If you decide to up sticks and move to Spain permanently or even come here for your holidays, at one point or another you will need to pay a visit to your local Spanish pharmacy or chemist.
The chemists in Spain are referred to as “Farmacias” plural or “Farmacia” singular. Even in the smallest of Spanish towns, you can find more than one. In larger towns and cities they can be found on virtually every street corner and are easily recognised with their large green neon crosses. Most pharmacies are part of a chain although there are some smaller independent pharmacies in most of the Spanish regions.
In Spain nearly all medicines have to be purchased at a Farmacia. Unlike in some other countries, you cannot purchase medicines in supermarkets and corner shops. Even everyday medications such as paracetamol have to be purchased via a Farmacia. Although this may seem like a bit of a bind at first, you soon get used to it and will find that the local pharmacists (Farmacéuticos) are generally very friendly and helpful.
The Spanish pharmacy is not only a place to pick up your prescriptions (Recetas) though, in many towns they act as a social hub where the locals come to gossip, socialise and share their health woes with the pharmacists, other members of staff and the local community.
Another important thing to note about the Spanish farmacias is that many people use them instead of going to the local doctor or GP. This is not only because the pharmacists are able to offer professional medical advice (minor ailments), but also because many medicines are available to buy over the counter without a prescription. Antibiotics such as amoxicillin are not available to buy over the counter. You will need to show a prescription if you require these.
So if you have a minor ailment, don’t worry about making an appointment with your doctor, just pop down to your local farmacia first. Pharmacists in Spain are generally very well trained and will save you making an appointment with your GP.
When are Spanish Pharmacy Opening Times?
Most Farmacias are open between the hours of 9:30 am until 2 pm and then open again from around 5 pm to 9:30 pm from Monday to Friday. At weekends they are open from 9:30 am until 2 pm on a Saturday. Most towns, will have at least a couple of farmacias with each one taking it in turns to open out of hours. In some regions you will find a number of farmacias that are open 24 hours (Farmacia de Guardia) so that you can obtain important medications in an emergency.
If you find that your nearest farmacia is closed, you will usually find a list on the door or window notifying you of an alternative within your town that will be available.
Getting and Paying for your Prescriptions at the Farmacia
As in the UK and other countries, if your doctor does give you a prescription (Receta), simply take this to your nearest farmacia. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may need to pay a certain amount towards your prescription. This will depend on things such as whether you are a pensioner or have a certain level of income.
Pensioners will pay around 10% of the full prescription costs, with non-pensioners paying up to 60%.
Please see our Spanish co-payments prescription charges page for current rates and discounts
Do Spanish Pharmacists Speak English?
This will all depend on where you are living/staying. As a rule of thumb, if you are staying in a tourist area, many of the pharmacists will be able to speak with you in English. This may not be the case though in other parts of the country, especially inland where English is not so widely spoken. If you will need to acquire certain medications on a regular basis, make sure that you practice those key Spanish phrases before visiting the farmacia so you will feel confident and get exactly the medication you need and not something else.
Free Health Check-Ups
In many pharmacies you can get certain health checks and treatments done for free including your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and heart.
Finding your Local Farmacia via the Internet
If you are moving to a new area and are unsure of where the nearest farmacia is, use the link below where you can search for a farmacia near you, both daytime pharmacies as well as 24 hour pharmacies anywhere in Spain.
Some Common Spanish Phrases When Visiting the Farmacia
I think I've eaten something that was off
Creo que he comido algo en mal estado
Have you got anything for it?
Tiene algún remedio?
I have a headache
Me duele la cabeza
I have a pain in the stomach/stomach ache
Yo tengo dolor de estómago
What are the symptoms?
Cuáles son los síntomas?
My son has a pain in...
Mi hijo tiene un dolor en...
My daughter has a pain in...
Mi hija tiene un dolor en...
How much is it?
Cuanto cuesta? or Cuanto es?
I have a prescription
Yo tengo una receta
Where is the out of hours pharmacy (24 hours)?
Dónde está la farmacia de guardia?
I don’t feel good
Me encuentro mal
I feel ill
When can I collect my medicine?
Cuando puedo recoger mi medicamento?
This is just a small selection. Take a look at the page below from the Guardian which provides you with further phrases and translations.
Pharmacy Cover with Health Plan Spain
There’s no doubt about it; prescription costs can mount up over the course of a year, especially if you have young children. If you are concerned about the cost of paying out for regular prescriptions, take a look at our pharmacy option which allows you to claim back 50% on all of your prescribed drugs and medicines up to a maximum of €200.
So for example, if your annual prescription costs were €400, you would receive reimbursement of €200 for the year. This additional cover can only be added on contraction or renewal of the health insurance plan you contract. Further information can be found here.
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Image courtesy of Wikimedia.
Please check out our current range of expat private health insurance products all of which are in English and underwritten by Bupa.