The health system in Saudi Arabia

Updated 2021-01-08 14:19

If you are planning to live and work in Saudi Arabia, healthcare is definitely something to look into. Here is an overview of the Saudi healthcare system.

Saudi Arabia has developed drastically in the healthcare field while continuing to expand in the years to come. With a booming population, Saudi Arabia has been able to cope with providing an adequate amount of healthcare facilities to serve both the national and foreign population. With over 400 public hospitals and 200 private hospitals, it is easy to feel comfortable with the available care. According to the World health organization ( WHO), the national health program of Saudi Arabia is a model for developing countries. State of the art clinics and high-quality services are available, and attracting specialists from all over the world. Meanwhile, the government hospitals are providing free of charge services for Saudis.

The Saudi healthcare system

There are two branches of healthcare in Saudi Arabia: the government-state funded and operated Division, and the Private Pay-Per-Use Division. The Ministry of Health is the government body, providing with preventive, curative and rehabilitative health care through facilities like medical cities, specialised hospitals, university and military hospitals and primary health centres and many online services.

The government-funded branch of healthcare is only open to Saudi Nationals; it does not serve foreign individuals in the country. The government provides its citizens with a comprehensive healthcare sector that includes clinics, hospitals, outpatient programs, rehabilitation centres, dentistry and pharmacies. The services to Saudi citizens are completely free and prescribed medication is provided without charge.

For foreigners, the private healthcare division offers a wide range of facilities and services for all your healthcare needs. These include international hospitals, specialised clinics, dentistry, rehab and therapy centres, and much more. To use these services, you must submit payment upon receiving care. That means that you are insured and your coverage includes the full or a percentage of the fees. You also have the option to pay out-of-pocket.

Good to know: Public hospitals treatment is open for foreigners in critical situations, after car accidents, injuries, etc. That kind of treatment is subject to the insurance policy since 2005.

Medical insurance in Saudi Arabia

Medical insurance is mandatory for all expats in Saudi Arabia. In fact, to renew your residency permit (Iqama), you must first show proof of insurance coverage for the year.

There are many insurance companies to choose from, according to your needs and budget. Some of the leading health insurance providers are:

Consider having a look at their offers according to your needs and get a free quote.

For many expats, medical insurance is covered in their compensation package upon employment. It is wise to fully understand the type of coverage being offered and if that same coverage would be given to your dependents.

Medical Insurance Policies range from very cheap and affordable to rather expensive. Each policy depends on the Insurance Company. You will find that the cheaper insurance policies are not accepted in many of the bigger well-known healthcare facilities in the region, but rather a very short list of smaller-scale cheaper alternative options will accept it. Also, they tend to discount the services rather than cover, leaving you to co-payment for services.

Alternatively, the more expensive medical insurance policies are widely accepted across the region. They tend to offer exclusive fee coverage, as well as perks, including private hospital rooms, annual prescription lenses, specialized treatments including alternative procedures like chiropractic rehabilitation and acupuncture, to list a few.

Medication in Saudi Arabia

Most medicines in Saudi Arabia are sold without a prescription, with very few medicines requiring actual prescriptions. Medication in Saudi Arabia is not commonly dispensed, which means that you always buy much more than you need. You are often given the entire pack/bottle, so being cautious about dosage amounts is very important.

Medications in Saudi Arabia are heavily subsidised by the government, which applies to both nationals and expats, making them very affordable. You're likely to find that medications cost much less than they do in other countries. Keep in mind that you may not find specific medications; however, generics of almost all medicines are available in Saudi Arabia.


Medication brought from your home country will require the original prescription attached to it. Depending on the medication, it may be banned in Saudi Arabia and confiscated upon inspection. Make sure to check the medication allowances before packing.

Vaccination in Saudi Arabia

Before traveling to Saudi Arabia, it is recommended to be vaccinated against diseases such as tuberculosis, polio, hepatitis, tetanus, and typhoid, especially if you are going to perform a religious pilgrimage

Universal Immunisation Vaccines for newborn/infants is available free of charge in Saudi Arabia. Contact your local neighbourhood clinic for immunisation distribution.

 Good to know:

Pharmacies are available nationwide and are easily accessible. Most hospitals/clinics will have a corresponding pharmacy onsite. Commercial pharmacies are vast and easily found in the city, most of them providing 24hr/7 days week service.

Finding healthcare in Saudi Arabia

Your medical insurance provider will provide you with a list of health institutions where your insurance is accepted. There are hundreds of clinics in the city; a good way to navigate the possibilities is by asking around. A recommendation from co-workers, seasoned expats, and neighbours is a good way to find the closest health facility nearby.

 Useful links:

Ministry of Health
Council of Cooperative Health Insurance

937 ( Emergency call centre}

997 (Emergency and ambulance services

Popular Medical Insurance Companies in the Region:

Bupa Medical Insurance
MEDGULF Medical Insurance
TAWUNIYA Insurance Company

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.