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Healthcare for foreigners in Portugal



Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 25/07/2024, 09:00

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

After moving abroad it’s paramount to sort out insurance and learn where to go if you fall sick or have an accident. In this post you’ll find out all you need to know about healthcare in Portugal.

I have heard a lot about Portuguese healthcare. Some people praise the doctors and the system, others curse the long queues in hospitals and hate all the formalities you need to do in order to see a doctor. It seems that everyone has their own opinion about it. I think the best thing to do is to gather the right information and know where to go if you’re sick.

Read on to find out more about doctors and hospitals in Portugal.

Public healthcare in Portugal

Healthcare in Portugal is financed by the National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde, SNS). Your basic check ups will take place in local surgeries. To find the closest surgery, go to Google Maps and search for Centro de Saúde.

Healthcare in Portugal is free for those below the age of 18 and above the age of 65. Other people need to pay a small amount of money if they want to see a doctor. Exceptions are accidents. If you would like to use local healthcare, you need to be a resident in Portugal and pay taxes here.

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    Healthcare for foreigners in Portugal

    No matter if you’re coming to Portugal on holiday, or to live and work, you need to know what to do in case you get sick. Here are the most important things.


    If you’re coming here for holiday, here are your options:

    • Travel insurance: Choose the one, which is suitable for you and for your age, and for your interests. If you’re going to surf, it’s worth buying an extra policy.
    • European Healthcare Card: If you’re an EU resident, you can apply for this card in your home country. In this case, you won’t have to buy insurance and if you have an accident, any service provided in the hospital will be free.

    Digital nomads

    Digital nomads who don’t want to live in Portugal permanently, can also have the EU health card, or buy insurance for digital nomads. If you’re staying here for more than 90 days, you need to register as a resident.

    EU residents

    If you’re staying in Portugal for longer, you need to register as a resident, get a tax number – NIF – and pay taxes. After that you have the full right to use the healthcare in Portugal for free, or for a small fee.

    Non-EU residents

    If you’re moving to Portugal from outside of the EU, you will need to apply for residency and a tax number, too. However, getting it might be a bit more complicated. It all depends on where you come from, or where you have had your tax residency so far.

    Non-habitual residents (NHR)

    Non-habitual residents are people, who have special tax privileges. These are owners of start-ups, or people who have highly qualified jobs. Depending on your status and what you’ll be doing here, you might not be qualified for the free healthcare in Portugal. In this case, you might need a private medical insurance.

    What to do when you get sick?

    And now, let’s move to the most important part. Here is what you need to do if you get sick in Portugal.

    If you are not eligible for free medical care

    People who come to Portugal on holiday and don’t have a NIF, should have travel insurance, the healthcare EU card, or other insurance that allows them to use medical services here.

    If you get sick or have an accident, your insurer should provide you with assistance. Always have your insurance number and telephone number to your insurer with you.

    If you are eligible for free medical care

    Are you paying taxes in Portugal and have your NIF? You can see a doctor.

    • Look for a Centro de Saúde on Google. Call them and make an appointment, or go there directly.
    • In a case of emergency, you can call 112 or +351808242424, which is also available in English.