Living in Jeddah?
Healthcare for Expats in Jeddah
Vaccinations and Viruses
If you are planning on living in Jeddah, you should take good care of your health. Before you leave for Saudi Arabia, make sure to get booster shots for all standard vaccinations (mumps, measles, rubella; diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus; polio, influenza). Moreover, you should get immunizations for typhoid fever, hepatitis A and B, rabies, and meningitis.
Fortunately, Jeddah is a malaria-free area. However, in 2011 and 2014 local health authorities registered several cases of Dengue fever and other – albeit less dangerous – insect-borne diseases. Talk to your family doctor at home about the best ways to prevent insect bites.
A novel Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) exists within in the Arabian Peninsula. This strain of viruses can cause anything from the common cold to SARS. So far, there hasn’t been an epidemic of dangerous viral infections in Saudi Arabia yet. However, if you have a chronic illness or a weakened immune system, be particularly careful. And if a cold or cough just won’t go away, it’s safer to see a doctor instead of “sitting it out”.
Other than that, there are no known health risks for expats in Jeddah. Depending on where you come from, however, it may take you some time to get accustomed to the climate. Compound villas, offices, and public buildings have air-conditioning. During the hottest hours of the day, i.e. around noon and during the early afternoon, you should stay indoors, if possible. Remember to drink plenty of water, too, and you should be just fine.
The Public Healthcare System in Saudi Arabia
Since the modern Saudi state started profiting from its oil resources, the government has taken a commendable effort to build a comprehensive healthcare system, more or less from scratch. Today Saudi Arabia has plenty of primary health centers for local patients, public hospitals for secondary care, and specialist tertiary clinics (e.g. for diabetology, oncology and hematology, ophthalmology, or neurology). Most of the latter are located in Riyadh, though.
Generally speaking, the healthcare available in major cities is superior to facilities in small towns and isolated areas. Medical standards in Jeddah – one of the country’s biggest urban centers – are very good. Many members of the medical staff are either expatriates themselves or Saudis who were trained abroad. Therefore, most nurses and doctors have at the very least a working knowledge of English: you needn’t worry about the language barrier.
Medical Insurance for Expatriates in Jeddah
As a foreign resident, you no longer have free access to the national healthcare system. Since 2005, expatriates living and/or working in Saudi Arabia need to have medical insurance. In many cases, their employer offers a healthcare policy to them and their dependents, but it’s highly recommended to check the small print. Sometimes, the insurance cover may not include treatment of pre-existing conditions, dental care, or other medical services.
You might therefore decide to take out top-up insurance or shop around for coverage on your own. Well-known Saudi providers are Bupa Saudia Arabia, MedGulf Arabia, and Tawuniya. Most big international companies have policies for expats in Saudi Arabia as well. Due to the high competition on the Saudi insurance market, prices should be relatively reasonable.
Tips for Choosing Your Health Insurance Policy
If you are looking for medical insurance to cover your stay in Jeddah, check all quotes very carefully:
- Do they include all pre-existing conditions?
- Which treatments does the policy cover (e.g. dental care, mental health services, maternity care, etc.)?
- Is the contract written in a language you can read fluently?
- Do they have a contact hotline for their customers? Is it available 24/7? Which languages does the service staff speak?
- Does your insurance include emergency evacuation and repatriation costs?
- What about travel insurance, e.g. for neighboring countries?
- Is the company known for suddenly raising its premiums?
- Are your dependents insured, too? Maybe even at a special rate?
Medical Services in Jeddah
In the case of sudden onset illness or accident while living in Jeddah, local emergency numbers are as follows: 993 for the traffic police and 997 for ambulance services. If you know the nearest hospital, you could call their ambulance hotline directly. Expatriates usually prefer these clinics:
- International Medical Center Jeddah (includes dental clinic)
- Dr Erfan & Bagedo General Hospital (includes dental clinic)
- King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center
- Dr Soliman Fakeeh Hospital (includes dental clinic)
- GNP Hospital (includes dental clinic)
- Saudi German Hospital Jeddah (includes dental clinic)
- United Doctors Hospital (includes dental clinic)
To purchase over-the-counter medication, the Al Nahdi pharmacy chain is usually sufficient. Stores can be found throughout Jeddah and usually at larger shopping malls. Expatriates often buy their prescription medication at the hospital pharmacies of Dr Erfan & Bagedo, Dr Soliman Fakeeh, GNP, or United Doctors.
If you have to import specific prescription meds for your personal use, be aware that they may be outlawed by Saudi Arabia’s anti-narcotics regulations. Please contact the nearest Saudi mission for advice before you set out for Jeddah. It’s often possible to bring those meds with special permission, and if you don’t have it they can be confiscated by customs.
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