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The cost of healthcare abroad

Global access to healthcare

PUBLISHED: 27 August 2018 | LAST UPDATED: 12 May 2022

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Whether you’re planning to live or work abroad or you’re just settling in to your new life, you’ll have plenty of things to think about.

New research reveals that many expats find life abroad to be surprisingly expensive

Our independent research has shown that many expats find life abroad to be surprisingly expensive, with one-in-six (17%) saying that the cost of living is the thing they miss most from their home country and one-in-five (21%) going so far as to say that it would prompt them to return. This is despite three-in-five (58%) saying that they actually enjoy a higher salary since moving abroad.

Probably the last thing on your mind is what to do, or how much it’ll cost if you fall ill or have an accident in your new country.  

It is not surprising that an expense that expats seem to be particularly concerned about is healthcare, with a quarter (24%) of those living abroad worried about the cost of treatment locally. A fifth (18%) of expats said that they would even travel to another country to receive healthcare because the cost of treatment in their new home is too high.

Tom Wilkinson, AXA – Global Healthcare CEO concluded: “The key to being prepared for healthcare costs abroad – especially if you have a pre-existing condition – is to ensure that you have a good grasp of the services and facilities available in your new home. The standard and cost of healthcare will vary around the world, so it’s important to prepare yourself for the different circumstances you might come across. In countries where certain treatments are difficult to come by or particularly expensive, it may even be worth considering how international health insurance could help you to manage your healthcare needs.”

With the cost of healthcare varying so much around the world - knowing how much you could pay for medical treatment can seem like guesswork.

To give you an idea of how much some commonly needed health treatments cost in different countries, we’ve used our medical provider network and partners around the world, to have a look at how much you can expect to pay – as you can see the difference can be surprising.

infographic root canal

If you have a tooth ache you’ll probably want to get it looked at as soon as possible. But depending on which country you’re in, how much it will cost you can vary a lot. A root canal, for example, would cost around €350 in France whereas in Singapore it could cost over five times that at €2,410 – that’s a lot of money for that trip to the dentist.  

infographic night in hospital

When it comes to spending the night in hospital, if you were in Italy or China you’d expect to pay between €550 and €570. If you were in Singapore, it would be a bit more expensive at around €648. But in Canada, an overnight stay in hospital can be as high as €2,361. So you can see how quickly costs could build up if you needed to spend a few nights, or even weeks, in hospital while you get better.

broken ankle inforgraphic

Everyday accidents like treating a broken ankle can be expensive whichever country you’re in. But there is still a lot of variation in the cost. At the lower end of scale, treating a broken ankle in Canada would cost around €1,662. In Italy, it would be nearly double that at €3,150. And if you were unfortunate enough break your ankle in Hong Kong, it could cost around €6,904 to get it fixed – that’s about the same as 4 months’ rent in a one bedroom city centre apartment in Hong Kong.¹         

infographic - evacuation and repatriation

For more serious accidents or illnesses, you might not be able to get the treatment you need locally. You may even need to be evacuated to the nearest medical facility that can treat you - which can often be an international flight away.   

And this happens more regularly than you might think. On average, AXA manage 13,000 evacuations and repatriations a year, all around the world. These are most commonly for car accidents, heart disease, malaria and complications from insect bites.

As an example of how much this can cost, one of the shorter evacuations that AXA organised for a customer was from Nice to Paris, at a cost of €12,900. 

At the top end of the scale, to transport a customer from Canada to Hong Kong cost €228,000 – a serious amount to pay if you’re not covered by insurance.  

Now you have a better idea of the potentially high costs of healthcare around the world, make sure you have the right international health insurance to protect you from unexpected medical costs. It’s also worth checking that your plan includes evacuation and repatriation so you know you’ll be covered if you need to be taken overseas for emergency treatment. 

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.

Figures sourced from the AXA Select provider network 2017. All figures represent an average cost per country, represented by averaging available country data for each treatment. Figures for emergency evacuations sourced from AXA Assistance 2017. Conversion rates correct as of 31.08.2017 ( All dollars are US dollars.