Dubai: a city of architectural superlatives
Dubai is actually an emirate on the Arabian Peninsula and is part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), consisting of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain and Dubai.
However, when people talk about Dubai, they are almost always referring to the city of Dubai, because the majority of the emirate itself consists of sparsely populated desert.
Of the Emirate’s 3.35 million inhabitants, 3.1 million live in Dubai City. Of these 3.1 million people, only about 15% are native residents. The rest are people from all over the world who work in Dubai. The largest group comes from Asia, especially India.
Although the city of Dubai is the largest city in the UAE, it is not the capital. That is Abu Dhabi. In recent decades, Dubai has become the hub of tourism and economic activity in the UAE. This has also led to a certain level of openness regarding Western values. All this operates in the context that in about 10 years’ time the oil reserves of the Emirate of Dubai will be exhausted and its dependence on oil-rich Abu Dhabi will become even more pronounced. Dubai is seeking a way to preserve its independence and regards the island state of Bahrain (only 300 kilometres away) as a model, at least in part. However, in Dubai, sharia law is still implemented fairly strictly, while in Bahrain, for example, Muslim legislation is only applied in certain areas.
Today, Dubai is a city that is known for its architectural wonders. It boasts the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, at 828 metres; the world's third-largest airport in terms of passenger numbers; man-made islets just off the coast in the form of a palm tree or the map of the world; and more skyscrapers over 300 metres high than in any other city in the world, including the 7-star Burj al Arab hotel. These are attractions that, together with affordable flights, make Dubai the premier shopping city in the world.
Generous tax exemptions also make Dubai an important financial centre. All of this ensures that around 15 million people visit Dubai every year, although even in a shopping city as sophisticated as Dubai, the assistance of a doctor may well be needed – especially because the hot climate is uncomfortable for many tourists.
The healthcare system in Dubai
The Emirate of Dubai maintains state hospitals, but does not have a health insurance system or national healthcare system as such. There are only two options if you need a doctor’s appointment: Either the patient has domestic health insurance and that really only applies to Dubai residents, or all costs have to be paid directly in cash – and the cost of medical treatment in Dubai is relatively high.
However, you can also expect the quality of treatment to be high because the medical care is excellent. Many doctors from Europe and the USA have emigrated to the United Arab Emirates and have set up their own surgeries or clinics there. This has the advantage that you, as a patient, will be able to cope even if you do not speak Arabic.
Essential medical services are often provided in so-called primary healthcare centres. Here you will find General Practitioners (GPs) and specialists who will deal with your case. And there’s also Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), a free trade area that attracts companies from the healthcare industry. There is a particularly high proportion of doctors and hospitals in this area and the quality of the services provided is also very good. As a result, DHCC not only attracts many locals but also medical tourists from all over the world.
Seeing a doctor without international health insurance
As a rule, when visiting a doctor in Dubai, the entire cost of the treatment and medication must be paid by the patient. Since the costs are in many cases very high, it is advisable to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes adequate health insurance before travelling to Dubai.
Seeing a doctor if you have international health insurance
Doctors in Dubai rarely work with foreign health insurance providers and will ask the patient to pay for treatment directly. The rule is that the patient must pay for the costs incurred and then the invoice and evidence of payment must be submitted to the insurance company for reimbursement afterwards. Please check in advance whether your insurance covers the services of a private clinic and whether there are any other restrictions or exclusions in your insurance policy.