Sorting out healthcare is a priority for most expats who move to Spain, but eyecare is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of it.
It’s a good idea to enrol in a fully comprehensive health insurance plan that encompass eye care, as it can give you peace of mind (and clear sight!). Knowing how to find an eye doctor in Spain is also particularly useful if you currently wear glasses, contact lenses or have ocular problems that require treatment. But it also comes in handy if you’re settling in Spain and anticipate needing to see an optician or eye doctor at some point in the future.
Globality Health helps you navigate all aspects of eye care in Spain, from buying glasses to finding an ophthalmologist.
Globality Health is an international health insurance provider with expertise in providing exceptional cover for expats. More than 3,000 experts are on hand around the world to offer individual advice, solutions and services.
Finding an English-speaking eye doctor in Spain
The English-speaking abilities of eye care professionals in Spain often depends upon the town or region you live in. Where there are a lot of expats, the greater the chance is of finding an optician or eye doctor who speaks English. However, there are one or two Specsavers, a British optician franchise, in Spain which always have English-speaking staff on hand in the store.
Going to an optician in Spain
You can find optical retailers in practically every town centre in Spain. If you can’t find one, try typing the phrase “ópticas en España” into an online search engine to find opticians in your area. All Spanish optical retailers offer free eye exams to customers; bear in mind there’s an expectation that you’ll buy your glasses or contact lenses from them afterwards.
You can just walk in off the street to have an eye exam; it won’t usually be required to make an appointment in advance.
Eye tests are basically the same the world-over – you read out the numbers, letters and colours from the charts they show you. But before you begin, make it clear to the optician whether you’ll read the eye charts using Spanish or English pronunciations so there’ll be no confusion over your ability to read the charts. Even if your optician only speaks Spanish, they’ll usually be familiar enough with English-speaking customers to know if you’re getting it right or not.
However, if you feel more confident with an English-speaking optician or are unsure about being able to get through the eye test in Spanish, try checking out a British optical retailer with a franchise in Spain, as they always have at least one member of English-speaking staff on site.
Eye specialists in Spain
If you’re registered to work in Spain, you’re entitled to some eye treatment via the state-run healthcare system. But if you’re not working, retired, or are currently under the three-month NIE (temporary resident status), you’ll need to go to your local INSS office to register for free state-run healthcare.
If the type of eye test you need is more complex than what an optical retailer can provide or you need treatment for an eye condition, the first step is to go to a Spanish GP to get a referral to an ophthalmologist or optometrist. This could be for things such as a cataract tests, prescription drugs or eye surgery.
The consultation with a state-run healthcare GP is free if you’re registered for Spanish healthcare, but how much you’ll pay (and how long you will wait) for any necessary drugs or surgery will depend upon many factors, including if you have a private health insurance plan.
After being referred to an eye specialist in Spain via the state-run healthcare system, you’ll subsequently be given an annual check-up for free.
You can also book an appointment with a GP at a private clinic using your private health insurance. Not all eye clinics in Spain accept private insurance, so always check before booking any appointments or procedures. You also may need to pay everything upfront then apply for a reimbursement. If you’re unsure about the process, call your health insurance company and they’ll explain.
Private insurance for eye care in Spain
If you want to take out private insurance to cover eye care in Spain, these companies offer expat-friendly packages that include eye care:
Prescriptions for glasses and contacts
When you get a free eye test at an optician’s in Spain the prescription is free, too. Some optical stores won’t allow you to take the prescription away with you just in case you attempt to use it to buy glasses or contact lenses from a competitor (or online).
If you don’t need a new prescription, Spanish opticians will accept your current prescription from your home country. And if you don’t have it with you, they can use a special tool that enables them to read your measurements from your current glasses. A prescription from a doctor isn’t required to buy contact lenses and glasses — you can buy them without one.
Buying glasses and contact lenses in Spain
Expect to wait for between two days and two weeks for your glasses to be ready – some stores are quicker than others. The staff will be able to give you an estimate of how long it should take.
The price of frames at an optical retailer can vary from €49 for basic frames up to €200 for name-brand designer frames. If designer frames are your thing, you’re in luck! You can often find designer frames in Spain for half the cost you would pay in Britain or the U.S. Varifocals and progressives are often also cheaper in Spain than elsewhere.
Some supermarkets and smaller retailers such as Tiger also sell budget non-prescription reading glasses also known as ‘ready readers’ from as little as €4.
The average price is around €80 for a six-month supply of daily contact lenses from a Spanish optician.
As you would expect, Spanish optical retailers sell a range of contact lenses, but if you need special lenses they may be harder to track down. Luckily, if they don’t have what you need you can probably order them online through a Spanish eyecare company. Many companies will deliver contact lenses direct to your home in Spain within just two working days.
Contact lens solution is available from Spanish pharmacies but it’s often cheaper in the larger supermarkets.
Now you’re in the know, eye care in Spain should be as easy as A-B-C. Or should that be E-F-P-T-O-Z-L-P-T…