Introducing Electives! Asia

This week, Lauren Bolton reports on The Philippines and Sri Lanka.

“My trip was during blocks 5 and 6:

  • 4 weeks ENT in Baguio General Hospital – The Philippines
  • 4 weeks general surgery in Colombo South Teaching Hospital – Sri Lanka

General Organisation

I went on my elective with two friends and due to this we needed somewhere we were all happy to work. We decided we wanted to see hospitals functioned in developing countries. Sri Lanka and The Philippines fit this criteria and also happened to be very beautiful (and cheap!) places to live.

Once we had decided on the countries we used the website – The Electives Network ( – to look up different hospitals that offered the placements we wanted to do. We all wanted to do different placements so we needed one that offered all of these.

After deciding on hospitals, we contacted a few of them from their contact details on The Elective Network. We were asked to send in our CVs, proof of our student status from the medical school and our preference of placements. Following the confirmation of the placement all we had to do was organise flights; accommodation; visas; vaccinations; indemnity insurance (free from MPS/MDU); planning weekend trips; filling in the dreaded medical school forms.

Financially my trip cost me around £2800:

  • £700 flights
  • £250 accommodation – The Philippines
  • £200 accommodation – Sri Lanka
  • £140 Hospital fees – Sri Lanka
  • £80 Insurance

World2Go – you are covered if you fail your exams and want to refund your trip

  • £45 visa – Sri Lanka
  • £400 food and drink
  • £1000 weekend trips/sightseeing/transport in the countries/souvenirs

I was lucky as I didn’t need any vaccinations due to previous travel but these can be quite expensive.

Going on my elective with friends was something that I really appreciated as we were all separate in the hospital so I got a good chance to meet people but also had the comfort of having someone to help me find accommodation and to socialise with in the spare time!

We began contacting hospitals 7 months before our placements and the rest of the planning took place at varying points. It is good to get your flight early and it is nice to get everything planned before your finals revision!


The Philippines

Placements here can be very busy, native students and doctors work extremely hard. They do ‘duty’ which means they work for 36 hours straight! It is extremely interesting to see how they cope with the workload how innovative they were with the limited resources that they have. I was able to attend and assist in theatre, clinics, ward rounds and teaching.

The Philippines geography varies massively. We were in a mountainous city which didn’t have many western tourists which was interesting. You can also work on islands so it is completely up to you. Manila is one of the most hectic cities I have ever visited so unless you can handle that I would avoid it! Cebu and Palawan are both beautiful islands.

We found our accommodation on Airbnb. We didn’t have any contacts so accommodation was quite difficult to organise but there were options available. If you are struggling, you could ask the hospital to help you. Transport in The Philippines was very cheap, cross country buses for £10 and taxis within the cities (outside of Manila) being less than £1 a journey.

Socially we made friends with the Filipino students and doctors. There is a strong Catholic faith in The Philippines and we had interesting conversations on abortion and gay marriage which are both illegal. We were able to take long weekends to visit the Banaue rice terraces, Cebu and Palawan. The Philippines are a great place to do an elective!


Sri Lanka

I spent my time in hospital split between theatre, clinics, ward rounds and teaching. Sri Lanka was more developed than The Philippines but still really different to the UK in many respects and it was interesting to see. There were many Sri Lankan medical students on the placement who I worked with.

Colombo was a good base with lots going on. It also had good links to the rest of the country for weekend trips. We were able to visit the south west coast, Kandy and Uda Walawe national park. We booked our apartment on Airbnb, it was a 5 minute tuktuk drive from the hospital and we each had our own air conditioned rooms. Travel in Sri Lanka again was cheap, with journeys costing <£1. Tourist areas and activities were marked up significantly however, as was alcohol.

Socially we bonded well with the Sri Lankan students and other elective students at the hospital and went on some of our weekend trips with them. Sri Lanka is also a great place to spend an elective and I would recommend it!

Electives are most students’ highlights of medical school so make sure you spend time planning what you would enjoy and what you want to gain from it!”

– Lauren Bolton (FY1, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals)