Turkey has developed as the regional hub for medical and healthcare services in the region, pursuing medical excellence and strong expertise accompanied by a strong technological and infrastructural base and a current approach to the quality of care. The Turkish private healthcare system is striving to become a strategic global health service provider manufacturing center accommodating not only the regional medical needs but also the needs provided throughout the world.
Turkey Opens Its Doors To Health Travelers
Centrally located West and East, Turkey is in a unique position to serve Americans and Western Europeans as easily as Middle Easterners and Eastern Europeans.
Just as automobiles and electronics became globally competitive over the past few decades, high-quality healthcare has also become available around the world. In fact, did you know that this year an estimated five million patients will cross borders for a medical procedure? Another 15 million will travel to a foreign country for wellness, spa treatments, and traditional and preventive medicine.
It may come as a surprise to patients and healthcare consumers that Turkey ranks high as a global healthcare hub, in good company with established medical tourism destinations such as India, Thailand, and Singapore. Centrally located West and East, Turkey is in a unique position to serve Americans and Western Europeans as easily as Middle Easterners and Eastern Europeans.
In our research for Patients Beyond Borders, now the leading consumer reference guide for medical tourism, I’ve journeyed to Turkey twice in the past year, visiting hospitals, talking with doctors, and interviewing international patients. It’s clear that in Turkey, medical tourists can find world-class wellness facilities, along with nearly every imaginable medical procedure—all at a fraction of the prices typically charged in the United States and Europe. The nearly 100,000 patients who visited Turkey last year have discovered this, and Turkey expects to attract more than 1 million medical travelers by 2015!
Turkey has long welcomed vacationers with its history, culture, scenery, and cuisine. Thus, an expansion of traditional Turkish hospitality into the healthcare sector is natural. Turkey has recently gone through a comprehensive healthcare restructuring: new investments and government support have raised the quality of the nation’s health services, increased the availability of state-of-the-art treatments, and promoted the use of innovative medical technologies. All are attracting medical travelers in greatly increasing numbers.
As Turkey’s status as a global political and economic power has grown in recent years, so has its healthcare delivery system. Turkey now boasts more hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI, the foremost healthcare accrediting body worldwide) than any other country in the world. Of the entire roster of American-accredited facilities in 36 countries outside the United States, Turkey boasts more than 12 percent. Its total—33 as of this writing, with new additions annually—is more than those of Thailand and India combined, and more than any other single country in the world!
Turkey’s JCI-accredited hospitals offer a full range of treatments through a network of locations employing approximately 20,000 healthcare professionals, including more than 3,000 physicians. Some of its best hospitals boast affiliations with prestigious medical centers in the United States, including Harvard Medical International in Boston, Johns Hopkins Medicine International in Baltimore, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
International patients, particularly those in the US and Canada, will find travel times to Turkey dramatically shorter than the 25+ hour hauls to countries further East. While most of Turkey’s patients arrive for medical care from nearby neighboring countries, Turkey also wants to attract the more than 80 million un- or under-insured patients in the United States, who are increasingly seeking affordable alternatives to the high price of care on their own shores.
Patients with diagnosed medical conditions can find what they are looking for in Turkey, ranging from bone marrow transplantation to in vitro fertilization. Other sought-after specialties include cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, genetic testing, neurosurgery, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, and dentistry.
Many medical travelers seeking elective surgery they cannot afford at home will find the price is right in Turkey. For example, a rhinoplasty (“nose job”) in Turkey costs, on average, about a third of what it costs in the United States. A knee replacement priced at $43,000 in the United States may cost around US$12,000 in Turkey, including the hospital stay.
The leading healthcare groups are located in Turkey’s three largest cities—Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. They offer a “one-stop” service to foreign patients, covering all arrangements from the day of request to the day of departure. Hospital staff handles everything from setting up initial consultations to booking accommodations.
