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How To See A Doctor In Spain As A Tourist


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Eddie Kellam



When traveling to a foreign country, it’s important to be prepared for any unexpected situations, including the need for medical attention. As a tourist visiting Spain, understanding how to navigate the healthcare system is essential to ensure your well-being and peace of mind during your stay.


The Spanish healthcare system is recognized for providing quality care and services to both residents and visitors. It operates on a universal healthcare model, which means that everyone has the right to access medical services, regardless of their nationality or insurance status. However, there are specific guidelines and procedures to follow as a tourist seeking healthcare services.


In this article, we will guide you through the process of seeing a doctor in Spain as a tourist. We’ll cover topics such as understanding the Spanish healthcare system, the importance of travel insurance, finding a doctor, making appointments, dealing with language barriers, payment and insurance coverage, prescription medications, and emergency care.


By familiarizing yourself with these essential aspects, you’ll be well-equipped to handle any medical situation that may arise during your visit to Spain.


Understanding the Spanish Healthcare System

The Spanish healthcare system is known for its high quality of care and accessibility. It is based on a universal healthcare model, which means that all residents and visitors have the right to access medical services. However, as a tourist, there are certain considerations to keep in mind when seeking healthcare in Spain.


In Spain, healthcare is provided through a combination of public and private sectors. The public healthcare system, known as Seguridad Social, is funded through taxes and social security contributions. It provides comprehensive healthcare coverage to all Spanish citizens and legal residents. As a tourist, you may also be eligible for free or subsidized healthcare if your country has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Spain.


However, it is crucial to note that healthcare coverage can vary depending on your situation. While some healthcare services may be available to tourists free of charge, others may require payment. Therefore, it is highly recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses during your stay in Spain.


In addition to the public healthcare system, Spain has a well-developed private healthcare sector. Private healthcare providers offer a range of services, including medical consultations, specialist appointments, diagnostic tests, and hospital care. Keep in mind that private healthcare services are typically more expensive than their public counterparts, and they may not be covered by your travel insurance.


Overall, navigating the Spanish healthcare system as a tourist requires understanding the differences between public and private healthcare, knowing your eligibility for free or subsidized care, and having appropriate travel insurance coverage.


The Importance of Travel Insurance

When traveling to Spain or any other country, it is essential to have travel insurance that includes comprehensive medical coverage. This is crucial for several reasons:


1. Access to Medical Services: Travel insurance ensures that you have access to medical services in case of illness or injury during your trip. It covers the cost of medical consultations, hospital stays, emergency medical treatments, and medications.


2. Financial Protection: Medical expenses can be very costly, especially if you require hospitalization or specialized care. Travel insurance protects you from the financial burden of these expenses, ensuring that you receive the necessary treatment without worrying about the cost.


3. Peace of Mind: Knowing that you are covered by travel insurance provides peace of mind and allows you to enjoy your trip without the stress and worry of potential medical expenses. It allows you to fully immerse yourself in the culture and activities of Spain.


4. Emergency Medical Evacuation: In cases where specialized medical treatment is not available locally, travel insurance can cover the cost of emergency medical evacuation to a nearby country or back to your home country. This ensures that you receive the necessary care in a timely manner.


5. Trip Cancellation or Interruption: Travel insurance can also protect you in the event of trip cancellation or interruption due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a medical emergency. It can provide coverage for pre-paid expenses, such as flights and accommodations.


It is important to carefully review the terms and coverage of your travel insurance policy before your trip to ensure that it meets your specific needs. Consider factors such as the coverage limits, deductibles, exclusions, and any additional benefits offered by the policy.


In summary, travel insurance is a vital component of your travel preparations to Spain. It provides the necessary protection and peace of mind, allowing you to explore the country with confidence, knowing that you have access to medical services and financial support if needed.


Finding a Doctor in Spain

If you find yourself in need of medical attention while in Spain, it’s important to know how to find a doctor. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process:


1. Research: Before your trip, it’s a good idea to research the healthcare options in the area you’ll be visiting. Look for hospitals, medical clinics, and doctors who speak your language if language barrier is a concern.


2. Ask for Recommendations: If you’re staying in a hotel or rental accommodation, ask the staff or owner if they can recommend a local doctor or medical center that caters to tourists. They may have contacts or knowledge about English-speaking doctors.


3. Use Online Directories: Online directories such as Google Maps or specific healthcare websites can be valuable resources for finding doctors in Spain. You can search for doctors based on location, specialty, and patient reviews.


