When you were planning your trip to Mexico, chances are that you didn’t take the time to explore possible medical treatment options in the unlikely event that you got sick or injured while you were here.
You just assumed that everything was going to go great — and it was, right up to the point that you fell off of a rented scooter and possibly fractured your wrist. Now you suddenly find yourself having to navigate through a healthcare system that you know little or nothing about. Throw in a language barrier and the situation can turn downright scary.
Fortunately for you, you have our site saved on your phone and you can get some immediate guidance to help you through the situation.
If it’s an emergency, you can call 911 and an ambulance will head your way. There are numerous private ambulance services and depending where you are in the country, you may have a couple of them show up to compete for your business.
Be aware that the private ambulances aren’t free and they will expect payment.
In a non-emergency situation, you have a little more time to ponder your healthcare options while you finish off that last Margarita.
If you’re not sure what medical facilities there are near your location, you can download a free phone app from the Mexican government that will give you detailed information about both public and private facilities. To learn more about it, click HERE.
When you use that app, you’ll likely see a lot of facilities. Knowing which one to choose will depend on your particular medical issue.
For example, If you have a broken wrist, you’ll probably want to go to a larger facility where they have the equipment and staff to handle that type of injury. However, if you only have an ear infection or a persistent bout of Montezuma’s Revenge, then a pharmacy doctor or a small clinic will probably be the best option.
Here’s a breakdown of the popular options available, together with some pros and cons:
Most large hotels and resorts will have a physician either on site or on call to handle the medical needs of their guests.
Pros: English-speaking; convenient
Cons: Very expensive when compared to other treatment options; lack of diagnostic equipment (e.g. X-Ray, MRI); unable to handle complex cases
Many pharmacies have a doctor’s office attached with posted hours. To more about pharmacy doctors, click HERE.
Pros: Inexpensive ($5-$30 USD in most cases); convenient; fast
Cons: May not speak English; set office hours; lack of diagnostic equipment (e.g. X-Ray, MRI); unable to handle complex cases
Public Clinics and Hospitals
Mexico has both a public and private healthcare system. If you’re not a member of the public system, you can still receive treatment there.
I lumped clinics and hospitals together in the same category. Obviously, the smaller clinics may be unable to handle major medical emergencies.
Cons: May not speak English; long wait times at many facilities; smaller facilities may lack diagnostic equipment
* Note- We have known a few people who after several hours of waiting at a public facility with a significant injury, left and went to a private facility where they were treated immediately
Private Clinics and Hospitals
Linda and I have been extremely impressed by the private healthcare system in Mexico. Whether it’s an injury or an illness, this is our first choice for any type of treatment.
Pros: Excellent care; well-equipped; short wait times; often staffed with English-speaking doctors and personnel
Cons: Most expensive option
Billing and Insurance
If you go to a private facility, you can expect them to ask to see a credit card before they even look at your broken ankle. They will normally place a hold of between $800 – $2500 on your card.
Full payment is due before you leave the facility.
It’s important to note that your medical insurance back home may not cover you when you’re abroad, and even if it does, the coverage may not be sufficient to cover your costs. That’s why it’s always a good idea to spring for medical travel insurance. The plans are relatively inexpensive and most vacation booking websites (e.g. Expedia) offer insurance options at the time of booking.
If you do have insurance and plan on seeking reimbursement later, be sure to ask for a factura from the hospital. They will likely ask you if you have an RFC, which is a tax number in Mexico. You can give them the generic RFC used for foreigners who are not registered in the system: XEXX010101000.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Most people don’t think about getting sick or injured when they go on vacation, but it happens more often than you might think.
We recently went to a local private hospital for a routine doctor’s visit and the waiting room had about a half a dozen tourists in it with bandaged ankles or wrists. We knew they were tourists because they were all wearing hotel bracelets. And just in case you were wondering — no, they were not all from the same hotel.