Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > Americas > South America
Reload this Page >

Medical tourism to Venezuela Questions

Medical tourism to Venezuela Questions

Old Oct 31, 16, 11:05 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: NYC
Programs: FB Plat/SPG Plat/HH Gold/LHW/SLH/SK Silver
Posts: 681
Medical tourism to Venezuela Questions

Considering traveling to Caracas for elective surgery as well as replacing a couple failed dental implants; I know they have some excellent clinics and doctors. Wondering if the private clinics are likely to accept US-issued Amex? And if they accept local currency in which case I might be able to get a better deal by trading my dollars on the black market.

If local currency is accepted at clinics- what would be the most secure way to travel with the cash between hotel/apt and the clinic? As I assume it might require a large suitcase of BsF based on the currency issues. And is there is a shortage of supplies at the top private clinics or are there things I might want to bring?

Also wondering if I wanted to bring some medication (around 50 bottles) to donate to locals or hospitals is that ok to bring in suitcase or are corrupt customs officials likely to confiscate it? I have lived in Colombia and speak decent Spanish but look Scandinavian. Any tips for local guides also welcomed; not necessarily professional just seeking trustworthy resource (ie not in cahoots with gangs/hustlers) for hiring someone to help conduct daily errands and perhaps show me some local sites and restaurants.
Elena is offline  
Old Oct 31, 16, 11:21 pm
  #2  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Atherton, CA
Programs: UA 1K, AA EXP; Owner, Green Bay Packers
Posts: 21,690
I strongly urge you to consider very carefully the consequences of having surgery in a third world country. Standards of training are not anything like those in Europe, USA, Canada, Oz, etc. Standard of care is much lower. The capability to handle an emergency complication is much less. Lots of things can go terribly wrong.

Regarding carrying 50 bottles of meds with you? That's asking for trouble. No way I'd do that, far too many ways that could be misconstrued.

And carrying thousands in cash? C'mon. Again, asking for trouble.
Doc Savage is offline  
Old Nov 1, 16, 9:13 am
  #3  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Over the Bay Bridge, CA
Programs: Jumbo mas
Posts: 30,585
The country doesn't even have sufficient toilet paper and diapers and basic medicines are in short or no supply. This is not the time to consider this country for any visit for any reason. It is an entire level of disarray and danger higher from say, countries run by druglords.
Eastbay1K is offline  
Old Nov 3, 16, 3:49 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Greater CDG Area
Programs: DL DM; *A-Gold
Posts: 812
Originally Posted by Elena View Post
Considering traveling to Caracas for elective surgery as well as replacing a couple failed dental implants; I know they have some excellent clinics and doctors. Wondering if the private clinics are likely to accept US-issued Amex? And if they accept local currency in which case I might be able to get a better deal by trading my dollars on the black market.

If local currency is accepted at clinics- what would be the most secure way to travel with the cash between hotel/apt and the clinic? As I assume it might require a large suitcase of BsF based on the currency issues. And is there is a shortage of supplies at the top private clinics or are there things I might want to bring?

Also wondering if I wanted to bring some medication (around 50 bottles) to donate to locals or hospitals is that ok to bring in suitcase or are corrupt customs officials likely to confiscate it? I have lived in Colombia and speak decent Spanish but look Scandinavian. Any tips for local guides also welcomed; not necessarily professional just seeking trustworthy resource (ie not in cahoots with gangs/hustlers) for hiring someone to help conduct daily errands and perhaps show me some local sites and restaurants.
There are indeed top doctors and clinics in Caracas, just look where the Miss Venezuela organization does surgeries and dental corrections. What dentists are concerned, they do accept local currency; surgery clinics, I don't know, however top clinics are more than likely to calculate in dollars and will then quote an amount in VEF based on the black market rate. Using a foreign credit card means you get the official Dicom rate which is about 1/3 to half of the black market rate.
Transporting money from hotel to clinic is not the main problem, you won't find the cash. There is a shortage in cash. When changing on the black market you might get the equivalent of 200 dollars in cash, asking for more is asking for trouble. Black market for higher amounts works normally via wire transfer to an account in local currency from where you use a debit card. Paying a doctor not using your credit card, I suggest you pay cash in USD and discuss the exchange rate with the doctor. You will usually get black market rate minus 15-20%. That's much safer than trying to get a suitcase of VEF.

Another aspect is availabiliy of medication. While I don't see a problem with a dentist, even top clinics might not have post surgery medications. You would need to take with you all medication you might need after the surgery. As far as bringing medication with you is concerned, you are allowed to bring this, however customs or any police or army control once you are in the country (and there are many of these controls) might suspect you of being a subversive element when seeing the quantity you mentioned. Again, this is asking for trouble.
MarLim is offline  
Old Nov 5, 16, 4:09 pm
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: NYC
Programs: FB Plat/SPG Plat/HH Gold/LHW/SLH/SK Silver
Posts: 681
Originally Posted by MarLim View Post
There are indeed top doctors and clinics in Caracas, just look where the Miss Venezuela organization does surgeries and dental corrections. What dentists are concerned, they do accept local currency; surgery clinics, I don't know, however top clinics are more than likely to calculate in dollars and will then quote an amount in VEF based on the black market rate. Using a foreign credit card means you get the official Dicom rate which is about 1/3 to half of the black market rate.
Transporting money from hotel to clinic is not the main problem, you won't find the cash. There is a shortage in cash. When changing on the black market you might get the equivalent of 200 dollars in cash, asking for more is asking for trouble. Black market for higher amounts works normally via wire transfer to an account in local currency from where you use a debit card. Paying a doctor not using your credit card, I suggest you pay cash in USD and discuss the exchange rate with the doctor. You will usually get black market rate minus 15-20%. That's much safer than trying to get a suitcase of VEF.