4. Seek Assistance from Your Embassy or Consulate: If you’re in need of urgent medical care or having difficulty finding a doctor, reach out to your country’s embassy or consulate in Spain. They can provide you with a list of recommended doctors or assist you in getting the necessary medical attention.


5. Contact Your Travel Insurance Provider: If you have travel insurance, contact your provider for assistance in finding a doctor. They may have a network of medical professionals they work with and can provide you with the necessary information and guidance.


It’s important to note that in Spain, many general practitioners work in private practices and require appointments. However, there are also walk-in medical centers known as “centros de salud” where you can receive non-emergency medical care without an appointment. These centers often have both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking doctors.


When choosing a doctor, consider their location, availability, and any specific requirements you may have. It’s also important to check if they accept your travel insurance, as some doctors may only work with certain insurance providers.


By following these tips and utilizing the available resources, you can find a doctor in Spain who can provide you with the necessary medical care during your stay.


Making an Appointment

When seeking medical care in Spain, it is common to make an appointment with a doctor, unless you are visiting a walk-in medical center for non-emergency care. Here are some steps to help you make an appointment:


1. Choose a Doctor: Based on your research and recommendations, select a doctor or medical center that aligns with your needs, such as a specialist or a general practitioner who speaks your language.


2. Contact the Doctor’s Office: Call the doctor’s office or medical center to schedule an appointment. Be prepared with your preferred date and time, and be aware that you may need to wait a few days or even weeks for an available appointment, depending on the doctor’s availability.


3. Provide Necessary Information: When making the appointment, be ready to provide your name, contact information, nationality, and any relevant details about your symptoms or medical condition. If you have travel insurance, inform the doctor’s office about your provider and policy information.


4. Confirm the Appointment: After scheduling the appointment, ask for a confirmation of the date, time, and any additional instructions. This will help ensure that both parties are on the same page and there are no misunderstandings.


5. Arrival and Check-in: On the day of your appointment, arrive a few minutes early and check in at the reception desk. Provide your name and any necessary documents or identification as requested by the doctor’s office.


6. Communicate Any Changes or Cancellations: If you need to change or cancel your appointment, notify the doctor’s office as soon as possible. This will allow them to offer the appointment slot to another patient and potentially reschedule your appointment, if needed.


It’s important to note that in some cases, you may encounter language barriers when scheduling appointments over the phone. If you are not comfortable communicating in Spanish, consider asking a bilingual friend or using a translation service to assist you.


Remember to keep track of your appointment details and any necessary documents, such as your travel insurance information and identification, to ensure a smooth and efficient process.


By following these steps, you can easily make an appointment with a doctor in Spain and receive the necessary medical care during your visit.


Visiting the Doctor’s Office

Once you have made an appointment with a doctor in Spain, it’s important to be prepared for your visit to the doctor’s office. Here are some key points to keep in mind:


1. Arrive on Time: It’s important to arrive at the doctor’s office on time or a few minutes early. Punctuality is respected in Spain, and it ensures that other patients are not kept waiting due to delays.


2. Bring Necessary Documents: Carry your identification, such as your passport or ID card, and any additional documents requested by the doctor’s office. This may include your travel insurance information, medical history, prescription medications, or any relevant test results.


3. Be Prepared to Wait: Depending on the doctor’s schedule and the number of patients, there may be some wait time at the office. Consider bringing a book, magazine, or any other form of entertainment to make the wait more enjoyable.


4. Consultation with the Doctor: During your meeting with the doctor, be prepared to discuss your symptoms, medical history, and any concerns you may have. Provide accurate and detailed information to help the doctor make an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatments.


5. Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification about your condition, treatment options, medications, or any other aspect of your healthcare. It’s important to fully understand the information provided to you and actively participate in your healthcare decisions.


6. Follow the Doctor’s Recommendations: The doctor may prescribe medications, recommend diagnostic tests, or provide instructions for follow-up appointments. It is important to carefully follow their recommendations and adhere to the prescribed treatment plan.


7. Request a Medical Report or Prescription: If needed, ask the doctor for a medical report summarizing your consultation or a prescription for any medication prescribed. These documents can be useful for insurance claims or future medical consultations.


8. Payment and Insurance Coverage: Before leaving the doctor’s office, inquire about the payment process and ensure that your travel insurance coverage will be accepted. Be prepared to pay for any out-of-pocket expenses that may not be covered by your insurance.


By being prepared and informed, your visit to the doctor’s office in Spain can be a smooth and productive experience. Remember to communicate openly with the doctor, ask any necessary questions, and follow their recommendations for the best possible healthcare outcome.


