Both public and private sector healthcare in Kuwait is of a high standard. The Kuwaiti government, via the Ministry of Health and other organisations (such as the Public Authority for Social Security), are investing in some world class new facilities. For example, at the Al Sabah Specialty Medical Area in Kuwait City, it is building a new maternity hospital.
The Public Authority for Social Security is currently establishing its own medical cities. It is also improving digital infrastructure, with the establishment of an e-link between healthcare centres and hospitals.
If you are resident in the country, you should have little difficulty in accessing good quality healthcare. However, be aware that access to facilities for expats is changing.
Public healthcare in Kuwait
Kuwait currently spends around 4% of its GDP on healthcare. The public sector is the primary driver of healthcare expenditure, accounting for 84% of the roughly KD 2.5 billion ($8.23 billion) spent per annum. Mortality rates are comparable with those of other highly developed countries, with 2.7/1000 adult deaths and 8.1/1000 infant deaths (for live births).
Rates of non-communicable diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, are extremely high. They constitute a large percentage of the country’s disease burden. Hitherto, however, investment has been in new facilities and infrastructure, as well as the expansion of existing facilities, rather than in preventative health campaigns. More effort may be needed to address these problems.
The system has experienced a degree of scandal, with the Overseas Medical Programme (funding medical tourism for Kuwaitis in need of treatment) coming under fire, due to alleged abuses. This does not, however, affect expats, who have not been eligible for the programme.
The 2035 New Kuwait Vision is designed to implement hybrid healthcare and digitised systems. In recent years, local Kuwaitis have essentially been competing for public healthcare access. This is due to the high number of overseas workers in the country, who make up around 7% of the population. Medical tourism has also been an issue, with expats availing themselves of the high quality public medical care in Kuwait on visitor’s visas. One report counted 620,000 visitors using the public health system without paying any charges.
The authorities are now making changes, so that expats can no longer use public healthcare so extensively. They are building a number of private hospitals for expats and overseas visitors, known as ‘Dhaman’ centres. The first one of these came online in 2019, and there are more in the pipeline.
At the time of writing, expats can still access some public healthcare, but it is becoming increasingly restricted. Some clinics now offer Kuwaiti-only appointment slots. As an expat, you will also have to pay higher medical fees.
The growth of the private sector is having a knock-on effect on the public sector. There is an increasing shortage of doctors, as more medics move into the private sector.
Private healthcare in Kuwait
Once the new scheme has come fully online, as an expat, you will have a choice between private clinics and the Dhaman public/private facilities.
Dhaman, the Health Assurance Hospitals Company, was established by ministerial decree, as part of the development plan set forth for the State of Kuwait. It is structured as a public-private-partnership (PPP) entity, regulated by the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects (KAPP). It has pledged capital of KD 230 million (Social Security at 24%, Arabi Holding Group at 26%, and 50% of shares to be allocated to Kuwaiti nationals).
Dhaman hospitals will be located in three major governorates: Al Ahmadi, Al Jahra, and Al Farwaniya. They will offer services, such as:
- Internal medicine
- Operating rooms
- Central laboratories
Dhaman will also offer primary care services, including:
- Health promotion
- Disease prevention
- Health maintenance
- Patient education
- Treatment of acute and chronic illnesses
The new Dhaman complex in Hawally offers 20 clinics, covering:
- Family medicine
- Preventive services
- Health education
- Acute and chronic diseases
- Dental services
- Digital x-ray
- Laboratory and pharmaceutical services
Dhaman centres will not cost much more than the public sector, although a little more than the current public cost of KWD 2 to KWD 5 (US$6 to US$16). Laboratory, radiology, pharmacy and some other basic tests will be free. Hawally is, however, charging private sector prices at the moment.
The relationship between Dhaman and other insurance companies has not yet been clarified. The programme itself will operate as a government-run insurance scheme. Premium for the cover will be set at KD130 (US$428) per year, but expats may choose to take out private health coverage as well. It is not yet clear quite how the new scheme will work, and it has been controversial. Keep an eye on the news for information about any changes.
