International health guides - Spain
If you're planning on moving to Spain, you're probably busy making plans for getting your job situation sorted out and arranging accommodation. But it's also important to consider how you'll stay safe and well. Make sure you understand what medical treatment you are already covered for in Spain. Medical insurance is something that should be given serious thought if you plan to live in another country, otherwise you could end up with substantial medical bills to pay should you fall ill. Aetna International can help arrange full health insurance plans suited to your individual needs, so that you and your family get the best quality treatment, no matter how far you are away from home.
There are no necessary vaccinations for travel to Spain, but all travelers should make sure that their tetanus/diphtheria and polio inoculations are up-to-date.
In Spain, health care is provided by el Sistema Nacional de Salud (the Spanish National Healthcare Service) which has an extensive network of primary care centers numbering some 800 hospitals and 2,700 medical centers throughout the country. However, as the country is split into different regions, availability of services does vary, which means you could need to travel to a different area for specialist treatment if the facilities are not available locally.
Doctors in Spain are as highly qualified as in any other EU country, sometimes more so. Many doctors and nurses speak English, particularly in tourist resort areas like the Costa Del Sol, the Canary and Balearic Islands. In main urban centers it's usually also possible to find an interpreter to help with communication if you request one in advance.
To be eligible for the state healthcare in Spain you need to contribute to the Spanish Social Security system. This involves working for a Spanish company or be registered as self employed in Spain and getting a Spanish Social Security number. The Spanish healthcare system does suffer with waiting lists for certain types of treatment, so many local people also buy private health insurance. Spain's private healthcare system is high quality and around a third of Spanish hospitals are independent.
Spain is a peaceful democratic country and there are few major political concerns or problems that tourists or expatriates are likely to encounter. There have been isolated bomb attacks by the Basque separatist group ETA in tourist areas in the last decade leaving a handful of people dead, but the risk to expatriates and tourists from their activities is minimal. The group has also recently announced a total ceasefire. Large-scale demonstrations occur occasionally in big cities and should be avoided, although the risk of serious violence is minimal.
Spain is by and large a safe and trouble-free destination for foreigners. Spanish roads however are some of Europe's most dangerous. Drink-driving and a lax attitude to road rules in general mean that average fatally numbers on the roads here are the second highest in Europe. Be extra vigilant while driving in Spain, and when crossing the roads in major cities such as Madrid, which has a particularly bad traffic problem.
Theft from parked cars in larger cities is also sometimes an issue, so be sure to leave no valuables on show and park in secure car parks rather than on the street. There are reports of various confidence tricks being played on tourists in major holiday destinations. Be wary of lottery ticket and timeshare scams, being operated in holiday resort areas, particularly the Canary Islands and the Costa del Sol.