Turkey also attracts health-conscious travelers who want to maintain and promote wellness through comprehensive checkups, health screenings, and health-promoting spa experiences. Turkey is a natural venue for wellness travel; its thermal spa resorts and mud baths attract about a half-million visitors annually.
I’m so impressed with Turkey’s healthcare offerings that I have written a special Turkey Edition of the Patients Beyond Borders series. In it, I profile eleven Turkish hospitals and hospital groups that are ready to serve the medical traveler. Is that you? Whether you are seeking a health-promoting week at a luxury spa or a long-postponed hip replacement too expensive to undergo at home, Turkey may well be the best healthcare destination for you.
For more information, international patients from the USA can visit www.medicaltourisminturkey.org or contact www.keyglobalhealthcaresolutions.com for healthcare arrangements in Turkey from the USA.
Americans prefer Turkey for low-cost health services
Those who have lost their jobs and can no longer benefit from health insurance in the United States have discovered Turkey and its offer of health services at reasonable prices.
Turkish health tourism has reached a business volume of $150 million with the loss of health insurance accompanying widespread job loss in the United States, more Americans have discovered Turkey’s health tourism to lower their medical expenses.
Americans are contributing an important share among health tourism patients, mainly due to low prices. Turkey hosts around 40,000 people in health tourism annually, creating a business volume of $150 million. The country is preferred by people from European Union member countries, but U.S. citizens have also started to show interest after the global crisis.
The arriving patient profile has changed amid the crisis and the number of American patients has surpassed the number of Europeans, said Health Tourism Turkey Coordinator Gül Soydan.
Many people in the United States have been left without insurance, Soydan said. “If an American chooses to have a complete teeth treatment in the U.S., the cost is $100,000, but it is at most $30,000. Having realized this advantage, U.S. citizens have been flocking to Turkey for health tourism during the first six months of this year,” Soydan said.
More expenses in health tourism:
A person arriving in Turkey for health tourism spends 12 times more than a regular tourist, according to a report announced in June by the health subcommittee of the Turkish Industrialists’ And Businessmen’s Association, or TÜSİAD.
Medical tourism, which has a global volume of $60 billion, is expected to reach $100 billion by the end of 2010, according to the report. Turkey’s health tourism is expected to cover 36 percent of its overall tourism revenues, which totaled $21.9 billion last year. Around 30,000 to 40,000 tourists arrive in Turkey for health tourism, and the goal is to attain 1 million foreign patients and $8 billion in revenue by 2020, the report said.
As noted in the TÜSİAD report, health tourism can be a strategic area for Turkey, “Turkey may quadruple its business volume in health tourism with a rationalistic strategy. Open-heart surgery, which costs $150,000 in the U.S., is around $12,000 to $15,000 in Turkey.”
Sun, beaches, and laser eye surgery in Turkey
ISTANBUL – The cost of receiving medical care may still be burning the wallets of Turkish citizens, however, the prices are still low enough to lure in foreign patients. A surgery that would cost 5,000 euros in Europe can cost as little as 500 euros in Turkey Many Europeans’ wallets have shrunk as a result of the economy, pushing them to seek ways to lower their medical costs. That search has put Turkey on the map as a popular destination for those wanting lower-cost health care.
In 2007, the number of foreign patients in Turkey was 150,000. Last year, the number of foreigners treated in Turkey increased by 40 percent to a total of 200,000. Foreigners choose Turkey not just for lower medical costs, but also for vacation opportunities available following recovery.
The global economic crisis played a major role in the increasing figure, said Dr. Dursun Aydın, president of the Association of Improving Health Tourism.
“Europeans prefer Turkey mostly for plastic surgery, in vitro fertilization, dental treatment, and laser eye surgery. These surgeries cost an average of 5,000 euros in Europe. In Turkey, the average cost for such surgeries varies between 500 to 900 euros,” he said.
“The technology used in Turkey is just as developed as European technology and our doctors are also very successful,” Aydın added.
