Living in Dubai, the UAE: Healthcare, An Expat’s Guide

Living in Dubai, the UAE: Healthcare, An Expat’s Guide

As one of the seven federal emirates of the United Arab Emirates, or the UAE, Dubai is widely recognized and regarded for its healthcare as it has some of the best facilities in the world. Thus, it is strongly recommended that expats planning to move to Dubai obtain proper international health insurance as medical costs can be very expensive.

Public Healthcare

Public healthcare facilities in Dubai generally meet very high standards and the emirate's public healthcare system is quite advanced. The Dubai Health Authority, or DHA, was created in 2007 to oversee the emirate's private and public healthcare facilities.

For Expats without International Health Insurance

For expatriates who do not have medical insurance, the best option is to apply for a health card from the UAE's Ministry of Health (MOH) that will allow you to receive care at a public facility. While emergency care will be given regardless of whether the patient is UAE citizen or a foreign national, it is not always easy for foreign nationals to receive regular or scheduled care at public facilities. Those with private insurance are expected to receive care at private facilities and may be turned away from public facilities outright.

Is International Health Insurance mandatory in Dubai?

One important thing to consider is that the UAE has been gradually making it compulsory for expatriates to purchase their own health insurance, so there may come a day when expatriates are no longer able to take advantage of public facilities. Given the changing structure of the country's and Dubai's healthcare system and beneficiaries, it is very important to research thoroughly, compare the various health insurance plans suitable for Dubai and invest in a good expat health insurance so that you are able receive the healthcare you want.

Private Healthcare

While Dubai has a growing and well-established public healthcare infrastructure, the UAE is also promoting private healthcare options and private health insurance in hopes to improve both public and private facilities. Dubai has been a leader in this plan, and the emirate has a growing network of private hospitals and clinics.

Dubai Healthcare City

Among the many private facilities popping up across the emirate, Dubai Healthcare City, or DHCC, is one of the prominent leaders. DHCC offers international-standard advanced private healthcare that also provides healthcare training. They currently oversee more than 10 private facilities, some of which have ties to other internationally renowned hospitals. These facilities cover a broad range of specialties and have some of the best care available in the region, and even the world.

Private Consultation Fee

Fees at private facilities can be very costly for those without proper international health insurance. An initial visit to a private doctor can be more than $50, not including the cost of other medical tests and examinations. In addition, post-clinic private consultations are typically higher than regular clinic consultations.

Prescriptions in Dubai

It's important to be aware that some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines are not allowed in the UAE. According to the Ministry of Health:

"Individuals may bring medicine into the country for their personal use. Up to three months' supply of a prescription item can be brought into the country by a visitor and 12 months' supply by a resident if they can produce a doctor's letter or a copy of the original prescription. Narcotic items should not be brought into the country. In exceptional cases, they can be brought in, but only with prior permission from the director of medicine and pharmacy control who will assess the individual case. These guidelines relate to medicines brought in by an individual through an airport or border crossing and medicines arriving by post."

If you require a medication and are unsure if it is permitted in the UAE, it's best to contact the MOH directly to see if the drug is on the controlled list. If it is on the list, you will need permission to bring it prior to your arrival to the UAE. The Customer Service Centre of the Drug Control Department can be contacted via email at, by telephone on +971 2 611 7240 or by fax +971 2 632 7644.

Health Insurance in Dubai

If you are getting ready to move to Dubai, it's important that you have the proper health insurance so that you and your family are adequately covered. Costs at private healthcare facilities can add up, especially in the event of an emergency, and it can be difficult for expatriates to obtain standard healthcare at public facilities.

One way to make sure that you have your health insurance needs met is by working with a health insurance broker who can provide advice and recommendations about what kind of insurance is most suitable for your needs and the needs of your family. To compare medical insurance plans in Dubai, click here.