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Portugal is a country located in southwestern Europe, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south, and Spain to the north and east. Mainland Portugal is also separated from the Azores and Madeira, autonomous islands located to the west of the country.

Portugal is a country of diverse landscapes, offering golden beaches, majestic mountains and historic towns. Portuguese culture is steeped in the country's maritime history, with traditions of fishing and sailing. Portuguese cuisine is rich and varied, ranging from fresh seafood to tasty meat dishes. Fado, a melancholic and expressive type of music, is a key element of Portuguese culture.
  • Population: 10.33 million in 2021
  • Area: 92,212 km2
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Official languages: Portuguese

Healthcare system

Discover how the Portuguese healthcare system works

In Portugal, there are three healthcare systems that work together:
  • The National Health Service (SNS) and the health subsystems: This is a universal system funded by taxes. It represents the public sector and provides free primary healthcare in health centers which are spread throughout the country, as well as specialized healthcare in public hospitals for Portuguese residents and citizens. Medicines prescribed by SNS doctors are also available at a reduced price for patients.
  • Health insurance plans based on membership of an occupational group or a company
  • Voluntary private health insurance: Private healthcare in Portugal is funded by insurance companies and the patients themselves. It is provided by private clinics and hospitals, which offer services at a higher cost than the SNS. Patients may choose to use private services to avoid waiting times or to receive more specialized healthcare.
Non-residents and temporary visitors to Portugal must take out private health insurance to cover their stay. However, short-term residents from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland can access public healthcare in Portugal using their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

In general, the Portuguese system is considered to be of good quality, with a high level of healthcare available to patients. However, there are concerns about waiting times in public hospitals, which can be long for some specialized treatments. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a heavy strain on the Portuguese healthcare system, with significant pressure on healthcare resources and personnel.

Healthcare formalities for expatriates

If you want to move to Portugal, these are the formalities to be completed:
  • Obtain a visa if necessary: EU citizens don’t need a visa to live in Portugal. If you are from a third country, you will need a residence or work visa.
  • Obtain a tax number: You will need to register with the Portuguese tax authorities to obtain a tax number. This number is required for financial transactions and to work.
  • Register with Social Security: If you plan to work in Portugal, you must register with Social Security. This will allow you to receive medical coverage and other social benefits.

By completing these formalities, you can legally move to Portugal and start a new life in this beautiful country.

Visiting a doctor

If you are an expatriate in Portugal and need to consult a doctor, there are several options:
  • Public Healthcare: Portugal has a public healthcare system, called Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), which provides free or low cost healthcare to Portuguese residents. If you are a European Union national and live in Portugal, you may be eligible for free or low-cost healthcare under the public health system. The SNS covers mainland Portugal while the Azores and Madeira have their own healthcare systems.
  • Private healthcare: If you are not eligible for public healthcare, or if you prefer to see a private doctor, there are many private doctors' offices in Portugal. You can search for local doctors online or ask friends and colleagues for recommendations.
  • International clinics: There are also international clinics in Portugal that offer healthcare in several languages, including English. These clinics can be more expensive than public or private healthcare options but can be a good option if you need a doctor who speaks your language.

To see a doctor in Portugal, you will need your identity card or passport, as well as your European Health Insurance Card if you are eligible for public healthcare. You can make an appointment online or by phone, depending on the clinic or doctor you choose.


Being admitted to hospital

If you are an expatriate living in Portugal, you may be eligible for free or low-cost healthcare in the public sector, provided you are registered with the Portuguese national health system. To do this, you will need to apply for registration at the local health center in your area.

If you are covered by private insurance, you can be treated in a private healthcare facility. This sector complements the public sector, especially in certain specialties such as dental treatment and care, outpatient consultations, rehabilitation programs and hospital care. Private hospitals offer faster and more specialized health services than public hospitals, but the costs are higher.

In any case, if you need to be hospitalized in Portugal as an expatriate, it’s important to contact your health insurance provider for details of the terms of your coverage and the health facilities covered, but also to find an in-network medical center in order to take advantage of negotiated rates and numerous benefits.

Buying medication

As an expatriate in Portugal, you can buy medicines in local pharmacies. Pharmacies are easily accessible and are generally well stocked with common medications.

Portuguese pharmacies are usually open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 7pm. However, some of them may have different opening hours, so check before going to the pharmacy.

Non-prescription drugs can be purchased directly at the pharmacy. However, prescription drugs must be prescribed by a Portuguese doctor. If you have a prescription from a doctor in your home country, you may need to have it translated into Portuguese or obtain a new prescription from a Portuguese doctor. Medication may be reimbursed by the Portuguese healthcare system, but this depends on your situation and the type of health insurance you have.

Make sure you understand the dosage of the medication before taking it. If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to speak to the pharmacist.

Vaccinations to be carried out

Portugal does not require specific vaccinations for travelers entering the country, with the exception of yellow fever for travelers coming from areas where this disease is endemic.

Commonly recommended vaccines for travelers include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, influenza and measles, mumps and rubella (if you’re not already vaccinated against these diseases).

It’s also important to make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date, such as diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.

Health risks

Portugal is generally considered to be a safe country for travelers. However, there are still potential health risks to consider when planning your trip:
  • Tick-borne diseases: Ticks are common in rural areas of Portugal, especially during the summer months.
  • Food poisoning: As in all countries, there is a risk of food poisoning in Portugal. It’s important to follow basic food hygiene practices such as washing your hands regularly, avoiding drinking untreated tap water and opting for food that is cooked thoroughly.
  • Sun and heat: During the summer months, it can be very hot and sunny in Portugal, which can lead to heat stroke, sunburn and other heat-related health problems. It’s important to drink plenty of water, wear light clothing and stay in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
  • Respiratory infections: Air pollution can be a problem in some parts of Portugal, especially in urban areas.

It’s recommended that you consult a doctor or healthcare professional specializing in travel medicine before going to Portugal for specific recommendations based on your individual situation.

Good to know

Emergency services and useful numbers:
  • Police: 112
  • Fire department: 112
  • Medical emergency: 112

Official name: Portuguese Republic
Main cities: Lisbon, Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, and Amadora
Type of state: Semi-presidential
Capital city: Lisbon
Languages spoken: Portuguese

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Portuguese Republic


Lisbon, Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, Coimbra, Braga, Viseu, Funchal, Setúbal, Faro and Guarda




Unitary semi-presidential republic


Portuguese, Mirandese


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