If you’re planning on moving to Saudi Arabia, تهانينا (congratulations)!

There’s plenty to take your breath away in this beautiful, economically flourishing nation, from the date palm oasis of Al-Ahsa to the 2,000-year-old desert city of Mada'in Saleh, which was created by the mysterious Nabataean Empire.

You can enjoy the culinary delights of kabsa, maamul, and shawarma, all while living in glorious, year-round sunshine and likely receiving a generous, tax-free salary.

But before you become one of 12.1 million expats enjoying life in Saudi Arabia (General Authority for Statistics, 2020), you’ll want to understand what kind of healthcare you’ll have access to once you arrive.

The easiest way to do this is to check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Saudi Arabian healthcare: key stats

  • 0
    % of the population have private healthcare
  • 0
    average life expectancy
  • 0
    doctors per 10,000 people
Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque, in saudi arabia

Medina's Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque is one of many stunning attractions 

How does Saudi Arabia's healthcare system work?

The government provides free public healthcare services to Saudi citizens and public sector employees, paid for largely by oil revenues.

Medical insurance is mandatory for everyone, including expats, under the Cooperative Health Insurance Law of 1999.

Expats – if they're employed – must receive healthcare coverage from their employer, though you can also choose to purchase an additional policy.

Saudi citizens and public sector employees have medical insurance through the government's free coverage.

The Ministry of Health oversees the public healthcare system, and regulates private healthcare companies, which provide medical services to around one-third of people in the country.

The public healthcare system provides comprehensive healthcare, including the following free services:

  • GP services
  • In-patient care
  • Out-patient care
  • Specialist care
  • Dental care
  • Prescriptions
  • Pregnancy and postpartum care
  • Mental healthcare

The government’s Saudi Vision 2030 aims for increased privatization of the healthcare system, as the nation’s rulers try to diversify its economy and cut its spending – but for the moment, public healthcare is completely free for citizens.

Is healthcare free in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, it’s completely free – but only if you’re a Saudi citizen, the spouse of a Saudi citizen, the child of a female Saudi citizen, or a public sector worker.

Otherwise, your employer is legally obligated to provide you with private medical insurance, which you must accept.

Out-of-pocket payments in Saudi Arabia make up 14.37% of national healthcare spending, which is more than the US’s 10.81%, but less than Canada or the UK.

And with no personal taxes to pay – towards healthcare or otherwise – you should have more disposable income than you would elsewhere.

Quality of healthcare in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's healthcare system ranks 52nd in the world, according to a 2018 study published in The Lancet and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

That places the Middle Eastern country below less well-off nations like Latvia and Puerto Rico, as well as its neighbors Kuwait and Qatar – and a sizable 23 places behind the US , which is 29th.

The country's average life expectancy of 74.3 is lower than El Salvador, Libya, and Jamaica, which are all much poorer countries .

The Saudi government spends 6.36% of its GDP on healthcare, which is far less than the US's ridiculously high 16.89%, but also falls behind South Sudan, Malawi, and Burundi – three of the four poorest countries on Earth .

The country also only has 2.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people . This is 25% lower than the global average of 2.9 , which is also the US's total.

Saudi Arabia has the same number of doctors per 1,000 people as the US, but nearly three times less nurses and midwives , proportionally.

Regressive attitudes towards women are also common in Saudi Arabia, with recent progress in the medical sphere showing just how different the country is to the US.

The government now states that medical professionals are no longer allowed to stop mothers from leaving a hospital bed, and must ask permission from them – and not their ‘guardian’ – before performing a Caesarean section or other surgeries.

Mothers are also now permitted to know the status and due date of their foetus, which has not always been the case.

Abortions are still forbidden, however, except under extremely limited circumstances.

Healthcare in Saudi Arabia for foreigners

Your employer must provide you with medical insurance, as well as your spouse, sons who are under 25, and unmarried and / or unemployed daughters.

If your parents or siblings accompany you to Saudi Arabia, they'll have to buy their own policy.

You can also purchase additional coverage, which you may want to do if your company’s insurance package is too basic.

11 million people in Saudi Arabia have private medical cover, which roughly equates to the number of expats in the country. If you want – or need – to join them, check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Do I need health insurance in Saudi Arabia?

Yes. Either you’ll be automatically covered as a Saudi citizen or public employee, or you must acquire health insurance privately.

Your company is obliged to offer you private insurance, and you can purchase an additional policy if you feel you require more coverage.

Benefits of private medical cover in Saudi Arabia

  • Shorter waiting times
  • It covers more of your potential costs
  • Peace of mind
  • You’ll receive the highest level of care possible
  • Medical equipment is more up-to-date
  • Fewer unexpected out-of-pocket expenses means you can budget your healthcare in advance
  • Staff will be more likely to speak English
  • The paperwork is also more likely to be in English

How much does health insurance cost in Saudi Arabia?

For an individual

If you choose to get additional cover, you should expect to pay around $1,430 per year for a private policy in Saudi Arabia, which comes to $119 per month.

It’s worth getting a few different quotes though, as prices can vary.

For a family

To cover a family of four in Saudi Arabia, it’ll cost you around $4,970 per year.

That means you’ll pay about $3.40 per day, per person to secure peace of mind – and a better level of care, if you ever need it.

Advice for expats moving to Saudi Arabia

  • You’ll get by fine with English at work, but learn Arabic to truly immerse yourself
  • Same-sex relationships and being transgender is banned, human rights activists are often imprisoned indefinitely, and women face daily discrimination – so be prepared
  • Public displays of affection are prohibited, as are profane language or gestures, using a camera without permission, and not covering shoulders and knees in public
  • It’s hot all the time, but during summer, temperatures can regularly reach 43°C
  • Make sure you explore the nation’s many natural and man-made wonders
  • The weekend runs from Friday to Saturday – not Thursday and Friday – as of 2013
  • You’ll probably live in a compound with other expats, which should make it easy to befriend people, but try to meet locals too

What’s next?

If you want to protect yourself and your family with private health insurance in Saudi Arabia, check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.