Bang, you smacked your head against a wall one night while you are on holiday and need emergency help immediately. Or maybe you decide to eat some mystery meat shawarma after a night of drinking in Bairro Alto and your tummy doesn’t feel so well. Now you’re wondering how to get healthcare in Portugal and you have no idea what to do. We’ve got you covered. I’m in Lisbon, so this is particularly written for people who are there, but as far as I have heard, the experiences are similar in other cities. If you are from another area in Portugal, leave a comment and let us know what your experiences have been like there.
MEDICAL EMERGENCIES IN PORTUGAL
If it’s an immediate emergency you dial 112 (this is their 911) on any phone. Tell the operator (in English is fine) why you need an ambulance, your address and wait 15 minutes for them to show up. The medics will come and see if they can help. If things are more complex, they will bring you to the hospital. Same as the states. You can also call the direct medical line at 808 242 424.
When You Arrive at the Hospital
When you go to the hospital for a doctor’s visit in Lisbon, things will be quite different than the US. My first experience was at Hospital Luz in Benfica neat Colombo Shopping Center. When you walk in, if you don’t have an appointment, you must take a ticket and wait. If you have a set appointment, just walk to the front desk and let them know you are there so they can process you. This takes less than five minutes. Then you can go to the waiting room to wait your turn. This took about 20 minutes on a Monday, but that’s their busiest day. If you are doing a regular visit, you will pay upfront. If it is emergency, you pay as you leave.
PRO TIP: Some hospital websites have a counter letting you know how long the wait is at the current time.
Once You Are Called Into the Doctor’s Office
The doctor will see what’s wrong with you and begin work. They will send you in for tests, or put stitches on you give you medication. Unlike the USA, your doctor will not tell you what he/she is doing or why they are giving you tests. In the USA, doctors explain every single procedure in detail (like your a doctor and you know what the hell they are talking about). In Portugal, doctors are considered experts. You are not, so it is expected you don’t question them. Aquí en Portugal, “doctors know best”. It is a bit of a culture shock and can scare a lot of people who may be expecting a bill of 5000 Euros. However, healthcare costs here are significantly lower. Generalmente, a non-insurance emergency visit will cost between €300 – €500 for something complex or €20-€50 for something more simple like stitches. You can mitigate this by having either travel insurance or having actual insurance if you’re a resident expat in Portugal.
When visiting abroad for longer than a week, I suggest that you get travel health insurance. In my 12 years of travels to 45 países, I have seen tourists, digital nomads, and foreigners doing the stupid things and putting their health in danger.
- Eating street food from shady places (Blanca is always guilty of this)
- Renting mopeds in busy foreign cities without really knowing how to drive them and almost crashing into restaurants (me in Vieques)
- Cliff diving near rocks (Algarve)
- Getting drunk and going home with strangers (Everywhere)
- Driving wrong way on major streets (Lisbon)
- Drinking and driving (Tuscany & Beaune)
- Taking random pills people give you at a rave (All those kids in Krk Croatia)
I have seen this time and time again, especially from younger digital nomads who think their actions have no consequences. They do, and you are putting not just yourself, but others in danger. This is one of many reasons why it is so important that you have travel health insurance.
I have used Cigna Global while traveling. The cost per month was about $125 and they covered up to $250,000 in expenses. The important thing is that they cover over €30,000 which is the minimum allowed by Schengen countries to allow for residency. So if you are going for a longer term stay you need to have this as proof you are covered by insurance.
There are a bunch of other travel health insurances out there but I cannot vouch for them:
- World Nomads
- Allianz Worldwide Care
- Integra Global
- IMG Global
All will work, just depends on the level of coverage you need. The process usually is that once you go to the doctor, tell them you have insurance. They will give you a slightly lower rate. Put it on a credit card then send the bill to insurance. They will reimburse you within 30-days usually.
Portuguese Medical Insurance
If you live in Portugal like me and need long-term insurance, then travel health insurance won’t cut it. You need to get on one of the plans here in Portugal. I use árbol because they are AMAZING. Hablan Inglés, their website is easy to navigate if you use Google Translate, and there are tons of other perks attached to their system.
There are a few pre-requisites before you are eligible for health insurance in Portugal through Medis:
- You need a Portuguese Address
- You need a NIF (Fiscal number)
- You need a bank account
Once you have those, fill out the online form on their health care insurance simulator website.
Pick the plan that is right for you, and usually within 2-3 days your insurance will be activated. You will get a card via the CTT (mail) and get your account number via email. Eso es.
