Best care. Anywhere.

12px-flag_GB_klein 12px-flag_DE_klein
Recommended by the Diplomatic Council
More than 70000 Hospitals worldwide

Medical Tourism - Destination - South Africa

General Informations


South Africa is already established as a holiday destination and is now starting initiatives to attract medical tourists thanks to the well-developed unique selling point of ‘surgery safari’ packages. Despite being an unsafe, corrupt country with a weak infrastructure and no JCI accreditation, South Africa attracts medical tourists from less developed neighbouring countries (32% Mozambique, 28% Lesotho, 13% Botswana, 12% Swaziland). South Africa offers specialisations in the areas of ophthalmology, orthopaedic, cardiology, rehabilitation and cosmetic surgery although the two latter are aimed more at the Western world. South Africa offers 30% cost savings compared to the US. Promotion comes mostly from the private sector although the government has recently planned an initiative to increase the number of medical tourists.

South Africa
Localisation southern tip of Africa, borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho
Capital Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial), Cape Town (legislative)
Biggest cities (population) Cape Town (3,433,441), Durban (3,120,282), Johannesburg (2,026,469)
Inhabitants 49,320,000
Politics constitutional democratic republic
Religion Christianity (79.7%), Islam (1.5%), Hinduism (1.3%), Judaism (0.2%), other (17.3%)
Currency Rand (ZAR) = € 0.089480
GDP € 184,892 million, 0.45% of the world’s GDP
Official language(s) Afrikaans, English, IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, SiSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga
Climate Mediterranean and sub-tropical, with average highs of 28°C and average lows of 8°C
Time zone GMT +2
Happy Planet Index (HPI) 118

Cultural Aspects

General Culture

South Africa is a country rich in culture, leading to a broad cultural diversity. Therefore, many cultural differences correspond closely to the racial groups defined by Apartheid. This is changing as assimilation progresses. On a culinary basis, South Africans are famous for their braais (barbeque) and biltong, strips of dried meat, which come in various flavours and types. In comparison to the rest of Africa, South Africa is considered as a middle-income country and ranks 25 in the world in terms of GDP (2007).


South Africa ranks 123 on the GPI. It is considered as one of the most dangerous countries in the world as it is a high crime society with offenses such as robbery, armed assault, and carjacking occurring everywhere.

Tourists Attractions and Sights

  • The Amphitheatre of the Drakensberg Mountains: mountains that stretch the entire length of KwaZulu-Natal’s western boundary, about 600 miles
  • Cape Town: one of the most attractive cities in the world, famous for its natural beauty
  • Winelands: area situated east of Cape Town among beautiful mountains creating some picturesque vistas
  • Kruger National Park: Africa’s oldest established wildlife park (1898) which offers one of the best safari experiences in Africa
  • Soweto: a sprawling township situated just outside of Johannesburg with over 3.5 million people calling it home

Visa Requirements

If one is subject to visa requirements, one must apply and receive a visa before departure for South Africa. However, some nationalities do not need a visa for stays of less than 90* days or less than 30** days.

*African Union / Unity Laissez Passer, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, United States.

**Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Gabon, Guyana, Hong Kong, Hungary, Jordan, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Peru, Poland, Seychelles, Slovakia, Republic of South Korea, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey, Zambia.



South Africa’s transportation network is among the most modern and extensive on the continent. Two main international airports are located in Johannesburg and Cape Town. There are also trains connecting the sub-Saharan region. The country’s ports provide a natural stopover for shipping to and from Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia and both coasts of Africa. It is recommended to rent a car or go by taxi as public transport is considered to be unsafe.


Accommodation in South Africa ranges from budget accommodation to the finest luxury 5-star hotels. The main international chains present are Hilton Worldwide, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Accor Hotels, Hyatt Regency, Rezidor Group and Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Hospitals arrange hotel accommodation for international patients.

Health Care System

WHO ranking 175
Physicians per 10,000 population 8.0 (2004)
Nurses per 10,000 population 41.0 (2004)
GDP spent on health care 8.5% (2007)
Education period of doctors 6 years with 2 years internship
Education period of specialists additional 4 to 6 years

Health Care Providers

The health care system in South Africa is characterised by the coexistence of public and private sectors. The public sector consists of clinics, health centres, local hospitals, regional and national hospitals. The private sector is forprofit and composed of city doctors, generalists and specialists and a pharmaceutical network. The state health care system is under-resourced and grossly understaffed. Currently, there are 92 public and 250 private hospitals in the country.


Insurance in South Africa is not compulsory. Only about 7 million people or 14% of the population in South Africa are insured. However, with the health care reform mentioned below the government is aiming for 100% coverage of its citizens.


The Minister of Health, and the African National Congress (ANC) proposed a National Health Insurance scheme in 2009 where every citizen is covered.

General Medical Tourism Information

South Africa received 9,591,828 tourists in 2008, generating a total revenue of around € 6.6 billion. Of these tourists, 412,448 visited the country for medical reasons generating € 161 million in revenue. The promotion of South Africa as a medical tourism destination is mainly in the hands of private companies who organise so-called “surgery safaris”. The government, however, is currently drawing up a strategic plan for health and wellness tourism. One of the first implementations was the creation of a health and wellness section on the South Africa Tourism website, www.southafrica.net.


