Wander around any of the upmarket districts of the cities of Cali and Medellin and within minutes you’ll realize that plastic surgery in Colombia is big business.
The fashion in corporal enhancements is definitely towards the extreme. In big cities it is an everyday occurrence to come across women with huge implants (breasts and/or bottom), enormous collagen lips, a botoxed face and/or clearly altered nose.
The popularity of cosmetic procedures in the country is reportedly dates back to the 1980s. In this era, a rapidly expanding cocaine trade gave rise to powerful criminal syndicates, whose leaders attempted to demonstrate their wealth and status by surrounding themselves with ever more voluptuous women.
To boost their own prestige, many paid for their various girlfriends and female acquaintances to have plastic surgery to augment their natural beauty. Gradually, this fashion spread throughout society and became a fairly standard cultural practice. It is sufficiently common that some parents even pay for plastic surgery for their offspring as a present for their 15th birthday, a milestone celebration in the country.
The popularity of such procedures among Colombians has helped created a large health sector, which is, for the most part, staffed by qualified and experienced professionals. Many of these have trained or worked in medical centers in Europe or the United States, before returning to Colombia to establish their own practice.
Given the lower staff costs and building costs, Colombia's plastic surgeons are able to offer procedures for a significantly lower price than in the United States, for example. Some such treatments can be as much as 70% cheaper in Colombia compared to those available in more developed countries.
Want to speak Spanish with Colombians as naturally as you'd chat in English with your friends back home? Well, you'll need to learn a load of local slang and expressions first.
Thisshows you the fun stuff that your textbook missed.
Looking to turbo charge your Colombian Spanish?
Fast track from dull ‘textbook Spanish’ to sounding like a native with our Colombian Spanish Language Hacks email course.
Sign up now for 7 days of expert tips that will instantly transform your Spanish!
Off to Colombia?
Well, you better not leave without first signing up for our FREE email course to the best of Colombia's Spanish and slang.
Learn all the coolest lingo that you'll need to have fun with locals, but which the textbooks will never teach you.
Colombian plastic surgeons are able to offer procedures for a significantly lower price than in the United States
There are other advantages too. Waiting lists tend to be much shorter here, meaning that patients may go from first contact to having their surgery within a matter of weeks, or even days. Many also chose to combine their surgery with a short holiday, enjoying a few days in important tourist centers such as Cartagena after their procedure.
These factors have led to an increasing number of international visitors coming to the country for their cosmetic surgery. An estimated 40,000 trips to Colombia are made annually for such a purpose, with liposuction and breast augmentation being the most popular sorts of surgery requested by foreigners.
The most competitive prices will be available for those who can speak Spanish and are thus are able to access a greater number of medical professionals, and negotiate prices similar or identical to that charged to Colombians. For those whose Spanish is more limited, or who are looking for maximum convenience, there are a host of plastic surgery package operators which can assist you.
The services offered by these companies vary, with the most luxurious including a maid serviced apartment during your recovery period and comprehensive assistance with your travel and medical arrangements. Often such firms work exclusively with English-speaking doctors. The packages they offer, however, are unlikely to end up much cheaper (if at all) than undertaking the procedure in your home country.
Arranging Your Procedure
It is, of course, highly important to research your surgeon, their experience and client history before agreeing to undertake any such procedure. Though the majority of those operating in this sector are highly reputable outfits, with a long history of successful surgeries, there are equally a small proportion of less competent individuals with cosmetic surgery practices.
One of the best ways to gain assurance of the quality of your medical professional is to get a personal recommendation
One of the best ways to gain assurance of the quality of your medical professional is to get a personal recommendation. However, this is not always possible so other avenues of research might be required. A good place to start is with the list of physicians approved by the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. A similar Spanish-language service is also available via the local site Pura Belleza, which features a list of vetted plastic surgeons, together with reviews from previous patients. Fuller directories of surgeons are also available on guiacirugia.com and susmedicos.com.
After preliminary selecting a surgeon it is worth doing additional internet research to gain a better idea of any feedback / problems they have previously had, and to check their credentials thoroughly. You may also wish to visit their clinic first and discuss their experience before agreeing to undertake the surgery. Bear in mind also that standard medical insurance may not cover you if you have traveled to Colombia for the express purpose of undergoing cosmetic surgery.