical tourism.
In this guide, we will guide you through the ins and outs of medical tourism in Tijuana. We’ll explain how to find a doctor or dentist in Tijuana. We’ll also outline the process of obtaining a prescription, visiting a pharmacy, and buying medications in Tijuana. In addition, we’ll also address some common concerns and share some tips to make your trip to Tijuana as smooth as possible.
At this point, I’ve been living in Tijuana for about 3 years. During that time, I have visited several clinics. I have also had some dental work done. In this guide, I’ll share my experience. This guide is mostly geared toward medical tourism in Tijuana but much of the information can be applied anywhere in Mexico. For more info, check out my guides to Tijuana.
Benefits of Traveling to Tijuana for Medical Tourism
Medical tourism is becoming increasingly popular. There are plenty of excellent medical tourism destinations to choose from. A few of the most popular countries for medical tourism include Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Thailand, India, and Turkey. In this section, I’ll outline why you should consider traveling to Tijuana for medical tourism.
The main reason people travel to Tijuana for healthcare is to save money. Depending on the procedure or treatment, you can save anywhere from 20% to a staggering 80% compared to prices in the United States, Canada, or Western Europe. You can save thousands of dollars by traveling to Tijuana for healthcare.
For example, a common dental procedure like a dental implant could cost $3000-$4000 in the United States. The same exact procedure may only cost $1500-$2000 in Tijuana. A common cosmetic procedure like a facelift might cost $8,000-$10,000. The same procedure in Tijuana might cost closer to $6,000. Even when you factor in the cost of airfare and a hotel room, you’re still saving a significant amount of money.
Healthcare is cheaper in Tijuana for several reasons. For one, the cost of living in Mexico is significantly lower than in the U.S. This directly impacts the pricing of medical procedures. Additionally, administrative and malpractice insurance costs are also lower in Mexico. This further reduces the cost for patients.
You Get to Take a Vacation
One major benefit of traveling to Tijuana for medical tourism is that it gives you the opportunity to take a much-deserved vacation. You don’t have to travel just for medical treatment. You can go sightseeing or simply enjoy some R&R before or after your procedure.
Tijuana is known for its food, nightlife, and warm and sunny weather. Tijuana is also a cultural center of Mexico. There are plenty of things to do in Tijuana.
You can go to the beach in Playas de Tijuana or Rosarito. Tijuana also has an excellent restaurant scene. The city is also renowned for its street food. Especially tacos. Tijuana is also famous for its wild nightlife. Experience the local culture along Avenida Revolucion or Zona Norte. These areas are lined with lively bars, clubs, and restaurants. Tijuana enjoys a mild climate year-round, making it an ideal place for exploring local markets, walking along the colorful streets, and visiting the Cultural Center (CECUT).
As for accommodations, Tijuana offers a wide array of comfortable hotels suitable for recovery. From luxury resorts to popular chain hotels to budget-friendly options, you’ll find a perfect place to recuperate.
Advanced or Alternative Treatment Options May Be Available
If you’re seeking a broader range of treatment options, Tijuana’s medical tourism industry has you covered. Alongside the conventional treatments and procedures you would expect, Tijuana offers access to advanced and alternative treatments that may not be available or approved in countries like the United States or Canada.
These advanced therapies range from unique cancer treatments to state-of-the-art orthopedic procedures. In some cases, these treatments are offered years before they receive approval in countries with more restrictive regulatory bodies. For individuals who haven’t found success with conventional treatment methods, these offerings can be a beacon of hope. In addition to advanced medical treatments, Tijuana also stands out for its array of alternative and holistic treatments.
While these expanded options can be highly beneficial, it’s crucial to approach them with a discerning mind. Always conduct thorough research and consult with healthcare professionals before choosing to undergo any advanced or alternative treatments.
Shorter Wait Times
When it comes to your health, time is important. Waiting for medical service could cost you. In Tijuana, wait times to see doctors and receive treatment and procedures can be significantly shorter. Particularly when compared to countries with socialized healthcare systems.
In countries like Canada or the United Kingdom, patients can face lengthy wait times for procedures, consultations with specialists, or important surgeries. These wait times can stretch into several months due to the high demand on public health systems.
For example, according to the article Wait Times for Healthcare in Canada, “Specialist physicians surveyed report a median waiting time of 27.4 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment”. This delay can not only cause discomfort and anxiety but also potentially exacerbate medical conditions.
Many medical facilities in Tijuana have streamlined their operations to cater to international patients. Tijuana’s healthcare system can address patients’ needs much faster, whether it’s a dental procedure, cosmetic surgery, or consultation with a specialist. Having a medical procedure in Tijuana often means you can book your procedure and plan your travel with a set timeline, rather than an uncertain waiting period.
Privacy can be a concern for some people. There are certain types of procedures that one might prefer to keep confidential and discreet. This is a key advantage of medical tourism. It provides you with an added layer of privacy that might not be possible in your home country.
