As a densely populated tropical city, Singapore is no stranger to tropical diseases and other forms of illnesses. Fortunately, Singapore’s healthcare system is among the best regarded in the region and it consistently ranks among the very best in the world in terms of patient experiences and outcomes. However, it’s also notoriously expensive, especially for foreigners who do not have permanent residency status and may get sick in Singapore. For Singapore’s massive foreign population, this can be a problem. To say that Singapore is an extremely popular hub for expats and tourists can be a major understatement.  As of June 2017, 2.17 million of Singapore’s 5.61 million population was composed of foreign nationals who hold passports other than those issued by Singapore. Of these, a relatively small number — 0.53 million are “permanent residents”.

Young woman traveler with backpack and hat traveling into Chinatown at singapore city downtown. Travelling in Singapore concept

Traveling and living in Singapore do not come cheap. PC – Shutterstock/TravelMan

The first step to take as an expat in case if they get sick in Singapore

If you fall sick in Singapore, then your first step should be to contact your embassy to see if there are any recommended doctors who can speak your language, in case that is important to you. Singaporeans, in general, are highly proficient in English and nearly everyone should be able to help you get in touch with a hospital if necessary.  If it does not seem like a serious illness, stay home and avoid going to work in the meantime.

malaria is a major reason why people get sick in singapore

Singapore has excellent living conditions.

Some facts and cost estimation in case you get sick in Singapore

If you are a foreigner without permanent residency status, getting sick in Singapore can be very expensive.  However, there is a huge selection of private insurers and healthcare facilities readily available. You can also expect top-quality medical care in both private and public hospitals and clinics. If you are a Singaporean citizen or have the coveted permanent resident status and are covered by the Singapore government healthcare system, the expected co-pay amounts are relatively modest. Public hospital bills also tend to be more affordable than in comparable private hospitals, where procedures may cost 2-4 times more. Here are some figures on the comparative cost of procedures in government and public hospitals in Singapore:

Condition/Procedure Government Hospitals Private Hospitals
Hip replacement surgery $8,171 SGD $19,538 SGD
Kidney stones $3,545 SGD $5,610 SGD
Cataract surgery $853 SGD $2,547 SGD
Appendix removal $3,300 SGD $12,041 SGD
Colonoscopy $1,334 SGD $1,674 SGD

Without medical insurance, getting sick in Singapore can be wallet-busting

Clearly, if you are to pay entirely out of pocket for medical care in Singapore, it can lead a large dent in your bank account regardless of whether or not you choose a public or private hospital. This means it’s desirable to have some form of international health insurance from Now Health International or another specialized insurer if you plan on working in Singapore. If you have definite plans on working long-term, it may be important as well to work towards your permanent resident status to bring the costs down even more.

Newton food center is famous eating place for locals and tourists. Comprehensive food court offering one-stop of mix street food from Chinese, Malay and Indian hawkers

Singapore is very popular with expats.        PC – Shutterstock/AhBoon.Net

What are the major health risks for foreigners in Singapore?

Singapore’s current health concerns are somewhat different from other countries in the region and are more similar to those in Western Europe. As such, risks due to the lack of sanitation in water supplies and in food preparation are far less of a concern and “lifestyle diseases” such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes are currently the biggest risk factors for Singaporeans as a whole.  Diabetes in Singapore has been much talked about in recent years. However, it’s been linked more to certain genes prevalent in the Indian and Malay population than it is with diet. This leaves respiratory illnesses and mosquito-borne diseases as the primary reasons for foreigners getting sick in Singapore. Due to the role of the city-state as an international business hub, fast-spreading diseases such as the Avian flu and Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease are also present. Tropical diseases such as typhoid are also endemic to the area. As such, travelers and expats alike should take care to make sure their immunization and insurance are both up-to-date to minimize the costs and risks of visiting and working in Singapore.