Everything You Need To Know About Visiting An Optician And Caring For Your Vision In Spain

When you move to Spain, one of the first things you are likely to do is register with a doctor. Organising a good level of healthcare coverage is one of the main requirements of most visas for ex pats living in Spain, and so it’s something at the forefront of their minds.

But what many expats forget to do is register with an optician or eye doctor. Our optical health is just as important as other aspects of our physical health, but it’s one we’re most likely to put off.

The good news is that many fully comprehensive health insurance plans in Spain will also cover eye care. But how do you visit an optician or care for your vision in the country? Here’s everything you need to know:

Can I See An English-Speaking Optician In Spain?

If you’re living in a larger city or in an area with a large ex-pat community then you’re more likely to find an English-speaking healthcare provider. The best way to find an English-speaking optician is to seek recommendations from other expats.

There are also one or two international chains in Spain that have English-speaking staff on hand in the store, so shop around and consider visiting larger stores with recognised names.

Visiting An Optician In Spain

The good news is that visiting an optician in Spain is easy. You’ll find them in every town and city centre, just as you do in the UK. You also don’t have to pay for your eye test in Spain as all Spanish optical retailers offer free eye exams to customers. But you should note that there’s an expectation that you’ll buy your glasses or contact lenses from them afterwards.

No need to make an appointment either. Just walk in off the street and you can have your eye exam on the same day.

Is The Eye Test Different In Spain?

More good news, because eye tests work in exactly the same way no matter where you are in the world! The optician will show you a series of charts, and you just need to tell them what letters, numbers, or colours you can see.

The only difference to be aware of when taking an eye test in Spain is that you should let your optician know if you will be using English pronunciation of the letters on the exam chart. This will avoid any unnecessary confusion. Even a Spanish-speaking eye doctor should be familiar with the alphabet in both languages.

Understanding The Spanish Eye Care System

Eye care in Spain is free for some people but not for others. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re not working, retired, or are currently under the three-month NIE (temporary resident status), then you're unlikely to be automatically eligible for free state-run health care in Spain. And that included eye care.

Your Highstreet optician will still provide you with an eye test for free. But if you need a treatment more complex than they can provide then you’ll need to see 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. To do this you’ll need to have health insurance via a private health insurance plan unless you’re registered with the Spanish state-run healthcare system.

Can I Get Health Insurance For My Eye Care In Spain?

If your existing medical insurance doesn’t cover eye care, or if you’re entitled to free health care in Spain but want to take out private insurance for your eyecare then you should look for an expat friendly insurance company.

Some great options include Allianz Care and Cigna Global.

How Much Will I Pay For My Prescription In Spain?

As we already mentioned briefly above, there is no charge to get an eye test in Spain. The prescription that you receive is free. However, some opticians won’t let you leave the store with your prescription. This is a bid to prevent you from using that prescription to buy glasses or contact lenses from elsewhere. This could be with another optician or an online store. So it’s worth checking that the opticians you choose for your eye test has glasses you like, and prices you are happy with, before you sit down and take the test.

If you’ve had your eyes tested in the last 12 months and don’t need a new prescription then Spanish opticians will accept your current prescription from your home country. A prescription from a doctor isn’t required to buy contact lenses and glasses  in Spain — you can buy them without one.

How Much Does It Cost To Buy Glasses And Contact Lenses In Spain?

Once you’ve had your eyes tested and ordered your glasses or contact lenses you can expect them to be ready for you to go and collect in around 2 weeks. But how much should you be expecting to fork out?

Of course, this depends on what you’re looking for. You can expect to pay from €49 for basic frames up to €200 for designer frames. If you’re thinking that sounds cheap for designer glasses then you’re right! Designer frames in Spain cost around half of what you would pay for the same thing in Britain or the U.S.

Varifocals and progressive lenses are often also cheaper in Spain than elsewhere. If you prefer to wear contact lenses then expect to pay around €80 for a six-month supply of daily contact lenses from a Spanish optician.

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