Holidays get a face-lift
Country sees boom in cosmetic surgery tourists seeking cheap alternatives
Posted: January 16, 2013
Plastic surgeon Zdeněk Pros performs plastic surgery on the breasts of a patient at the Perfect Clinic in Prague. Companies promoting cosmetic tourism cite prices of treatments such as breast augmentation as being 60 percent less expensive than in the United Kingdom.
The Czech Republic and its women are famous for their beauty, and now an increasing number of foreigners are flocking here to try to improve their own looks.
Academics from the United Kingdom and Australia have recently identified the Czech Republic as one of the world's leading destinations for cosmetic surgery.
Their academic study titled "Sun, sea, sand and silicone" is scheduled to be finished next year and examines the growing trend of "cosmetic surgery tourism."
"Cosmetic surgery tourism is a new and developing industry that incorporates novel forms of labor and organizational structures that straddle national boundaries," the researchers write.
"As public healthcare systems are increasingly squeezed, patients are more likely to become consumers in search of cut-price body enhancements made possible by favorable currency exchange rates and lower labor costs outside the richest countries in the world."
"Cosmetic surgery tourism is often a luxury package that includes sightseeing, shopping and spa-type pampering," says researcher Doctor Meredith Jones from the University of Technology in Sydney.
The "Treatment Abroad" website tells prospective clients they can save "up to 60 percent" on cosmetic surgery in the Czech Republic compared with options in the United Kingdom.
"Consider, for example, a breast enlargement with silicon implants costs £2,120 including one to two nights in a clinic in Prague, and nose reshaping costs £1,610 including one night in the clinic," the website advises.
"Compare these with typical prices in the United Kingdom: A breast enlargement costs between £3,400 and £5,000, and nose reshaping between £3,000 and £4,000."
Professor Markéta Dušková from the Czech Society of Aesthetic Surgery agrees that foreign patients choose Czech clinics because they provide a "perfect job and reasonable cost."
She says most of the clients come from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland and Slovakia, and at least half of these people return for further procedures.
"For the client, the price is less than half what they get in Western Europe, but at the same standard," explains Dr. Vladimír Mařík, secretary of the Czech Society of Aesthetic Surgery.
"In fact, in terms of tourism in aesthetic surgery, the Czech Republic is [the No. 1] place in Europe," he told The Prague Post.
Mařík says that from his own experience working in České Budějovice and Hluboká, around 15 percent of clients chose to return for further cosmetic procedures.
While Prague remains the most popular destination, holiday deals can be found across the country, attracting clients from all over Europe.
"In each region, there are small differences; in Prague, they are mostly from the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia," Mařík says.
"In south Bohemia, where the most important spots are in České Budějovice and Hluboká, clients mostly come from Germany and Austria, and in west Bohemia, in Plzeň and Karlovy Vary, the clients come from Russia and Germany."
In Karlovy Vary, the Grandhotel Pupp, a venue of the town's famous annual international film festival, plans to begin offering onsite cosmetic surgery and to use this to attract more foreigners.
General Manager Andrea Pfeffer-Ferklová says she wants spa guests to account for 50 percent of business as of this spring, when a new pool and balneotherapy center opens.
According to Pfeffer-Ferklová, medical tourism is a good business opportunity because Czech medicine is at a high level and its prices are still very affordable.
Despite the country's growing popularity as a cosmetic surgery destination, the Society of Aesthetic Surgery warns potential clients to take precautions before going under the knife here.
It advises patients to consult at least two experts and to obtain detailed information on the expertise of the surgeon and the facility where the surgery will be performed.
Clients are also encouraged to examine all the finer points included in the price, and to be aware that cosmetic surgery has "risks and complications and may not always fulfill the expectation and outcome that a patient desires."
"The advantage of the Czech Republic as a destination for plastic surgery is that the doctors who perform the operations [are properly certified and accredited] in aesthetic surgery … and have a minimum of three years' experience in the field, which is not always the case in other states," Mařík says.
If you're contemplating a tummy tuck or a nose job for the new year - but find the prospect of traveling to a foreign country to go under the knife too daunting - local operators say you have nothing to worry about.
"Patients usually have stress because they go to foreign country, they don't speak Czech, and they don't know Prague and the culture. And it's also stressful: You have to trust your surgeon, because it's about your health. That's why we are here," says Martin Mrázek of the Prague-based Medical Travel Company.
"We can help patients with the language barrier, and since we know all the clinics, we can choose the right one for them and they can be safe. They have also 24-hour assistance on the phone if they have any problem," he adds.
Andrew Greene can be reached at