Traveling abroad for vacation is a surefire way to de-stress and unwind. It's also the perfect time to score deals on products and services that are normally more expensive in the United States. Whether you're heading south to Central America or going as far as Southeast Asia, you'll be in or near hotspots for cheap medical services, leather, electronics, and even precious gems. We can't vouch for the safety or quality of the products or services mentioned below, but our research suggests that they're generally cheaper than what you'd find at home.
There's probably no such thing as a cheap diamond, but Belgium's second-largest city, Antwerp, is a center of the diamond industry and known for its bargain prices compared with other large diamond producers in Europe, Asia, and South Africa. Antwerp's Diamond District, also known as the Diamond Quarter, houses thousands of diamantaires, or diamond merchants, who sell top-quality diamonds at what pass for modest prices. A writer for Travel + Leisure who detailed her search for a cheap gem paid $10,776 for a 1.7-carat diamond ring. By comparison, a customizable 1.7-carat diamond ring with low clarity and faint color from Kay Jewelers starts at around $15,000. Venturing all the way to Antwerp to purchase a diamond might seem farfetched, but for the right price, the travel expenses can be justified.
Rising health care costs have propelled many Americans to seek treatment at discounted prices overseas for a variety of procedures, from dental surgeries to hernia repairs. According to a study on medical tourism, a knee replacement performed stateside can cost $40,000 while the same surgery might be as cheap as $13,000 in Singapore; a heart bypass costing $130,000 here might rack up an $11,000 charge in Thailand. The Caribbean and Central America are known locales for cheap dental care. Dental clinics in San Jose, Puerto Rico, for instance, charge up to 80 percent less for the same dental procedures in the U.S., according to Patients Beyond Borders. But beware: Foreign clinics and hospitals may not hold to the same standards as American facilities, so thoroughly research any clinic you may be considering. Med Retreat provides tips, warnings, and general information about receiving medical care abroad.
Italy is renowned for producing, selling, and designing first-rate leather products. USA Today declares it the go-to destination for leather lovers. If you're ever in or near Rome or Florence, head directly to these cities' leather-shopping neighborhoods, such as Mercato di San Lorenzo in Florence. Bargaining over prices is often part of the dealings, especially in small family-owned shops, so you may wind up scoring an even larger discount on genuine Italian leather goods, whose quality surpasses comparable offerings in the U.S. Comments posted at sites like Trip Advisor and Virtual Tourist indicate that a premium leather tote starts at about 79 euros, the equivalent of about $108. A similar-size tote with faux leather trim sells for about $120 at Wilson's Leather.
Singapore boasts shopping malls and plazas throughout the country that are dedicated to selling cheap electronics. Lucky Plaza and Sim Lim Square are two shopping centers that offer electronics at discounts of up to 20 percent compared to what you'd pay elsewhere. Here, too, bargaining is acceptable behavior, so have at it and see what kind of deal you can score on a laptop, cell phone, or some other electronic device. At a Singapore-based online shopping site we spotted a Samsung Galaxy Tablet 3.8 going for 199 Singapore dollars (roughly $159); Samsung sells the device for $249. Just remember, you have to carry home whatever you buy.