Turkey mostly receives patients from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Belgium, and France, Aydın said. There has also been an increase in Middle Eastern patients, who have begun to prefer Turkey to Europe, Aydın said.
If Turkey’s potential in the health industry is publicized efficiently, then the income obtained from the country’s health tourism may reach $10 billion within the next three to five years. Currently, Turkey’s health market has a volume of $500 million.
Thirty patients a day
“We treated 570 foreign patients in 2007. That figure rose to 1,102 last year,” said Dr. Hasan Kuş, Anadolu Health Center, or ASM, general director.
“Nearly 30 foreign patients a day visit our hospital. Most of our foreign customers are from Romania, Kosovo, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Russia and Bulgaria. Most of them are here for treatments in medical oncology, radiation oncology, brain surgery, and orthopedics. Plastic surgery, in vitro fertilization, and dental treatment departments, are also in high demand.”
The number of foreign patients doubled or even quadrupled last year, said Meri Bahar, vice general manager of the Acıbadem Healthcare Group. “Many foreigners find Turkey attractive both for its lower medical costs and the quality of the health care they receive,” she said. “Medical tourism in the country is growing like a snowball.”
Hospitals gravitating toward health tourism have been quite happy with the growing business and they foresee this year to be even brighter than last year.
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Geography: Turkey is a transcontinental Eurasian nation. Asian Turkey, made up largely of Anatolia, is 97 percent of the country. The remainder, eastern Thrace or Ru¬melia in the Balkan Peninsula, is European Turkey. Asian and European Turkey are separated by the Istanbul Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dar¬danelles Bosphorus, which together form a water link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Turkey is geographically divided into seven regions: Marmara, Aegean, Black Sea, Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, Southeastern Anatolia, and Mediterranean.
Climate The Marmara, Aegean, and Mediterranean coasts display a typical Mediterranean climate of hot summers and mild winters. July and August are the hottest months with temperatures around 29°C. The humidity is a little high during summer in these regions. Temperatures increase a few degrees when traveling to the south and water temperatures also become warmer. The swimming season is from June to September along the Marmara and North Aegean coasts, while it is from April to October on the South Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. The Black Sea Region has a moderate climate; the summers are warm and the winters are mild. In this region, the rainfalls are heavier than in any other region.
The swimming season in the Black Sea Region is from June to early September and the weather is not so dependable. There is quite a difference between the coastal regions and the inland regions which are at higher altitudes. The climate reaches its extremes in central and eastern Anatolia with hot, dry summers when the temperatures may reach 42°C, and cold, snowy winters. Spring and autumn are best for sightseeing and traveling.
Time Zone Turkey is in the Eastern European Time Zone, two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2). Daylight Saving Time or Summer Time (GMT+3) begins on the last Sunday in March at 1:00 a.m. and ends on the last Sunday in October at 1:00 a.m.
Immunizations The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all international travelers stay up-to-date with routine immunizations, which include influenza, chickenpox (or varicella), polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT). Although childhood diseases, such as measles, rarely occur in the US today, they are not uncommon in many parts of the world, so an unvaccinated traveler is at risk for infection.
The CDC also recommends that all travelers who might be exposed to blood or other body fluids through medical treatment be immunized against hepatitis B. Immunization against hepatitis A and boosters for typhoid and polio are recommended as well.
Travelers to Turkey’s major cities do not need to take medicines to prevent malaria; there is, however, some risk of malaria in the eastern, rural areas. For more information, check the CDC’s Web site, wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.aspx.
ID Cards and Passports Turks have compulsory ID cards, which they must carry with them at all times. Foreigners are also expected to carry such ID with them, which means that you should keep your passport with you at all times. In case you lose your passport, you should immediately contact your country’s embassy or consulate in Turkey.
Transportation Air. Most international airlines offer regular flights from all major cities of the world to Turkey’s international airports. The national carrier—Turkish Airlines—and various private airlines, such as Atlasjet, Onur Air, Pegasus, and SunExpress, offer regular flights to Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Dalaman, Istanbul, Izmir, and Trabzon.