Whether it’s a cosmetic procedure you’d rather not broadcast or a treatment you prefer to keep within your personal space, seeking medical care in a foreign country can provide a shield of discretion. You are simply a visitor. This adds a degree of anonymity.
The medical facilities in Tijuana are accustomed to serving international patients and understand the importance of privacy and confidentiality. In addition, Tijuana’s geographical proximity to the United States makes it a convenient destination for those who wish to travel back quickly post-procedure. further enhancing the aspect of privacy. Your friends and family won’t even know you left if you don’t want them to.
In Tijuana, you can receive personalized care. The healthcare system in Tijuana is well-geared toward international patients. Clinics that cater to foreigners offer a multitude of services designed to make your medical trip smooth and worry-free. From your initial inquiry to your return journey home, many Tijuana medical offices ensure that you’re well-cared for and informed every step of the way.
One standout feature is the availability of a dedicated liaison in many Tijuana healthcare facilities. This liaison serves as your primary point of contact, helping to coordinate your appointments, streamline your procedures, and answer any questions you may have. They guide you through the healthcare journey, offering support and ensuring that your needs are met promptly.
Furthermore, these liaisons can assist with logistical aspects such as arranging accommodations, providing information about local amenities, and helping to navigate the city. This level of service can significantly ease the process of traveling for medical care, allowing you to focus on your treatment and recovery.
Drawbacks of Traveling to Tijuana for Medical Tourism
Traveling to Tijuana for medical tourism isn’t for everyone. There are some significant drawbacks to consider before booking your trip.
While there are many world-class healthcare facilities in Tijuana, there are plenty of poor ones as well. There can be considerable variability in the quality of care. It’s important to thoroughly research the hospitals, clinics, and doctors you plan to visit to ensure they are reputable. You need to do your due diligence.
Many of the healthcare facilities in Tijuana are internationally accredited. They offer state-of-the-art facilities and highly trained staff. However, not all healthcare facilities in Tijuana meet the high standards set by the leading institutions. Visiting the wrong medical facility could lead to subpar treatment, unsatisfactory results, or in rare cases, complications.
To navigate this variability, it’s important to do thorough research. Look for clinics or hospitals that are accredited by recognized international bodies such as the Joint Commission International (JCI). These accreditations are a strong indicator of quality. In Tijuana, the only internationally certified, fully established hospital is Hospital Angeles.
It’s also a good idea to check reviews and patient testimonials. Be sure to check independent platforms, like Google Reviews, not just on the clinic’s website. Also, don’t hesitate to ask the clinic or hospital about their medical professionals’ credentials. Reputable establishments will be transparent about the qualifications and experience of their staff.
The Language Barrier
When it comes to seeking medical care, clear communication is absolutely crucial. Although many healthcare providers in Tijuana speak English, you may still encounter language barriers.
Tijuana healthcare providers see a significant number of English-speaking patients, particularly from the United States and Canada. Many doctors and healthcare providers in Tijuana speak English fluently. Many even received part of their education in English-speaking countries. Communication isn’t an issue.
However, it’s important to be aware that this level of English proficiency may not extend to all healthcare staff. Oftentimes, nurses and administrative staff don’t speak fluent English. While they are often capable of handling basic interactions in English, more nuanced conversations may present a challenge. This potential language barrier could lead to miscommunication, causing confusion or misunderstandings about the treatment plan, aftercare instructions, billing, and more.
There are a couple of ways to deal with this. You can ask for written instructions or explanations from your healthcare provider. You might also consider hiring a translator or insisting on having a bilingual staff member present during key discussions to ensure clear communication. Translation apps can also help.
Follow-Up Care Can be a Challenge
Once you’ve returned home after receiving treatment in Tijuana, managing follow-ups can be a challenge. The distance can make immediate consultation with your doctor difficult, particularly if complications arise.
Post-procedure complications are a reality of any medical treatment. Managing them from afar can be challenging. The convenience of quickly seeing your original doctor is not readily available. Virtual consultations may not be sufficient in certain cases.
If you need to see a doctor due to complications, your local healthcare providers might be reluctant to take over your care. Especially if they’re not familiar with the procedure you had or if it was performed abroad. This hesitancy may be due to concerns about potential complications, lack of access to all the medical information related to your procedure, or the logistical challenges of coordinating care with a physician in another country.
In some cases, you may find yourself needing to make additional trips to Tijuana for follow-up care. While Tijuana’s proximity to the U.S. makes it a more convenient destination compared to other medical tourism hotspots, repeat journeys can still be time-consuming and expensive. Making a trip to Tijuana for a follow-up could offset some of the cost savings from seeking treatment abroad.
It’s best to plan for follow-up care before traveling to Tijuana for the purpose of medical tourism. Communicate clearly with your doctor in Tijuana about a post-treatment plan. Ask if you’ll need a follow-up. Ask if telemedicine is an option for follow-up consultations.
Your Insurance Probably Won’t Cover You
Typically, health insurance providers do not extend their coverage to procedures conducted abroad. The lower costs of medical services in Tijuana may appear enticing, but it’s important to remember that these expenses usually have to be paid out-of-pocket.
You’ll have to pay for consultations, the procedure itself, medications, aftercare, and any necessary follow-ups. these costs add up. Of course, you’ll also have to pay for transportation to Tijuana as wella s accommodation and food while you’re there. You need to factor all expenses into your budget.
Moreover, there’s the consideration of potential complications. Complications can occur in any medical scenario. In such instances, the required additional care or prolonged hospital stays may not be covered by your insurance. This could lead to significant out-of-pocket expenses.
Before proceeding with your medical journey to Tijuana, it’s a good idea to have a discussion with your insurance provider. Understanding your coverage limitations can help you make an informed decision.
No Legal Recourse
If something goes wrong during or after a procedure, seeking legal recourse in a foreign country can be significantly more complicated than in your home country. In countries like the U.S., patients have specific rights and protections in cases of medical negligence or malpractice. The legal system is structured to uphold these rights. However, when engaging in medical tourism, the situation can become quite complex due to differences in laws and regulations.
Countries have their own standards for medical practice and their own legal systems, which may not offer the same level of protection to patients as you might expect back home. If you experience complications from a procedure carried out in Tijuana, your legal options could be limited. Foreigners may not be treated the same as citizens. Furthermore, the legal process could become expensive and time-consuming, potentially requiring you to travel back and forth to Mexico.
It’s also important to note that any legal proceedings would take place in the country where the procedure was performed. In this case, you would need to navigate the Mexican legal system, which may require legal representation familiar with Mexican law and the Spanish language. This can add another layer of complexity and cost to the situation.
Safety Concerns: Is Tijuana Safe?
Tijuana has a bad reputation. The city has one of the highest murder rates in the world due to a turf war between two rival cartels. Muggings, robberies, pickpocketings, and petty theft are also relatively common. I have personally experienced two crimes in Tijuana. First, I was inside a bar during an armed robbery. I was also pickpocketed on the street.
This might set off alarm bells for those considering a medical trip to the region. The last thing you want to deal with when you’re recovering from a medical procedure is crime.
The good news is that tourists generally aren’t targeted in violent crime in Tijuana. Most violent incidents occur between gangs and are linked to the drug trade, and they’re often localized to specific areas away from major tourist zones and medical hubs. Tourists are sometimes targeted by pickpockets, scammers, and muggers.
When you’re in Tijuana, it’s important to take some precautions to avoid falling victim to crime. You should a displaying valuables. Leave your expensive jewelry, electronics, and cash in your hotel. Keep your phone and wallet in pockets that zip or button closed. Consider wearing a money belt. It’s also best to avoid wearing flashy clothing. Dress down.
You should also avoid wandering around too much. Stay in the touristy zones. These include Zona Centro, Zona Rio, and Playas de Tijuana. Do research or ask your medical liaison about safer areas to stay in Tijuana. Reputable clinics, hospitals, and hotels will all be located in safe zones. You should avoid roaming around at night if possible. If you have to move at night, take an Uber.
For more in-depth info, check out my guide: Is Tijuana Safe? Avoiding Crime and Scams.
How to Visit the Dentist in Tijuana
Dental care is probably the most common type of medical tourism in Tijuana. Americans have been traveling across the border to Tijuana for dental work for decades. My dad is one of them. At least once per year, he drives down for a cheap teeth cleaning and check-up. I have also gone to the dentist in Tijuana on a couple of occasions.
Dental offices can be found all over Zona Centro and Zona Rio. Especially near the border. There are multiple dental offices within walking distance of main crossing.
Prices for dental work in Tijuana are anywhere from 30-70% cheaper than the same service in the US, depending on the procedure you need. If you need a lot of work done, you can save thousands of dollars by traveling to Tijuana.
Before getting dental work done in Tijuana, you need to do your research. The quality of care varies widely. Good, quality dental work looks great and can last decades without any problems. Cheap work may only last a few years. It may not look very good either.
There are some excellent dentists in Tijuana who can do work of the same quality that you can get in the US or Canada. These dentists have the same education and certifications as your dentist back home. In many cases, they were educated and trained in the US. They use the exact same techniques and technologies in their work.
With that being said, there are also some bad dentists who will do cheap, low-quality work. They may use cheap materials or outdated techniques. Their education may not be up to par. They may not have been trained in the most modern techniques. You want to do your research to avoid these guys. Follow the steps below to find the best dentist for your condition.
Before picking a dentist in Tijuana
- Read reviews- There are dozens of dental offices in Tijuana. Most are good. Some are bad. You can find hundreds of reviews from people who have traveled to Tijuana for dental work. Search on Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor for “Tijuana dentist reviews”. With this information, create a list of a few well-reviewed dentists that you can further research. Avoid reading testimonials on the dentist’s websites.
