Spanish pharmacies, orfarmacia, are an integral part of life in Spain. More than simply dispensers of prescription drugs, pharmacies in Spain offer a wide range of vital services that make them on of the most important features of every Spanish high street. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the biggest city or the smallest village, the local pharmacy should always be easy to find!
Whether you’re living in Spain or just visiting for a holiday, if you find that you need to visit a pharmacy, either for advice or for medication, then this handy guide will outline everything you need to know:
What You Can Buy in A Spanish Pharmacy
Unlike in other EU countries (including the UK) you cannot buy simple medications from the supermarket or corner shop in Spain. Simple painkillers, like paracetamol and ibuprofen can only be purchased from the pharmacy, which goes some way to explain why they’re so integral to day-to-day Spanish living. Whilst this may seem odd or inconvenient if it’s a system you’ve never used before, you’ll quickly find that having the advice and support of a knowledgeable and friendly pharmacist is an asset, rather than a chore.
There are also medications that you may be able to buy over the counter in the UK that you would need a prescription for in Spain. New legislation introduced in 2015 means that medications such as high dose Ibuprofen (600mg), Omeprazole, certain cough mixtures and antihistamines have to be prescribed by a medical professional.
A Spanish pharmacist is more than just a place to buy plasters and painkillers though. The local Farmacia also acts as a social hub, where members of the community will not only talk about their medical woes but also share local news and gossip. If you’ve recently moved to a new town in Spain then it’s a great place to introduce yourself and get to know key figures in your community.
If you have a minor ailment when you are in Spain, rather than make a doctors appointment, it is common practice to visit your pharmacist first. They are able to help with a wide range of problems and offer over the counter treatment, and can refer you to your doctor if they’re not able to help.
When Can You Visit Your Pharmacy?
Unlike supermarkets or convenience stores, pharmacies in Spain offer fairly standardised opening hours. The majority of pharmacies offer two sessions, opening between 9.30am and 2pm in the morning and then reopening again from 5pm to 9.30pm on Mondays to Fridays. At weekends the hours differ, with only the morning session on Saturdays and no opening hours on Sunday (as is standard for many businesses in Spain. But don’t worry: you can usually find an open pharmacy at any hour!
Most towns will have more than one pharmacy, with each one taking it in turns to open out of hours. In some regions, you will even find that there are a number of farmacias that are open 24 hours (Farmacia de Guardia), enabling you to obtain important medications in an emergency. So if you head to your local pharmacy and it’s closed then look for the list that will be posted on the door or window. This will let you know where the nearest alternative open pharmacy is.
Visiting a Pharmacy In the Current COVID Crisis
On April 13, Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, announced that face masks would be available at all pharmacies in Spain by the end of the week to help protect citizens from the Coronavirus. If you don’t already have a face mask, or if you need a new one, then your local pharmacy is the right place to go.
As the lockdown restrictions were lifted, wearing a mask was made compulsory on Spanish public transport and in most regions, when mixing with others both indoors and outdoors. This includes inside your local pharmacy, so we recommend that you always carry your face mask with you, and if you don’t already need to wear it when you are outdoors, put it on as soon as you enter the pharmacy.
Paying for Your Medication
As in most countries, different medications have different prices, so it is impossible to say how much the medication you need will cost. If you have been given a prescription by your doctor, you will need to take this to your local pharmacy to collect it. What you pay for this will depend on your income level, and whether or not you are a pensioner. Pensioners will pay around 10% of the full prescription costs, with non-pensioners paying up to 60%.
You can also access certain healthcare services for free in your local pharmacy. These include general health checks, blood pressure, cholesterol level monitoring and heart health checks.
Some Helpful Phrases
It should not be taken as a given that all pharmacists in Spain will be able to speak English. Whilst many pharmacists in tourist areas can, in other areas of the country English is less widely spoken, and you may find that you need to learn the Spanish name of the medication you need, as well as a few convenient conversational phrases.
If you don’t speak Spanish then here are some helpful Spanish phrases to help you communicate with the pharmacist and get the help and support you need:
I think I've eaten something that was off
Creo que he comido algo en mal estado
I have a pain in the stomach/stomach ache
Yo tengo dolor de estómago
I have a headache
Me duele la cabeza
Have you got anything for it?
Tiene algún remedio?
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?
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