Other big new projects are being implemented as well, such as the Kuwait Children’s Hospital (KCH), with the aim of delivering high quality tertiary paediatric care. This $544 million joint venture intends to provide 792 beds on a site in the Al-Sabah Health Region. The beds will be dedicated to neonatal intensive care, plus there will be 30 operating rooms and seven CT scanners. The project is due for completion in 2023.
Also due for completion in 2023 is a hospital in the new Sabah Al-Ahmad residential area, located in the southern end of Kuwait. This is a Ministry of Health project dedicated to dialysis, physiotherapy and surgical operations, and it will have an outpatient department.
Overall, therefore, you will find plenty of high quality medical provision during your stay in Kuwait.
Healthcare in Kuwait is generally of a high calibre, and you should have little difficulty in accessing your prescription medication. There are some restrictions on some drugs, which we will look at below.
What is available
Most generic medication is widely available, but you may need a medical certificate if you want to take sleeping pills, medication for ADHD, or strong painkillers into the country. It is a good idea to have this certificate notarised. If you have questions about specific medication, you can contact the Kuwaiti Embassy in your country.
You may find that some drugs that require a prescription in your home nation can be purchased over the counter in Kuwait, and vice versa. Make sure you are up to date with the regulations.
If you are taking medication into the country with you, make sure you have a supply to cover you for the initial period of your stay. You will need to register with your local GP in order to obtain prescription medication, which can take time. You can usually obtain prescription medication for up to three months. It is advisable to take your medication into the country in its original packaging. You can then show this to the pharmacist, who can identify it. They may offer another brand name or a generic version of the drug.
Recent reports show that the retail pharmacy market in Kuwait is continuing to grow. This is due to the adoption of medication therapy management, data integration, and the development of e-commerce platforms for retail pharmacy sales. New companies coming into the market are stimulating competition, and the pharmaceutical industry is anticipated to further develop into the 2020s.
Kuwait has a high per-capita GDP, but the population is increasingly suffering from high rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. This places strain on the healthcare system.
Public health expenditure on pharmaceuticals and medical devices in 2015 was estimated at US$800 million (KD 243 million), up from US$580 million (KD177 million) in 2012. Reports relate that there is a low market penetration of generic drugs in the country, which account for only 21.6% of the total volume of prescribed drugs.
How much do prescriptions cost?
The Kuwaiti Ministry of Health has a Medicines Pricing Division, which sets drug prices across the country. Kuwait is one of the cheapest countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council when it comes to medication costs. Once you are in Kuwait, you can contact the Ministry of Health if you have any queries about medication pricing. Alternatively, you could speak to your local pharmacy.
Brand name medication, such as Oprazole, costs in the region of US$6 to US$20, but generics are cheaper.
How to get the care you need
Pharmacies are open from Saturday to Thursday, from 9.30 a.m. until 1 p.m. and then from 4.30 p.m. until 8.30 p.m. Some hospitals also have pharmacies attached, which may be open for longer. Your local pharmacy should be able to give you details of ‘duty’ pharmacies, for emergency cases. You can contact online pharmacies, but they may still need a prescription. Ask your doctor about obtaining e-prescriptions.
Kuwait has a high standard of healthcare but is currently revising the access that expat workers and their dependants have to the public healthcare system. This is to cut down on the number of visitors using public healthcare and placing it under strain.The health authorities are building a series of new ‘Dhaman’ hospitals, which are specifically designed for expats and overseas visitors, so healthcare for expats in Kuwait is currently undergoing change. If you are resident in the country and expecting a baby, read on to learn about your options.
How to decide on a birth plan
A birth plan is a list of what you would like to have happen during labour and afterwards. It is written so that your doctor knows what your wishes and expectations are.
• Where do you want to give birth?
• Who do you want to have with you (e.g. your partner)?
• What kind of birth do you want (e.g. vaginal birth or a Caesarian)?
• Do you need any birthing aids?
• Do you want pain relief, and if so, what kind?
• What kind of birthing environment would you prefer?
Private sector maternity care in Kuwait may have more alternative facilities, such as jacuzzis and birthing balls. Expat mothers report that doctors and nurses take note of birth plans and try hard to abide by them. Make your wishes clear, and you should have relatively few difficulties.
The Royale Hayat is said to be the most natural birth friendly hospital, and expats report good experiences at Taiba. However, if you want a natural birth, make sure you discuss this with your doctor/Ob-Gyn, as attitudes vary. Nonetheless, healthcare in Kuwait is of a very high standard, and most private sector doctors are English-speaking.
The Kuwaiti Ministry of Health (MOH) is, at the time of writing, building a new dedicated national maternity facility, the Kuwait New Maternity Hospital (KNMH), within the Al Sabah Specialty Medical Area in Kuwait City. This will be a state of the art maternity facility.
There are a number of expat doulas and Lamaze specialists working in the country, some of whom run pre-natal classes and yoga sessions, but it is not common practice. You can check out the ‘Midwifery in Kuwait’ Facebook page for news of classes and updates about different birthing practices.
Home birthing is illegal in Kuwait, and midwives are not permitted to deliver babies at home. Legally, babies can only be delivered by a doctor/Ob-Gyn in a hospital.
Maternity care in Kuwait
At the time of writing, as a dependant of an expat worker in Kuwait, you should be able to access public healthcare, as long as you have a residence permit. If you are working, you may also be able to access it, but as above, the rules are changing.
Maternity charges for expatriate women registered in the health insurance system are also increasing. Non-Kuwaiti patients enrolled in the public health insurance system will now pay a fee of KD100 (US$328) for a normal delivery (a 100% increase), and C-section fees are increased to KD150 (US$492). A night in hospital will cost at least KD100 and can cost more.
It is unclear what the regulations regarding dependants will be under the new Dhaman scheme, but the authorities have indicated that the liability for a worker’s family being covered will rest on a specific employer.
Many expats in Kuwait opt for private medical insurance cover.
Note that Kuwait has many of the attitudes of a traditional Islamic country, and it must be said that the course of your pregnancy will be easier if you are married. You will not be admitted to a hospital for delivery unless you can prove that you are legally wed. You will need to provide both your own embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Annexe in Shuwaikh with proof in the form of a marriage certificate, as well as documentation in the form of your passports.
If you think you might be pregnant, your first port of call is your doctor (appointments cost in the region of KD20 and upwards). Kuwaiti doctors are keen on ultrasounds, and you might find yourself having a lot of these, in addition to the usual range of blood tests and other tests.
Your spouse will not be permitted to be with you in hospital once you have been admitted. Breastfeeding is encouraged, but once you leave the hospital, there are very few places where it is allowed in public. You should have no difficulty in finding help with the baby; it is usual for expats to hire nannies and maids.
You will need to register the birth, and you will also need a birth certificate. You can obtain this from the Central Record for Birth and Death Department of the Ministry of Health or one of its offices.
If you are pregnant, you will be entitled to paid maternity leave for 70 days. Kuwaiti Labor Law stipulates that there is no time frame after joining a company for maternity leave to apply (so you could, in theory, apply for maternity leave if you have only just joined a company).
Will the baby be a Kuwaiti citizen?
Unless the father is a Kuwaiti citizen, then your child will not be; citizenship is by descent, or you can apply as an adult.
Kuwait has an efficient two-tier health system, but due to a decrease in oil revenues, and thus a decline in the economy overall, the government is targeting expats financially. Access to the public healthcare system for visiting expats is one of the benefits that may no longer apply in some cases, and the issue of health insurance for expat workers is currently being addressed.Therefore, if you are planning to relocate to Kuwait, be aware that access to healthcare is changing.
How does the Kuwaiti state health insurance system work?
Due to the large number of expat workers in Kuwait – they account for around 7% of the population – local citizens have essentially been competing for public healthcare access. Medical tourism has also been an issue, with expats on visitor visas using the high quality public medical care in Kuwait. One report counted as many as 620,000 visitors using the public health system without paying any charges. The authorities are now cracking down on this and have recently passed a law making it compulsory for expat workers to have some form of health insurance.
You will now only be granted an entry visa for the country if you have health insurance, and this will need to be private. At present, you can only access the public healthcare system if you have a civil ID card, and this is only issued to those who have legal residence permits. If you are a visitor, you will need to either have comprehensive cover or pay out of pocket.
Moreover, the Kuwaiti authorities are moving towards a ban on expats using public hospitals, with some very limited exceptions. It is not, at present, practical to put such a ban in place, since the number of private hospitals under the new scheme is not yet sufficient to cope with the volume of expats in the country, and these new hospitals are not yet fully operational. However, if the situation for expats is unclear in your particular region, consult your local clinic or hospital.
The Kuwaiti government is planning to establish a government-run health insurance scheme for expats, available through the Health Insurance Hospitals Company. When this scheme, known as Dhaman, is in place, you will be able to register with the new one-stop provider and use hospitals that are specifically built for the expat community. The first Dhaman centre, partnered with the Mayo clinic in the US, opened in Hawally in 2019, and four more are under construction.
The Kuwaiti health authorities say that cost differentials between public and private healthcare under the new Dhaman system should not be too great. They suggest that there will be perhaps a dinar’s worth of difference (around US$3), with laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, and other basic tests being free. At present, however, the Hawally centre is operating on private sector prices.
Kuwait has a large number of practicing GPs, who are regulated by the Ministry of Health. You can find a local doctor either through personal recommendations or through the daily press, such as the Al-Watan Daily. Dental clinics can also be found through adverts, or you could use the phone directory or look online.
You should have no difficulty registering with a doctor, and you will find that there are very short waiting times or none at all. In the public sector, you should be given an appointment in 24 to 72 hours. Kuwait is a multi-national community, and many medical personnel either come from abroad or have trained there; thus, most doctors speak both English and Arabic, and they may speak other languages as well. Referrals to specialists in the private sector are quick and straightforward, but they may take longer in the public healthcare system.
Public hospitals have appointment slots from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. They are open for emergencies on a 24/7 basis. Note that if you are involved in an accident, you will be taken to a public hospital, even if you are a private patient. If you are in Hawally, note that the first Dhaman hospital is currently operational.
Registering with private healthcare in Kuwait
Private healthcare covers all forms of primary and secondary care, in addition to elective procedures, such as cosmetic surgery and more advanced dental care. Clinics are of a high standard, and you should be able to get a same-day appointment. An appointment with a GP will cost you around US$40 to US$80, but it will be more expensive for a home visit or a night-time visit. Tests will also cost extra, and so will specialist appointments; costs can escalate quickly, and it is important to have a comprehensive policy in place. You should have no difficulty in finding a suitable specialist.
Many expats opt for a medical evacuation clause. Although the Kuwaiti health system is of a high standard, wealthy Kuwaitis often choose to be treated elsewhere, such as in European hospitals.
Most dentists are in the private sector. Again, you should have few issues finding a local practice. Clinics are open from Saturday to Thursday, with Fridays being the Islamic day of rest, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Treatment costs are not standardised, but they are competitive, due to the high number of dental clinics in the country.
You will need to get an estimate of costs for your insurance provider, if you have a dental plan, and your clinic will be able to supply these. You may need pre-approval from your insurer for some procedures, too.
The above will also apply with regard to GP visits. Check with the clinic to find out which method of payment they prefer, but note that you will usually be expected to pay for your treatment after each session. Your clinic may be prepared to draw up an instalment plan.
Currently, the Kuwaiti authorities are in the process of changing access to the public healthcare system for expats. Now, you will be obliged to take out private cover in order to enter the country, and you will need private cover when you are there, too, as your ability to use the public system (even if you are prepared to pay out of pocket) will be restricted.The above measures have been taken as the large expat population, as well as the high numbers of foreign visitors, has been placing too much strain on public healthcare. The authorities are keen to limit this to local nationals, many of whom may not be able to afford private cover. It is important, therefore, that you take out a policy that is right for you.
Personalising your health insurance cover
You may wish to check with your employer to find out whether you are covered under a separate private group health insurance package; many employers in Kuwait offer health insurance.