Language Barrier and Communication

One potential challenge that tourists may face when visiting a doctor in Spain is the language barrier. While many doctors and medical professionals in popular tourist areas may speak some English or other foreign languages, it is not always guaranteed. Here are some tips to help overcome the language barrier and ensure effective communication:


1. Bilingual Staff: Look for doctors or medical centers that advertise English-speaking services. They are accustomed to working with international patients and can provide assistance in your preferred language.


2. Interpreter Services: If an English-speaking doctor is not available, inquire whether the doctor’s office offers interpreter services. Some medical facilities have interpreters who can assist during the consultation, ensuring accurate communication between you and the doctor.


3. Prepare in Advance: It can be helpful to prepare a list of symptoms, medical history, and any relevant information in both English and Spanish. This can assist the doctor in understanding your condition and facilitate effective communication.


4. Use Translation Apps or Resources: Carry a translation app or dictionary on your smartphone to help with basic conversations and terminology. These tools can be useful for translating simple phrases or questions on the spot.


5. Seek Assistance: If you are struggling to communicate, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Many Spanish locals and healthcare professionals are friendly and understanding, and they may be willing to assist in communicating your needs to the doctor.


6. Non-Verbal Communication: In some cases, non-verbal communication can be helpful. This includes gestures, facial expressions, and pointing to the affected area of your body to convey your symptoms or concerns.


7. Bring a Bilingual Companion: If possible, bring a friend or family member who is fluent in both English and Spanish. They can act as a translator, ensuring that there is clear communication between you and the doctor.


Remember, effective communication is essential for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Take your time, be patient, and don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if something is unclear. The goal is to ensure that both you and the doctor understand each other to provide the best healthcare experience possible.


Payment and Insurance Coverage

Understanding the payment process and insurance coverage is crucial when seeking medical care in Spain. Here’s what you need to know:


1. Public Healthcare System: If you are eligible for free or subsidized healthcare in Spain due to a reciprocal healthcare agreement between your country and Spain, you may not have to pay for medical services. However, it’s important to confirm your eligibility beforehand and bring the necessary documentation.


2. Private Healthcare System: If you seek medical care from private doctors or medical centers, you will likely have to pay for the services rendered. Private healthcare services are typically more expensive than those in the public sector. It’s important to clarify the payment terms and fees with the healthcare provider before the appointment.


3. Travel Insurance: Having travel insurance that includes medical coverage is highly recommended. Before your trip, review your insurance policy to understand the coverage limits and any exclusions. Familiarize yourself with the procedure for submitting insurance claims, including obtaining necessary documentation from the doctor’s office.


4. Co-Payments and Deductibles: Some insurance policies may require co-payments or deductibles, which are out-of-pocket expenses that you must pay before the insurance coverage kicks in. Make sure to understand these terms, as they can affect your overall expenses.


5. Direct Billing: In certain cases, doctors or medical centers may offer direct billing services with travel insurance providers. This means that they will bill the insurance company directly, eliminating the need for you to pay upfront and submit claims afterward. Check with the doctor’s office to see if this option is available.


6. Retain All Receipts: Keep a record of all receipts, invoices, and medical reports related to your consultations and treatments. This documentation is essential for insurance claims and reimbursement, if applicable.


7. Prescription Medication: If you are prescribed medication, ask the doctor to provide you with a written prescription. Check if your travel insurance covers the cost of prescription medications, and inquire about any specific procedures for obtaining them at a pharmacy.


It’s important to note that payment and insurance coverage can vary depending on your specific insurance policy and the healthcare provider you visit. Before seeking medical care in Spain, contact your insurance provider and the doctor’s office to understand the payment process and ensure that you are adequately covered.


By being knowledgeable about payment procedures and insurance coverage, you can navigate the healthcare system more confidently and avoid any unexpected financial burdens during your stay in Spain.


Prescription Medication

If you require prescription medication during your visit to Spain, here are some important points to keep in mind:


1. Carry Sufficient Supply: Before traveling to Spain, make sure you have an adequate supply of your prescription medication. It’s recommended to bring more than what you expect to use in case of any unforeseen delays or emergencies.


2. Bring a Written Prescription: It’s advisable to carry a written prescription for your medication from your home country. This can help facilitate the process of obtaining a refill or equivalent medication in Spain, especially if you need to see a doctor here.


3. Find a Pharmacy: Pharmacies in Spain are called “farmacias” and are recognizable by a green cross sign. Look for a nearby pharmacy and present your prescription to the pharmacist. They will provide you with the necessary medication or offer suitable alternatives if your specific brand is not available.


