How to find a doctor when studying in Portugal

One of the most stressful things that can happen when living and studying abroad is having a medical emergency. If you’re new to a country and aren’t comfortable with a language, then trying to explain your symptoms and understanding the medical solution can be extremely difficult.

When you consider the paperwork involved in registering with the system in the first place, understanding how the payments system work and then selecting the hospital or doctor you need to see, then it’s clear how a small problem has the potential to spiral out of control.

Since we want you to be focused on your studies and having the best time possible in Portugal, we’ve prepared an overview of how healthcare, hospitals in Lisbon and the health insurance system operates.

Registering for public and private systems

Portugal has a National Health Service [SNS – Serviço Nacional de Saúde] which provides a free and accessible service to anyone in need. Operating parallel to this is a private healthcare network, for which you will need health insurance (or the cash to pay each visit).

As of 2016 the public system has 114 hospitals, 357 health centers, 26,000 doctors and 40,000 nurses. To register for service at SNS you will need to go to your local health center with your ID, proof of address and NIF. Once completed, you will receive your health card which entitles you to free treatment at all public hospitals and health care units. Even without the card though, you can of course get emergency medical treatment simply by turning up.

The SNS website provides a list of public hospitals and gives you the service to make appointments, research waiting times and get emergency contact information.  

If you’re a non-EU citizen you will have already had to find private medical insurance as a condition of your visa, but since the quality of care at private hospitals is so high and with significantly smaller waiting times, it is worth everyone’s time to explore these options.

Check out this list of private medical insurers to see if it’s affordable for you and then you will be entitled to significantly reduced prices at the private clinics.

There are 111 private hospitals all over Portugal. Simply use the hospital’s website or app, book an appointment for the doctor you want to see, turn up and then use your insurance to pay the discounted price!

Where to go

As the biggest city in Portugal (and one of the biggest in Europe), Lisbon has a huge variety of hospitals and places to get treatment. Here you will find a small list with contact details to help you out in a pinch. (The SNS website http://www.chlc.min-saude.pt/ also provides a list of public hospitals and gives you the service to make appointments, research waiting times and get emergency contact information.)  


Santa Marta Hospital – R. de Santa Marta 50 – 21 359 4000

Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa Central – Alameda Santo António dos Capuchos – 21 313 6300

São Jose Hospital – R. José António Serrano – 21 884 1000

CUF Infante Santo –  Tv. Castro 3, – 21 392 6100

SAMS – R. Cidade de Gabela 1, 1849-017 Lisboa – 21 842 2000


Emergency Hospital of Cascais – Av. Brigadeiro Victor Novais Gonçalves, Alcabideche – 21 465 3000

CUF Cascais – R. Fernão Lopes 60, 2750-663, Cascais – 21 114 1400

In an emergency

If the worst happens and you still haven’t got around to registering for either service but need immediate medical care, then don’t worry.

Dial 112 and give them your address and an ambulance will come. Or make your own way to any of the public hospitals and go to the emergency room.

Once you’ve chosen to study in Portugal it’ll put your mind at rest to know you’re covered for all emergencies (not to mention giving your family once less reason to worry while you’re on the other side of the world).

Once you’re settled, go to a SUS unit to get registered (or find a good insurer who covers a private hospital near where you live) and then relax. And remember that your school and Education Network are always available to help too.