Another aspect is availabiliy of medication. While I don't see a problem with a dentist, even top clinics might not have post surgery medications. You would need to take with you all medication you might need after the surgery. As far as bringing medication with you is concerned, you are allowed to bring this, however customs or any police or army control once you are in the country (and there are many of these controls) might suspect you of being a subversive element when seeing the quantity you mentioned. Again, this is asking for trouble.
Thank you for the only relevant response! Your idea to pay USD cash and negotiate the exchange rate sounds like a very good option.

It's very upsetting to me when people write off doctors in other countries- board certified surgeons in Colombia are held to equally high standards as in the US. Looking at the US embassy in Venezuela medical referral list there are even plenty of Harvard educated surgeons in Venezuela. I would much prefer a top doctor in another country than a mediocre doctor in the US. People that experience medical troubles for elective procedures abroad tend to be because they are going to fly-by night clinics, clinics actively trying to cash in on foreigners, or don't research the doctors credentials properly.
Elena is offline  
Old Nov 6, 16, 9:24 am
  #6  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Over the Bay Bridge, CA
Programs: Jumbo mas
Posts: 30,585
Originally Posted by Elena View Post
It's very upsetting to me when people write off doctors in other countries- board certified surgeons in Colombia are held to equally high standards as in the US. Looking at the US embassy in Venezuela medical referral list there are even plenty of Harvard educated surgeons in Venezuela. I would much prefer a top doctor in another country than a mediocre doctor in the US. People that experience medical troubles for elective procedures abroad tend to be because they are going to fly-by night clinics, clinics actively trying to cash in on foreigners, or don't research the doctors credentials properly.
I in no way was writing off doctors in other countries. Everyone of Venezuelan origin who I have spoken to in the last few years, primarily in Chile and Argentina, have encouraged others not to go to their home country for any reason.

Nonetheless, have you considered your contingency plan if anything goes wrong? Even the best surgeons make mistakes, and even the most perfect surgeries have unforeseen complications.
Eastbay1K is offline  
Old Nov 6, 16, 9:45 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Programs: Aadvantage Platinum, Ritz-Carlton Rewards Silver, Le Club Accor Silver
Posts: 8,543
Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
I in no way was writing off doctors in other countries. Everyone of Venezuelan origin who I have spoken to in the last few years, primarily in Chile and Argentina, have encouraged others not to go to their home country for any reason.

Nonetheless, have you considered your contingency plan if anything goes wrong? Even the best surgeons make mistakes, and even the most perfect surgeries have unforeseen complications.
I agree. The Venezuelans I know (in NYC and FL) all say the same thing: their country is sadly on the brink of economic and political collapse. No one should travel there, for any reason.

What our country is going through is monstrously unique: It’s nothing less than the collapse of a large, wealthy, seemingly modern, seemingly democratic nation just a few hours’ flight from the United States.

In the last two years Venezuela has experienced the kind of implosion that hardly ever occurs in a middle-income country like it outside of war. Mortality rates are skyrocketing; one public service after another is collapsing; triple-digit inflation has left more than 70 percent of the population in poverty; an unmanageable crime wave keeps people locked indoors at night; shoppers have to stand in line for hours to buy food; babies die in large numbers for lack of simple, inexpensive medicines and equipment in hospitals, as do the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses.
At 14 years old, Maikel Mancilla Peña had been battling epilepsy for six years. His condition was under control, just about, thanks to a common anti-convulsive prescription drug called Lamotrigine. It had long been a struggle for his family to get it, but as the gap between the real cost of the drugs and the maximum pharmacies were allowed to charge for them grew, it became impossible to find them.

On February 11th this year, Maikel’s mom Yamaris gave him the last Lamotrigine tablet in their stash. None of Yamaris’s usual pharmacies had any anti-convulsants in stock. She worked social media— which in Venezuela these days is filled with desperate people trying to source scarce medicines—but no luck. She drove hours to track down a lead, but came up empty-handed.
In the following days, Maikel experienced a series of increasingly violent epileptic seizures, as his family watched helplessly. On February 20th, he suffered respiratory failure and died.

