Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro

Brazil boasts more than 4,500 licensed cosmetic surgeons, with the highest per capita number of practicing cosmetic physicians in the world. Most international patients head to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s two largest cities. Smaller destinations such as Recife, Porto Alegre and Santos, are also popular. Only in the US and China are more plastic surgeries performed than in Brazil.

Brazil and Medical Travel

Prices vary widely. While the celebrity “surgeons-to-the-stars” command fees comparable to the highest found in the US, dozens of excellent, lesser-known clinics serve patients from all regions and income brackets.

While cosmetic surgery is Brazil's biggest medical tourism draw, more than 60 JCI-accredited hospitals throughout the country offer virtually every specialty and sub-specialty to the medical traveler. Sao Paulo, the country's largest city, boasts several world-class multi-disciplinary medical centers, including Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, the world's first hospital to receive JCI accreditation.

Brazil welcomes most of its 55,000+ medical travelers from neighboring countries (such a Ecuador, Bolivia and Uruguay) seeking access to Brazil’s more robust healthcare system. Patients also arrive from relatively nearby Angola, where Portuguese is the predominant language.

Brazil is home to the internationally revered Ivo Pitanguy, the world’s most renowned plastic surgeon. The clinic and institute bearing his name were established in 1963, and more than 4,000 surgeons have visited there for training, workshops, and continuing education. While this icon of cosmetic surgery passed away in August, 2016, the clinic's staff of 70 continue to set the high international standards for cosmetic and aesthetic surgery, although recently challenged by competing clinics and doctors in Korea, Thailand and Costa Rica.

Yet, for all its notoriety, Brazil lacks the medical travel infrastructure found in nearby Costa Rica or Colombia. The language barrier (principally Portuguese) looms large, and most of Brazil's JCI-accredited providers have little to offer the English-speaking patient. Nonetheless, health travel services are gradually gaining ground, with growing numbers of conscientious, reliable agents, recovery accommodations, and travel support services. Health travelers intent on visiting Brazil should redouble their efforts to work from a base of reliable information or through a trustworthy third-party agent.

Some Cautions

For North Americans and Asians, travel times are long and often involve multiple hops. Brazil’s two principal medical travel destinations—Rio and Sao Paulo—are sprawling urban giants with legendary traffic snarls. Crime is a concern—25% of Sao Paulo’s luxury cars are customized bullet-proofed. Thus, patients traveling to these areas should insist upon door-to-door hospitality from their selected facility.

Prices vary widely, and travelers will find medical treatment in Brazil to be generally more expensive than in Mexico, Costa Rica or Southeast Asia. The best-known medical centers cater to high-profile clients, driving prices to nearly US levels. Thus, when considering Brazil, savings will likely take a backseat to a vacation or a celebrity physician.

Brazil at a Glance

A Top Luxury Destination for Cosmetic Surgery Travelers

Cities in Country:
Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre

Time Zones:
GMT -4, GMT -3, GMT -2,

Country Dialing Code:

127V and 220V (Brazil's electricity is notoriously nonstandard), check your specific destination for plug type.

Brazilian Real (BRL)

Recommended Immunizations:
Hepatitis A and B, booster for Typhoid; Zika virus alert for women visiting while pregnant

Portuguese, limited English

Last updated on 22 December 2017