Getting Sick in Singapore: What to do Next

Expat's Guide to Getting Healthcare in Singapore

Whether you’re a business traveller or a digital nomad, no one wants to get sick abroad. But it happens, especially considering the spectre of COVID-19. After all, people who experience mild or moderate illness can still experience severe long-term symptoms. Getting sick abroad can be disorientating, even if it’s all spick-and-span in Singapore. You have to figure out what kind of medical assistance you should have, or whether your insurance company can cover the medical expenses. Every business trip nowadays is a game of Russian roulette—you never know what could happen. Whether you’re reading this before you take off, or just beginning to feel under the weather, we’ve got you covered when you’re a sick foreigner in Singapore.

Pack the Basics

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Keep your travel plans on track by packing along all the medication you may need. Some business travelers would already know what to pack by heart: Tylenol, Advil, antihistamines—just the basics that could counter mild issues like migraines or fevers. 

Don’t know where to start? You can check out America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Travel Health site. It has a really nifty list of what you should be packing. As you pack, consider getting medicine for various types of common travel-related illnesses, such as typhoid, STDs, and gonorrhoea.

Don’t forget all the allergy medication you’re on too! Then you can save on an overseas doctor’s visit or a desperate search for a pharmacy when your allergies act up. If you’re still worried about the pandemic, you can look to the comprehensive COVID-19 resources by the Singapore government.

What to do when you get sick in Singapore?

Thankfully, COVID-19 restrictions are mostly lifted in Singapore. So if it’s just a sniffle and you want to power through it at work or have a business meeting that you can’t just miss, you can go ahead and return to the office. On the other hand, if you do need a couple of days’ rest, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Simply apply for sick leave with your employer. Most employers are now using online human resources management systems
  2. Head to your doctor’s or rest at home (if your employer permits)
  3. Don’t forget to get a copy of the medical certificate for your office!
  4. If your employment contract covers some medical costs, you can take the receipt of your doctor’s visit and claim the expense

The Telehealth Way

Zoom is really taking over our lives. Online medical consultants aren’t just for supervised COVID-19 tests anymore. With the wonders of technology, you can easily get a medical consultation right in the comfort of your living room. Besides getting a diagnosis and a prescription, most telehealth apps such as WhiteCoat & Speedoc can also provide a digital medical certificate for when your employer needs a record. Of course, you can’t get an online consultation just to get the digital medical certificate to get a couple of days off and stay snug in your studio for rent in Singapore. You can’t just do that, right?

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Where to get medicine as a sick foreigner in Singapore?

1. Pharmacies

You can just find a pharmacy near your Singapore apartment rental or serviced apartments if you’re only having a cold or a migraine. You can easily find plenty of pharmacies and drugstore chains in your nearest heartland mall, after all. You already know the names: Guardian, Watson’s, and Welcia BHG. Don’t forget about Unity Pharmacy, the retail pharmacy chain by NTUC Fairprice.

2. Polyclinics

You could also consider heading to the polyclinics located throughout the city. There’s usually one for every district in Singapore. They are ‘one-stop’ healthcare centres, providing a wide range of subsidised primary care. However, only Singaporean citizens and permanent residents may enjoy the subsidised cost. Polyclinics are run by 3 healthcare operators: ​National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP), ​National University Polyclinics (NUP), and ​​SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP).

3. General Practitioners (Private Clinics)

But there are days when you’ll be feeling especially under the weather and need medical attention from a healthcare professional or physician. Most of the time, you’d be heading to a general practitioner (GP) for your medical and healthcare needs. There are a couple of private healthcare groups in Singapore you can visit for a health check-up:

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Most of the healthcare groups in Singapore are located within shopping malls. If you’re too unwell to travel far from your Singapore apartment rental, look for medical care at independent clinics. They are usually situated in shophouses or neighbourhood shopping malls. You needn’t worry about the standards of sanitation for these clinics too! They’re just as clean as any other clinic.

If you need specialised help with a medical condition, local GPs can get referrals to specialist healthcare. Though it’d help if you research beforehand so you can find the right specialist for your needs. And it’s not just about the medical expertise—you could need a specialist who can communicate in your native language, or is more knowledgeable about queer experiences.

4. Hospitals

There are plenty of options when it comes to Singapore’s hospitals. They’re fully equipped with state-of-the-art medical facilities. Some of them are publicly funded or not-for-profit, and others are privately-run. Besides getting medical care, you can refill your prescription medicine at Singapore’s hospitals too.

There are more types of medical treatment available at both kinds of hospitals. But, like the GPs above, the medical expenses incurred are dependent on your citizen status.

Is healthcare free in Singapore? How can I pay my medical bills in Singapore?

Many call Singapore a nanny state, but it does come with its own perks—so long as you’re a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident. In essence, Singapore’s healthcare system works like Medicare in the United States. Citizens and permanent residents support the system with their monthly Medisave contributions. The contributions are part of their monthly pension contributions (the Central Provident Fund, CPF), where a portion of their wages are deposited automatically every month.

But for the rest of us, we’d have to pay our medical bills in full when we’re at the clinic. In addition to cash payments, most clinics accept digital and credit card payments.

If you’re a foreigner working full-time in Singapore, your employer might cover some of your expenses. Most employment contracts also cover part of the hospitalisation cost, should the need arise.

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Facing the Cons of Singapore’s Healthcare System

So if you’re a business traveller or a digital nomad planning to stay in Singapore for a longer period, you might want to consider signing up for a medical insurance policy. No one wants to get hospitalised, but luck doesn’t work that way. Major illness or acute illness can happen to anyone. Not to mention, without help from government subsidies, hospital admission at public hospitals can cost as much as private hospitals.

With medical insurance, you can cover some or even all of the hospital bills and medical costs. Most policies allow for a personal injury claim for when you get into an accident. That way, you don’t need to ask for funds from your family when you’re facing a medical emergency. However, you do need to do some homework on whether the insurance policy covers pre-existing medical conditions.

If you’re just here on a business trip or a vacation instead, you may want to think about taking up a travel insurance plan. You’d have to get a plan that covers the duration of your trip. It’s not just about getting compensation for travel delays anymore. Most travel insurers now do offer medical insurance as part of the travel insurance policies they provide for international travellers.

Apartment Rentals in Singapore with Nearby Amenities


Whether you’re staying for a longer period or not, we have a wide range of options across coveted locales such as Bukit Timah, Orchard Road, and Arab Street. All our Singapore serviced apartments and condo rentals are surrounded by a litany of amenities. You can find anything from top-notch schools to excellent hospitals.

Not to mention, it all comes fully furnished too, with amenities like wi-fi, air-conditioners, and even fully-equipped kitchens. With MetroResidences, you can find your home away from home. If you’re planning to move your furkid abroad with you, we’ve even got a couple of pet-friendly Singapore condo rentals and serviced apartments too.

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