Travel without medical insurance: Cost examples

Gleneagles Hospital in KL

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

If nothing serious happens during your international travel like a cancer diagnosis or a car accident, travel without medical insurance doesn’t cost as much as you might think, compared to prices in the USA. Also, in many countries the doctors are excellent; the equipment is modern.

We Earth Vagabonds decided long ago to pay out of pocket for our medical needs during travel around the world as budget slow travelers in early retirement.

This post gives more examples of real-world prices on health care outside the U.S.

This time, our needed check ups as we travel without medical insurance happened in Malaysia — again.

Part of the reason is because we have both had such great care in Malaysia in the past– before the pandemic. So when the country reopened to tourists, we returned for some much-needed health checks.

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Travel without medical insurance

As a former breast cancer patient, I recently had appointments with an oncologist and a breast surgeon. I also saw a gynecologist. All were in Malaysia, at Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur.


Once Malaysia opened to tourists again, I booked an appointment with my favorite oncologist in the world: Dr. Muhammed Azrif at Gleneagles in KL. It was easy to make the appointment through email with his office staff, since I’d seen him before the pandemic.

Related: How to find a doctor overseas

Dr. Azrif gave me good news about my meds, wrote new prescriptions, answered a million questions, and examined my mastectomy scars and armpit lymph nodes.

He wanted further tests on an enlarged lymph node that I had been watching for more than a year while still in the Philippines.

He sent me straight to a breast surgeon for further examination on ultrasound.

His staff got me in to see a breast surgeon the next day for an ultrasound exam and biopsy opinion, and also a gynecologist for an overdue exam.

Dr Azrif also recommended the orthopedic surgeon who reset my broken arm, which I’ve previously written about.

Medical oncologist office visit cost:

Lymph node exam, mastectomy scar inspection, prescriptions, three referrals, answers to a million questions: $24

Breast Surgeon

I live as a “flattie” – a woman who’s had a double mastectomy without risky, costly reconstruction. But breast surgeons can spot diseased lymph nodes when cancer cells pass into them from breast tumors.

Dr. Harjit Kaur asked many questions and showed me various nodes on the screen as she explained what I was looking at.

The imaging machine was far more clear than the one back in Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines. It was like the difference between a traditional mammogram and a 3D, or digital mammogram. (I am a huge believer in the superiority of 3D mammograms, which not all developing nations have outside major cities.)

Dr. Kaur’s recommendation is for me to have more near-future testing, which I will do.

Breast surgeon office visit cost

Lymph node sonogram, opinion for further imaging: $59


The final doctor I saw during our brief stay in Kuala Lumpur was Dr. Alex Matthews for a gynecology exam.

He was extremely thorough in taking my history. Then it was time for the physical exam and PAP test.

This type of exam for women is never exactly comfortable, especially in a foreign country. But he made me feel comfortable by explaining every step of the process along the way.

Eight business days after the visit, the test results were sent via email.

Gynecologist office visit cost

Thorough interview/family history, cervical exam, ovary exam, PAP test: $109

Foreigner prices

Of course, these private hospital prices are higher than a public hospital. Foreigners at either will pay more than Malaysians. These are facts in most countries we visit.

But for the quality care by English-fluent doctors and staff, ease of making appointments, modern equipment and sparkling clean facilities, we accept these prices at Gleneagles KL as fair.

By the way, we almost always pay by credit card in local currency for best conversion rate. Then we take pictures of receipts and bills as proof for any health savings account withdrawals.

Future health care during our stay in Malaysia will involve Theo, so stay tuned!

Life is Now!

Ellen enters oncology department for check up during world travel without medical insurance.

Thanks for reading: “Travel without medical insurance: Cost examples.”

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