- Visit or call a few dental offices before deciding on a dentist if you need some major work done– By doing this you can verify that the staff are professional and know what they are doing. Because so many Americans travel to Tijuana for dental care, pretty much every office will have at least one English-speaking staff member to answer all of your questions and walk you through everything that they are going to do.
- Study up a bit on dentistry- You will want to make sure that your dentist is using the most modern techniques and materials to treat your condition. Before getting any work done, you’ll want to know that the work will look good and last. You don’t want your dentist to use low-quality materials or outdated techniques.
- Compare pricing- You shouldn’t just go to the first dentist you see when you walk across the border. You shouldn’t go to the cheapest. By getting several quotes, you will know that you aren’t being ripped off or taken advantage of. Many dentists have all of their prices listed on their websites. If they won’t give you a quote, consider looking elsewhere. Most offices will at least give you a price range.
How Much Cheaper is it to go to the Dentist in Tijuana?
Tijuana is a great alternative to an expensive dentist in the US. Because dental care costs so much less in Mexico and the fact that most Americans don’t have dental insurance, it can even turn out to be cheaper to fly to Tijuana just to visit the dentist.
- A simple exam and evaluation in Tijuana costs around $50. To compare, the same exam costs around $150 in the U.S.
- Full mouth X-rays in Tijuana costs around $90. In the U.S., the same X-rays cost around $250.
- A root canal in Tijuana costs around $350-$400. In the U.S. it costs around $900-$1300.
- A dental implant surgery costs around $1000 in Tijuana. The same surgery in the U.S. costs around $2500.
- A night guard costs around $150. The same night guard costs around $500 in the U.S.
You get the idea. Pretty much every procedure is significantly cheaper in Tijuana. Sometimes, you can save as much as 70%. If you need a lot of work, it’s a substantial savings.
My friend, who lives in Seattle, just visited his dentist after losing his dental insurance. After a standard checkup with x-rays and a teeth cleaning, his dentist surprised him with a $450 bill. I explained to him that he could have flown to Tijuana, visited the dentist, had a nice weekend vacation, and returned to Seattle all for less than $450. He may do that next time.
How to Buy Prescription Medications in Mexico
Prescription drugs in can be substantially cheaper in Tijuana than in the U.S. This can be due to differences in regulations, pricing structures, and market dynamics.
For those on long-term medications or dealing with high prescription costs, the savings from purchasing in Tijuana can be huge. It can be worth the trip to Tijuana just to buy medication from a Mexican pharmacy. Some travelers make the trip to Tijuana and pick up a several-month supply of their medications.
Tijuana pharmacies offer a wide range of both brand-name medications and generics. Before buying any medications, it’s important to be aware that drug formulations can differ between countries. It’s important to consult with your primary healthcare provider before switching to a different brand or generic version of your medication, just to be safe.
While many medications can be purchased over the counter in Tijuana, some still require a prescription from a licensed physician. When you’re traveling across the border with prescription medications, you will need a valid prescription when returning to your home country. You also need to make sure the medication is legal in your home country. There are some medications sold in Mexico that are not legal. in the United States.
If you’re considering traveling to Tijuana primarily for prescription medications, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of bringing drugs back into your home country. For U.S. citizens, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has guidelines on importing medications for personal use. This article outlines crossing the border with medication.
If you purchase medications with a Mexican prescription, you are only allowed to bring a maximum of a 50 dosage supply across the border when crossing back to the United States. When you have a prescription from a U.S. licensed physician or dentist, you can bring more than 50 dosages back with you. If you purchase medications that require a prescription and you don’t have a prescription, you won’t be able to bring them back.
When crossing the border with prescription medications:
- Carry your prescription with you.
- Declare them to the immigration official.
- Carry only the amount that you are permitted to have based on your prescription.
- Carry the medication in its original container.
Laws can change quickly and without notice. Before traveling across the border with your medications, make sure that you are acting within the law. Check with customs before returning to your country with prescription medications. Don’t let customs catch you crossing the border with prescription medications that you’re not supposed to have.
In the past, you could buy pretty much whatever medication you needed without a prescription in Mexico. About a decade ago the government cracked down on this and it is no longer the case. Now you need a prescription. Tijuana pharmacies accept Both U.S. and Mexican prescriptions.
Warning: Never try to transport prescription medications to the US without a prescription.
If you are caught, the medications will most likely be confiscated at the border. Depending on the drug, you may be charged with a crime. For example, trying to bring back something addictive or commonly sold on the street would probably be treated more seriously than trying to bring back something common and non-addictive such as antibiotics.
For more information about traveling to the US with prescriptions, you can read this article from the Food and Drug Administration.
Prescription Prices in Tijuana
Many Americans travel to Tijuana to buy prescription medications because prices are so much lower. Generally, prescription medications can be purchased in Mexico for 40-60% less than they cost in the U.S.
