If you plan to spend some time in Portugal, you should brush up on your knowledge of healthcare in Portugal. In this article, we’ll outline the Portugal healthcare system, including the medical care available from primary care doctors and family physicians, the benefits of private health insurance, and emergency care considerations.

Portugal’s Public Healthcare System

Serviço Nacional de Saúde - SNSPortugal has universal health coverage through its publically financed public healthcare system, which is called the Serviço Nacional de Saúde or SNS.

Basic national health coverage is administered through local and regional health centers and hospitals in the public healthcare system. These facilities fall under the jurisdiction of five regional health administrations, while the regions of Madeira and the Azores have their own healthcare systems. National health coverage is comprehensive, including all medical care apart from dental care costs, and this service is available to all citizens and legal residents of Portugal.

Healthcare in Portugal’s national health system is free for children under 18 and people over 65. For everyone else, state healthcare provides subsidized medical costs and is available through the SNS at a low rate. Medication administered during a hospital procedure by the hospital is free, and urgent care is usually free, too.

While dental care is not covered by the SNS for anyone other than those in a ‘vulnerable group,’ such as children, pregnant patients, older adults, or disabled residents, it is cheaper than in many other countries. For example, you can get a consultation with an English speaking dentist for €50 to €75.

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How good is the Portuguese healthcare system?

portugal-golden-visa-healthcareThe public healthcare system in Portugal and the private system in the country are very good, and if you are a Portuguese resident, medical fees are minimal.

Today, Portugal’s healthcare system ranks 25th in the 2023 Health Care Index by Numbeo. Progress in medical care in the past few decades has led to an increased life expectancy for Portguese people. In 2022, the average life expectancy in Portugal reached 82.47 years, marking a 0.22 percent increase compared to 2021. Healthcare in Portugal is under a hybrid system with excellent public and private services.

Portugal operates a healthcare system that combines public and private services. The public healthcare sector is overseen by Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), the national healthcare system of Portugal. Meanwhile, public, social and private healthcare is overseen by the Health Regulatory Entity (ERS), which is an independent regulatory body.  To access state-provided medical services, it is necessary to register with your local council (junta de freguesia) in order to ensure your entitlement.

With most private medical insurance, you would be covered for pharmaceutical products, diagnostic technologies and private practice by physicians. Of course, the medical care included in the plan will depend on the insurance company you opt to buy coverage from.

The World Index of Healthcare Innovation 2022 listed Portugal 22nd in their rankings, taking into account quality, choice, science & technology, and fiscal sustainability. The emergency services in Portugal are also noted for their rapid response times.

Emergency Situations: Where to Go if You Need Urgent Medical Care in Portugal

You should go to the emergency room at your nearest hospital for hospital-em-portugalemergencies in Portugal.

If you require assistance for a medical emergency, phone the European Emergency Number: 112. This number is directed to the ambulance, police, and fire services.

You can also call the SNS (public health services) information hotline: 808242424, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is available in English and is free of charge.

Emergency departments in Portugal include semi-private, curtained-off areas like most US emergency departments.

Portugal Visa Applicants and Health Insurance Requirements

Golden Visa Portugal healthcare: Health insurance in Portugal requirements

Applicants of the Portugal Golden Visa scheme who travel to Portugal before obtaining the Golden Visa will need travel insurance from their country of origin. Travel insurance documents should state that coverage is valid and renewable in Portugal.

Once applicants receive their Golden Visa, they are eligible for the Portugal National Health Service (SNS). However, they must first register with the SNS to benefit from its services. Note that dental costs are not covered.

Portugal Golden Visa recipients can also opt for private health insurance. This offers access to private practitioners and clinics, which traditionally provide faster treatment than public health insurance. Allianz and Cigna Global are two of Portugal’s most recognized private insurance companies. For those on the Portugal Golden Visa, private healthcare can be a highly attractive benefit.  

D7 Portugal healthcare: Health insurance requirements

The D7 Visa requires applicants to purchase travel insurance in their home country, which provides health coverage for one year. Proof of this coverage will be requested along with other required documents when applying for the D7 Visa. The same is also needed for the Entrepreneurship Visa.

If the initial application is approved in your country of origin, a four-month visa for Portugal will be issued to applicants. Applicants will then have to present themselves to the Portuguese immigration authorities, AIMA, within this time period. Their travel insurance will cover applicants until the D7 residence permit is formally issued. Following a successful appointment with AIMA, the applicant will be granted a D7 residence permit (lasting two years).