4. Obtain a Local Prescription: If you run out of medication or need a refill during your stay in Spain, you may need to consult a local doctor to obtain a new prescription. Bring your medical records, prescription information, and any supporting documents to assist the doctor in understanding your medical condition and needs.


5. Insurance Coverage: Check with your travel insurance provider to understand if prescription medications are covered. Some policies may reimburse the cost of necessary medications, while others may require the upfront payment, which can later be claimed for reimbursement.


6. Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications: Basic over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers, cold and flu remedies, and common first aid supplies, can be purchased at a pharmacy without a prescription. However, it’s important to consult a pharmacist or read labels to ensure the suitability and proper usage of these OTC medications.


7. Medication Restrictions: Keep in mind that Spain, like many countries, may have restrictions on certain medications. It’s important to research and be aware of any specific regulations or limitations before traveling. This includes medication that may be legal in your home country but may be controlled or restricted in Spain.


8. Declare Medication at Customs: If you are carrying prescription medication when entering or leaving Spain, be sure to declare it at customs. This is especially important if you are carrying large quantities or medications that are subject to regulations or restrictions.


Remember, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional for specific guidance regarding your medications and to ensure your safety and compliance with local laws and regulations.


By following these guidelines and taking necessary precautions, you can ensure access to the prescription medication you need while visiting Spain.


Emergencies and Hospital Care

In the event of a medical emergency during your visit to Spain, it’s important to know how to access immediate care and navigate the hospital system. Here are some key points to keep in mind:


1. Emergency Services: In case of a life-threatening emergency, dial the emergency services number in Spain, which is 112. This number can be used for medical emergencies, as well as for reporting accidents, fires, or other emergencies.


2. Hospital Emergency Departments: If you require immediate medical attention but it is not a life-threatening emergency, you can visit the emergency department of a hospital. Spanish hospitals have well-equipped emergency departments that operate 24/7 and provide specialized care in case of urgent medical needs.


3. Ambulance Services: If you are unable to get to the hospital yourself or require medical assistance at the scene, you can call for an ambulance. Dial 112 and explain the situation to the operator. They will dispatch an ambulance to your location to transport you to the nearest hospital.


4. Travel Insurance Coverage: It’s important to ensure that your travel insurance provides coverage for emergency medical services and hospital care. Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your policy, including any limitations or exclusions for emergencies.


5. Hospital Registration: When you arrive at the hospital, whether by ambulance or on your own, you will need to register at the reception desk. Provide your identification, insurance information (if applicable), and any other necessary documents. This will start the process of receiving medical care.


6. Language Assistance: In emergency situations, language barriers can be especially challenging. Hospitals in popular tourist areas often have staff or interpreters who can assist with translation. If necessary, you can also ask a bilingual friend or use a translation app to help communicate your needs and medical history.


7. Follow-up Care: After receiving emergency care, the hospital may provide you with instructions for follow-up care or referrals to specialists if needed. It’s important to follow these instructions and seek any necessary follow-up appointments or treatments to ensure your continued well-being.


8. Keep Documentation: Make sure to keep a record of all medical documents, reports, and receipts related to your emergency care. These documents are important for insurance claims and reimbursement, if applicable.


In case of a medical emergency, it’s crucial to act swiftly and seek the appropriate medical care. By being aware of the emergency services available in Spain and understanding how to navigate the hospital system, you can ensure prompt and effective care during challenging situations.



Traveling to Spain as a tourist can be an exciting and enriching experience, and knowing how to navigate the healthcare system is essential for your well-being and peace of mind. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can confidently seek medical care and manage any unexpected health issues that may arise during your visit.


Understanding the Spanish healthcare system, the importance of travel insurance, and finding a doctor are key aspects of ensuring quality care. Making appointments, visiting the doctor’s office, and communicating effectively, especially in the face of language barriers, are crucial for a positive healthcare experience.


Being familiar with payment and insurance coverage and knowing how to access prescription medications and handle emergencies are vital components of your healthcare journey in Spain.


Remember, preparation is key. Research healthcare options, have a comprehensive travel insurance plan in place, and carry necessary documentation. Keep track of your medical records, prescriptions, and receipts as you navigate the healthcare system.


Whether you enjoy the stunning beaches of Costa del Sol, immerse yourself in the rich history of Barcelona, or explore the vibrant city life of Madrid, you can rest assured that the Spanish healthcare system is well-equipped to address your healthcare needs as a tourist.


By arming yourself with knowledge and being proactive in seeking appropriate healthcare, you can fully enjoy your time in Spain and have peace of mind knowing that you are prepared for any healthcare situation that may arise during your visit.