information for global expats

National Health System for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Submitted: July 2014

Per the Saudi Constitution, Government hospitals provide free services to Saudi citizens and expats working in the public sector. Foreign nationals may still go to Government hospitals, but they would need to pay the bill without Government help.

In practice, Saudi Arabia’s immigration rules require foreigners to have private health insurance before they can be issued a visa.

Most of Saudi Arabia’s health policy is managed by the Ministry of Health (MoH).



Pilgrims are afforded free healthcare services like Saudi citizens. During the pilgrimage season (Hajj), Government hospitals may result being quite overstretched, especially in Mecca.


Funding pressures

Several factors are leading to considerable Government spending increases on healthcare. These include:

  • Growth in GDP per capita – each individual has thus more demand for healthcare services
  • Ageing
  • High rate of road accidents
  • Population growth. Not only is Saudi Arabia’s fertility rate still high (2.7 in 2013 – World Bank data)
  • The seasonal pilgrim influx, during the Hajj season.

In order to address this strain on public finances, private health insurance has been already been phased in for expats. However, public hospitals are increasingly being given more autonomy and more incentives to be run efficiently. Accordingly, privatisation is a policy option that is seriously considered by Saudi policymakers.


Funding (overview)

As of today, about two thirds of total healthcare expenditures in Saudi Arabia are from public funds.

Saudi Arabia is gradually shifting from a tax-financed system to an insurance-based system. Most foreign nationals are already required to have some form of private health insurance.


Cooperative health insurance

Saudi Arabia is increasingly counting on cooperative health insurance premiums to finance the national healthcare expenditures.

The following persons must have Cooperative Health Insurance:

  • Saudi citizens working in the private sector + their dependants
  • Non-Saudi citizens working in the private sector + their dependants with a residence permit
  • Unemployed persons living in Saudi Arabia.


Travel advice

Many countries provide updated travel information to their citizens, and this often includes health advice. You should regularly check the Foreign Office website of your home country to see if there are any specific steps you need to take. Alternatively, you can go to your local embassy in Saudi Arabia.

Most importantly, you need to get your vaccinations right before coming to Saudi Arabia. The main vaccines to check are:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis (A and B)
  • Polio
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow fever (if you come from a high risk country)
  • Tetanus
  • Rabies
  • Meningococcal meningitis

In Saudi Arabia, infections can come very quickly. Dengue fever, schistosomiasis and malaria (for which there is no vaccine) are possible in Saudi Arabia. Consequently, you should:

  • Avoid contact with animals
  • Thoroughly clean any minor injury, in which case a medical check-up may then be needed
  • Be wary of dormant water
  • Generally take the necessary steps to avoid mosquito bites.


Chronic diseases

As a general rule, the Ministry of Health takes health prevention very seriously.

Saudi Arabia’s economic development has come along with many of the usual chronic diseases that developing countries face. Common examples of these issues include:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Heart diseases
  • Cancer
  • Genetic blood disorders
  • Obesity

If necessary, feel free to stay ahead of the Saudis when it comes to this. Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Keep your fat consumption in check, try to do some exercise despite the heat, and avoid smoking.



We value input from our readers. If you spot an error on this page or have any suggestions, please let us know.


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