Skip to main content

Health and health care in Brazil

Brazil provides free, universal access to medical care to anyone legally living in the country.

However, this means that waiting times can be long at public hospitals, especially those in more rural areas where facilities are oversubscribed. There are more than 6,500 hospitals in Brazil, with about 55% of health care privately funded in 2017. If you’re moving with your existing employer, they may offer you private international health insurance.

In major cities, provision of general practitioner (GP) and hospital care is good, but this may not be the case in more rural areas. To combat this, a government program, Mais Médicos (More Doctors), began in 2013 to encourage doctors from abroad to work in rural regions. In the first three years this system had filled 18,240 vacancies.

Brazil runs a unified health system (Sistema Único de Saúde) known as SUS. To access public, private or supplemental healthcare, an SUS card is required so that medical records can be co-ordinated between services. These have been rebranded as National Health Identification Cards but are still commonly known as SUS cards. You can obtain an SUS card from any hospital, clinic or health centre by presenting an identity card, proof of residence and a tax payer’s number. These cards should be kept with you at all times along with international health insurance documents. Learn more about the documentation you need as an expat in Brazil. 

Doctors and prescriptions

Pharmacies in Brazil are well supplied, and drugs are inexpensive due to government subsidies. Many medications that require prescriptions in other countries can be bought over the counter. Those that do require a prescription can be identified by a red stripe on the packaging. Pharmacists are also allowed to offer a diagnosis and administer vaccinations.

If you travel to Brazil with medication, you should bring it in its original containers with a signed letter outlining their medical conditions and details of the prescribed medications.

You should be aware that not all local doctors speak English. So, if you are not comfortable talking in Portuguese, take a phrasebook to the surgery or ask a friend to accompany you.


While it is not required, yellow fever vaccinations are recommended for those travelling in all rural and jungle regions, including Brasilia. All travellers must be immunised against tetanus, Hepatitis A and typhoid and, if you’re planning to visit or relocate to a rural area, you should also have the following vaccinations:

  • hepatitis B
  • rabies
  • diphtheria
  • meningitis
  • tuberculosis

In urban spaces, precautions should be taken against malaria, dengue fever and Zika, all of which are transmitted by mosquitoes. Expats should take additional precautions to avoid being bitten when visiting tropical regions, especially during rainy seasons.

Emergency care

A free ambulance service is available nationwide and, in a medical emergency, can be reached on 192. The following numbers are also essential to memorise:

  • 194 - federal police
  • 190 - military police
  • 193 - fire service

Large private hospitals may also provide their own ambulance services, which can be contacted directly. In major cities these include:

  • Albert Einstein Hospital (São Paulo)
  • Samaritan Hospital (São Paulo)
  • Copacabana (Rio)
  • Vida Ambulance (Brasilia)

Find out how you can maintain your well-being while living in Brazil.

Aetna® is a trademark of Aetna Inc. and is protected throughout the world by trademark registrations and treaties.

We use cookies to give you the best possible online experience. See our cookie policy for more information on how we use cookies and how you can manage them. If you continue to use this website, you are consenting to our policy and for your web browser to receive cookies from our website.