February 6, 2020 – The Zagreb medical tourism story is gathering pace, with a surprising amount of world-class healthcare options to choose from, and savings to more than pay for the flight and holiday.
What is the best tourism promotion story you know about Croatia?
Is it an unforgettable holiday on an idyllic island? A fortnight on that perfect beach, or a tour into the wondrous and often undiscovered world of Croatian history and heritage?
Having followed Croatian tourism for almost a decade, I can think of no better promotion story about Croatian tourism than the one about the American who came to Zagreb in December to fix his teeth.
Yes, that’s right, an American flying halfway across the world in the dead of winter, to a Croatian city far from the coast, to visit a dentist.
Carl’s teeth were so bad that they had long ago affected his personality, turning into a shy and retiring 40-year-old totally lacking in confidence. His basic health insurance meant that a proper fix was unaffordable, and it was only a matter of time before he would lose his teeth altogether.
To cut a long story short – but I really do encourage you to read the original version and enjoy some great photography as well – a friend stepped in to transform his mouth, as well as his life, by sourcing, crowdfunding and accompanying Carl on his first trip outside the United States, to a city in Europe whose high-quality and affordable private dental care has transformed Carl’s life and personality.
An unforgettable 19-day trip from the US to Zagreb via Sweden coincided with the internationally acclaimed Advent in Zagreb, which offered Carl and his companion an outstanding tourism experience in a safe European city with excellent English spoken. And with savings of some US$35,000 on the cost of similar treatment back home, even after all the travel costs were factored in, this was truly the trip of a lifetime.
Zagreb, a top medical tourism destination.
Yes, really, and it appears that dental services are a small part of the quality on offer. Back in 2018, no less than THREE Zagreb clinics were named in the best 6 English-speaking dermatology clinics in all Europe.
At the recent International Medical Travel Journal Awards in Berlin, a Zagreb clinic was voted International Cosmetic Surgery Clinic 2019 by 20 independent expert judges. Zagreb’s outstanding eye surgery expertise has attracted the likes of actor Tim Roth and Ivana Trump, the ex-wife of the current US President. A Leading Hospital of the World in Zagreb was the first location in all Europe to offer the revolutionary new pharmacogenetic test, which was co-developed by Mayo Clinic.
Ground-breaking stem cell research and services, oncology, orthopaedics, cardiology – the list of top-quality Zagreb medical services available goes on, and you can find out more about the clinics and hospitals offering them here, as well as an overview of the Zagreb health tourism scene in the video below:
While the savings are rarely as spectacular as in Carl’s case, above, price is one factor in the mix that makes Zagreb such an attractive medical tourism proposition. Prices for services are typically at least 25% cheaper than in Western Europe, often much more than that. With the high cost of dental care in the UK, for example, dental treatment in Zagreb often works out cheaper than back home, including flights, and you get a free holiday in addition to that smile. How cool is that!
And tourism is one of the many, many additional reasons why Zagreb is such an attractive destination for health tourism. While the surgery may be the main reason for travel, the chance to have a great experience and place to relax and recuperate is incredibly important as well. And there are few places to beat Croatian in that regard, a country which last year welcomed more than 20 million tourists, and whose diverse tourism offer ranges from the stunning Adriatic coast and UNESCO heritage, to breathtaking continental Croatia and a diverse food and wine regional offer that rivals the very best gourmet experiences in Europe. Where else in Europe can you undergo surgery in the morning and be on an idyllic Adriatic island to recover in the afternoon.
An important factor in Zagreb’s health tourism offer is the availability of wellness and spa services, which are abundant and affordable. Croatia actually boasts the oldest organised tourism in Europe, with the founding on the Hvar Health Society back in 1868, as the temperate climate of Croatia’s premier island attracted the sick and infirm Austro-Hungarian aristocracy to ‘the Austrian Madeira’ to recuperate. And while a combination of Zagreb surgery and coastal recuperation is appealing, there are also many other options much closer to home, with several spa resorts in the region within an hour’s drive from the capital.
But why leave Zagreb at all! Here is a vibrant European capital which is quickly developing into one of the must-sees of Central Europe, so much so that Lonely Planet recently named it the best destination in Europe. A year-round tourist city these days, as Carl found out during his December stay and Advent in Zagreb.
There are, of course, many other considerations to think about when looking at medical procedures abroad. Affordability of care is a significant one, and Zagreb is competitive on that score. But so too is the affordability of the destination if one is to stay for a longer time to recuperate, or even to enjoy a holiday. Here, too, Zagreb fares well.
Accessibility is another key factor, and the new 330-million-euro terminal at Zagreb Airport has raised the city’s profile, as well as now hosting flights from literally all over the world through the networks of global players such as Qatar Airways, Emirates and Turkish Airlines. Bus, rail and road connections are excellent for those planning to visit by land.
English is widely spoken (Croatia was recently named the second-best English-speaking country in Central and Eastern Europe, and German is also spoken by many. Croatia is one of the safest countries in Europe, and many visitors comment on how safe it is to walk the streets of Zagreb, even at night.
So the next time you need to get some medical treatment, why not treat yourself to a holiday into the bargain. You may find it cheaper, you will certainly find it more exciting, and who knows – perhaps Zagreb will also provide you with a life-changing experience such as Carl’s..
To follow the latest in the Croatian medical tourism story, check out the dedicated TCN section.