Persons with serious and disabling medical conditions have traveled abroad in search of stem cell treatments in recent years. However, weak or nonexistent oversight systems in some countries provide insufficient patient protections against unproven stem cell treatments, raising concerns about exposure to harm and exploitation. The present article, the first of two, describes and analyzes stem cell tourism in Russia and India and addresses several scientific/medical, ethical, and policy issues raised by the provision of unproven stem cell-based treatments within them. The distinction between treatment based on proven clinical research and "innovative treatment" is addressed and the authors conclude that the innovations at issue constitute neither. Regulatory measures need to be developed or strengthened in accord with internationally accepted standards in such countries to protect those seeking stem cell treatments.