The medications that you purchase in Tijuana will not be the name-brand from the U.S. that you’re used to. In most cases, they will be generics that have been manufactured in Mexico or overseas. It is the same compound, just in a different packaging and produced in a different facility.
If the prescription price seems high, you may want to shop around. Prices can vary a bit from pharmacy to pharmacy. While shopping for an antibiotic last year, pharmacists quoted me prices as high as $20 for 10 pills. I could buy it cheaper in the U.S. I knew this was high and needed 60 pills so I decided to shop around. After visiting a few pharmacies, I found one that was selling it for about half of that price for the same exact product that the other pharmacies were offering. It pays to shop around.
How to Find Lower Priced Pharmacies in Tijuana
Most of the pharmacies charge around the same price. It’s a competitive business. There are lots of pharmacies in Tijuana. They’re on almost every street corner in Zona Centro.
To find lower-priced pharmacies, try to venture outside of the tourist district. You will find pharmacies that cater to locals rather than tourists. Prices can be slightly lower and you will find the same exact medicine.
A short walk outside of downtown can save you some money. Particularly if you need an expensive prescription. For more information on getting around in Tijuana, check out my article: Walking Across the Border to Tijuana.
If you do this, always ensure that you’re buying from a legitimate pharmacy. Look for establishments that are clean and professional. Ask your medical professionals for recommendations. They can point you in the right direction.
How to Visit a Clinic in Tijuana
If you have a minor medical issue that you want to get checked out, the cheapest option is to go to a pharmacy clinic. Many larger pharmacies in Mexico have a small clinic attached. These simple clinics generally have a receptionist and one doctor. You can just walk in. No appointment is necessary. Wait times are generally only a few minutes. Examples of conditions that these places can treat include:
- Minor cuts and wounds
- STI testing and treatment
- Prescriptions for conditions you already have
- Minor infections
- Prescriptions for antibiotics for various infections
- Prescriptions for ED pills
- Checking out warts, moles, boils, etc.
If the clinic is not equipped to treat your condition, they will refer you to another doctor or a specialist. Tijuana full-service hospitals where you can get treatment for any condition.
Price for a Basic Consultation in a Tijuana Clinic
A consultation at one of these small clinics starts at only 60-100 pesos (about $3.50-$6). If you need additional services or treatments, the price increases. Examples of additional services include:
- Cleaning and dressing wounds
- Blood testing
- Urine testing
- Prescription medications
Every time I have visited one of these clinics, they have been honest with pricing. I have never been overcharged and never been up-sold. I have only ever paid the consultation charge which is an extremely fair price plus the cost of prescriptions. With that being said, you will want to ask about pricing before accepting any treatment just to be safe.
How to Visit a Clinic in Tijuana
Visiting the clinic in Tijuana is quick and efficient. After you walk in:
- Step 1: Fill Out a Form With the Details of Your Condition- When you walk in, a receptionist will hand you a short form to fill out. To do this, you will need to know enough Spanish to describe the problem that you’re having. Google Translate should be enough to get your point across if your Spanish isn’t sufficient. The receptionist will also collect your personal information such as phone number and address and register you in their computer system so they have your medical records if you need to return for a follow-up appointment. They can also call you with your test results if necessary.
- Step 2: Talk to the Doctor- After a short wait, you will be called into a room to visit the doctor. You will sit down at his desk and explain your condition. He will ask you a series of questions to help make a diagnosis. Again, this is where a bit of Spanish will come in handy. He may physically inspect your body or run some tests if necessary to make the diagnosis.
- Step 3: The Doctor Will Treat You- After making a diagnosis, the doctor will write you a prescription, make a recommendation, or treat your condition right there and send you on your way. If you need to see a specialist, the doctor can refer you to another doctor or hospital in Tijuana. Many of these small clinics are equipped to clean and dress minor wounds and take blood and urine for testing. They also write prescriptions. That is their main business.
- Step 4: Pay your Bill– As you leave, you stop at reception to pay your bill. You’ll be charged for the basic consultation. Additional charges will be added on at this time as well. If you need a prescription filled, you can take it to any pharmacy in Mexico. I recommend getting it filled at the pharmacy connected to the clinic as they will generally give you a discount or include a freebie like a bottle of water.
How to Find a Doctor in Tijuana: Cosmetic Surgeries, Cancer Treatment, etc.
Pretty much every type of procedure and treatment is available in Tijuana from cutting-edge cancer treatments to transformative cosmetic surgeries. In Tijuana, there are modern, full-service hospitals that can treat any medical problem that you may have.
The biggest, most respected hospital serving the city is called Hospital Angeles Tijuana. There are a number of other smaller hospitals in Tijuana including Tijuana General Hospital and Hospital Tijuana. There are also clinics and doctor’s offices located throughout the city.
Tijuana offers several specialty hospitals and clinics renowned for specific treatments. For example, if you’re considering cosmetic surgery, there are clinics that exclusively focus on such procedures.
Quality-wise, the hospitals in Tijuana will be of equal quality to the average American or Canadian hospital. They may not offer the most cutting-edge, state-of-the-art techniques that the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins could offer but there are full-service facilities equipped to treat any condition that you may have.
When selecting a doctor for surgery or a major medical problem in Mexico, you will want to take the same precautions that you would back home. Research is important. You want to ensure that the doctor or surgeon has the appropriate credentials. Look into their credentials including their education and history. Whatever is available. If they didn’t attend a major, well-known university, you may want to steer clear.
Before committing to a treatment or surgery, arrange a consultation. This can be done either virtually or in person. This will give you a sense of the doctor’s expertise and approach. You’ll also get a sense of whether or not you feel comfortable with them.
You can also find reviews online for many Tijuana doctors. Americans have been traveling to Tijuana for years to receive medical treatment so there is a wealth of information available. Websites, forums, and platforms dedicated to medical tourism reviews can be valuable. You can find firsthand accounts of patient experiences with Tijuana-based doctors.
Finding a Doctor for Cosmetic Work and Plastic Surgery in Tijuana
Tijuana is becoming an increasingly popular destination for cosmetic surgery. With state-of-the-art facilities, accredited professionals, and lower prices, it’s no surprise. Because most insurance won’t cover cosmetic work, many Americans choose to travel to Tijuana to save money on these procedures. You can get the same quality of work for a fraction of what it would cost back home.
As with any medical journey, the key to a successful and safe cosmetic surgery experience in Tijuana is finding the right doctor. Before you commit to surgery, check the qualifications an accreditations of the doctor. Review their portfolios. Most doctors have before and after photos of their work that you can view. Also, seek recommendations. Read online reviews and testimonials from past patients.
It’s also important to do a consultation first. This gives you the chance to discuss your goals, ask questions, and ensure that you feel comfortable with the surgeon. If you have doubts, keep looking.
Plastic surgery is very popular in Mexico, I have noticed. These surgeons get plenty of practice. Again, you want to be sure to do your research and read plenty of reviews before getting any work done. Some doctors are better than others. You don’t want to end up with a botched job and have to go visit an expensive specialist for a correction. You want to get it done right the first time.
All of the common cosmetic procedures are available in Tijuana. English will be spoken in all of these offices because they cater to many American patients. The language barrier won’t be a problem with this type of work. If there is a language barrier, consider going to a different doctor.
Common cosmetic procedures available in Tijuana include:
- Hair transplants
- Breast Augmentation
- Lazor hair removal
- Tummy tuck
- Calf implants
- Plus many more
To help you get started in your search, check out Yelp’s list of the best cosmetic surgeons in Tijuana. Or check out Google’s list of the best plastic surgeons in Tijuana.
Bariatric Surgery Medical Tourism in Tijuana
Bariatric surgery has become an increasingly popular option for many individuals struggling with obesity and the numerous health concerns it brings. The high costs and long wait times associated with these surgeries in other countries like the U.S. and Canada have led many to seek alternatives, such as Tijuana. Bariatric surgery medical tourism is becoming common in Tijuana.
On average, patients can expect to save anywhere from 50% to 60% on weight loss surgery when compared to the prices in their home countries. These savings don’t translate to lesser quality. Tijuana’s medical facilities are on par with international standards. Many of the bariatric surgeons in Tijuana have received training in the U.S. and Europe. They’re well-versed with the latest techniques and bariatric procedures.
Scams and Fake Medical Treatments in Mexico
When seeking medical treatment in Mexico you do need to exercise caution. There are some scams and fake treatments out there. There are a number of scams that exist.
One is fake credentials. Some practitioners may boast credentials and qualifications they don’t genuinely have. This can be dangerous. Always try to verify the credentials of your doctor before accepting treatment.
Counterfeit medications can also be an issue. Some pharmacies may sell fake or substandard medications, particularly in tourist-heavy zones.
Some clinics also overhyped treatments. They may exaggerate the efficacy of specific treatments, particularly those that aren’t approved or recognized in other countries. You may not be happy with the results.
During my research for this guide, I have also come across a couple of articles explaining treatments being sold in Mexico that are simply not effective. Here is an example from the NBC News website.
The most common victims of this are late-stage cancer patients. For example, the cancer treatment outlined in the above article is knowingly being performed by scammy doctors just to make a quick buck on people who are willing to try anything to save their lives.
This kind of thing doesn’t just happen in Mexico. It happens in the US as well but is much less common. The reason is that regulations for medical treatments are more lax and require much less research before they are approved in Mexico. In some cases, non-medical professionals perform treatments in secret. You must take this into consideration when seeking medical treatment in Tijuana. Always research the treatment and make sure the doctor is legitimate.
With all of this being said, there are a handful of legitimate treatments that you can get in Mexico that aren’t yet available in the US because testing has not been completed and they haven’t been approved by the FDA. Because testing has not been completed, we don’t yet know if the treatment is effective. Examples of these include several specific cancer treatments and stem cell therapy.
