Living in Portugal


The territory of Portugal includes an area in the Iberian Peninsula (referred to as the continent by most Portuguese) and two archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean: the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores. Mainland Portugal is split by its main river, the Tagus that flows from Spain to the Tagus Estuary, in Lisbon, before escaping into the Atlantic. The northern landscape is mountainous towards the interior with several plateaus indented by river valleys, whereas the south, that includes the Algarve and the Alentejo regions, is characterized by rolling plains.

Portugal's highest peak is the similarly named Mount Pico on the island of Pico in the Azores. This ancient volcano, which measures 2,351 m (7,713 ft) is an iconic symbol of the Azores while the Serra da Estrela on the mainland (the summit being 1,991 m (6,532 ft) above sea level) is an important seasonal attraction for skiers and winter sports enthusiasts.

Portugal's Exclusive Economic Zone, a sea zone over which the Portuguese have special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, has 1,727,408 km2. This is the 3rd largest Exclusive Economic Zone of the European Union and the 11th largest in the world.


Portugal has been a semi-presidential constitutional republic since the ratification of the Constitution of 1976, with Lisbon, the nation's largest city, as its capital. The constitution grants the division, or separation, of powers among legislative, executive (whereby the President and the Prime Minister share key executive powers), and judicial branches. The four main institutions as described in this constitution are the President of the Republic, the Parliament, known as the Assembleia da República (Assembly of the Republic), the Government, headed by a Prime Minister, and the courts.The President, who is elected to a five-year term, has a supervisory executive role: the current President is Aníbal Cavaco Silva. The Parliament is a chamber composed of 230 deputies elected for a four-year term. The government, whose head is the Prime Minister (currently Pedro Passos Coelho), chooses a Council of Ministers, that comprises the Ministers and State Secretaries. The courts are organized into several levels: judicial, administrative, and fiscal branches. The Supreme Courts are institutions of last resort/appeal. A thirteen-member Constitutional Court oversees the constitutionality of the laws.


Approximately 80% of the Portuguese population are Roman Catholic, however the country has small Protestant, Latter-day Saint, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baha'i, Buddhist, Jewish and Spiritist communities.

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International Schools

The Algarve is home to some truly outstanding International Schools, for contact details and websites Read more

Colégio Internacional de Vilamoura

APT 856
8125-911 Vilamoura

Tel: +351 289 30 32 80


International School Algarve

Barros Brancos - E.N. 125
Lagoa, , 8401-901

Tel: + 351 282 342 547


International School São Lourenço

Sítio da Rabona
8135 Almancil

Tel: +351 289 398 328


Vale Verde International School

Apartado 125
8601-927 Luz

Tel: +351 282697205!


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Accessing healthcare in Portugal (people from the UK)

The healthcare system in Portugal is similar to the NHS in the UK. The Portuguese Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) is the equivalent of the UK's National Health Service, providing hospital and local health centre services. You should be treated in the same way a Portuguese citizen would. However, not all visits to doctors or hospitals will be free of charge.

Living in Portugal

If you move to Portugal long-term or plan to work in the country, you'll have to make sure to register with the Portuguese authorities. Once you are registered to work in Portugal and make National Insurance contributions, you'll be entitled to state-run healthcare on the same basis as a Portuguese national.

If you are a worker seconded to Portugal or the family member of someone making UK National Insurance contributions, your employer should contact
M Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for the following forms:

  • A1 – this will show that tax and National Insurance contributions are paid in the UK 
  • S1 – this will give you and your family the same medical cover as Portuguese residents

These forms are available from:

HM Revenue & Customs
International Caseworker
Room BP1301
Benton Park View
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ

Once issued, register the S1 form with your local INSS (Portuguese Social Security) office before you register with your local GP practice.

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Studying in Portugal

If you are moving to Portugal to study or are currently studying in Portugal as part of a UK-recognised course, you may be entitled to healthcare paid for by the UK government.

