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Healthcare and Transportation in Portugal

With only about ten million inhabitants, Portugal, the country on Europe’s western edge, is fairly small. Thankfully, this did not inhibit the development of a fascinating cultural identity that, in combination with the great climate, has led many an expat to consider living in Portugal!

High-Quality Healthcare

Generally speaking, Portugal has a high-quality health infrastructure, with the best institutions obviously to be found in larger municipalities. Both private and public healthcare institutions exist. Differences in quality exist between the two, although they are not as glaring as in some other countries. You should expect to have to pay on arrival when using private healthcare facilities, so if this is your preferred choice, have a credit card ready. The same applies to private ambulances.

Basic public healthcare is available free of charge for citizens as well as for expats and residents. The range of services offered for free is, however, limited. The austerity measures have made it necessary to charge fees for many treatments, as well as for basic services such as doctor’s appointments. In any case, expats should contact their Administracão Regional de Saúde, the local health administration office, in order to register for their Serviço Nacional de Saúde number as soon as they have established residence in Portugal. This is necessary in order to be able to benefit from the public healthcare services. You need to bring your passport, proof that you are a resident (e.g. the User’s card that you can pick up from the Health Center after you have registered), and your social security beneficiary’s card.

For all further information you might need on healthcare in Portugal, please see the website of the Portuguese Ministry of Health, which offers an extensive FAQ database. For a comprehensive listing of doctors, hospitals, and medical specialists in your area, please see the pages of Allianz Worldwide Care.

All about Driving in Portugal

If you are going to be dependent on your car during your time in Portugal, there is not much to worry about. Many foreign driver’s licenses are also valid in Portugal until they expire, whereas others are valid for up to six months. The only prerequisite is that it has to be issued and written in the Latin alphabet. If that is not the case, you need to acquire an International Driver’s License in English.

If you are thinking of staying in Portugal permanently or at least beyond the time span for which your license is valid, you might want to exchange it for a Portuguese one. This can be done at the nearest office of the Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes Terrestres (IMTT). This will not only save you a lot of trouble in case your license gets damaged or lost, but will also relieve you from the need of taking and passing another driving test once your original license loses its validity.

Sadly, the rate of traffic fatalities in Portugal is higher than the EU average, partly because despite speed limit enforcements, speeding is widespread, and partly because the Portuguese driving style can tend to be rather on the aggressive end of the spectrum. However, the rate of these fatalities has gone down over the years. There are harsh fines for speeding and driving under the influence — the legal limit is 0.5‰ — so it is probably wisest not to emulate local habits. Roads in Portugal are generally of high quality, and the country has invested in the expansion and improvement of its road structure in the past years.

Other Means of Transportation

Portugal has both a reliable bus network and an extensive railway network, connecting all important regions of the country. Additionally, expats moving to Porto or Lisbon will get to enjoy the services of the respective metro system, both of which also reach destinations in the areas surrounding the cities. Public transportation in Portugal is generally rather inexpensive and reliable, making it a feasible alternative to driving, especially in the two largest cities we have mentioned above. Apart from that, taxis are widely available. The Cabify taxi app is available for use in Lisbon, Porto, and Madeira, offering reasonable rates. A fact that might seem uncommon to newcomers is that taxis are generally not metered, but operate on fixed-based fares and additional fees per kilometer traveled.


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