Home » Portugal » Healthcare » Doctors & Hospitals for Expats in Portugal

Doctors & Hospitals for Expats in Portugal

Submitted: August 2014

Healthcare standards in Portugal tend to be a bit below what you could have expected elsewhere in Western Europe. Nevertheless, the standards are still fairly good, and improvements are being made year over year. It shouldn’t be much of a hassle to find English-speaking doctors in Portugal, unless you live in a rural area.

As a general rule, you should always make sure you have your healthcare card with you when you seek treatment in Portugal. The healthcare card shows that you are entitled to subsidised treatment under the Portuguese social security system (SNS).

If you are not happy with the Portuguese healthcare system, you can still consider postponing treatment until after you leave Portugal. In any event, you must go to a Portuguese hospital if you have an emergency.


Finding a doctor

Local Health Centres (Centro de saúde) are responsible for primary healthcare services in Portugal. The Local Health Centre is generally your first point of contact if you need to get treatment in Portugal.

You should register with your Local Health Centre as soon as possible. Upon registration, a family doctor (Medico de familia) should be assigned to you.

Appointments at the Local Health Centre can be made in person, over the phone, or online. Each family doctor consultation is subject to a €5 co-payment.



If you need to see a specialist in Portugal, prior referral from a family doctor at your Local Health Centre will be required. In some cases, the family doctor will even book the appointment with a specialist on your behalf.

Specialist consultations may have to be made at the hospital.


Dental care

Dental care is generally not covered by the SNS. The SNS, however, does issue dental vouchers (Cheques-dentista) for certain social groups, such as pregnant women, the elderly, children or HIV-contaminated individuals.


Eye care

If you need to see an eye doctor in Portugal, you will first have to get to your Local Health Centre. An appointment with an eye doctor may then be arranged through the SNS internal system. The actual date and location should be notified to you at least 5 working days in advance by text message, mail, or telephone.

For non-urgent eye doctor consultations, the waiting time should be 150 days. This is reduced to 60 days and 30 days for urgent and very urgent matters respectively.

Contact lenses and glasses are not covered by the SNS.


Hospital treatment

There are about 200 hospitals Portugal, half of which are private. Private hospitals may be run by for-profit or non-profit organisations. In fact, you may have to travel a bit before coming across a hospital if you live in a rural area.

Just like consultations at the Local Health Centre, hospital treatment is often subject to the co-payments.


Long-term care

The costs of long-term care are subsidised by the Portuguese social security system. Typically, these services are provided by private sector establishments.


Giving birth in Portugal

Pregnancy care is generally covered by the Portuguese social security, subject to certain limitations. Pre-natal classes, for example, have to be paid by the patient.

Apart from Tetanus, vaccinations are not mandatory in Portugal. They are, however, provided free of charge to everyone under Portugal’s National Vaccination Plan (Programa Nacional de Vacinação).


Abortion and contraception

Abortion is permitted if it is made within 10 weeks. This may be extended to:

As far as contraception is concerned, various contraception devices are available for free from Local Health Centres and public hospitals. If you think you need an emergency contraception pill, you should go without delay to a pharmacy. Such pills are available without prescription.



Many medicines in Portugal are sold over-the-counter at pharmacies, but prescriptions may be required for certain drugs.

In general, the patient has to make a co-payment. Medicines are classified from A to D, with the subsidy rates as follows:

However, some vulnerable social groups (e.g. low-income individuals) or some special diseases (e.g. diabetes or HIV) attract a higher subsidy from the SNS. For the special diseases, the drugs have to be supplies through SNS hospitals.

Some drugs are not eligible for any subsidy. This is the case, for example, of vitamins or cough syrup.

Pharmacies are usually open 9.00 AM to 1.00 PM and 3.00 PM to 7.00 PM on weekdays, and 9.00 AM to 1.00 PM on Saturdays.



Moving to Portugal

If you are considering moving to Portugal or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Portugal section including; details of immigration and visas, Portuguese forums, Portuguese event listings and service providers in Portugal.


Living in Portugal

From your safety to shoppingliving in Portugal can yield great benefits as well as occasional drawbacks.  Find your feet and stay abreast of the latest developments affecting expats in Portugal with relevant news and up-to-date information.


Working in Portugal

Working in Portugal can be rewarding as well as stressful, if you don't plan ahead and fulfill any legal requirements. Find out about visas and passports, owning and operating a company in Portugal, and general Portuguese culture of the labour market.



Portuguese Expat News Headlines

Portuguese Expat Service Providers

Expatriate Healthcare Expat Financial HTLC Network Group 1st Move International International Citizens Insurance

Portuguese Expat Tools