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How does the Spanish healthcare system work?

The Spanish National Health Service has an extensive network of health centres and hospitals throughout the country.

Health centres provide primary healthcare services(family medicine, paediatrician and nursing services, and there may also be midwives, physiotherapists and social workers). If circumstances require, medical attention can be provided in the patient’s home.

Also, in rural areas and in small villages there are local surgeries open on certain days with visits from healthcare staff from the region.

Hospitals offer specialised attention, with access via referral from primary healthcare services. There are also Accident and Emergency services available at hospitals and some health centres.

You can check hospitals and health centres in Spain at the website of the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality.

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Where can I find the embassy or consulate of my country in Spain?

Foreign embassies and consulates in Spain

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Where do I buy my medication?

In Spain, medications are obtained at pharmacies. They are all marked with a green cross. You will get your prescriptions from your doctor. If you come from a country in the European Union, or your country has health agreements with Spain, you will have the same prescription drug benefits as Spanish citizens.

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Where should I call in the event of an emergency?

Dial 112 free of charge (valid throughout Spain). Service is provided in Spanish, and also in English, French and German in some tourist areas.

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Where is smoking prohibited?

In Spain, smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public areas (including public or collective transport vehicles). It is also prohibited to smoke in health facilities (including outdoor areas that are part of their premises), educational or training centres (except in outdoor spaces in universities and adult education centres) and playgrounds and play areas (outdoor spaces equipped for children). There are a few exceptions to the general rule. This prohibition does not apply to private clubs for smokers. Hotels and similar establishments can book rooms for smokers, but these should be in separate areas with separate ventilation.  

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Is Spain a safe country?

Spain is one of the safest countries:

In general terms, Spain is one of the safest countries in Europe.

As in any country, there are some basic safety guidelines…

We recommend avoiding isolated or badly lit places, and street gambling. It's a good idea to carry only the money you need for each outing. Be alert in crowded places, such as public transport or department stores. In public parks and other places used for leisure, don't leave objects such as mobile phones or cameras unattended.

Don't forget an expert tip on public safety: prevention is the best way to avoid this kind of problem. As well as the Police, who you can call on 112, there is information here on AlertCops, an interactive channel providing crime alerts.

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Can you find services tailored for people who have Celiac Disease in Spain?

In Spain there is a growing awareness of Celiac Disease and the importance of providing gluten-free food. Therefore, more and more hotels, restaurants, campsites, parks and recreation centres are prepared for the needs of people with Celiac Disease. You can find a list of them at the official website of the Federation of Associations of people with Celiac Disease of Spain. (http://www.celiacos.org/). In turn, the Federation recommends that tourists who do not speak Spanish carry a piece of paper with this text written on it. “Soy celíaco. Si consumo algún alimento que contenga trigo, centeno, cebada, avena, kamut, espelta o triticale, o bien sus productos derivados, puedo enfermar. Esto incluye la harina, pan, pasta, croquetas, dulces, salsas, algunos embutidos… Los celíacos podemos comer carne, pescado, huevos, legumbres, frutas, hortalizas, arroz, maíz, soja y también patata. Estos productos se deben cocinar sin harina, cocidos, a la plancha, a la brasa o bien crudos. Si durante la preparación de la comida le surgiera alguna duda, por favor consúlteme. Gracias.” Translation of above text: “I have Celiac Disease. If I eat food that contains wheat, rye, barley, oats, kamut, spelt or triticale, or any of their derived products, I could become ill. This includes flour, bread, pasta, croquettes, sweets, creams and some sausages. People with Celiac Disease can eat meat, fish, eggs, legumes, fruit, vegetables, rice, corn, soy, and potatoes. These products must be cooked without flour, boiled, grilled, roasted, or even raw. If there is any doubt during the preparation of the food, please ask me. Thank you.”

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What you should know about medical care if you come from an EU member state.

You are entitled to free medical and hospital care:

Having shown your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you will be seen by a GP at a local health centre or at your accommodation if you are unable to make the journey. If you need to see a specialist or go into hospital, the GP will give you the relevant medical certificate or referral. Accident and Emergency services are available at hospitals.

You will require your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC):

With the European Health Insurance Card you will receive the same temporary healthcare services as any other Spanish citizen. The expiry date can be found on the European Health Insurance Card and it is valid in EU countries, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Private doctors and hospitals in Spain do not accept the European Health Insurance Card. If you require private healthcare you must settle your own bills or take out an insurance policy that covers it.Find out where you can obtain your European Health Insurance Card here:European Health Insurance Card  

When will forms be necessary?

If you need any scheduled medical treatment, you will need to have the S2, as well as authorisation from your country’s competent institution. Remember that the following are not covered in Spain: dental treatment (apart from emergency extractions) and repatriation for medical treatment.

If you forget your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC):

You will have to pay any hospital, medical or pharmaceutical bills in advance, and then seek reimbursement from the relevant organisation in your country of origin, providing all receipts.

Remember that the European Health Insurance Card is not valid if you have travelled to Spain in order to receive specific medical treatment. The same applies to all other EU countries.

In any case, you should contact the relevant office in your country of origin for full details regarding current requirements to receive medical care in Spain.

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What you should know about medical care if you come from a non EU member state.

Countries that have community regulations: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. They provide the same emergency medical facilities in the case of illness or accident as in any of the member states. Countries with which Spain has bilateral agreements: Andorra, Brazil, Chile, Morocco, Peru, Paraguay, Tunisia and Venezuela. You'll also receive free medical and hospital attention in case of emergency due to illness or accident. For this the certificate corresponding to your country must have been issued. If you've forgotten this certificate, you'll have to pay any hospital, medical or pharmaceutical bills in advance, and the corresponding organisation you're affiliated with will reimburse you upon presentation of the receipts. You can view the bilateral agreements on the Spanish Social Security website.  Other countries:Although you'll be treated in an emergency, this treatment will require payment, so you're advised to take out medical insurance.In any case, you should contact the relevant office in your country of origin for full details regarding current requirements to receive medical care in Spain.

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