- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Saudi Arabia Guide (PDF)
Healthcare in Saudi Arabia is of a high standard, and expats will benefit from excellent medical facilities in both the private and public sectors. For the most part, patients don't need to worry about delays or waiting lists, but having adequate health insurance is a must to cover the costs involved.
Health insurance in Saudi Arabia
While expats working in the public sector have access to state-sponsored healthcare coverage, it is compulsory for all non-Saudi nationals to have private medical insurance. It's usually the sponsoring employer's responsibility to provide their expat employees with medical cover. Expats should try to negotiate this into their contract if it isn't included.
It's also important for expats to ensure that any coverage provided to them by their workplace is comprehensive. If not, it is advisable to top up with an additional policy.
Public healthcare in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has a well-developed healthcare system that includes a network of government-run hospitals, clinics, and health centres.
Expats in Saudi Arabia have access to public healthcare services, which are free for citizens but may require a fee for expatriates. The quality of public healthcare in Saudi Arabia is generally good, with well-equipped hospitals and clinics, and a highly trained workforce. The country is also a hub for medical tourism, attracting patients from around the world for specialized medical procedures and treatments.
However, it's essential to note that some public healthcare facilities in Saudi Arabia may have long wait times and may not have the latest medical technologies available. For these reasons, some expats prefer to opt for private healthcare options.
Private healthcare in Saudi Arabia
Most expats use private hospitals and clinics, but these come with a hefty price tag, so it's important to be well covered by health insurance. Private healthcare in Saudi Arabia is known for its high standard of care, with modern facilities, advanced medical technologies, and highly trained medical staff. Patients in private healthcare facilities can expect shorter wait times, more privacy, and a more personalised level of care compared to public healthcare facilities.
Many of the staff at private hospitals in Saudi Arabia are expats themselves, and numerous hospitals are affiliated with well-known foreign facilities, so the language gap shouldn't be an issue.
Medicines and pharmacies in Saudi Arabia
Medicines are widely available at pharmacies in Saudi Arabia. Expats should however be aware of customs regulations before bringing medication into the country. For example, anti-depressants and sleeping pills are heavily controlled in the Kingdom, and drug laws are strict.
Anyone entering the country is allowed to bring in approved prescription medication for personal use. The quantity of each medication is limited to either a month's supply or enough to cover the length of the traveller's stay in Saudi Arabia, whichever is shortest.
Approval from the Saudi Food and Drug Authority must be obtained prior to the trip. A doctor's prescription or recent medical report must be submitted as part of this process. On the trip to Saudi Arabia, it's best to carry these documents, along with an official Arabic translation. Expats who take chronic medication should ensure they visit a local doctor as soon as possible to get a local prescription well before their initial supply runs out.
Pharmacies are generally well stocked. 24-hour pharmacies, and pharmacies operating with extended hours, are fairly common.
Health hazards in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is mostly desert, and expats usually struggle to adapt to extreme temperatures that can soar above 113°F (45°C). Heatstroke and exhaustion are common, especially during the summer months. To avoid this, expats are advised to stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day and ensure they are well hydrated.
Emergency services in Saudi Arabia
Ambulances in Saudi Arabia are usually operated by police and government hospitals. For medical emergencies, expats can call 997.