Australia is well known for its comprehensive healthcare services, and was recently ranked as having the second best healthcare system in the world based on factors such as care process, access, administrative efficiency, and healthcare outcomes.

However, if you’ve just relocated to Sydney, healthcare services like Medicare and private health insurance options can seem daunting. To make navigating the Australian healthcare system easier, take a look at our guide to healthcare in Sydney.


Medicare is Australia’s universal healthcare system, which subsidises most medical costs for citizens and permanent residents in Australia. If you’re a visitor to Australia or living here on a 457 visa or other work visa, some of your costs for medically necessary care may be covered if your country has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia. Those countries include:

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

To enrol in Medicare under a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA), you must meet the RHCA conditions, which differ depending on the country you’re coming from. Read country-specific information about eligibility for Medicare for visa holders and visitors.

Private health insurance

There are many different private health insurance options available for overseas visa holders and visitors. If you are living in Sydney on a visa, you may even be required to take out private health insurance depending on the specifics of your visa.

When choosing a health insurance plan, you can select hospital-only cover, which usually covers you for inpatient and outpatient medical services as well as some of the costs of medication. You can also choose coverage for extras such as dental care, optical care, physio, and chiropractic services. The benefits available, membership costs, and eligibility vary between funds, so it’s best to do some research before deciding on the best health insurance plan for your circumstances.

Some of the most common private health insurance companies offering insurance for overseas visitors include:

If you become a permanent resident in Australia and have private health insurance, you might be eligible to claim the private health insurance rebate on your tax return, meaning the Government contributes a certain amount towards the cost of your policy. Overseas visitors who aren’t eligible for Medicare can’t claim the rebate. Read more about the private health insurance rebate.

Dental treatment in Australia

Dental services in Australia are generally not covered by Medicare, so if you need to go to the dentist you will either have to pay for it out-of-pocket, or choose a private health insurance plan with dental coverage. Some health funds have a waiting period after sign-up, so you will need to check the details of your plan to be sure you can claim for dental treatment.

The Choice guide to dental costs can help give you a better picture of what you can expect to be charged for different treatments such as check-ups, x-rays, and fillings.

Emergency services

If you’re in need of emergency medical treatment in Sydney, dial 000 – Australia’s emergency number for ambulance, fire, and police services. Ambulance services are not covered by Medicare, however the NSW Government subsidises 49% of the cost of ambulance charges for NSW residents. For full coverage, you can also take out a specific ambulance policy through a private health insurance fund.

After you use an ambulance service, you’ll be sent an invoice for your cost of the trip, which is based on the kilometres travelled. Find out more about NSW ambulance fees.

For non-urgent services, dial 131 233 for ambulance services, or 131 444 for police.


The NSW State Emergency Service is a volunteer-based organisation that provides 24/7 emergency assistance to people living in NSW. They are generally involved in assisting during flood and storm emergencies, but are also available to help with:

  • Road accident rescue
  • Vertical rescue
  • Bush search and rescue
  • Evidence searches (both metropolitan and rural) and other forms of specialist rescue that may be required due to local threats.

SES volunteers are trained as community first responders, and in the event of major disasters, are equipped to assist the police and ambulance services.

For emergency help during a major event such as flooding, contact SES on 132 500.


Gyms are hugely popular in Sydney, and many can be found throughout the CBD area as well as most of the suburban regions of the city. The monthly cost of a gym membership can be claimed back through certain private health insurance policies, so check your specific plan to see if you’re eligible.

Some of the major Sydney gym groups include:

Alongside general gyms, there are also numerous other health and fitness facilities throughout Sydney, including yoga centres, pilates centres, public swimming pools, boxing gyms, indoor sports clubs, well-being centres, and many other options.