Sea. In addition to the numerous Mediterranean cruises available, several foreign shipping companies offer regular passage services to Turkish port cities. Car and passenger ferry services are also available for certain coastal destinations.
Rail. Train journeys can be made directly between Istanbul and some of the major cities in Europe.
Bus. Regular coach services operate between Turkey and Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Syria. Within Turkey, fairly comfortable buses serve the major cities on a regular schedule at reasonable prices, usually somewhere in the US$20–50 range. Some companies, such as Ulusoy and Varan, offer nonstop bus service with meals, beverage service, and wireless Internet access during travel.
Currency & Foreign Exchange The Turkish Lira is available in the following denominations: Banknotes: 1, 5,10,20,50,100, and 200 TL Coins: 1, 5, 10, 25 & 50 kuruş and 1 TL. Usually, cash can be exchanged without charging commission in exchange offices, banks, or hotels. (Travellers from the UK should remember that Scottish notes are not accepted in Turkey) Cash point machines (ATMs) are available in most areas, which accept major European credit cards and give instructions in English. It may be a good idea to inform your bank in advance that you are travelling to Turkey as some will automatically put a stop on cards after the first usage in an attempt to combat fraud.
Exchange rates are published daily in Turkish newspapers. If you are planning to exchange currency back from TL before leaving the country, or are making a major purchase, which may need to be declared to customs, you will need to keep your transaction receipts in order to show that the currency has been legally exchanged.
- There is no limit to the amount of foreign and Turkish currency to be brought into Turkey.
- More than US$ 5,000 worth of Turkish currency can not be taken out of the country.
- Up to US$ 5,000 worth of foreign currency can be taken out of the country.
- US$5000 in cash may be taken out of the country by foreigners living abroad, Turkish citizens working abroad, and those settled in Turkey, if they document that they have purchased currency from authorized banks.
- A larger amount of foreign or Turkish currency must be transferred abroad through banks.
- All personal belongings and articles made of precious stones or metals (with no commercial purposes) worth under $15,000 may be brought into and taken out of the country. Jewellery worth more than that may only be taken out of the country providing it has been registered on entry or purchased in Turkey with legally exchanged currency.
- Cash brought into the country to be purchased for exportation and brought out of Turkey must be declared on entry.
Telephone Calls To dial abroad from Turkey, dial the international code 00 followed by the country code, and then the number including the local area code, but remove the first 0. For example, a London number with an area code of 0207 would be dialed from Turkey as 00 44 207 followed by the number. To dial Turkey from abroad dial the international code 00 followed by the country code, 90, and then the number including the local area code, but removing the first 0. For example, a Fethiye number with an area code of 0252 would be dialed from abroad as 00 90 252 followed by the number.
There are public phone booths that accept cards or tokens (jetton) which can be bought from post offices (PTT) or local shops. Network coverage is extremely good and it is very rare to be in an area where your mobile does not work.
A mobile (cell) phone is very useful in Turkey. As a foreigner, it is probably impossible to use a mobile phone in Turkey; even a new SIM card is purchased from a Turkish mobile phone company. Several years ago, the Turkish government passed a law requiring all mobile phones used in Turkey to be registered with the government. Not just the SIM card, but the handset itself. Registration helps prevent terrorist acts. Turkish and foreign visitors are entitled to bring one mobile phone into Turkey each calendar year for use during their stay in Turkey. A personal mobile phone brought into Turkey in this manner is exempt from tax and duty. However, it is necessary to register the mobile phone in order to use it with a SIM card bought from a Turkish network operator. Unregistered phones will be blocked and unable to receive or make calls. There is no charge levied for this registration, and no customs documents are required. Take your mobile phone and your passport to the shop of a Turkish Network Operator (Avea, Turkcell, or Telsim). Buy a SIM card, and the clerk will register the SIM card’s mobile phone number with your handset’s IMEI number, and with your personal information.
