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.
As the Spanish farmacia is such an integral part of life in Spain, it’s important to become familiar with how they operate and the services that they provide.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about visiting a pharmacy in Spain.
You will find out about:-
And lots more.
Let’s take a look!
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.
Paracetamol and Ibuprofen In Spain
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, ibuprofen and codeine 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.
New legislation introduced in 2015 meant that certain medications in higher doses such as Ibuprofen 600mg, Omeprazole, certain cough mixtures and antihistamines had to be prescribed by a medical professional.
Smaller quantities of painkillers such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen can still be purchased over the counter if approved by the pharmacist.
Due to EU regulation, a new medicine verification system was introduced in 2019 which is used to identify, verify and register the distribution of Spanish pharmacy products in Spain. Further info can be found at the link below from the CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau In Spain)
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 from making an appointment with your GP.
Can you buy Calpol in Spain?
Many parents with young children either moving to Spain or visiting the country often want to know if they can purchase infant suspension such as Calpol.
Unfortunately, Calpol which contains a mild dose of analgesic specifically for treating pain or fever in young children isn't available in Spain.
However, you will be pleased to know that there are a number of Spanish equivalents to Calpol which are just as popular here.
They are Dalsy which is an ibuprofen-based infant suspension and Apiretal which contains paracetamol.
Both are available from your local Spanish pharmacy.
If you are unsure, please ask the pharmacist about which may be best for your child.
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 several 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 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 regularly, 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 monitoring and heart health checks.
Do you need to wear a face mask in Spanish pharmacies?
As of April 20, 2022, it is no longer mandatory to wear a face mask indoors or outdoors in Spain. However, despite the number of Covid cases falling, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
For example, you must still wear one when visiting your local pharmacy, a healthcare centre or a hospital. You must also wear one when travelling by plane, boat, train and any other form of public transport.
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.
Online Pharmacies In Spain
You may be wondering whether you can purchase non-prescription drugs and medicines online in Spain and other parts of the EU and the answer is yes you can.
However, it is important that you make sure the online pharmacy website is regulated and registered with the competent authorities. In Spain's case, this is the Ministry of Health or Ministerio de Sanidad.
Below you will find an official page which lists the authorised online pharmacies for each of the Spanish regions.
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 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 a reimbursement of €200 for the year. Further information can be found here.
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Image courtesy of Wikimedia.
Private Health Insurance in Spain for Expats
Please check out our current range of expat private health insurance products all of which are in English and underwritten by Bupa.
All of our policies satisfy the requirements when applying for a Spanish residency visa.
Updated: February 22, 2021 CET
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December 02, 2022