Healthcare and Travel
Spanish Healthcare and Travel
It’s no secret the Costa Blanca is attractive to expats and second homeowners thanks to its fantastic lifestyle, culture and scenery. But it wouldn’t be such a popular destination without two other very important offerings namely, access to quality healthcare and excellent transport links, both locally and with the rest of Europe. Let’s take a closer look at these two things.
Did you know that Spain spends a greater proportion of GDP on healthcare than the UK and also has more practicing doctors? Perhaps this is part of the reason Spaniards have a greater life expectancy than Britons.
As a new resident on the Costa Blanca, you will be entitled to free Spanish state healthcare, generally regarded as better than the UK’s NHS, if you register with Spanish social security, which means you must be contributing financially to the system i.e. in employment. To do this you will need to submit a Spanish Tax Return (even if you do not qualify to pay any tax!).
Expats of retirement age needn’t worry though, as British pensioners moving to Spain will receive the same level of free healthcare as any Spanish national, and to do this they simply need to register an S1 (E121) form. If you move to Spain before you reach retirement age and don’t work, it may be you need to take out healthcare insurance, typically cheaper than the equivalent in the UK, to cover your medical bills. However, rest assured, whichever option applies to you, the standard of medical care you will receive on the Costa Blanca will be very high.
On the Costa Blanca, each resort or village has its own medical centre, where you can book appointments with a doctor, likely to be English speaking in areas popular with expats. For emergencies or operations, rest assured there are ample hospitals and clinics, both private and public, up and down the Costa Blanca.
Another bonus of the Spanish healthcare system is that pharmacists do more than just provide prescriptions, which are typically much cheaper than in the UK. They are highly qualified and it’s normal for a pharmacist to give advice about minor conditions that you might otherwise have visited a doctor for in the UK. They will happily check your blood pressure on request and provide certain medications, including antibiotics, on their own diagnosis and without a prescription. Pharmacies in popular resorts on the Costa Blanca will usually have an English speaking member of staff and there should always be a 24 hour pharmacy open near you.
Access and Transport
The Costa Blanca is one of the most accessible places in Spain, with Alicante airport being the main gateway to the region with numerous flights from all over Europe. The northern Costa Blanca can also be reached via flights to Valencia and the southern Costa Blanca via flights to Murcia. As a guide to transfer times, Torrevieja is around 50 minutes by road from Alicante airport and costs just short of 7 Euros per person by bus or around 55 Euros for a taxi (65 Euros on a Sunday). Each airport is served by a variety of airlines from the UK, including one or more of the following: EasyJet, Ryanair, British Airways, Monarch, Flybe, Thomson and FlyThomasCook.
Once you arrive on the Costa Blanca, not having your own car shouldn’t be a problem if you are based in a resort. There are shuttle services or taxis that will take you from airports to most popular areas, while bus services operate between all towns and villages, with Alicante being the transport hub for the region.
As well as taxis, local bus services also operate in many resorts, stopping regularly in residential areas, and offering a convenient and cheap way to get to local amenities, beaches and attractions. This is a popular way of getting around on the Orihuela Costa, around resorts such as Torrevieja, Cabo Roig, Villamartin, Playa Flamenca and La Zenia, where the bus takes you to the new shopping centre. Fares should be no more than a couple of Euros. Timetables are available from tourist information offices.
For a more relaxed way to travel in the northern Costa Blanca, there is a narrow gauge railway running north from Alicante as far as Denia, stopping at Villajoyosa, Benidorm, Altea and Calpe, amongst others places, along the way.
Good luck, and remember, at A Castle in the Sun, we’re here to help you not only find and buy your ideal property on the Costa Blanca but also to settle into your new life here.