Where can Russia’s medical travellers go?

In recent years the favourite spots for outbound Russian tourists from West and Central Russia have been Germany, Israel and Turkey. Residents of the Far Eastern part of Russia prefer South Korea, China, Thailand and Japan. Ukraine, Belarus, Finland, Italy and Armenia are also popular, mostly for spa tourism. But now banned from some of their favoured countries, where can Russian medical tourists and spa tourists go?

Despite what parts of the media may suggest, the world is far from united against Russia.

Russian medical and spa tourists can still fly direct to including Turkey, Dubai/UAE, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Israel, Belarus, Cuba, India, and Mexico.  Russian carriers are also expanding flights to 52 countries, including Argentina, India and China.

Turkey, an extremely popular foreign destination amongst Russians, is ready to relaunch flights from Russia to the country from April 29 with 208 flights per week, with the number set to increase in the future to 300 or more.  There has been an increased demand for trips to Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan as well as the United Arab Emirates and Georgia.

Economic sanctions, closed airspaces and lack of aircraft are why Russian medical travel behaviour on foreign destinations are likely to change significantly in the future.

In some countries, a key problem is that due to banking limitations, credit and debit cards from Russia cannot be used online, in locations or in ATMs. Some hospitals in Turkey are accepting alternative methods of payment. Some Russians have cash or other resources outside of Russia.

Other problems include that some hospitals, particularly in Germany, openly refuse to accept any Russian patients. For hospitals and countries such as those in Dubai and Turkey, they may have to weigh the extra income from Russian medical tourists against public opinion from other countries that may decide to not go there in sympathy with Ukraine.

Some countries also do not differentiate between Russians and Russian speaking patients from other CIS countries, while the problems of paying and travelling apply to many travellers from CIS countries too.

The problems are expected to continue for many months and as countries effectively choose sides, as the number of places for the diminishing number of Russians wanting to, able to travel, and able to afford overseas medical tourism declines rapidly.