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Do you know the health systems for foreigners in Portugal?

For foreigners who decide to live in another country, it is extremely important to have access to basic information on health and education in their new host country (click here for more information on education in Portugal). To obtain all this information succinctly, we provide in this article some important details for you to get to know the reality of Portuguese health.




Three different health systems ensure health in Portugal, which covers different accesses and values. These services are the State-administered Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), social health insurance schemes and the private system.


Serviço Nacional de Saúde

The three health systems coexist in Portugal, but the most solicited system is the Serviço Nacional de Saúde which is used by 80% of the population resident in the country. The Ministry of Health administers this service, which guarantees a mostly free service.


Some of the exempt specialties are:

  • Family planning consultations;
  • Flu vaccination for people marked in the seasonal flu program;
  • Dialysis health care;
  • First hospital specialty consultation;
  • Attendance at the emergency service, if referenced by the SNS service centre (Health Line 24 - 808 24 24 24);


The values of this public service are supported by the taxes as well as by the social security funded by the working residents. Unemployed people, or those who are dependent relatives or retired persons are not covered by this public service. Get access to the values of all the specialties practiced through the SNS, here.


How to access the SNS if you are a foreigner?

To have access to the Serviço Nacional de Saúde in Portugal, you must have your situation regularised. The first step is to register with Social Security to get your corresponding number. As soon as you have your Social Security number available you can register with the health centre closest to your place of residence and you should bring the following documents with you:

  • Social Security card;
  • Passport/ID;
  • Portuguese residence permit;


As soon as you receive the Cartão de Utente, you should be accompanied by it whenever you go to a health centre or hospital. Citizens of the European Economic Area and Switzerland can access the public service with the health insurance card (EHIC).


Private healthcare

Private healthcare in Portugal works hand in hand with the Portuguese public service, as doctors can work through both systems. Some examinations may be co-financed by the public system and carried out in the private sector.

Compared to the Serviço Nacional de Saúde, the private system is more expensive, but not much more so than in other European countries. On average, the medical appointments will cost between €40 to €50 in this sector.

An advantage in the private health service is undoubtedly the smaller waiting lists compared to the public sector. If the user is a foreigner and does not know the Portuguese language, in this sector he will have a greater chance of being served in his native language.

This service is the most popular among foreigners living in Portugal, but it is also starting to be the most preferred by the Portuguese people, about 10% to 20% already use this service.


Always have these phone contacts with you:

  • National emergency number - 112
  • Saúde 24 - 808 24 24 24
  • Intoxication Emergency Line - 808 250 143
  • Portimão Hospital - 282 450 300
  • Lagos Health Centre - 282 780 000
  • Portimão Health Center - 282 420 160


In Portugal, we can count on excellent professionals in any of the chosen sectors. Differences between the private and the public systems pass only through waiting time and the costs associated with each. It is up to each person to make their choice in the service they want to follow.