Health for the elderly in Portugal

Updated 2021-09-27 13:17

Portugal is a popular destination for retirement for both Europeans and retirees from other countries. There are lots of factors that make the country a good destination for retirement. A mild sunny climate, a lower cost of living compared to most other countries in Europe and relatively affordable real estate all make it the go-to location for a comfortable and relaxing retirement.

With that, before making any long-term plans, it's important to look into all the aspects of your future life in the country -- including healthcare.

Healthcare for retirees in Portugal

Portugal has a national healthcare system known as the Servico Nacional de Saude (SNS). SNS offers free healthcare to Portuguese citizens and foreign residents, which covers most essential medical services. Note that even with SNS coverage, additional fees may sometimes apply.

If you are a citizen of an EU member state and plan to retire in Portugal, you will simply need an S1 form from your home country to access Portuguese public healthcare.

If you are retiring in Portugal from a non-EU country, you will need to take out private healthcare insurance until you become a resident in Portugal.

Generally, you will have access to all key healthcare services under SNS. This includes appointments with a general practitioner, specialist visits (provided you are referred by your GP), emergency treatments, prescription medicine and more. The quality of medical care that you will receive under SNS is also quite high. However, you may experience a long waiting period for an appointment or have to stand in line in a public hospital.

A lot of Portuguese residents choose to complement their public healthcare insurance with healthcare insurance. This gives them access to more services, doctors and hospitals and offers more flexibility when searching for medical aid. Taking out private health insurance comes with a number of other potential benefits:

  • Shorter waiting periods for appointments
  • Wider selection of services and treatments
  • A more personal approach and more comfortable facilities
  • English speaking staff at some hospitals

There are many different options for purchasing private healthcare insurance in Portugal. If you do decide to purchase private insurance, make sure to carefully read through your policy and coverage conditions so that you know how much you may be expected to pay.

Learn more about healthcare and health insurance in Portugal.

How to make an appointment with a doctor in Portugal?

Once you have received access to public healthcare insurance or have purchased private insurance, you will be able to make an appointment with a doctor.

In most cases, the first doctor you will need to see is a general practitioner. After a medical exam, you will be referred to a specialist (cardiologist, ophthalmologist, etc.) based on the health issue that is bothering you. If you have public health insurance, most of your doctor appointment costs will be covered under SNS.

In case of a medical emergency in Portugal, you should dial 112 -- which is the main emergency number in the country. When calling the 112 number, you will need to explain the nature of your emergency, the current state of the affected person, their details (age, gender, etc.) and your exact location. If you don't have a good command of Portuguese, it is best to have someone who does speak Portuguese with you during the call.

How to stay healthy in Portugal?

In addition to a comprehensive healthcare system, Portugal offers a variety of ways to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

There are lots of outdoor activities to explore -- and you won't even have to go far to do so. Portugal is a very pedestrian-friendly country and you can enjoy long walks both in the Portuguese cities and the countryside. A walk home from the local market can be a great way to explore the city, get some fresh air and exercise. You will also find lots of gyms, yoga studios and other fitness facilities in major Portuguese cities.

If there is a particular activity you are interested in, check local social media for clubs and groups that you may want to join. Committing to a fitness-related activity can have a very positive impact on your overall well-being and help you expand your social circle in Portugal.

Useful link:

Walking groups in Portugal

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