To Avoid Scams and Fake Treatments in Mexico:
- Research thoroughly: Before deciding on a clinic or doctor in Tijuana, take the time to thoroughly research them. Use reputable medical tourism platforms and delve into online reviews.
- Verify credentials: Confirm the qualifications of your chosen medical professional. Reputable institutions, such as the Mexican Association of Plastic, Aesthetic, and Reconstructive Surgery, have member lists that can be useful for validation.
- Avoid Too-Good-to-Be-True Deals: If a deal seems too good to be true, especially compared to other clinics, it’s a potential red flag. High-quality healthcare comes with certain costs. You get what you pay for.
- Consult your doctor in your home country: Before traveling, discuss your plans with a medical professional in your home country. They might provide insights or raise concerns you hadn’t considered.
- Purchase medications from reputable pharmacies: If buying prescriptions, choose established and reputable pharmacies in Tijuana. Check packaging and expiration dates meticulously. Read reviews.
- Follow your instincts: If something feels off or if you’re being pressured into a procedure or purchase, it’s okay to walk away and seek a second opinion. Don’t feel bad about canceling if something doesn’t feel right.
For more general information on scams in Tijuana, check out my article: Is Tijuana Safe? Avoiding Common Scams and Crime.
Do you need to speak Spanish to travel to Mexico for Medical Treatment?
No. You don’t need to speak Spanish to travel to Tijuana for the purpose of medical tourism. Speaking Spanish will certainly make things easier in some situations. For example, at the small clinics, English isn’t spoken. My Spanish is at an intermediate level so I was able to get by. If you don’t know any Spanish, Google Translate would be sufficient to get by.
For dental and cosmetic work, no Spanish is required. There are dozens of offices that cater to Americans and Canadians traveling to Mexico to receive treatment. These places employ staff that is fluent in English. Most dentists and doctors’ offices have websites that are also in English so you can get an idea of pricing and the services that they offer without even talking to anyone. You are probably paying a slight premium for this service but it’s worth the stress it saves.
How to Travel to Tijuana for Medical Tourism
As I mentioned earlier, it can turn out to be cheaper to travel all the way to Tijuana even for something as simple as a check-up and teeth cleaning at the dentist. Luckily, Tijuana is pretty easy to access from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada as it is located near three major international airports. You can fly into:
- Tijuana Airport (TIJ)-This is the most convenient option. From there, you can simply take a taxi or Uber to the medical or dental office or hospital of your choosing.
- San Diego International Airport (SAN)- This is probably the cheapest way to access Tijuana. This is a busy airport with connections all over North America. To get to Tijuana from San Diego International Airport, you take bus 992 to Broadway and Park Boulevard then transfer to the blue line trolley to San Ysidro. Next, you will walk across the border and arrive in Tijuana. From there you can take a taxi to your destination. This trip takes about an hour.
- Los Angeles Intatnational Airport (LAX)- This is much less convenient but may be cheaper depending on where you’re starting your trip. You will have to take a bus or rent a car to drive from Los Angeles to Tijuana. This also adds to the cost.
If you’d prefer not to fly, you can easily reach Tijuana by bus. For more info, check out my step-by-step guide: How to Travel to Tijuana by Greyhound Bus.
For more information on traveling from San Diego to Tijuana and crossing the border, check out my guide: Walking Across the Border to Tijuana.
Do I Need a Visa to Visit Tijuana for Medical Tourism?
In most cases, no. Citizens of the U.S., Canada, the U.K., E.U., and many other countries can visit Mexico without having to apply for a visa in advance. All you’ll need is an FMM visitor’s permit, which you’ll receive on arrival.
If your treatment requires that you stay in Mexico for longer than 7 days, you’ll also need to pay a fee. Currently, the fee is 687 pesos or about $38. You can pay this on arrival or online in advance. This allows you to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days. If you’re staying in Mexico for less than 7 days, there is no fee.
For more info on the visa, check out my Mexico Visa Guide.
Travel Insurance for Mexico
Your U.S. health insurance won’t help you in Mexico. If you will be living in Mexico or traveling there long term, you will probably want to have travel insurance so you are covered, at least in the event of a major accident.
For travel insurance, I like SafetyWing Travel Insurance. I have used them for many of my past international trips and have had good experiences with them. They specialize in insurance for expats and digital nomads.
Where to Stay While Receiving Medical Treatment
If you are traveling to Tijuana from outside of Southern California or if your treatment requires that you stay overnight, Tijuana has plenty of comfortable hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs. Most doctors’ offices are located in Zona Rio which is the business district of the city. Downtown is also a nice location to stay in. Some of the most popular hotels are:
- Hotel Ticuan– This is a historic mid-range hotel located right in the middle of the city on Avenida Revolucion.
