This is a guide on how you can get a LASIK surgery in South Korea that’s cheaper and of higher quality than most places in the world.
I’ve started wearing glasses since I was in high school. Although initially, I thought it was cool since everyone was wearing it, I slowly started to see its inconvenience throughout my daily life. The glasses started slipping down from my face after long day outs, causing fatigue to the face and don’t grant you full periphery vision because of the frame size.
Then I started to wear contact lenses. Even though that brought more conveniences throughout the day, it was a massive dread having to wear them before heading out and taking them off when I’m home.
Travelling with contact lenses is another major pain point. I’ll have to carry lenses, lens caps and buy travel-sized solutions on a regular basis. This was when I started to explore the option of semi-permanently fixing this inconvenience. The most common option these days is to get a LASIK surgery.
However, the cost of getting LASIK surgery is considerably high in Singapore. This then led me to discover that getting them done in South Korea is a much more affordable option.
Cost of LASIK Surgery in South Korea
The cost of a LASIK or eye-corrective surgery in South Korea is significantly lower than that of many countries such as Singapore and the US. At the time of writing, they are typically between 1,900,000 KRW (S$1,981.60) to 2,7000,000 KRW (S$2,815.95) depending on the exact procedure and package that you get.
A similar procedure will go from S$3,000 to S$6,000 in Singapore.
There are also usually different types of eye corrective surgery that you can go for. The more popular ones are LASEK, LASIK and SMILE LASIK.
|SMILE LASIK||No||5 hours||High|
After a lot of research, I decided to go with the BGN Eye Clinic at Jamsil Lotte Tower for my procedure. They have great reviews on their site, and most importantly they are very foreigner friendly. This means that they have staff onsite and online who can communicate well in English. They also have well-designed procedures catering to foreigners in terms of recovery plans.
If you’re in South Korea, check out some of the travel packages on Klook for some major discounts on attractions and transport!
How to Make a Lasik Appointment
It is very simple to make a LASIK appointment at the BGN Eye Clinic. You only need to message them via Facebook Messenger, indicating your intent to have the LASIK surgery, some personal information and your travel dates to the country.
You’ll then receive a confirmation email of your appointment from the clinic.
The entire Lasik procedure typically takes 4-5 hours from start to finish if you decide to do the surgery on the same day. This includes an initial eye check-up, consultation and eventually surgery.
Once you’ve checked in at the front counter, you’ll proceed to do an extensive eye check-up which takes approximately an hour. The check-up involves 5 to 6 different stations where they assess your suitability to do the LASIK surgery.
Some of the stations are similar to those you’ll do when getting fitted for your glasses. Some of them were novel to me like the eye pressure test where the machine blew pockets of air into my eye.
After the hour-long check-up, I had a consultation with my dedicated consultant who spoke fluent English. She went through my check-up results in detail and also the surgery packages available to me.
I decided to go with the SMILE LASIK surgery which costs 2,700,000 KRW (US$2,115.52). This was because of its less invasive nature and faster recovery time.
Right after making my decision, I made the full payment and immediately went off to the surgery room.
Experience in the Surgery Room
Once in the surgery room, I was given some anaesthetic eye drops to prepare my eyes for the surgery. Nurses were accompanying me the moment I stepped into the room.
The actual procedure itself was quick and painless. I was awake throughout and I only needed to stare into a green light in the machine. I did not feel anything throughout the entire procedure.
The whole surgery took about 30 minutes from start to end.
After the surgery, we had to head back to the clinic for follow-up checks to make sure that the surgery went smoothly. For the SMILE Lasik surgery option, the check-ups can be done 2 days after the surgery.
You’ll typically only need to head to the clinic once for a check-up. However, during my 1st check-up, the doctor found some discharge from the insertion point on my right eye. I had to do a follow-up procedure on the same day to clean out the discharge. The entire procedure only took 15 minutes and the doctor recommended me to head back to the clinic 2 days later to check up again.
Each check-up costs 25,000 KRW (US$19.55).
After Effects of the Lasik Surgery
The main concerns of a LASIK surgery usually surround the after-effects of the surgery. As a well-established procedure, the chances of anything severely bad happening is incredibly low.
Immediately following the procedure, it is common to feel very uncomfortable in your eyes. In my experience, I couldn’t even open my eyes for more than a couple of seconds as it felt very dry and irritated. I would highly recommend anyone doing their LASIK surgery have someone with them after the surgery. It can get dangerous trying to get home by public transport yourself.
The most common side effects would be dry eyes for a couple of months following the surgery. It is described as being similar to wearing contact lenses 24 hours a day.
In my experience, since I already wear contact lenses most of the time, it didn’t feel that different to me. I didn’t think that my eyes felt dryer than it usually is. It only really gets noticeable after long hours of screen time.
What Credit Card to Use?
As a travel hacking-focused blog, we cannot miss out on the best credit card to use to pay for this procedure.
In our experience travelling in the country, most places in South Korea accept credit card payments with the popular Visa and Mastercard networks. You should not have any trouble paying for your surgery procedure if you have a card with these payment networks. American Express credit cards are almost never accepted, so keep that in mind.
Eye clinics are typically coded as Merchant Code (MCC) 8042. This is described as “Optometrists and Ophthalmologists” merchants. As we know, hospital and public clinic payments are often excluded from earning any credit card points in the Singapore credit card space.
Lucky for us, MCC 8042 does not fall under the above category. Therefore, you’ll be able to earn credit card points with this purchase. Since the procedure is done in Korea, the payment will be charged in South Korean Won (KRW) and is considered a foreign transaction. Therefore, it might be worthwhile to use a card that offers high-earning bonuses for foreign transactions.
Remember that there’ll usually be a 3+% foreign transaction fee charged by the bank.
|UOB Visa Signature||4 mpd||Minimum spend of S$1,000 and maximum spend of S$2,000 in a calendar month. Contactless payment only.|
|Amaze + Citi Rewards||4 mpd||Maximum spend of S$1,000 in a statement month. Save on the foreign transaction fee. Review here.|
|UOB Preferred Platinum||4 mpd||Maximum spend of S$1,110 in a calendar month. Contactless payment only.|
|UOB PRVI Miles||2.4 mpd||Foreign Currency Spend. Apply here.|
|HSBC TravelOne||2.4 mpd||Foreign Currency Spend. Review here.|
|OCBC Voyage||2.2 mpd||Foreign Currency Spend|
|OCBC 90N||2.1 mpd||Foreign Currency Spend. Apply here.|
Most of the high-earning cards have a spending limit that’s lower than the overall cost of the surgery. Be sure to calculate the overall number of miles you’ll earn based on the final cost of the surgery before deciding on the actual card to use. It might be worth using the UOB Visa Signature Card with a S$2,000 bonus limit if the cost of your surgery only slightly exceeds this amount.
Otherwise, using a credit card that earns a high foreign currency spend bonus like the UOB PRVI Miles is a good alternative.
In my opinion, doing LASIK surgery is one of the best investments someone can do to improve their quality of life. I highly value the convenience of not having to wear glasses or contact lenses.
And if you’re planning to undergo LASIK surgery, there’s no better place to do it than in South Korea. The country is well-known for its aesthetic medical procedures and it’s not without a reason.
The high-quality process, equipment and service made it an easy decision for me. In addition, the much lower cost as compared to Singapore was the cherry on top. Of course, you’ll have to consider the cost of flights and accommodations. But with budget airlines like Scoot offering S$400 round-trip flight tickets between Singapore and Seoul, the math is still heavily in favour of doing your LASIK surgery in Korea.
Check out our post on how to get cheap air tickets using Google Flights to help you score your next cheap flight to South Korea.