Your other option is to pay out of pocket expenses in the private sector. Remember, however, that costs can escalate rapidly if you have a chronic condition or need to see a specialist.
You may want to consider getting a policy that has a medical evacuation clause; many wealthier Kuwaiti nationals choose to seek treatment abroad, either in the Middle East or elsewhere.
Check the small print of any private health insurance policy to see whether it covers treatments that you may want to access, such as specialist surgical treatment or more advanced dental care. Kuwait is increasingly becoming a destination for medical tourism, including dental treatment, and Kuwait City has some advanced modern clinics.
Remember to check whether your potential policy covers pre-existing conditions; the definition of a pre-existing condition will vary between insurers. Usually, the term applies to any conditions that present symptoms or for which you’ve been treated in the last five years. This normally includes any conditions you were diagnosed with over five years ago, but some insurers have different time limits on when the diagnosis must have been given.
You may also want to check out whether your policy has a hospitalisation clause covering you for occasional hospital visits. You may need to discuss this directly with your insurer. Again, Kuwait has provision for medical tourism, and you may want to check out some costs while you are in the country, for instance, for laser eye surgery.
Take a good look at any potential policy for any cover relating to healthcare that does not apply to you. Some policies have provision for maternity care, for instance, and if you are not intending to become pregnant, then you may wish to reduce your policy costs by having such options removed.
You may also be able to reduce the cost of your premium through cost sharing. This is where you and your insurer share the costs of any treatment. You will pay up to an agreed limit, and your provider will cover the rest. Different insurers will have different ways of arranging cost sharing.
Co-pay: where you pay a fixed sum for your treatment and your insurer covers the rest. For instance, if the total cost of your treatment is €85, and your co-pay amount is set at €40, then you will pay €40 and your insurer will pay €45.
Co-insurance: where you pay a fixed percentage of the total cost and your insurer covers the rest. For instance, if your co-insurance is set at 20%, you will pay 20% of €85 and your insurer will cover the remaining 80%.
Deductibles: where you pay the entire amount allowed for all services provided until the deductible is met. For instance, if your policy has a €1,000 annual deductible, you would pay €85 for each visit to your GP for 11 visits (€1000/€85 = 11.8), after which your insurance would pay out to the doctor directly.
You may also need to take a look at whether there is an out-of-pocket maximum that you would be expected to pay after your deductible has been met.
Let’s say that your plan above, with a €1000 deductible, also has a co-insurance option of 20% and an out-of-pocket maximum of €1500. You will thus pay €85 for 11 visits to the doctor under your deductible until it is met. You will then pay €17 for each visit as your 20% coinsurance, until you reach the co-insurance ceiling of €500 (€1,500 minus the deductible of €1,000), or about 29 more visits (€500/€17 = 29.4). At that point (40 total visits in a year), you would pay nothing more for the remainder of the plan year.
It’s worth doing the maths, especially if you don’t think that you’ll need to make more than a couple of visits to your GP in any one policy period. For example, if you just want dental check-ups with an occasional filling, it might be worth working out whether one or two out-of-pocket costs might be cheaper than full dental cover.
As so many variables have an effect on the cost of international private medical insurance, it is very difficult to give accurate estimates without knowing the full details of the coverage required. However, as a very rough guide, using a standard profile of a 40-year-old British male with no deductibles, no co-insurance, a middle tier plan/product, all modules included and worldwide coverage excluding the US, a ballpark price of around £4,000/$5,000 might be expected. Were coverage to be expanded to include the US, then the premium could increase to almost double that amount.
If you are an expat in Kuwait, you will have increasingly limited access to public healthcare (see below), and you will need to have private cover in order to enter the country. However, costs in the private sector in Kuwait are competitive when compared to those in some Western nations.
State health costs in Kuwait
You will now only be able to get an entry visa for Kuwait if you have private health insurance. At the time of writing, you can only access the public healthcare system if you have a civil ID card, and this is only issued to those who have a legal residence permit. If you are a visitor, you will need to either have comprehensive cover or pay out of pocket.
The system is changing, and the Kuwaiti government is planning to establish a government-run health insurance scheme for expats, Dhaman, available through the Health Insurance Hospitals Company. When this scheme comes fully online, you will be able to register with Dhaman and use hospitals that are specifically built for the expat community.
The Kuwaiti health authorities say that cost differentials between the public system and the private healthcare system under Dhaman should be around a dinar (currently about US$3), with laboratory, radiology, pharmacy and other basic tests being free. At present, however, the Hawally centre, the first Dhaman hospital to open, is operating with private sector prices.
This is all because Kuwait is currently trying to discourage expats and visitors from accessing the public healthcare system, opening it up for use by nationals.
The government has also more than doubled annual health insurance fees for expats. Dhaman’s CEO confirmed the annual fee increase in 2019 from 50 (US$165) to KWD130 (US$430) to cover primary and secondary healthcare. Public hospitals noted a 30% drop in foreign patients as a result.
Local experts predicted in 2018 that expats would be prohibited altogether from utilising public healthcare within three years, but the actual timing will depend on when the Dhaman system comes fully online.
The ministry also said that expatriates who have annual health insurance would need to pay the following costs, depending on treatment and length of stay:
• Outpatient/polyclinics: KWD10 to KWD30 (US$33 to US$96)
• Public wards: KWD10 to KWD150 (US$33 to US$484)
• Intensive care: KWD30 to KWD220 (US$100 to US$730) per day
• Private room: KWD50 to KWD300 ($165.70 to US$960) per day, not including surgeries, tests and x-rays
• Physiotherapy: KWD30 (US$100)
• Major surgery: KWD500 (US$1,657)
• Medium-risk surgery: KWD300 (US$968)
• Minor surgery: KWD250 (US$807)
• Surgery needing specialised skills: KWD600 (US$1,937)
• Kidney stone fragmentation: KWD150 (US$484) per session
• Outpatient one-day surgery: KWD100 (US$322)
• A maternity check-up: KWD30 (US$97)
• Natural delivery KWD400 (US$1291)
Maternity costs, as well as the prices for surgeries, were also increased.
As an expat, you may still be able to access some dental care in the public sector, if you pay out of pocket, but this may be restricted to the new Dhaman clinics once they are established.
The below are some sample public sector costs for expats, which were raised in 2017, but note that the dental system, including pricing, may change. Dental costs for expats and overseas visitors in the public sector underwent a steep rise recently, in an effort to fund, and ease some of the strain on, public dental care.
• Initial appointment and then for each treatment: KWD2 (US$6.61)
• Prosthodontics for the upper and lower jaws: KWD30 (US$100)
• Denture for either jaw: KWD15 (US$50)
• Partial dentures: KWD10 (US$33)
• Fixing of a mobile tooth: KWD5 (US$17)
• Extraction: KWD2 (US$6.61)
How much does treatment cost in the private sector?
Even in the private sector, you will find that costs are still overall lower than in the West, particularly than in the USA. Private procedures include:
• GP consultation: KWD25 (US$80)
• X-ray: KWD15 (US$48)
• Cosmetic surgery: $497 for a consultation
• Laser eye surgery: US$200 for a consultation; around US$2000 and up for surgery
If you intend to seek private treatment in Kuwait, do your research thoroughly and ask for testimonials. It may also be worth relying on word of mouth recommendations from people you trust. Make sure that your chosen clinic accepts your insurance, and contact your insurance provider to check if you need pre-approval for your procedure.
Kuwait has some excellent provision for both optical and dental care. At the time of writing, you should still be able to access treatment in Kuwait’s public healthcare system; basic dental treatment, for example, is covered under the national health insurance scheme.However, the government is trying to restrict access to the public healthcare system, so that only Kuwaiti nationals can use it. Therefore, if you are an expat, then, in the future, you will only be able to access the private sector. The government is also attempting to encourage medical tourism.
With this in mind, the state is putting a large amount of investment into the building of new hospitals, specifically for overseas visitors and expat residents. When this scheme, known as Dhaman, is in place, you will be able to register with the new one-stop provider and use hospitals that are specifically built for the expat community.