Pensioners moving to Portugal

If you are living in Portugal and you receive a UK State Pension or any other benefit that can be paid to you when you move abroad (exportable benefit), you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You'll need to apply for form S1 (a certificate of entitlement) from the International Pension Centre on 0191 218 7777.

Once issued, register the S1 form with your local Segurança Social (Social Security) office before you register with your local centro de saúde (health centre) and obtain a health system user's number (número de utente).

Once you have registered your S1 in Portugal, you will be entitled to apply for and use a UK-issued EHIC to access state-funded necessary medical treatment when you visit other EEA countries outside Portugal, including when you return to the UK.

Early retirees in Portugal

As access to healthcare in Portugal is residence based, you are entitled to apply for a health user's ID number provided you are registered as a resident with your local town hall and have a residence certificate.

The rules on the use of residual S1 forms changed on July 1 2014. If you have been accessing healthcare using a residual S1, the changes will not affect you as your certificate will continue to be valid until its expiry date.

Prescriptions for residents

Portugal uses a co-payment system where patients are required to pay a percentage of the cost of their prescription medication.

Healthcare for visitors to Portugal

  • Useful health phrases in Portuguese
  • I feel ill – Estou doente
  • Call an ambulance – Chame uma ambulância
  • Where is the nearest pharmacy? – Onde fica a farmácia mais próxima?
  • I would like to see a doctor – Gostaria de ver um médico
  • I would like to make an appointment – Gostaria de marcar uma consulta

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) 

Your European Health Insurance Card will enable you to access state provided healthcare at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free. It will cover you for treatment that is needed to allow you to continue your stay until your planned return.

It also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care, provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth.

If you are travelling for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment, please read our section about seeking medical treatment in Europe.

Help in emergencies

During your stay in Portugal, dial 112 in an emergency. This is the EU-wide emergency number, which you should call in a medical emergency.

It is free to call and you can call from a mobile without a SIM card. The person taking your call should be able to speak to you in English.

You might want to save 112 in your phone before you travel.

If you need general medical advice in Portugal, you can call Saúde 24 (Health Line 24) on 808 24 24 24.

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Health Services & Costs

State-provided healthcare in Portugal is generally free of charge, although there is a patient contribution, which varies depending on how you access the health service – for example, GP consultations cost less than a consultation at the accident and emergency (A&E) department of a hospital. X-rays, scans and other tests also require co-payment.

In some parts of the country, particularly in rural areas and the islands, you may have to travel some distance to find a state healthcare provider.

Doctors do not routinely make house calls. If you need a doctor in an emergency, call 112 or go to the nearest state health centre (centro de saúde)
or the A&E department of the nearest state hospital.

Make sure you have a valid EHIC and ask for state-funded healthcare.

Some hospitals and health centres (centro de saúde) offer both private and state-provided healthcare, and it is up to you to inform them which service you require. They often may also have separate surgery times for private patients and those treated under the state system.

Generally, if you are asked to pay upfront, you are not being treated under the Portuguese health service and your EHIC will not be accepted.

Your EHIC does not cover private treatment. Any costs incurred for private healthcare are non-refundable. You should be particularly careful if healthcare arrangements are made by a hotel or travel representative. They might reassure visitors that they can claim back whatever is paid out, but they are referring to private insurance and not the treatment given under the EHIC Always get adequate travel health insurance before you travel, and make sure you can access funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Repatriation for medical treatment can be very expensive and is not covered by the EHIC.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for any refund or reimbursement.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises "If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment, you should contact your insurance medical assistance company immediately."

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Dentists (médicos dentistas)

State healthcare is provided without charge, although state-funded dental care may not be available.

Hospitals (hospitais)

Just like many countries in Europe, in Portugal you'll need to be referred by a doctor for any hospital treatment. Make sure you are referred to a public hospital as only these provide treatment free of charge. Again, even in a public hospital ensure you have a valid EHIC and double-check you are not treated as a private patient.