- Tijuana Marriott Hotel- Probably the most upscale hotel in Tijuana. The Marriot is located in Zona Rio.
- Hotel Lucerna Tijuana- This is another more upscale option. Hotel Lucerna is located in Zona Rio.
My Experience visiting a Tijuana Clinic
While living in Tijuana, I have had a few minor health problems pop up that I needed to get checked out. Each visit to the clinic was quick, efficient, and best of all, cheap.
When I first moved to Tijuana, I noticed some irritation in my right eye. I thought it may have been pink eye. My vision was blurry and the area around my eye was a bit sore. It worried me that my vision wasn’t 100% so I decided to get it checked out.
I walked into the clinic and explained my condition to the doctor. After asking me a few questions, he wrote me a prescription for some antibiotic eye drops and a week’s worth of antibiotic pills to take.
I paid 60 pesos for the consultation and about $7 for the eye drops and pills at the pharmacy that was attached to the clinic. Within a couple of days, the infection cleared up and my eye returned to normal.
This treatment would probably have cost me several hundred dollars if I was paying out of pocket in the U.S. as I, unfortunately, didn’t have health insurance at the time.
During the winter I got sick. At first, I thought it was just a cold, but after a few days in bed with one of the worst sore throats I have ever had, I decided to go to the clinic to get checked out.
The doctor said I had strep throat. This diagnosis only cost me 60 pesos. He wrote me a prescription for some antibiotics and I went to the pharmacy just a few steps away and got my pills. A few days later, my symptoms eased up and I returned to my life.
If I had been in the U.S., I probably would have gone without antibiotics and suffered through another week of sickness. A consultation alone would have cost a couple of hundred dollars had I paid out of pocket.
The third time I needed medical help in Mexico was when I got food poisoning from eating some bad tacos. Generally, I have a pretty strong stomach but this wasn’t going to go away on its own. This time I didn’t go to the clinic. I simply asked a pharmacist what he would recommend for food poisoning and he sold me a couple of pills which cleared me up quickly.
I hate taking antibiotics but sometimes it is a necessity. Without access to cheap healthcare and prescriptions in Mexico, I would have either spent a lot more money or, more likely, just gone without and hoped my condition wouldn’t get worse. Sometimes treatment is easy and painless but without cheap and efficient healthcare you must go without.
Quality of Medical Care in Mexico
Mexico’s medical infrastructure is highly developed. Quality of care is, in general, very high. Doctors will have the same level of education and qualification as they do in the U.S. or Canada. Americans have been traveling across the border for cheaper medical care for decades.
Tijuana has a number of state-of-the-art hospitals and clinics, equipped with the latest medical technology. Many of these establishments are designed with international patients in mind. There are many skilled medical professionals working in Tijuana. Many of the city’s doctors and surgeons have received training from prestigious institutions in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Whether it’s orthopedic surgery, cosmetic procedures, dentistry, or oncology treatments, Tijuana offers a broad spectrum of medical specialties.
Having said that, good doctors and bad doctors exist everywhere. Tijuana is a ‘you get what you pay for’ kind of place. For common problems and minor treatments, any clinic should be able to fix you up without any problems.
For treatment of more major medical problems or surgeries, you will need to do your research. Tijuana has some excellent hospitals that have been treating medical tourists from around the world for decades. There are also some facilities that aren’t up to the standards that you might expect and some that are downright scammy. For any serious treatment, you must do your due dilligence.
Healthcare prices have gotten absolutely insane in the United States. If you don’t have health insurance, or if your insurance isn’t very good, you may be forced to pay out of pocket. Clinics can charge hundreds of dollars to simply check out a minor injury or run a simple blood test. Prescription prices are getting out of hand as well.
Every year, many Americans file for bankruptcy just because of medical bills. This is something that just doesn’t happen in many other countries. If you can’t afford healthcare, you may simply have to go without. A minor problem can quickly turn into a life or death situation if left untreated.
Luckily, visiting a Tijuana clinic is a cheap and easy experience. Prescription medications are also available for a fraction of the cost of the US. Dental work is affordable as well. If you require more significant treatment, it is available at a much more reasonable cost than the US.
Have you had medical or dental treatment in Tijuana? Comment below with your experience! I’m interested to hear about it.
If you do decide to make a trip to Tijuana for medical procedures, check out my Ultimate Guide to Visiting Tijuana. It also includes step-by-step information on getting to and around the city, the visa, places to stay, and bar and restaurant recommendations, and much more.
Have you traveled to Mexico for the purpose of medical tourism? Share your experience in the comments below!
More Tijuana Guides from Where The Road Forks
- Is Tijuana Safe? Avoiding Common Scams and Crime
- Moving to Tijuana as an American
- Walking Across the Border to Tijuana
- How to Park for Free at the Tijuana Border
- Inside a Tijuana Bar During an Armed Robbery
- 29 Incredible Things to do in Tijuana
- Do You Need a Passport to Go to Tijuana?
Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and incites based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.