The first Dhaman centre, partnered with the Mayo clinic in the US, opened in Hawally in 2019, and four more are under construction. At present, this establishment charges private sector prices, but the intention is to bring it more in line with public costs.
How to register with a dentist
If you are looking to register with a dentist, then it may be worth asking friends and colleagues for recommendations. Alternatively, you could look online for a dental practice. You will find plenty of private dental provision, especially in major urban centres.
Kuwait currently has around 300 private dentists. Private sector dentists suggest that you ask the following questions:
• What accreditations, both national and international, does the dental clinic have?
• Do the medical staff speak English (or whatever your language is)?
• Do you have your own dental laboratory? If not, what are the dental laboratories you work with and why?
• How many years of experience do you have performing dentistry? How often have you performed dental implants?
• Can I speak to any former patients from my own country for testimonials?
To what extent does national insurance cover dentistry?
At present, the system is in transition. As an expat, you may still be able to access some dental care in the public sector if you pay out of pocket, but this may be restricted once the new Dhaman clinics come online.
Below are some sample costs of various dental procedures for expats, which were raised in 2017. However, note that the dental system, including pricing, may change.
• Initial appointment and for each subsequent treatment: KD2 (US$6.61)
• Prosthodontics for the upper and lower jaws: KD30 (US$96)
• Denture for either jaw: KD15 (US$50)
• Partial dentures: KD10 (US$33)
• Fixing of a mobile tooth: KD5 (US$17)
• Extraction: KD2 (US$6.61)
• Surgical extraction and removal of an abscess: KD5 (US$17)
• Treatment of fractures of the mouth and jaw: KD35 (US$116)
• Treatment of gums: KD5 (US$17)
• Operations of all types for each tooth: KD10 (US$33)
• Root canal with partial removal: KD2 ($6.61)
• Preliminary treatment for a front tooth: KD5, and for a back tooth: KD10 (repeated treatment of a front tooth will cost the same, but of a back tooth will be KD15)
• Temporary fillings: KD2 ($6.61)
• Permanent fillings: KD5 (US$17)
• Temporary cleaning and treatment for children: KD2 ($6.61)
• X-rays: KD2 per tooth ($6.61)
• Panoramic x-ray: KD5 (US$17)
• CT scan: KD10
Accessing private dental treatment
If you seek treatment in the private sector, you will find plenty of choice; private dental clinics have increased in number over the last decade. Costs will be more in the private sector than in the public system. At present, Dhaman prices for dental care have not yet been set, as the system is under development. You will need to contact your selected clinic directly for costs, and check, too, whether they will accept your insurance.
To what extent does national insurance cover optical care?
Some care is provided under the national scheme, but your options for accessing this, as an expat, are very limited. Most expats in the country therefore rely on health insurance or out of pocket payments for optical care.
How to register with an optometrist in Kuwait
To find an optometrist in Kuwait, you could ask your contacts for recommendations or look online. Optometrists in Kuwait must have:
• A degree in optometry and a recognised professional certification (Doctor of Optometry)
• A registration license from their home country, if they are from overseas (and the country they were most recently employed in, if applicable)
• A dataflow certificate or similar
• At least two years’ experience
You will have little difficulty in finding an optometrist. Some malls have them, and there are chains, such as Vision Express, operating in the country.
Accessing private eye treatment
You will find a large number of optical clinics in Kuwait. Optical tourism, for services such as LASIK corrective eye surgery, has been a growing sector for a number of years, with high class clinics and positive patient outcomes. Laser eye surgery is priced at around US$200 for a consultation and at around US$2000 and upwards for surgery. However, costs vary, so do not be afraid to shop around and ask for testimonials.
If you’re considering relocating to the State of Kuwait, then you’re not the only one, as expats comprise 70% of the country’s population. The currency of the state is the Kuwaiti dinar, which is currently the highest value currency in the world, converting to over 3.20 USD.Whichever country you are relocating to, you will generally have similar banking options. For example, you could maintain your existing account, which can be useful if you have an income or bills to pay back home. Alternatively, you could open an account with a local or international bank in your destination country, which may be a requirement from your employer and will reduce ATM fees. In some countries, offshore banking makes the most sense.