Once the applicant receives the D7 Residence Permit, they can access public healthcare. Remember that you must register with SNS to benefit from its services. D7 Visa holders can also purchase private health insurance.

Portugal’s Private Healthcare Options

An Expats Guide to Portugal's Healthcare SystemPrivate doctors and healthcare facilities are widely available through private health insurance. Improvements to the healthcare system were made by introducing public-private partnerships for new hospitals, changing hospital management structures, pharmaceutical reforms, reorganizing primary care, and creating long-term care networks.

In Portugal, private healthcare costs are relatively low in comparison to numerous other nations, and private insurance does give you an edge when it comes to getting an appointment more quickly than if you access public healthcare. You can also be assured that virtually all doctors in the private healthcare system speak English.

The average cost for private health insurance in Portugal amounts is about €400 annually. Opting for a more extensive plan would likely cost you approximately €1,000 per year. Depending on the services you receive, there are instances where you might need to initially pay for private treatment and then seek reimbursement through your healthcare coverage.

Are you entitled to Portuguese healthcare?

Yes, Portugal offers state-provided healthcare that is accessible to all citizens and legal residents, completely free of charge. While most medical services are covered, there may be certain fees associated with emergency room visits, consultations with your family doctor, or when using ambulance services.

The Portuguese state healthcare system is very similar to the ones that exist in other countries — for example, it is broadly similar to the National Health Service in the UK — providing hospitals and local health centers, and where some people have their own private medical insurance.

Note that to access public healthcare, everyone must pay a small fee for consultations and tests. Emergency care is free, but all other services incur a change, sometimes due immediately. Everyone can receive hospital care, but you will be charged if the Portuguese national health services, a reciprocal agreement, or private health insurance do not cover you. In some cases, private healthcare systems offer a more seamless process.

Healthcare for Short-term Residents and Visitors to Portugal

Short-stay visitors with a Schengen visa must have a minimum health insurance coverage of at least €30,000 to enter Portugal. A basic plan that would suffice for three months would probably cost you between €90 and €130. If you want a more comprehensive plan, it’s best to research some insurance companies and get quotes.

You can access travel insurance through companies such as:

You can access Schengen Zone insurance at:

Applicants for temporary visas are required by law to have health insurance, which can be obtained in their current country of residence.

International health insurance for expats is available through:

Non-EU/EEA students must also have full private health insurance coverage to obtain their visas and enroll in schools in Portugal.

Healthcare in Portugal for Short-term Working Residents

If you’re a working resident of Portugal, you are paying contributions to Portugal’s social security system. Once you have NISS number, which provides the same rights as a social security card, you can obtain a Numero de Utente (NSNS). An NSNS is an identification number in the Portuguese public health system; once you have, it you’ll be assigned a general practitioner (GP) or family doctor.

Suppose you are not a permanent resident but have been in Portugal for at least 90 days. In that case, you can obtain a document stating this from the local Junta de Freguesia and use this document, a photo ID, IRS number, and a proof of address to obtain a Numero de Utente, allowing access to the Portuguese national health services at a discount.

Government-funded subsystems cover public employees. There are also private subsystems similar to employer-provided health insurance for employees of companies such as banks and larger corporations. However, this type of coverage is uncommon, and most pay for private health insurance themselves.

Healthcare in Portugal for Non-Habitual Tax Residents

Many people are signed up for Portugal’s non-habitual resident (NHR) tax regime. The scheme was launched to encourage investors and professionals of high cultural and economic worth to move to Portugal. First implemented in 2009, there are now over 10,000 NHR residents in Portugal.

Non-habitual residents who are contributing to Portugal’s social security system are eligible to use the public Portuguese health service, whereas those who are not will have to invest in private healthcare.

Healthcare in Portugal for Foreigners: EU Citizens

Visiting EU citizens are covered by Portugal’s SNS through reciprocal agreements. When traveling to Portugal, they should bring their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC card) and present it to any hospital or doctor to guarantee government-funded care.

There are also many private health clinics all over Portugal, which are relatively inexpensive. You can expect to pay around €40 for an appointment with a general practitioner.

Healthcare in Portugal for Foreigners: Long-term Residents

Those living and working in Portugal who are not covered by reciprocal agreements with their home countries have two options when it comes to medical care. Legal residents can either pay into the social security system, which is incremental in relation to income or opt for one of the many private health insurance plans.

Pharmacies and Medication in Portugal

Pharmacies, known in Portuguese as farmácias, are widely distributed throughout Portugal. Many medicines, including over-the-counter medication, are subsidized if obtained with a prescription, which makes them very cost-effective.