Maikel’s case is not unique. The collapse of the health-care system and the scarcity of medicine is costing lives every day. Psychiatric patients struggling with schizophrenia have to go without anti-psychotic meds. Tens of thousands of HIV-positive people struggle to find the anti-retrovirals they need, forcing them into the kind of stop-and-go treatment patterns that doctors warn risk bringing on AIDS. Cancer patients can’t find chemotherapy drugs. Even malaria—which had essentially disappeared from Venezuela a generation ago and is easily treatable with inexpensive medicines—is making a deadly comeback.
Neighborhoods and shantytowns can go for days and even weeks with no piped water. Most people adapt by filling several buckets when service is provided, in preparation for the dry periods. Of course, storing water in buckets is precisely what you shouldn’t do when facing a mosquito-borne epidemic: The containers double as breeding grounds for the bugs that transmit the Zika virus, as well as others like Chikungunya, dengue, even malaria.
The same drought that’s forcing water rationing has seen water levels at the country’s electricity-generating dams fall alarmingly. Blackouts used to at least spare the capital, but these days they’re nationwide, as the public utilities struggle to keep enough water in the reservoirs to prevent a complete collapse in the power grid.
http://www.theatlantic.com/internati...-apart/481755/
This was in May. By all accounts, things have gotten much worse since. Animals in the zoo have starved to death. People are down to two meals a day, if they are lucky. There is, quite literally, no food to be had.
ysolde is offline  
Old Nov 16, 16, 8:05 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Programs: AA, DAL, blah, blah, blah...The usual.
Posts: 640
Originally Posted by Elena View Post
Thank you for the only relevant response! Your idea to pay USD cash and negotiate the exchange rate sounds like a very good option.

It's very upsetting to me when people write off doctors in other countries- board certified surgeons in Colombia are held to equally high standards as in the US. Looking at the US embassy in Venezuela medical referral list there are even plenty of Harvard educated surgeons in Venezuela. I would much prefer a top doctor in another country than a mediocre doctor in the US. People that experience medical troubles for elective procedures abroad tend to be because they are going to fly-by night clinics, clinics actively trying to cash in on foreigners, or don't research the doctors credentials properly.
If you've never been to Caracas, now is not the time to make your first trip.
Using a credit card is out of the question. Using a credit card, any purchases will be made at the official 10 Bolivar to 1 Dollar.
(I use the term Bolivar, instead of the correct 'Bolivar Fuerte' for convenience).
However, that 10:1 exchange rate is bogus.
The real value of the Bolivar is north of 1900 to 1.
So your $1000 surgery is going to cost $190,000 by the time the banks get done exchanging your money. A foreign credit card is a non-starter.

So, you're thinking you'll just deal in cash?
So now you're looking at showing up in the most dangerous city in the world, with several thousand American Dollars (at least), asking around for a casa de cambio (black market money traders). It's illegal, you know.

Buying Bolivars in Caracas is a lot like buying marijuana in Detroit...everyone you're dealing with is operating outside the law (ie, criminals); they know you've got cash; they're almost certainly armed; they know you're far from home with nobody you can call for help.
(The police know this too.)
I've done it many times in years past. It's not fun.

So lets say you manage to exchange your $3000 for bolivars at the Green Lettuce exchange rate. Using round numbers, you're going to be carrying 6,000,000 in Bolivars! The largest bank note is 100Bv.
1,000,000 in 100Bv notes weighs roughly 20 pounds, and requires ~1 cubic foot of space. You'll have to multiply this by 6 for your needs.

Did I mention you're in the most dangerous city in the world?

Oh...and once you exchange your dollars for Bolivars, they're yours to keep. All exchanges are one-way. Nobody buys them back.

Nobody here is disparaging Venezuelan doctors.
They're disparaging Venezuelan reality.
airmotive is offline  
Old Nov 22, 16, 8:25 am
  #9  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: London
Programs: Hilton IHG LH BA TK
Posts: 12,098
Originally Posted by Elena View Post
Thank you for the only relevant response! ...

....It's very upsetting to me when people write off doctors in other countries- board certified surgeons in Colombia are held to equally high standards as in the US. Looking at the US embassy in Venezuela medical referral list there are even plenty of Harvard educated surgeons in Venezuela. ... they are going to fly-by night clinics, clinics actively trying to cash in on foreigners, or don't research the doctors credentials properly.
Well, no need to get high and mighty - I can't think why you'd be considering doing this other than to get surgery on the cheap.

The way high value transactions are carried out is by depositing money in your doctor's, lawyers, business partner's account in a safe haven, AKA the US. Odds are your Harvard educated surgeon will operate an account in the US, and he'll certainly know exactly how much your surgery would cost there: he'll quote you accordingly but with some form of discount, but hardly enough to compensate you for the associated costs and risks. The risks are many, and real.

If you arrange payment in VEF through a third party, you'll be paying the same amount. The people you'll be dealing with have an intimate knowledge of lettuce rates, and adjust prices accordingly.

Why not try out Colombia?
IAN-UK is online now  
Old Jul 22, 17, 9:38 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: USA/Canada
Programs: UA, AA, Marriott, Best Western Rewards, NEXUS GE, TSA-Pre
Posts: 365
FYI private clinics as of last week are now allowed to bill in USD, per the government.
MDFFlyer is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread