Health Insurance Saudi Arabia
To assist expatriates and travelers going to Saudi Arabia, we’ve created a quick guide on various topics of interest.
- Capital City: Riyadh
- Banking Practices
- Emergency Assistance
- Laws and Local Culture
- Visa Information
- Travel Tips
Expatriates or travelers going to Saudi Arabia can contact UAE Medical Insurance for more information. Although we are based in the UAE, we have been operating in the Arabian region for many years and are familiar with local regulations and policies of many different countries.
All our services are free. Our local experience and knowledge can help answer any questions related to healthcare or insurance in Saudi Arabia. Our team of dedicated insurance advisors will contact you and, based on your requirements, create a comparison table of the leading insurers in your region.
We offer information on the many flexible plans that can be taken anywhere in the world, and can be customized depending on your unique needs. We have detailed information about plans that provide coverage for maternity, dental, personal accident, etc.
For more information about an international policy or just to learn more about international health insurance, contact our team today
Saudi Arabia is a country in the Middle East that makes up most of the Arabian Peninsula. It’s neighbors include Jordan to the northwest, Iraq and Kuwait to the northeast, Bahrain and Qatar to the east, the United Arab Emirates to the southeast, and Oman and Yemen to the South.
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country where Islamic traditions dictate day to day life, such as what you eat, drink, wear, and the social interaction between men and women. Saudi Arabia contains two cities considered holy to Muslims, Mecca and Medina, which all Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage to at least once if they are able to.
Saudi Arabia’s constitution promises national healthcare to all its citizens. The country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) is the main government body that is responsible for monitoring and regulating the preventive, curative, and rehabilitative healthcare for the country’s population.
The healthcare network of Saudi Arabia is organized into three levels. The MOH provides its primary healthcare services through a network of healthcare clinics. At this level, basic medical services are provided. There is also a referral system, in which general practitioners can recommend a patient to a specialist hospital or specialist curative service. The MOH is also responsible for supervising the private sector, but to a lesser extent. There are also other smaller National Health Services which provide primary, secondary, and tertiary care to the police and armed forces.
The best public hospital is the country’s major specialized national tertiary care hospital, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, which provides the most advanced and specialized treatment and conducts research on health issues in general. The King Khalid Eye Specialist Hospital, similarly, is a large, advanced health facility that offers specialized services for ophthalmology and eye surgery. The hospital also has a cornea bank, which stores all imported corneas.
Emergency care is provided by the Saudi Red Crescent Society (SRCS). The SRCS also plays an important role in providing services for pilgrims during Hajj and Umrah at Mecca and Medina.
The private sector also supplements the public sector by providing health services through a number of hospitals, dispensaries, pharmacies, and physiotherapy clinics.
Saudi nationals and expats who work for the government are entitled to a comprehensive healthcare package that includes public health, preventive, diagnostic, and curative services, as well as pharmaceuticals. Expatriates who are in Saudi visiting or working in any other sector, must use private facilities. Private hospitals generally offer the most advanced equipment, well trained staff, and a shorter waiting time than public hospitals.
Aside from the hot climate, there are no major health concerns for those planning a trip to Saudi Arabia. However, there are some parts in south-western parts of Saudi Arabia where visitors may be at risk of contracting malaria. During Haj, visitors need to have proof of a meningitis vaccination, but normally vaccination certificates are not required for entry.
Overall, Saudi Arabia offers a very high quality of care, whether that is private or public. However, if you are a traveler or expat, who is not working for the Saudi government, private treatment costs are very expensive because you cannot use public health services. Ensure that you protect yourself financially by purchasing medical insurance or checking that your insurer can cover you while you are abroad.
If you require further information on Saudi Arabia’s medical services or an international medical insurance policy that can cover you while you are in Saudi Arabia, contact our team for free advice and comparison table.
Healthcare system, culture, and landscape of Riyadh.
Riyadh is the capital of both Saudi Arabia and the Riyadh Province. It is located in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a plateau. It is home to around 7 million people, 40 percent of which are foreign nationals.
Riyadh has a generally arid climate, with little or no rainfall and many dust storms. Summers in Riyadh are very hot. Temperatures are typically around the high 40s but can go as high as 50 degrees Celsius. Winters are generally milder, but nights can be cold and windy. Dust storms in Riyadh can be so intense that visibility is under 10 meters.
Riyadh is a Muslim city. Non-Muslims are not allowed to practice their religion in public. There are over 4,300 mosques alone in the city. Most people in the city speak a regional dialect of Arabic, called Najdi, which is spoken in desert regions of central and eastern Saudi Arabia. English is also widely spoken in Riyadh, along with a diverse range of other languages spoken by the country’s foreign residents, which are mostly a mix of people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Yemen, and Sudan.
Riyadh’s healthcare network is probably one of the best in the country. Many of Saudi Arabia’s best hospitals are located in this city. All Saudi citizens are given free healthcare treatment through its country’s national healthcare system. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is the governing body that plans, monitors, finances, and regulates the public healthcare sector. In addition, the MOH also supervises the private sector to ensure that a high standard of quality is reached.
Saudi’s health network is organized into three levels. At the bottom is the primary level, which is made up of a network of health clinics that provide basic medical services. From the primary level, there is a referral system, where general practitioners can recommend a patient to a specialist hospital in the secondary or tertiary level. At the secondary and tertiary level are more specialized hospitals. Usually the secondary and tertiary levels are made up of a network of larger hospitals than the primary level.
Emergency care in the city is provided by the Saudi Red Crescent Society (SRCS). The SRCS also has a unique role in providing medical services for pilgrims during Hajj and Umrah at Mecca and Medina.
The private healthcare industry is rapidly growing in Saudi, and provides a wide range of services through its hospitals, dispensaries, pharmacies, and physiotherapy clinics. Private facilities tend to be very expensive. However, the service level is better than public facilities, as there are virtually no waiting times, and there is more doctor-to-patient personalized attention. Private hospitals also tend to have the most advanced equipment, and medical staff, who can speak proficient English.
Saudi nationals and expatriates, who are employed by the Saudi government, have a comprehensive package that includes all basic medical services, and pharmaceuticals. However, expatriates, who are not working for the Saudi government, and all visitors, must use private facilities, with the exception of emergencies.
Aside from the hot climate, there are no major health concerns for those planning a trip to Riyadh. However, there are some parts in south-western parts of Saudi Arabia where visitors may be at risk of contracting malaria. During Haj, visitors need to have proof of a meningitis vaccination, but normally vaccination certificates are not required for entry.
Overall, Riyadh offers a very high quality of care, whether that is private or public. However, if you are a traveler or expat, who is not working for the Saudi government, private treatment costs are very expensive because you cannot use public health services. Ensure that you protect yourself financially by purchasing medical insurance or checking that your insurer can cover you while you are abroad.
If you require further information on Riyadh medical services or an international medical insurance policy that can cover you while you are in Saudi Arabia, contact our team for free advice and comparison table.
The currency of Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabian Riyal. Ever since the 1970s when Saudi Arabia became the world’s largest producer of oil, the Saudi Arabian Riyal has become an important currency.
The Riyal is divided into smaller units. One riyal is about 20 Ghrish, and 100 Halalas is equal to one riyal.
The notes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500, while the coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 Halalas.
Currently, 1 USD is about equivalent to 4 Riyals.
ATMs are widely available in most urban areas of Saudi Arabia. There is typically a service charge if you are using an international credit or debit card. Check with your bank first before withdrawing money as your bank may not know that you are out of your home country and view the withdrawal in another country as a fraud alert.
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. Other major tourist hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers may accept Discover or American Express.
Widely accepted in banks if your checks were bought in a stable, popular currency, such as Euros, US Dollars, or Pounds Sterling. Always carry a receipt for the purchase.
The import or export of local or foreign currency of amounts exceeding SAR 60,000 ($15,000 USD) must be declared.
We specialize in the Middle East, and through years of experience, are familiar with local laws and regulations. We specialize in international medical insurance, and can help provide you with free advice on the plan that fits you and your family best. We work with the top international insurers to provide you and your family peace of mind through financial protection.
Saudi Arabia Local Laws and Customs
Saudi Arabia is an Arab and Islamic country, which is reflected in many of their traditions and customs. There are many laws that enforce Saudi residents and citizens’ behavior and dress.
Alcohol and Pork
Alcohol and pork are both banned in Saudi Arabia. It is not possible to find a place that sells either of those items.
Public cinemas have been prohibited for three decades. However in June 2009, a film produced by the Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, showed in Riyadh.
Religion in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic theocratic monarchy. Islam is the official religion. By law, all Saudi citizens are required to be Muslims. There is no religious freedom. Non-Muslims cannot practice their religion in public. There is the Saudi Mutaween or Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the religious police, that enforces the prohibition of non-Muslim religions, and any other practice that is deemed to be against Islamic principles.
Family and tribe are considered the basis of social structure, which creates a very tight-knit network among extended family members. Saudis take their responsibilities to their family and community very seriously, and nepotism is seen as a positive thing because you are employing people whom you know and can trust.
- Men generally shake hands when meeting. Good friends will shake hands and give a kiss on the cheek.
- Women will greet close friends with a hug and kiss.
- Members of the opposite sex do not greet each other in public.
- When greeting a friend, it is custom to take some time and chat.
- If you are invited to a Saudi’s house, bring a small gift.
- Men should not give flowers. Women, however, can give them to her hostess.
- Never give alcohol to a Saudi, unless you are absolutely certain that they will receive it positively.
- Do not open your gift when you receive it.
If you are a foreigner who meets Saudis for the first time, it will generally be in a restaurant or hotel. After meeting a few times, you may be invited to their home. If such an offer is made, you should accept it or rejection could be seen as an insult. If you do go, don’t forget to bring a small gift.
Once at your host’s home, you should take off your shoes, dress conservatively, be punctual, show respect to elders by greeting them first, and accept all offers of drinks and food.
There will be an expected amount of small talk before dinner is served.
Sometimes the meal will be on the floor, sit cross legged or on one knee.
When eating, only eat with your right hand, as the left is considered dirty.
Saudis are very generous and hospitable people, so they will typically offer the guest the most prized pieces of food, such as a sheep’s head. There will also be more food than you can eat. Try to eat a little bit of everything, which is considered respectful to the host.
Business in Saudi Arabia
To do business in Saudi, you will need a sponsor. Since Saudis prefer to work with people they know and trust, it may take some time for you to build up enough trust between you and a Saudi. If you adhere to proper etiquette, and are respectful towards them, it will help speed up the process.
Saudis idea of personal space is different from western standards, so do not be offended if they stand very close to you when conversing.
Appointments should be made several weeks to a month ahead of time if possible.
When you arrive, do not be angry if they keep you waiting. It is a custom to keep foreigners waiting or have a meeting cancelled when you arrive. It is also common for other people to wander into the room, interrupt you, or begin a new discussion during the first few meetings. Until you build a relationship with a Saudi, discussions will not be private.
Always start a business meeting inquiring about the other person’s health, family, and other general things. However, never ask a Saudi about his wife.
Business negotiations are slow and tedious, but do not try to rush the process or you will appear insincere.
Saudis are tough negotiators; they will offer a low price when buying, and a high price when selling. Reiterate your points and argument over and over, as this is viewed as telling the truth.
When attending a business meeting, wear a suit. For women, wear a suit that is not form-fitting and covers your collarbones, and knees.
Always bring business cards when going to a meeting. If possible, translate one side to Arabic.
Visa Information for Saudi Arabia
All Visitors going to Saudi Arabia require a visa with the exception of the following:
- Nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates
- Transit passengers who are continuing their journey by the same or first connecting aircraft within 18 hours. Transit passengers may not land anywhere else in Saudi Arabia or leave the airport. Nationals of Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria always need a transit visa.
- Re-entry permit and “Landing Permit” holders
Visitors who are restricted from entering Saudi Arabia include:
- Holders of an Israeli passport or passports with Israeli stamps
- Passengers who do not comply with Saudi traditions of dress and behavior. Those who appear to be intoxicated will also be refused entry.
- Special regulations are in place for pilgrims. Contact the Consular for further information.
Documents that are required:
- A passport valid for six months with at least 2 clear pages
- One recent passport sized color photography
- Completed application
- A return ticket
Visas are issued for business, visit, transit, religious, and tourist reasons. Visas for tourists must be applied through a pre-approved travel group following an organized itinerary.
All visas require a sponsor and obtained prior to arrival. Women are required to be met by their sponsors upon arrival.
Cost of a Visa
- Family Visit: $65 USD
- Business and Work: $16.50 USD
- Multiple Entry: $158.50 USD
- Residency: $16.50 USD
- Transit: $16.50 USD
- Pilgrim Visa: Free of Charge
- If you have traveled to a yellow-fever infected country within 6 days, you will need a yellow fever vaccination certificate
- Vaccination against typhoid is highly recommended
- Malaria is a risk in some area. Travelers are recommended to carry anti-malaria pills.
- Always purchase health insurance to protect yourself from financial risks
Expatriates and travelers going to Saudi Arabia should obey local laws and customs. Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country where the law is strictly enforced, and has serious penalties for crimes that may not seem that serious to you. This is especially important during the holy month of Ramadan or near religious areas as the penalties may be even harsher during this time or place.
During the holy month of Ramadan, which generally occurs in August and September but changes every year depending on the lunar cycle, visitors and expatriate residents should not eat, drink, or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset.
A number of protests have been occurring in the country. The authorities have issued a reminder that demonstrations are illegal under Saudi law.
There is a high threat of terrorism in Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities believe that there are terrorists planning attacks especially against westerners and places frequented by westerners.
There have been some clashes on the Saudi-Yemen border. Be careful if traveling in this area.
Around military and government buildings, do not use cameras, binoculars, or telescopes, even for a seemingly innocent activity such as bird watching. Your actions may be misunderstood.
Women, even westerners, need to follow traditional ways of dress. This means covering the shoulders down to the ankles, and wearing head scarves. Women are also not allowed to drive.
All women have a male guardian. Women are not allowed to travel, leave the country, get a job, open a bank account, have surgery, or work, without their male guardian’s permission.
All travelers are advised to have comprehensive travel insurance, as medical costs can be high. Be sure to purchase one with emergency evacuation.
Couples should not be excessively affectionate in public. It is also illegal for unmarried people of different sexes to engage in sexual intercourse or live together in the same apartment.
Travelers and expatriates are also recommended to always carry a form of identification (passport of Saudi ID) on them.
Do not smuggle or import any narcotics or pornography into Saudi Arabia. It is illegal and can lead to a very severe punishment. Even the possession, intentional or not, of even the smallest amount of narcotics can result in a lengthy prison time or, in some cases, a death sentence.
Alcohol is illegal. In fact, you may not even be allowed in the country if you appear to be intoxicated.
Travelers and expatriates are advised to avoid engaging in any homosexual acts in public, as homosexuality can be punished by hefty fines, prison, or death sentences.