Healthcare in the UAE - Expat Guide to UAE

By , ArabiaMD Team

Healthcare in the UAE, is highly-developed, has modern infrastructure, and offers quality services. Health facilities are modern and accessible to the locals and visitors. Most public hospitals provide standard health services, although most expats prefer private hospitals. English is often spoken, and most of the staff is foreign-trained expatriates.

Healthcare Statistics of UAE Expats

It is estimated that UAE has the highest number of expats in the world, mostly with a majority living in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This proportion is from the hospital records, where expats make up to 75% of patients in public health facilities and almost 100% in private hospitals.

The high number of expats goes hand-in-hand with international-standard healthcare, where there are general practitioners and specialists of all nationalities. These health specialists speak multiple languages, therefore, catering to international and diverse patients.

Various bodies run healthcare in the UAE; for instance, the Dubai Health Authority in Dubai and the Health Authority Abu Dhabi for Abu Dhabi. The rest of the Emirates, like Sharjah, Ajman, are regulated by the MOH (Ministry of Health) in the UAE. It doesn’t matter what type of visa you hold; you cannot get free healthcare in the UAE. Dubai and Abu Dhabi require their residents to have health insurance. It is now mandatory to have insurance to get a visa.

Healthcare in the UAE for Expats

The UAE healthcare system is renowned for quality services, which has led to the demand in medical tourism. In 2018, the United Arab Emirates was ranked among the top 10 most effective healthcare systems in the world. Both public and private hospitals offer high-quality services.

Government Intervention

Healthcare in the UAE is a complex, government-funded system with a rapidly growing private sector. Healthcare is standardized at the Emirate and Federal level. However, healthcare services vary from emirate to emirate, but the services you receive are high-quality. Expats can receive services from both the private and public health facilities. However, remember that where Emirati citizens receive treatment in clinics and public hospitals at low prices, or free, expatriates have to pay.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the 2 Emirates that attract more expatriates. In these states, the quality of healthcare is high; for instance, Dubai is famous for high-standards of medical services and advanced technology. Many visitors flock to the city for treatment a travel trend called ‘medical tourism.’ Dermatology, orthopedic, and ophthalmology are the most sought after medical services in the UAE. It is important to note that private hospitals outnumber public healthcare facilities.

In some Emirates, such as Abu Dhabi, the law requires your company to provide you with health insurance together with your dependents. These dependents include 1 spouse and up to 3 children under 18 years. If you have a 4th child, it is your responsibility to provide insurance cover. However, in Dubai, employers only need to provide insurance for their employees.

Whether you are employed or not, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi laws require you to have insurance. Residency visas are denied to expats who have no proof of health insurance. In some Emirates, such as Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al-Quwain, and Ajman, companies don’t need to provide health insurance for employees.

The UAE Health Card

Healthcare in the UAE is sophisticated; for instance, in Dubai, if your employer or your spouse’s employer does not provide health insurance, you should apply for a health card. This card offers healthcare coverage similar to that received by Emirati citizens through public healthcare.

If you wish to visit public hospitals, you must have a health card because even if you have private insurance, it might not cover all the treatments. To get a health card, you need a copy of your passport, and visa application, a covering letter from your sponsor, 2 passport size photographs, and a completed application form. You can apply online or visit a primary healthcare center.

Hospitals in the UAE

Public healthcare facilities are well-organized and offer quality services. These hospitals are dedicated to providing the best care to both the citizens and expats. Most expatriates prefer private health facilities because they are less crowded.

Private health facilities offer world-class services, and the medical personnel and staff are highly-trained and certified. Most workers are expatriates; speak English, and other international languages. When it comes to healthcare in the UAE, nursing care is provided by expat nurses from different countries. However, you ought to know that private health facilities don’t treat major trauma, specified pathologies, and complex emergencies.


You can get a lot of prescription medicine, over-the-counter drugs, and medical supplies from any pharmacy in the UAE. Pharmacies are private and have a well-organized procurement and supply chain system. To get your prescription, you must get it from a local physician. Healthcare in the UAE is governed by strict law, and pharmacists will not recognize prescriptions from foreign doctors.

Although many medications are readily accessible in the UAE without a prescription, some drugs such as tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and anti-depressants are banned. You need to have a prescription for these medications.

Health Hazards

Healthcare in the UAE is aimed at curbing certain hazards that are prevalent in the region; for instance, sunburns, heatstroke, dehydration, and exhaustion. Continuous construction, dust, and sand carried by the wind from the desert worsen respiratory problems.


It is not easy for expats to bring medicines into the UAE because most of them are controlled substances. Healthcare in the UAE is sophisticated and require all expats to get tested for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, and Tuberculosis prior to arrival. Expats could face deportation if they test positive for these diseases. There is also no appeal system for this process. Although no vaccinations are required in the UAE, expats are advised to ensure that all routine vaccines are updated.

Healthcare in UAE is well-developed and provides quality services for both its citizens and expats. The health facilities are clean, have qualified staff, and provide a wide range of services. The insurance policy cover and health card help the expats to cater for health needs.