What to Prepare for a Medical Trip

For whatever reasons, it is quite usual these days for people to have medical treatments in other countries besides their own. Like myself, who have been doing chemo in Malaysia. My reason was simply that I have tried seeking treatment in my own city but have failed, so in a state of wanting to get better quickly, I chose to do it in Malaysia.

Of course, if it was possible, I would rather have it in my own country. I mean why bother spend more money in a country where it would be twice as hard to communicate if it was possible to do it in the comfort of my own home in all its familiarities. However sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

If you are considering doing treatments abroad, here are some of my tips based on my own experiences in Malaysia:

Do Your Research
Before you book a plane ticket to the country of your choosing and make an appearance in person, it’s best to find out first what kind of doctor you want to see. For example, for my illness, I needed an oncologist. So I asked some people who have done treatment in Malaysia and asked for suggestions. Also my dad did some research on the internet of the best cancer treatment in KL. I chose KL because it was only a plane ride away from Yogyakarta.

Call/E-mail First
Once you have settled on the hospital/doctor you can call the hospital for information of opening hours and see if the doctor is available. You can also ask (or see from the hospital’s website) for the doctor’s e-mail. You can ask the doctor directly by e-mail about your condition and if you have had previous diagnosis then you can also attach that. It’s better to ask beforehand and confirm that the doctor can handle your situation so you don’t spend your energy in taking a flight there and spend useless money.

When the doctor has agreed that they can take care of you, usually they would suggest that you take an appointment. For this you can do it directly or you can also contact the International Patient Centre, which is commonly available in hospitals that are popular with international patients. They will take a load of your chest as they will help you with making appointments and other things later on.

Medical treatments, depending on your case, can vary from just a day check up to staying for several months. If you have an idea on how long you are staying then it’s best to pack enough. If you need a wheelchair, then it’s safest that you let the airline know so that they can prepare it for you (if you have your own, even better, but you still need to inform the airline staff upon checking in). Remember not to overpack so that you don’t have to carry so much stuff.

Usually near hospitals that have quite a lot of international patients, there will be hotels that provide you with a decent stay (but don’t expect excellent service). In Penang, you can check out YMCA for an affordable stay.

Airport Pick-Up
For first timer international patient, there is usually a free pick up service (I’ve experienced it twice, once in Penang and once in KL). You can ask the International Patient Centre for this. This will be a great help especially if it is your first time in the city and have no idea what to expect. However, if it is your second time, you will need to figure it out by yourself. So make sure you pay attention on the way the first time around.

Ok, you need to bring enough money to pay for your treatments but that doesn’t mean you need to bring lots of cash. I know many patients who bring a ridiculous amount of cash to Malaysia, and it just doesn’t make sense. First of all if you are bringing a sick patient, it means you are probably focusing on them hence less focus on your belongings so it is dangerous to bring a load of cash on you. Second of all, you can use your debit or credit cards, you can even take cash using ATM here though they will charge you for conversion rate but it beats bringing cash.

If you have been confirmed by your doctor that you need to stay for a long period of time, do remember your VISA. For countries like Malaysia and Singapore, Indonesians, for instance, only get 30 days of staying therefore if you need to stay longer you have to prolong your VISA. If it is possible, you can go back home or go to a neighbouring country then come back again (make sure you have a letter from the doctor just incase the immigration asks for it) so it will renew your 30 days of staying. However sometimes it is not possible, as I have experienced myself, so you will need to get a VISA for the sick at the immigration office.

In Malaysia, the International Patient Centre a accommodated me with the necessary documents but my mum had to go to the immigration office by herself and apply for a VISA for me and her. The law allows a patient with one companion, and because at that time I was unable to get out of bed, it was allowed that only my mum did the registering at the immigration office. I wouldn’t choose this option if I was healthy enough to do a VISA run because this VISA is expensive and also you can’t leave the country before the due date since leaving the country would mean your VISA won’t be applicable anymore (as it is not multiple entries). However that was my experience, perhaps you can ask for a multiple entry VISA too.

If you are staying for more than a month, consider renting yourself an appartment since it will be cheaper than staying at a hotel, plus you can do your own cooking (which is the safest way to eat, especially when you are sick). It isn’t always easy to find an appartment as they usually want you to rent it for 6 months minimum, but it is possible. Ask around, ask the nurses, ask other international patients and also look around the area you are in.

Other small important things that may help you during your stay abroad:
Buy a SIM card once you arrive since you need a local phone number to call the hospital and also for other things. Usually you can find a stall at the airport.

In Malaysia, I found Grab Car (no promotion here, just based on my own experience) very useful. The apps is installed on my dad’s phone and whenever we need a ride we use it. It takes the hassle of finding a taxi away, plus Malaysian taxis are terrible on the haggling side and that’s the last thing I want to do when I feel unwell, haggle with a taxi driver. So far Grab Car’s drivers are friendly, they also use GPS if we don’t know the way and the price on the apps is fixed so you don’t need to worry about the meters or haggle.

Anyway, those are a few tips from me. They are all based on my own experiences, so forgive me if it doesn’t apply to other countries other than Malaysia but I do hope it helps you a little.

Also check out Noni Nyonya Sepatu’s medical trip experience in Penang, Malaysia.

Febby Jalan2Liburan has also written her experience in using travel insurance while travelling in Schengen countries, do check out this useful post too!


#CeritaJalanAsik is a weekly travel theme where we share our travel stories based on a certain theme by Jalan2Liburan, Nyonya Sepatu and Dream Explore Wander. Check out our posts every Wednesday!

This week’s theme: Medical Trip and Travel Insurance

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