This article, and the information contained herein, does not constitute and is not intended to constitute an offer of insurance consultancy services in the United Arab Emirates and accordingly should not be construed as such.

If you’re moving to Dubai, well done – you’ve already found your favourite Emirate. However, you might not have narrowed down your healthcare options over there just yet.

On this page, we’ll give you information about Dubai’s healthcare system, including how it works and some typical costs.

Healthcare in Dubai: key statistics

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    % of citizens with medical cover

Do you need private health insurance in Dubai?

In short: unless you are an Emirati national, you will need private medical cover in Dubai. Your employer in Dubai is legally required to provide you with basic health insurance, but not any of your dependents (e.g. spouse, children, parents). Every resident of Dubai is legally required to have some form of private medical cover. 

If you’re bringing any family with you to Dubai, and/or your employer isn’t providing you with what you feel is adequate cover, you may consider taking out some private medical insurance.

Want to find out exactly how much a private health insurance policy will cost you and your family in Dubai? You could start building a customised plan via Cigna. With over 95 million customers worldwide, Cigna has the reliability and the know-how to get you sorted with the right policy.

aerial view of jebel ali

A stunning view of Palm Jumeirah archipelago in Dubai

What kind of healthcare system does the UAE have?

The UAE has a mixture of public and private healthcare.

Dubai’s spending ratio is currently 40% public and 60% private, according to a recent government report.

There are 39 private hospitals and six public hospitals in Dubai, according to the government.

Dubai’s public healthcare is mainly used by Emirati nationals, who receive treatment for free (or at a very low cost, depending on the treatment). Public services include emergency care, appointments with GPs and specialists, diagnostic tests, physiotherapy, prescription medicine, and maternity care.

Meanwhile, public services typically exclude dental care, ear care, and eye care. 

Expats are able to use the public system too, although the services are not free for expats. You’ll first need to acquire a health card from the Ministry of Health, which you can apply for online.

It makes sense to apply for the health card, as there may be treatments that your private medical insurance won’t cover, which you can only get via the public system. 

However, there are some reasons why Dubai’s public healthcare services shouldn’t be your first port of call as an expat:

  • They are designed to serve the local population, which means they’re not particularly user-friendly for foreigners (e.g. not many English-speaking physicians)
  • They are often in high demand, which means facilities can be overcrowded
  • Expats are legally obliged to have some form of private medical cover in Dubai, and private medical facilities are generally of a higher standard than public medical facilities

Here’s how the key aspects of healthcare can differ in Dubai, compared to what you may be used to at home.

Primary care

It’s very common for your entire family to have the same doctor in Dubai, from your children all the way up to your elderly relatives. Whenever any of you have any medical issues, you make an appointment with your ‘family doctor’, who (in theory) becomes familiar with your whole family’s medical history. If your child becomes unwell, you can normally get them seen without needing to make an appointment first. 

Emergency care

Public hospitals in Dubai provide free emergency care to anyone who needs it, even if they don’t have a health card.

People without cards are issued with temporary ones upon arrival.

Maternity care

First and foremost, you must be married in order to receive maternity care in the UAE. Before you give birth in a hospital, you must present a wedding certificate, and home births are not allowed. 

If you’re hoping to have a child in Dubai, be aware that you won’t necessarily be creating a new citizen of the UAE. An expat newborn is only considered a citizen if one of its parents already has UAE citizenship.

Specialist care

Unlike in the UK, where only people with private cover can see specialists immediately, in Dubai you don’t need a doctor’s referral in order to see any kind of specialist. You can simply make a specialist appointment directly at any public or private clinic. However, it’s still common to go through your ‘family doctor’ first to get their professional opinion.

Dental care

You may want to take out some kind of dental cover in Dubai.

Dental care in the UAE can be expensive if you pay out of pocket, so make sure your health insurance policy covers you for it.

Prescription medicine

Dubai takes a very strict approach to prescription drugs. A lot of the medicines that you can find in the UK are banned in Dubai, or at least restricted. Please be aware that, if you’re moving to Dubai and you require any prescription medication, you can bring no more than a three-month supply. Exceed this limit, and you could face arrest and imprisonment. 

You also can’t bring any supply of prescription medicine if it’s not allowed in Dubai, so be sure to check out the UAE’s list of prohibited drugs.

If you require certain medication that isn’t allowed in the UAE, you should email their Drug Control Department (

jumeirah beach view

The white sands of Jumeirah Beach in Dubai

So, is healthcare free in Dubai?

Dubai’s public healthcare is about as free as public healthcare gets, given people in Dubai don’t pay any income tax. The majority of services delivered by Dubai’s public healthcare system are free for Emirati nationals (or at a very low cost). 

However, expats do have to pay to use Dubai’s public healthcare services – and fees are higher for non-nationals. Expats also have to pay for a health card, which costs 320 dirhams (AED) (£70) for adults, and 120 AED (£26) for under-10s. You can apply for the card online, or by paying a visit to a medical centre.

As we’ve already mentioned, private medical cover is mandatory, but you may also want to apply for a health card, as there may be some treatments that your private insurance won’t cover.

How good is the UAE’s healthcare system overall?

It’s good – but there’s certainly room for improvement.

In 2019, the Lancet’s worldwide effective healthcare coverage index gave the United Arab Emirates a score of 63 out of 100 points – much lower than the US’s score of 82.

Is health insurance mandatory in Dubai?

Yes, health insurance is mandatory for all residents of Dubai, irrespective of whether or not you’re employed. If you’re hoping for a residency visa, you won’t get one unless you have private medical cover. 

Every uninsured month also comes with a fine of 500 AED (£109), and in almost every case monthly health insurance premiums are much cheaper than the fines (not to mention much more sensible). 

If you’re moving to Dubai to work, your employer is legally obliged to provide you with medical cover. Employers are also encouraged to provide health insurance for their employees’ dependents (e.g. spouse, children, elderly relatives), but not all do this. 

If you would like more extensive cover than what your employer is offering, and/or you need to take out health insurance for your family, you may want to get it sorted before you go. Likewise, if you’re moving to Dubai for your retirement, you’ll need health insurance, as you won’t have an employer to keep you covered.

You can start by building a customised plan with Cigna. With access to a global network of over 1.65 million trusted hospitals and doctors, you can rest assured you’ll be in the right hands.

What will private health insurance cover in Dubai?

As part of Dubai’s legislation, there are also minimum standards that all private medical insurance policies must meet. All policies have to provide:

  • Minimum annual limit of 150,000 AED
  • Emergency cover across all emirates
  • Cover for pre-existing conditions, after an initial six-month waiting period
  • Inpatient treatment cover, with a maximum 20% excess (or ‘co-pay’), capped at 1,000 AED annually
  • Outpatient treatment cover, with a maximum 20% excess
  • Semi-private hospital accommodation 
  • Minimum 7,000 AED maternity cover with maximum 10% excess, and up to 10,000 AED cover for a necessary C-section
  • Essential vaccinations

You can read more about the minimum standards here.

The Essential Benefits Plan

There’s also something in place for people on lower incomes. The Essential Benefits Plan (EBP) is a collaboration between the Dubai Government and a small handful of medical insurance companies, providing essential benefits at affordable prices for Dubai residents. 

As with every other medical insurance policy in Dubai, all policies that come under the EBP have to meet the minimum standards listed above. 

If you have any domestic help (e.g. cooks, nannies, drivers) who earn 4,000 AED per month or less, you are legally obliged to insure them under the EBP. If your employees earn more than 4,000 AED per month, you’re free to insure them under any policy you want (providing it meets the minimum requirements listed above). 

Please note: it’s against the law in Dubai to pay for your employees’ health insurance by taking deductions from their salary.

camels crossing the dubai desert

Camels crossing the desert before the Dubai skyline

How many people in Dubai have health insurance?

Almost everyone has it. 

Back in 2016, it was reported that about 98% of residents in Dubai have private health insurance, but this is likely to be basically 100% today. 

Health insurance in Dubai from companies

As we’ve stated further up the page, it is a legal requirement for your employer in Dubai to provide you with some form of private health insurance. However, you are free to opt out of their medical cover provision if you take out your own cover. Some expats prefer this, if they don’t think that cover suits their needs, and they can afford to pay for their own insurance. 

Employers in Dubai are not required to provide health insurance for any of their employees’ dependents. Unless your employer is particularly benevolent, you will have to take out private medical cover for your family before moving to Dubai. 

Who is eligible for free healthcare in Dubai?

Dubai’s public healthcare services are available for free (or at a very low cost) to Emirati nationals. Expats in Dubai can access public healthcare services, but they must pay for a health card, and then pay a fee each time they use the services.

Do tourists need health insurance in Dubai?

If you’re just paying a visit to Dubai as a tourist, you’re not legally required to have any kind of medical cover or travel insurance.

However, you won’t be able to access any treatment for free while you’re over there, so you may want to get some cover.

Is it worth getting private medical cover in Dubai?

This question is fairly null and void, given you don’t really have a choice. Nevertheless, it’s good to know the key benefits of what you’re being made to buy. 

  • You’ll have the peace of mind that there’s an extra safety net, providing you with the cover that Dubai’s public services don’t offer
  • Doctors are usually  more available in Dubai’s private healthcare sector
  • You’re more likely to be seen by an English-speaking doctor, which can be useful when you’re trying to explain your symptoms or be reassured

How much does health insurance cost in Dubai?

The average annual cost of health insurance for an individual in the UAE is 6,000 AED (around £1,300), according to a report from 2023. Dubai is generally one of the most expensive countries in the world for private medical insurance.

Want a better idea of how much private medical insurance will cost you and your family in Dubai? Start building a customised plan with Cigna.

Cost of family medical insurance in Dubai

The average annual cost of health insurance for a family in Dubai is at least 20,000 AED (£4,400), according to Pacific Prime.

Why is healthcare in Dubai so expensive?

If those numbers have left you reeling, we have some explaining to do. 

The standard of healthcare in Dubai is high for its region, which is part of why the Emirate has become one of the medical tourism capitals of the world

And the legislative change in 2015 preventing insurers from excluding individuals based on pre-existing conditions has naturally increased premiums.

Advice for expats moving to Dubai

Hopefully you’re feeling much more clued up on healthcare in the UAE, and the ins and outs of health insurance in Dubai. To learn more about where you’re heading, check out the 21 Things You Should Know Before Moving to the UAE.