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The quality of healthcare in Egypt varies widely depending on whether one makes use of public or private services. Public healthcare is underfunded, and although the Egyptian government is taking steps toward improving the system, the effectiveness of the intervention remains to be seen.
In general, the country's medical facilities are substandard to those of many Western countries. For better quality care, expats should avoid public hospitals and opt for private care instead.
Unless familiar with a particular hospital, major operations should be done outside of Egypt. Often the best regional healthcare can be found in Dubai, and many wealthy Egyptians opt to travel to the UAE for this kind of specialist treatment.
Healthcare facilities in Egypt
There are hospitals throughout Egypt, from small clinics in rural areas to speciality hospitals with advanced facilities in Cairo. Indeed, most expats requiring more serious medical care will go to a hospital in Cairo. Expats should ensure they have adequate health insurance before seeking medical care in Egypt.
Public and private healthcare in Egypt
Egypt has a very limited national healthcare scheme and public hospitals in Egypt have faced serious accusations of negligence in the past. Expats may be eligible for free public healthcare but this system is not recommended and has an extremely low rate of usage even by low-income Egyptians.
Private hospitals can be found in Egypt's larger cities. Many are staffed by Western doctors who speak good English. That said, the standard of care in private hospitals can also vary widely, so expats should ask around for recommendations to ensure the best treatment. Costs can also add up quickly, so we advise expats to take out a good health insurance policy.
Health insurance in Egypt
Expats should have private medical insurance in Egypt for both routine and emergency care. Many hospitals will ask for cash directly instead of billing an insurance carrier, but patients should ask for all necessary paperwork to recoup any expenses paid out of pocket. Some hospitals and hospital groups will offer insurance for use in their facilities only. Many expats prefer insurance that includes treatment and evacuations to a different country in the case of a medical emergency.
Pharmacies in Egypt
Pharmacies in Egypt are in no short supply and expats should be able to find one that’s convenient. Many medicines are available for purchase without a prescription, but expats who are dependent on their medication should nevertheless bring a supply with them from home.
Pharmacists in the larger cities should have a good command of the English language and will be able to recommend basic medicines to expats. Medication is inexpensive in Egypt, but expats should make sure they are buying something they have used before.
Health hazards in Egypt
One of the largest health concerns facing expats in Egypt is sanitation. Expats should take special care to only drink and cook with bottled water, and vegetables and fruit need to be washed thoroughly. It is best to avoid eating street food or buying juices off the street, but food and drink in hotels and restaurants should be perfectly fine.
Egypt has the highest rate of hepatitis C infection in the world. The virus is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact so expats should avoid contact with needles of dubious origin, including equipment used for tattooing.
Another health hazard in Egypt, especially in large cities, is air pollution. The quality of air in Cairo can be very poor due to industrial sites and traffic jams. Dust is a problem for people with respiratory conditions such as asthma. Expats should consult their doctor for advice on the best way to deal with this.
Pre-travel vaccinations for Egypt
Expats should check with their doctor whether they need any special vaccinations before travelling to Egypt, but should always have their routine vaccinations up to date, especially hepatitis A and typhoid.
Emergency services in Egypt
The emergency number in Egypt is 123, but if there is a serious emergency expats are advised to organise their own transport to a hospital or to call a private hospital directly and request an ambulance, as the public ambulance service can be unreliable.