Medical tourists mainly come from African countries, such as Mozambique (32%), Lesotho (28%), Botswana (13%), Swaziland (12%) and other (15%). South Africa’s medical tourism is more focused towards those from less developed African nations; but Americans are also interested nowadays.


  • Quality: the Western education of many surgeons ensures high quality of operations.
  • Cost savings: Patients can expect cost savings of 30% when compared to the US and 9% when compared to the UK.
  • Holiday destination: one of the most nature-rich destinations also providing medical packages.


The main areas of medical specialisation in South Africa include:

  • Cardiology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Cosmetic and plastic surgery
  • Ophthalmology
  • Orthopaedics

Top Facilities

The top facilities have been selected using the following criteria’s, listed in order of importance: JCI Accreditation, ISQua accreditation, international orientation. In general national accreditation systems have not been taken into consideration, due to the fact that there are too many and judging them is out of the scope of this study. Jordan has four JCI accredited facilities. There are no JCI accredited hospitals in South Africa. This selection has been based on regional hospital accreditation systems:

  • Cape Town Medi-Clinic, Cape Town
  • Bayview Private Hospital, Mossel Bay
  • The Rosebank Hospital, Johannesburg
  • Kingsbury Hospital, Claremont


Strengths Weaknesses
  • ‘Surgery safari’ unique packages
  • Government is starting to promote medical tourism
  • Cost savings of resp. 30% compared to the US and 6% to UK
  • Established hub for medical tourism for neighbouring countries
  • Renowned holiday destination
  • Culture still affected by the apartheid
  • One of the most dangerous countries in the world as it ranks 123 on the GPI
  • Unsafe public transport
  • Promotion of medical tourism is mostly from private companies
  • No JCI accredited hospitals


South Africa has a well-developed unique selling point of ‘surgery safari’, which incorporates the fact that it is already an established holiday destination, with its desire to be an upcoming medical tourism location despite being an unsafe, corrupt country with a weak infrastructure and no JCI accreditation. Currently, South Africa’s medical tourism comes from less developed neighbouring countries (32% Mozambique, 28% Lesotho, 13% Botswana, 12% Swaziland) and is growing in popularity for cosmetic and plastic surgery. South Africa offers 30% cost savings when compared to the US and 6% when compared to the UK. Promotion comes mostly from the private sector although the government has recently planned an initiative to increase the number of medical tourists.

Top Facility Chart

South Africa Cape Town Medi-Clinic Bayview Private hospital The Rosebank Hospital Kingsbury Hospital
Location and website Cape Town www.capetownmc. co.za Mossel Bay www. bayviewprivatehospital. com Johannesburg www.netcare.co.za Claremont www. lifehealthcare.co.za
Accreditations or certifications COHSASA HASA HASA HASA
Capacity of hospital beds 125 beds 106 beds 128 beds 134 beds
Possible for accompanying person to stay in room No, but assistance with accommodation Yes, in private rooms Yes, in private rooms Yes, in private rooms
Medical tourists Information N/A Neighbouring countries, recent increase of German patients Information N/A Nigeria, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, other smaller African countries and UK
Number of medical staff doctors/nurses 119 physicians 300 physicians, nurses and administration 87 physicians 88 physicians
Type of rooms available (prices) Private single / de-luxe rooms and semi-private rooms (€ 43- € 193) Private single / de-luxe rooms Private single / de-luxe rooms and semi-private rooms Private single / de-luxe rooms and semi-private rooms
International patient department No, customer service organises all the arrangements Yes, they organise all the arrangements Yes, they organise all the arrangements No, customer service organises all the arrangements
Adaptations to cultures and nations Yes, in food Yes, in food Yes, in food Yes, in food
Languages spoken by staff English, Afrikaans, German, French and Italian English and Afrikaans English and Afrikaans English and Afrikaans
Marketing of the facility/USP Part of a chain Medi-Clinics, brand awareness in S.A. very high The unique holiday location at the Mossel Bay Part of Netcare group, brand awareness in S.A. very high Partnership with a company from Nigeria that specializes in surgical tourism who market the various products
Specialisations Gynaecology and obstetrics, oncology, orthopaedics and cardiology Cardiology, orthopaedics and neurology Radiology, cardiology, dentistry, gastroenterology and pulmonology Abdominal aortic aneurysm and pelvic floor dysfunction and obesity treatments

Price Chart (in €uro)

Treatment Average Price
Cardiac bypass 26,889
Gastric bypass 7,401
Knee replacement 12,517
Hip replacement N/A
Hip resurfacing 14,441
Botox treatment 166
Breast augmentation 3,173
Facelift 4,576
Liposuction 3,424
Dental implants 1,436
Rhinoplasty 2,385
Lasik eye surgery 1,805

Note: All prices are estimates, and may vary widely from source to source depending on services included in the estimate (i.e. doctor’s fees, hospitalisation, administration costs or the patient’s age and medical history). Due to non-disclosure strategies of the various locations, it was not possible to make a clear separation between those factors. All prices given for the specific facilities have been provided by the hospitals/clinics themselves via email or telephone contact. The prices are given in Euros (€).

N/A means either that treatment are not available in the specific hospital, that a price estimation cannot be found or that the medical facility did not disclose the information. For the average prices, printed literature has been used before researching sources on the internet.