Healthcare for retirees in Portugal

Updated 2023-11-01 10:21

Portugal is a popular destination for retirement for Europeans, in general, but also retirees from other countries. Factors such as a mild sunny climate, a lower cost of living compared to most other Western European countries, and relatively affordable real estate (now everchanging) make it a go-to location for a comfortable and relaxing retirement. With that said, before making any long-term plans, it's equally important to look into the local healthcare system.

What is the healthcare system for retirees in Portugal like?

Portugal has a national healthcare system known as the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), offering free healthcare services to Portuguese citizens and foreign residents. The program covers the most essential medical services, though 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 (obtained through your local Social Security Coordination institution) 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 legal resident in the country.

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 PCP), emergency treatments, prescription medicine, and more. Although the quality of medical care that you will receive under SNS is quite high, you may experience long waiting periods for an appointment or may have to stand in line in a public hospital.

A lot of Portuguese residents choose to complement their public healthcare insurance with private 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;
  • A wider selection of services and treatments;
  • A more personal approach and more comfortable facilities;
  • Higher chances of finding English-speaking staff at the 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 for premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

How to make an appointment with a doctor in Portugal

Once you have been given access to public healthcare services or acquired 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/primary care physician. 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 and throughout Europe.

How to stay healthy in Portugal?

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

Portugal is a very pedestrian-friendly country, and you can enjoy long walks both in the Portuguese cities and the countryside. Plus, there are lots of outdoor activities to explore.

A walk home from the local market can be a great way to explore the city, get some fresh air and exercise, but you will also find lots of gyms, yoga studios and other fitness facilities in all the 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.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.