ISTANBUL - When you walk around Istanbul’s famous Taksim Square, men with bands around their heads are not an uncommon sight. The locals know by now that the men have just received hair transplants.
Even though general tourism has suffered in Turkey due to recent terrorist attacks, medical tourism continues to thrive. In 2016, more than 152,000 people came to Turkey for medical tourism, according to statistics from the Turkish Health Ministry.
Jordanian Khaled Saleh is one of the thousands of people who came to Turkey not only for a visit, but also to get a hair transplant.
“If I want to make the same surgery in my country, it's going to cost me $5,000. I spent $1,100 here,” says Saleh. “It was very cheap and helpful. The team was very helpful. We also come here for tourism. We feel safe in Turkey. Police is everywhere, helping us. Also, the tourism — Istanbul is a magnificent city."
Medical tourism consultant Emre Ali Kodan lists the reasons why Turkey is one of the top medical tourism destinations.
“High quality service, affordable prices, surpassing Europe in medical technology, cultural proximity to Middle East, experience of doctors,” he says.
Kodan says about 5,000 people received hair transplants each month in 2016, and up to 80,000 people are projected to receive hair transplants in 2017.
WATCH: video from Istanbul
The men with bands around their heads are the most visible medical tourists in Turkey. But the top medical procedures tourists came to Turkey for in 2016 involved obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology and orthopedics. Plastic surgery and cancer treatment were also in the top 10.
"Our doctors are top notch," says Kodan. "We have competitive advantage in terms of fees. These reasons are why even Europeans chose to come here for medical treatments."
In 2016, most of Turkey's medical tourists were Libyans, Azerbaijanis and Iraqis. But Europeans choose Turkey as well.
German Jan Bourcevet, 23, found the Turkish hair transplant clinic he used after researching online.
“In Germany where I come from, it’s like [one] fourth of the price. I sent my pictures to them and they made me an offer. It sounded great, so I did it,” says Bourcevet.
Like Jordanian Khaled Saleh, Bourcevet also plans to use the opportunity to be a traditional tourist. He's happy that, thanks to his hair transplant procedure, he gets to explore another country.