It’s advisable to remember the generic name of any medication or prescription drugs you might need, as brand names can vary from country to country. For example, in the US, fluoxetine is commonly sold under the brand name Prozac, but it is often sold under different brand names in other countries. In Portugal, it’s most commonly sold under the name Nodepe.

Portugal Immigration Services: A helpful guide to relocation

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Is there a language barrier regarding healthcare in Portugal for foreigners?

Portugal has a history of dealing positively with immigrants in terms of healthcare, and many medical professionals are sensitive to language barriers. Virtually all doctors in the public health care system and private system speak English.

Portuguese Healthcare Services for Women

Hospitals, health centers, and clinics all deliver Portuguese healthcare services for women. The Portuguese health system covers maternity and childcare services, and expectant mothers generally receive care at a public hospital close to home. Private medical care is also an option if the expectant mother has health insurance.

Prenatal care takes place at the hospital. During the initial appointment, the mother-to-be receives a pregnancy booklet, and her doctor will record the ongoing medical information as the pregnancy progresses. Maternity wards offer prenatal classes, although they are not generally subsidized through public health insurance. Midwives are on hand to help with the birth.

You can access gynecologists through your GP. Gynecologists work at health centers and clinics; they provide health advice and perform routine examinations.

Healthcare Service for Children in Portugal

Children can access public healthcare in Portugal for free. Children have regular health checks from birth and can access healthcare services such as screenings, examinations, vaccinations, and nutritional healthcare. They will also have a record that charts their progress. In Portugal, primary care doctors and pediatricians are responsible for medical care for children.

Portgual has a national vaccination system for children through the SNS, vaccinating for diseases like Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, COVID-19, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.

Portugal also has a system to help children under the age of six who lag in development, which is called the Sistema Nacional de Intervernção Precoce na Infáncia (SNIPI). The SNIPI has units in all areas of Portugal, and it employs the following specialists: nurses, social workers, educators, speech therapists, and physiotherapists.

Mental Health Services in Portugal

Mental healthcare services in Portugal are provided through mental health teams that work in hospitals and health centers. Studies have shown that around one in five Portuguese people have experienced mental health problems. While mental health and substance abuse are issues in Portugal, the mental healthcare system and the provision of mental healthcare are not as developed as in many other countries. Consequently, there is a shortage of mental health specialists relative to the Portuguese population. In fact, in Portugal, there are only 12.4 psychiatrists per 100,000 inhabitants, less than the EU average.

Your GP should be your first point of contact to access mental healthcare services through the SNS. Depending on your situation and the service availability where you are living, your GP can:

  • Prescribe medication
  • Refer you to counseling or a specialist
  • Refer you to an emergency or psychiatric unit in more serious circumstances
  • Refer you to a community-based program

The SNS only provides some basic mental health assistance. To access a wider range of services, it is best to have private health insurance.

Exploring Visa and Immigration Options for Portugal

If you're considering making the move to Portugal, it's essential to be informed about the various visa and residency options available. The Golden Visa Portugal program is an attractive option for many, offering residency to investors and their families. For those eyeing retirement in this beautiful country, the Retirement Visa (D7) is tailored for you. Digital nomads can take advantage of both short and long stay options with the Nomad Visa (D8). Meanwhile, the NHR - Non Habitual Tax regime provides significant tax benefits for new residents. 

For the entrepreneurial spirit, Portugal offers the Entrepreneurship/startup Visa (D2) - Start-up Visa (open company) tailored for those looking to establish their businesses in the country. Those with specialized skills can explore the Work visa for highly qualified employees (D3). Additionally, if you have Portuguese ancestry, you might be eligible for Citizenship by descent

However, moving to a new country isn't just about visas. If you're thinking of buying property, our guide on Buying Property in Portugal can offer invaluable insights. Dive deeper into the immigration process with our comprehensive Portugal immigration guide. For Americans specifically looking to relocate, we have curated information on Americans moving to Portugal. Lastly, one can't forget the importance of the NIF (Tax Registration Number), a crucial step in any relocation process. 

Why choose Global Citizen Solutions for your Immigration Visa?


  • GCS has offices located across Portugal.
  • Members of the US-Portugal and UK-Portugal Chambers of Commerce in Portugal, and the Investment Migration Council (IMC).
  • Our expert team can help you throughout your journey to secure your Visa. 


  • Our successful track record in applications provides reassurance to applicants. 
  • We have helped clients from more than 35 countries secure residency in Portugal.


  • With a single channel of communication, our approach ensures that you have complete clarity on your application. 
  • Our BeGlobal® Onboarding System allows for a total flow of information.