How to Use Your Portuguese Insurance at the Hospital
When you got to the doctor, clinic or hospital tell them you have Medis. Provide them your card along with your ID card. Eso es. Your co-pay usually is about €15 per visit. It can go up to maybe €300 for something complex. I currently pay €75 per month and have about €1,000,000 coverage. Compare that to the Blue Cross I had in the States which cost me $400 per month without dental or optical. Hence why I was having vision issues in New York City, I was forced to pay $1600 bucks out of pocket for an eye specialist who looked at me for 5 minutes. Here, this is not the case. F-off US healthcare.
A few other benefits I get with my health insurance
- Discount at my gym (25 Euros cheaper!)
- Discount at spas (yeah..crazy)
- Mental (hard being a CEO)
- Nutritionist (I need to get on a diet)
- Physical Therapy
- Sick Pay if I am ill for a long while (fingers cross this never happens)
- Discount on medication
I love my insurance plan and my doctor. I went in recently for an annual exam. He sat with me for 1-hour. We went through all my medical history. He went beyond the basics and suggested things to make my life better (he literally told me to stop being a lazy fool and play more basketball because it’s what I love to do). It was so refreshingly kind. It was the time you should spend with your doctor. This is what makes giving up some of the US conveniences worth it. This is why it is so good to yield and just learn to become patient in Portugal.
List of Hospitals in Lisbon
- British Hospital
- British Hospital-Lisbon XXI SA
- Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa Ocidental
- Centro Hospitalar Lisboa Norte
- CGC Genetics
- Clinica CUF Alvalade
- Clinica CUF Belem
- Clinica CUF Mafra
- Clinica CUF Torres Vedras
- Clinica Das Conchas
- CUF Descobertas Hospital
- Dona Estefania Central Hospital
- Hospital Cuf Descobertas AS
- Hospital Cuf Infante Santo
- Hospital Curry Cabral
- Hospital da Cruz Vermelha Portuguesa
- Hospital da Luz
- Hospital de Egas Moniz
- Hospital de San Louis
- Hospital Done Estefania
- Hospital de Sao Francisco Xavier
- Hospital de Sao Jose
- Hospital de Sao Sebastiao
- Hospital dos Capuchos
- Hospital Julio de Matos
- Hospital Particular de Lisboa
- Hospital Pulido Valente EPEHospital St.Louis
- Instituto Portugues de Oncologia
- Instituto Portugues de Oncologia de Francisco Gentil
- Lusiadas Saude
Hospitals in Algarve
- Centro Hospitalar do Barlavento
- Hospital Particular
- HDF Hospital Distrito de Faral
- Clinica Luisiadas
- Hospital Distritas de Lagos
Hospitals in Setubal
Hospitals elsewhere in Portugal
- Central Hospital, Coimbra
- Central Hospital, Leiria Pombal
- Central Hospital, Medio Tejo
- Central Hospital, Povoa de Varzim
- Central Hospital, Sao Joao
- CHUC Central Hospital, University of Coimbra
- Centro Cirurgico de Coimbra
- Hospital Espirito Santo, Evora
- Hospital Misericordia de Evora
- Hospital District of Figueira da Foz
- Central Hospital, Alto Minho
- Cliria Hospital Privao de Aveiro
- Central Hospital, Baixo Alentejo
- Hospital de Braga
- Jose De Mello Saude, Carnaxid
- Clinical CUF Cascais
- Casa de Saude de Santa Filomena
- Hospital Distrital, Santarem
- Hospital CUF Infante, Santo
- Centro Hospitalar do Tamega e Sousa
- Hospital da Trofa
- Central Hospital, Vila Nova de Gaia
- Central Hospital, Vila Real
- Hospital de Sao Teotonio, Viseu
- HPA-Hospital Particular de Almada Lda
- Hospital de Santa Cruz
How much do Hospitals cost in Portugal?
As of this article, the fees I saw when I went to Hospital Luz last week were:
- General Consultations – usually €15
- emergency treatment – from €15–20
- overnight stays – €25 per night (shared room)
They can also charge you a fee of about €20 for special exams or MRIs. Not bad huh? Compare that to what Blue Cross would offer you state-side.
As we go to different doctors and specialists here in Portugal, we will update this article with more information.
So far, we love health care in Portugal compared to healthcare in the United States. There is so much propaganda from drug companies in the US that it’s refreshing to actually go to the doctor and not be afraid of the cost or the poor service. It’s also nice to know that they aren’t pushing the latest drug their pharmacy rep just raved over at the most expensive steakhouse in town. One thing I have noticed constantly is that in the USA, we talk a big game but don’t deliver. In Europe they “under-talk” and deliver great healthcare.
If you want to learn more about healthcare in Portugal, your rights or just what is available these 3 resources helped me put together this article:
- www.sns.gov.pt – website for the Portuguese National Health Service (SNS)
- Portuguese citizen’s portal – Citizen’s rights website with health information
- SNS online search to find a local hospital throughout Portugal.