Useful Telephone Numbers
Fire emergency 110
Addresses/zip codes 119
Health emergency 112
Phone problems 121
Registration for international calls 115
Police emergency 155
How to make calls 118
Directory assistance 11811
Medical Items Beds belonging to ill passengers; motorized and non-motorized wheelchairs; drugs for personal treatment; gas masks and similar protective clothing (maximum 2 pieces) will be permitted to pass through Customs.
Please note that bringing into or out of the country, together with consumption of, marijuana and other narcotics is strictly forbidden and is subject to heavy punishment. If you have prescribed medication, which you need to take on holiday with you, you will need a doctor’s note and/ or a copy of your prescription.
Medical Treatment You will need to pay for any medical treatment that you receive in Turkey. For this reason, it is advisable to take out medical insurance before traveling. It is not difficult to find English-speaking doctors in all but the most remote areas. There are also foreign-run hospitals in many of the larger towns and resorts. You can find a list of hospitals on the British Consulate in Turkey website: http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk There are pharmacies in most places with trained pharmacists who are able to offer advice on minor illnesses. Many more medicines are available over the counter.
Tourist Health Hacettepe Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi Plastik ve Rekonstrüktif Cerrahi Ana Bilim Dalı,
06100 Sıhhıye ANKARA
Tel +90 (312) 311 93 93, +90 (312) 310 98 08
Turkish Tourist Health Society performs the functions below:
To provide travelers in the entire country, mainly in the tourist regions, with proper health care
To secure food hygiene
To prevent environmental pollution
To ensure hygiene and healthy working conditions in touristic establishments
Driving You can drive in Turkey with an international driving license. You should have a copy of this, together with your passport and insurance documents with you in the car at all times, as you will need it if you are involved in an accident. All of the major international car rental companies, as well as a number of local ones, have offices at airports and all major centers. Driving in Turkey is on the right, as in continental Europe.
Turkish road signs conform to the International Protocol on Road Signs and archaeological and historic sites are indicated by yellow signs. Turkey has a good network of well-maintained roads. There is a 50 km per hour speed limit within urban centers and 90 km outside urban centers. Petrol stations are fairly easy to run and on main highways, they are often open 24 hours and have restaurants and other facilities attached. Unleaded (kurşunsuz) petrol is easily available. If you are planning on driving to Turkey, as well as your passport, you will need to take your international driving license, car registration documents, and international green card (insurance card) with the TR sign clearly visible (NB: This can be purchased on arrival at the border). You can bring your own car into the country for up to six months. If you wish to keep your car in Turkey for more than six months, you are liable to pay import tax.
Electricity Those who use 110 V or any other than 220 V at home need a converter as Turkey has a 220 V power system. Please check your electric appliances before you use them in your hotel room. Only the five-star deluxe properties would have converters so it is advised to bring one with you in case it is needed.
Water Although tap water is chlorinated and, therefore, safe to drink, it is recommended that you consume bottled water, which is readily and cheaply available.
Food matters in Turkey Sanitation is taken seriously and strictly controlled in general by the authorities. Those who are vegetarian will be able to find vegetable food or at least an omelet which is very popular in Turkey, almost in every town. The Turkish and Ottoman Kitchen is one of the world’s leading kitchens (Supposed to be the third after the Chinese and French). Dishes are mainly cooked with meat (lamb, chicken, and cow -please note that in Turkey pork is not eaten-) and vegetables (Beans, Eggplant, Peppers, Onion, Garlic, Potatoes, Courgette). Rice, macaroni, local specialties made from flour (Pide, Manti, Gozleme, Borek…), and sweets (Baklava, Kadayıf, Burma, Sobiyet …) are all widely eaten. Most of the restaurants display their food in windows, or waiters can bring the samples if you request.
Embassies and Consulates http://www.mfa.gov.tr/resident-diplomatic-and-consular-missions.en.mfa