  • Our pricing is clear and detailed, you will not face any hidden costs.
  • All data is stored within a GDPR-compliant database on a secure SSL-encrypted server.

Frequently Asked Questions about Portugal Healthcare for Foreigners

Is healthcare in Portugal good?

The Portuguese healthcare system is ranked amongst the highest in the world and has only improved over the past decade. 

The system ranks higher than the UK, Ireland, Spain, and Italy regarding patient rights, accessibility, information, waiting times, and overall health outcomes. In some cases, as with many healthcare systems, the public system may have longer waiting lists than private healthcare.

Is healthcare free in Portugal?

When it comes to Portugal’s healthcare costs, the national healthcare service in Portugal, the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), is entirely free for children under 18 and over 65s. SNS provides reduced medical fees. Expats can access the SNS by making social security contributions. Private healthcare will cost you, although, compared with other Western European countries, is quite affordable.

Are you entitled to Portuguese healthcare?

Expats who reside in Portugal and make the necessary social security contributions are entitled to access the Portuguese healthcare system.

Do healthcare professionals in Portugal speak English?

When it comes to Portuguese healthcare for expats, the vast majority of healthcare professionals speak English in Portugal.

Following my Golden Visa or D7 Visa application, when can I start using the Portuguese National Health Service (SNS)?

As soon as your Golden Visa or D7 Visa is approved, expats can use public healthcare services. However, you must first register with the SNS to benefit from the national healthcare system.

Do I need private insurance if I move to Portugal under the Golden Visa or the D7 Visa?

As an expat living in Portugal under the Golden or the D7 Visa, you can benefit from Portugal’s public healthcare system once registered. The national healthcare system is very good. However, expats are welcome to purchase a private insurance policy if they require or wish to have extra coverage. Private healthcare is widespread across Portugal.

Is healthcare in Lisbon, Portugal, affordable?

If you are a resident of Portugal, then you will have access to the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) and will only have to pay a small fee. Compared to many other countries in Western Europe, the Portuguese healthcare system is considered very affordable and of a high standard. Private medical insurance is also an option, where you will have access to private hospitals. 

You will also find that private healthcare is quite affordable when compared with other Western European countries and healthcare in the USA. Also, doctors and practitioners in private healthcare services and private hospitals will have a very good level of English. With this said, as a resident that can access public healthcare, you should also be in safe hands, and English is also widely spoken in public healthcare services.

What is healthcare like in Madeira, Portugal?

Madeira has three major public hospitals. Public healthcare in Portugal is both affordable and very good. If you are a Portuguese resident, you will have access to the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) in return for a small fee. You will also find excellent private services if you want to go down this route.

Where does Portugal rank in healthcare?

Portugal ranks 25th in the 2023 Health Care Index by Numbeo, meaning that it has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Healthcare in Portugal is under a hybrid system with excellent public and private services. Private healthcare is relatively affordable compared with other Western European countries.

The World Index of Healthcare Innovation 2022 has listed Portugal 22nd in their rankings, taking into account quality, choice, science & technology, and fiscal sustainability. The emergency services in Portugal are also noted for their rapid response times.

Both the public healthcare system and private healthcare are very good in Portugal. If you are a resident of Portugal, medical costs are minimal.

Which EU country has the best healthcare?

Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Germany are often considered to have excellent healthcare. Portugal’s healthcare system is also very good. You can find out more about Portugal’s healthcare on the website of the World Health Organization (WHO) here.  

Is there Portugal healthcare for tourists?

The Portugal healthcare system does not offer free medical treatment for tourists and visitors and requires non-EU citizens to have medical insurance covering emergency medical treatment. UK citizens can use their UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) following the UK’s departure from the EU.  

Are there specific health insurance requirements for the Portugal Golden Visa? 

Portuguese Golden Visa holders do not automatically get access to public healthcare. Those who do not decide to live in Portugal full time are required to get private healthcare insurance that covers your healthcare while you are in Portugal.

However, if you decide to live in Portugal for more than six months, and become a full-time resident, then the public healthcare system will cover you.

Can I use public healthcare in Portugal to meet the Golden Visa healthcare requirement? 

No, Golden Visa holders do not automatically get access to healthcare services if they are not a full-time resident in Portugal.

Do I need to prove that I have comprehensive healthcare coverage for my family as well?

If your family members are coming to stay in Portugal for under half the year, it is a good idea to get healthcare coverage for them. If you become a full-time resident, then dependent family members are also entitled to medical care under the public healthcare system in Portugal.

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