You have the right to insist your EHIC is accepted in public healthcare facilities. You do not have to provide travel insurance details unless you choose to do so.

Prescriptions (prescrições médicas)

Pharmacies (farmácia), identifiable by their green cross, are available throughout Portugal. They are usually open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm, and 3pm to 7pm. On weekends they are open from 9am to 1pm.

A list of pharmacies providing a 24-hour service is available from any regular pharmacy.

There is not one set prescription charge in Portugal – prescription medicines are subsidised from 15% to 90%, depending on their use and need. As a visitor, you will have to show your EHIC to benefit from these subsidies.

Bringing your medicines to Portugal

If you have a condition that requires you to bring your own medicines to Portugal, you should bring them in clearly labelled containers and have a letter from your GP stating what the medicines are and why you need them. If possible, have the letter translated into Portuguese, as this will also be useful in case you need to see a health professional during your stay.

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For a fantastic scenic way of seeing Portugal try traveling between destinations by train. A great recommendation is the line between the Algarve and Lisbon, making a day trip to the capital hassle free; see For the more adventurous three of the most appealing old railway lines on narrow-gauge tracks climbing out of the Douro valley are the Linha da Corgo (From Peso da Régua to Vila Real), the Linha da Tâmega (From Livração to Amarante) and the Linha da Tua (From Tua to Mirandela).

Children & over 65’s

Children aged under five travel free; those aged five to 12 go for half price. A youth card issued by Euro26 member countries gets you a 20% discount on regional and interregional services on any day. For distances above 100km, you can also get a 20% discount on intercidade (express) services and a 10% discount on Alfa Pendular (AP) trains – though the latter applies only from Tuesday to Thursday. Travellers aged 65 and over can get 50% off any service by showing some form of ID.

Information & Reservations

For timetables and fare information at all stations visit

There are four main types of long-distance service:

  • Regional (R) Slow, stops at most stations.
  • Interregional (IR) Reasonably fast service.
  • Intercidade (IC) Rápido or express trains.
  • Alfa Pendular Deluxe This service is slightly more faster than the express service but more expensive.

Lisbon’s network extends to Sintra, Cascais and Setúbal, and up the lower Tejo valley.

Porto’s network extends all the way to Braga, Guimarães and Aveiro.

Only the Faro–Porto Comboio Azul and international trains like Sud-Expresso and Talgo Lusitânia have restaurant cars, though all IC and Alfa trains have aisle service and most have bars.

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There are a number of companies that offer local and national bus and coach services in Portugal. Many companies do not have Internet sites and the best way to get tickets is often to visit the local bus station directly. Rede Nacional de Expressos: a national express coach service based in Lisbon. The network connects several hundred locations in the country with most routes having more than one daily service. and they have an English language website which includes timetables, special offers and online ticket sales. Renex runs bus services between Lisbon and the Algarve and their website, which is in Portuguese, has online ticket sales, timetables and fare information.


For shorter distances most people opt for local taxis which can be a cost effective solution and all major towns in Portugal have taxi ranks. Please see useful contacts on the information menu for local taxi telephone numbers.


A memorable trip around Lisbon try the famous tram 28 (Electrico 28) the vintage yellow tram that covers various routes around the capital, through the city center, passing many touristic attractions, while navigating along winding narrow streets. The starting point is downtown in Praca Martim Moniz, ending uptown in Campo de Ourique (Prazeres) with more than 30 stops along the way that you can hop-off, then hop-on to see. Know Your Stopovers

Along the route of tram 28 (electrico 28, in Portuguese), the attractions are picture-perfect. One of the best stops is close to the Castle of St. George (600AC). It’s located on one of the seven hills in the city where you can see that a huge part of the castle was destroyed by the Great Earthquake of 1755. However, the main structures were recovered allowing visitors to enjoy the magnificent castle, not to mention the views.

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