Moving to Portugal can be a challenge. There are things that might become difficult when you first settle down here. For me, one of the things I struggled with was healthcare and how to go about finding an English-speaking doctor in Portugal. After 6 years of living here, I finally know how things work and I can recommend you taking some steps to find a practitioner, who will be able to help you when you get sick.
I first felt ill in Portugal after a few weeks of living here. Our apartment then was damp and mouldy. One day I got a very high fever and my throat was so sore that I couldn’t swallow. I decided to see a doctor.
I didn’t know where to go exactly. I wanted to see someone very quickly and didn’t want to wait too long. I also didn’t speak Portuguese, which made the whole thing even more difficult because in the government hospitals and surgeries doctors don’t have a good knowledge of English.
Additionally, I didn’t have private insurance, or any insurance for that matter because I was still in the process of getting my NIF number. That meant I couldn’t really see anyone for free because I didn’t have my SNS number. (It’s a number that gives you the ability to get free healthcare.)
I finally made a decision and decided to go to a private clinic.
Since then I have been ill a couple of times. I go regularly to meet ups and a lot of my friends are expats. I realise how difficult it is to find an English-speaking doctor in Portugal when you’re new here. So, here’s some advice for you, in case you’re looking for someone.
I suggest asking around your fellow expats. You can use Facebook groups, like Expats in Lisbon, or Expats in Portugal. If you’re a woman, there are plenty of groups, too and ladies here are very helpful and can provide you with advice on where to go.
Buying private medical insurance is a great thing to do before you move. It gives you security and a peace of mind. Thanks to your policy, you will have access to hospitals and clinics, which provide you with good service. Bear in mind that Portuguese medical insurance companies sometimes have problems with English and their customer service representatives might not speak it. It’s better to go for a policy from a company from your home country.
Googling an English-speaking doctor in Portugal brings quite good results. However, sometimes it doesn’t say if the doctor speaks English or not. My suggestion is to check their website. If the content is in English as well as in Portuguese, then you can be sure that they speak English and offer services to expats.
Private hospitals in Portugal offer a wide variety of specialists and tests. You can also be sure that the staff speaks English. The best networks of hospitals are: CUF and Hospital da Luz. They also have apps, which make it easier for you to make an appointment.
Call the chosen hospital or go there directly if it’s an emergency. If you don’t have medical insurance or you’re not fully registered here, you will have to pay for everything.
If you come from an English-speaking country, you can check how to get medical assistance on your consulate or embassy’s site. The US embassy has quite good advice and a PDF you can download to find an English-speaking doctor in Portugal.
Overall, from my perspective, healthcare in Portugal has some good and bad sides.
The good thing about it is that it can be free (if you’re eligible), or it’s quite cheap (if you have medical insurance). Hospitals are fully equipped and doctors are well-trained.
The disadvantage of using healthcare here is the lack of doctors. There are simply not enough of them in the country. Smaller towns and villages struggle with waiting times. Even in private hospitals it takes ages to make an appointment with a specialist.
Free healthcare in Portugal is available at public hospitals and centro do saudé – doctor’s surgeries. You can find your nearest clinics and hospitals on Google Maps.
If you are from the EU, you can use your EU health card, but remember that you can only use it for 6 months from the day of arriving here. It’s also honoured in emergencies only.
If you want to fully use free healthcare, then you will need NIF – I wrote about it more here. After that, you will need your SNS number. To get it, you need to go to your centro do saudé and register there. You will need:
- Certificate of residency from your local Junta
- EU certificate (if you have a EU passport)
After you register, you will be provided with a SNS number and you can use health services straight away.
Having private medical insurance in Portugal is quite common. Many employers here offer this as a benefit. Usually you will be covered by a Portuguese company with access to healthcare, but only in Portugal. So, when you travel, you’ll need additional travel insurance.
There are only a couple of Portuguese companies that employers use. Before you make an appointment you need to make sure that your policy is honoured there. You can check that online, or on the phone when booking.
Remember that healthcare then is not entirely for free. You’ll have to pay some fees, often around 15-20 Euros per visit.
It’s possible to use private medical insurance other than the Portuguese company. When choosing one, try to go for a well-known brand to reduce the risk of your policy not being accepted.
I think it’s not too difficult to find an English-speaking doctor in Portugal. There are plenty of those that speak the language. I think your best bet is to go to private clinics, where you will find those professionals that were trained abroad and whose English is fluent.
This post has been created in collaboration with Mobidoctor – a site that helps you find an English speaking doctor abroad.