Healthcare in the United Arab Emirates 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a well-developed and modern healthcare sector. Expats will find quality services in both the public and private sectors, although costs in the private sector are high and constantly increasing.

To live and work in the UAE, expats will need to obtain a Medical Fitness Certificate as residence visas won’t be issued without the certificate.

Expats must therefore undergo a full medical examination as prescribed by the government, either while in the UAE or before arriving. The exam includes blood tests and, if applying to move to Abu Dhabi, a chest x-ray. In Dubai and other emirates, chest x-rays aren’t taken as part of the testing. Throughout the UAE, anyone testing positive for TB or HIV/AIDS will not be granted a residence visa.

Before venturing to another country, make sure you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Our international health insurance plans offer comprehensive health cover for when you are in your home country and abroad.

Public medical facilities in the UAE are well-organised and offer a high standard of care. They are dedicated to the needs of the local population, may be overcrowded due to high demand, and can be difficult for foreigners and expats to navigate. The UAE government is working on improving this in the hopes of becoming a medical tourism hub.

Expats intending to use the public system will need to obtain a health card from the Ministry of Health. Applications can be made online or by visiting a health centre.

Private hospitals in the UAE outnumber public facilities and offer sophisticated medical care. Medical staff are well trained, are often expats themselves and generally speak excellent English. Private hospitals do not always deal with major trauma, certain complex emergencies, and other specified pathologies, which remain largely in the public domain.

In some emirates, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, expats are required by law to have private health insurance. In Abu Dhabi, the expat’s employer is obligated to provide health insurance for the expat and their dependants. In Dubai, the employer is responsible only for providing cover for the expat employee and not their dependants. The responsibility of insuring dependants in Dubai therefore falls on the expat.

Health insurance policies can vary in what they cover, so it’s always best to scour the fine print before signing up. If necessary, expats should take out an additional policy to cover any gaps.

Pharmacies are easy to find throughout the UAE, and many are open 24 hours a day. Medication is often expensive in the UAE, so expats should remember to keep receipts to submit to their medical insurance provider. A wide range of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and medical supplies are available in UAE. Expats should bear in mind that medication regulations may differ from their home country. For instance, obtaining certain drugs may require a prescription back home but not in the UAE, or vice versa. For this reason, it’s best to check regulations before trying to obtain a particular medication.

Many of the major health risks in the UAE are related to the extreme heat. Dehydration and heatstroke are particular concerns, especially for those used to a much cooler climate. The sand and dust, brought on by desert winds and regular construction, can also trigger and aggravate symptoms for those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. It’s best to remain indoors during the hottest times of the day – preferably in an air-conditioned building. Expats should also stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Expats should ensure that all standard vaccinations are up to date before leaving for the UAE, as well as Covid vaccinations.

The UAE is generally well equipped to handle medical emergencies. Expats can dial 999 for an ambulance. The operator answering the call may or may not be able to speak English, but will be able to transfer the caller to an English speaker if needed. Health insurance companies may also provide an emergency number to call, which may be faster than waiting for a public ambulance.
A range of healthcare plans available for employers with staff based in the United Arab Emirates.