Portugal Health Care and Vaccinations
Travel insurance is advised for all visitors. In some medical cases, if you are European, you might be able to receive free treatment if you can show proof of a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) obtained in your country of origin.
The overall standards of healthcare in Portugal are excellent. Hospitals and surgeries are well equipped and staff are proficient. In pharmacies, over-the-counter advice is given and standard medicines are sold.
Food and Drink
You can drink tap water in major cities and towns, although you should be cautious in small villages. Thankfully, bottled water is widely available but if it’s not then any questionable water should be boiled for five minutes or treated with iodine. Salads and fruit are safe to eat anywhere in Portugal. Take care with shellfish such as cooked mussels that have not opened properly and avoid undercooked meat, particularly minced meat. Ice cream is fine, unless it has been melted and refrozen.
You will be treated on the same basis as a Portuguese resident, but you might have to make a patient contribution to the cost of your care. If you have to make such a payment, you may be able to seek reimbursement for this cost when you are back in the UK if you are not able to do so in Portugal. It is important that you ensure you are treated by a state healthcare provider, as you will not be covered for private healthcare.
You should be particularly careful if the healthcare arrangements have been made by a hotel or travel representative. There are state health centres throughout the country (generally open from 0800 to 2000) where you can receive treatment for minor ailments and injuries, and major emergency hospitals in large towns which remain open throughout the night.
Even though pharmacies are well stocked, take a decent supply of medication with you, and be aware pharmacies are usually closed for two hours over lunchtime. Carry a legible prescription with you to show that you legally use the medication. If you wear glasses, take a spare pair and your prescription just in case you need to get new glasses made up quickly.
Be sure to take the usual precautions against sunburn and sunstroke, as the sun in Portugal can be blisteringly hot in the height of summer: wear high-factor sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses, and drink plenty of water.
Vaccination against hepatitis B is sometimes recommended.