It may even be that a combination of all these options may suit your needs best. Many Kuwait expats choose to have an offshore account, while maintaining their home account. However, there are good local and international bank options too, so what you choose will depend on your personal circumstances.
Banking in Kuwait
There are 11 local and 12 foreign banks in Kuwait, regulated and supported by the Central Bank of Kuwait.
The state adopted a Friday and Saturday weekend in 2007, having previously set the weekend as Thursday and Friday. Most banks open between 8am and 3pm on weekdays, but bank opening hours vary by branch and area. Some reopen for a few hours in the evening, and many airport branches are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As Kuwait is a Muslim country, you can expect reduced opening hours during Ramadan. Banks close on public holidays, a full list of which can be found here.
Opening a bank account in Kuwait
Many expats in Kuwait have financial commitments in their home country and therefore need to send a lot of money to their existing accounts. A lot of expats therefore choose to have an offshore account in their home currency to avoid incurring extra tax by sending their wages to their home account. However, there are also local and international banks that offer accounts in USD, GBP and Euros. Kuwait has no income tax, but if you want to avoid paying it in your home country, you will need to have a local or offshore account for your wages.
You need to be a Kuwaiti resident to open a bank account in Kuwait. When you are ready to open a local account, the bank will want to see your residence visa and, usually, your No Objection Certificate (NOC), which your employer or sponsor will assist you in obtaining before you arrive. Some banks may also ask you for photos, your tenancy agreement, and your passport.
Most banks ask for a minimum deposit or opening balance, which can be higher for expats than citizens. As the Kuwaiti dinar has such a high value, this can be a considerable sum. For instance, National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) requires a minimum of 500 KD to open a current account, which is roughly 1600 USD or 1300 GBP.
Most banks offer current, salary and savings accounts. Several banks allow joint accounts, but some expats have reported being refused a joint account as a married couple, due to Kuwait’s high divorce rate. If you are unable to open a joint account and your spouse is not working in Kuwait, they can open their own account with your permission as their sponsor.
Terms and conditions are often in Arabic, so, if you do not speak the language, make sure you have someone who is fluent to check everything for you before you sign up to an account.
Choosing a bank
As Kuwait is a Muslim country, there are several Islamic banks operating there. If you are looking to open an Islamic bank account that adheres to Sharia law, Kuwait’s local Islamic banks are Al Ahli United Bank, Kuwait International Bank, Boubyan Bank and Warba Bank. Foreign Islamic bank Al-Rahji Bank also has branches in Kuwait.
There are five non-Islamic local banks in Kuwait: NBK, Commercial Bank of Kuwait (CBK), Gulf Bank, Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait (ABK) and Burgan Bank. Gulf Bank offers current and savings accounts. They also offer expat salary accounts, which are for newly recruited, first-time expat employees, who are in the government, private or oil sector and have a monthly salary of more than 400 KD. ABK has two salary accounts, depending on your salary, as well as savings accounts.
Commercial Bank of Kuwait and Burgan Bank also have salary, current and savings accounts, with Commercial having the lowest opening balance requirement (100 KD).
NBK is the most popular with expats, with a suite of current and savings accounts, including an ‘express’ account, which is fee-free and only requires an opening balance of 10 KD. However, it requires an expat salary of 400 KD per month (250 KD for Kuwaitis) and is only available in Kuwaiti dinar. Their current account can be opened in KD, USD and GBP but has a higher required opening balance (500 KD).
While HSBC, Citibank and BNP Paribas have operations in Kuwait, they do not offer retail banking. However, several international banks do, including Qatar National Bank, Doha Bank and Mashreq Bank. You will benefit the most from these if you come from, or will frequently be visiting, other Middle Eastern countries. Mashreq Bank offers accounts in USD, and QNB and Doha Bank allow you to open an account in USD, GBP or EUR.