If you’re going to be an international student in Portugal, then you want to make sure you are prepared for anything that may happen. Want to know what the best health insurance options are to help you stay safe? Then take a look at the article below for all you need to know!
Health insurance is one detail that many students don’t care much about dealing with. But the reality is that health insurance is essential to guarantee a safe and relaxed stay in another country. Plus, you’ll probably need to prove you have medical coverage to enroll in your course anyway!
With this in mind, I’ll list out the best options for student insurance in Portugal below, alongside info on the types of student visas available, the types of courses available, and the Portuguese health system.
Let’s get to it!
Do I really need health insurance as an international student in Portugal?
Yes, you do! If you aren’t an EU citizen and you plan to stay more than 90 days in the country, Portuguese schools will require you to prove medical coverage (AKA insurance) to enroll.
Plus, under Portuguese law, all non-European students staying more than 90 days will need to apply for a visa. And to qualify for your visa, you’ll need to show proof of health insurance coverage. Even if you can use the public system, private coverage is still required.
Your private plan will need to have a minimum of 30,000 euros in coverage to be accepted.
Beyond this, having some type of health coverage when you’re overseas is also important to protect you in case you need any kind of medical care in your new country.
How does the Portuguese health system work?
Portugal is a country with an excellent public health system, called the SNS (Sistema Nacional de Saúde – “National Health System”). It covers everyone, foreigners included (as long as they are in the country legally). However, there is still a fee for the services you may use.
A medical consultation costs about 5 euros, and an x-ray costs about 20 euros. But if you can prove that you can’t afford these costs, you can ask the government to waive the fees.
Exact costs will vary based on the treatment or exams you seek, but most hospitals and clinics charge the same prices. Here’s a complete price list from the SNS that you can take a look at for a better idea. (Link is only in Portuguese, sorry!)
One interesting thing to know is that pregnant women or individuals with serious and/or chronic diseases can get care and treatments completely free of charge through the public system, including all exams, prenatal medical checkups, treatments, and several other services.
Anyone who has residency or lives in Portugal can register at their local health center to receive a user number, which is an SNS registration that allows full use of the public health structure.
That said, as an international student, you are still required to have your own private health plan before you arrive. And that’s just what the list of the best health insurance plans for students in Portugal below can help you with.
The 7 best and cheapest health insurance plans for international students in Portugal
As always, I recommend that you take the time to get an online quote with each of the health insurance companies listed below… It may take some extra time, but it can help you save a good chunk of cash that you can then use to better enjoy your stay in Portugal!
Ah! And to make this process a little easier for you, I also created a comparison table just below the plan descriptions showing the different health insurance plan options for students.
To learn more about the types of courses and visas that you can apply for, continue reading on beyond the list of the best international health insurance policies for students in Portugal.
IMG has a wide range of student health plans (as well as expat insurance plans in general).
They have three main student-focused insurance plans to choose from. But one of them, The Patriot Exchange Program is only available for students who are going to study in the United States. So, we’re just going to talk about the other two here.
Plan # 1: Student Health Advantage
This plan should meet all the basic health coverage requirements for your school (but it’s a good idea to check the minimum coverage required by your institution first!).
This particular plan also offers coverage for many medical services that other plans don’t, such as mental health-related treatments, maternity care, and pre-existing conditions. Coverage for COVID-19 and telemedicine is also available.
Plan # 2: Student Health Advantage Platinum
This plan is the same as the previous one but offers double the maximum coverage: $1,000,000 USD.
What I like about IMG’s International Student Insurance:
- Plans are designed just for students
- They cover students of all nationalities
- They have more than 17,000 healthcare professionals in their network worldwide
- They have customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- They cover COVID-19 and telemedicine appointments
What I don’t like about IMG’s International Student Insurance:
- Some programs have a 1-year waiting period to review coverage for pre-existing conditions
As one of the largest health insurance companies in the world, Cigna Global has plans for expats, general travelers, and international students.
There are 3 main Cigna plans you can choose from: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each of these plans will cover you not only in Portugal, but almost anywhere in the world!
So if you have plans to visit other countries during your stay in Portugal, you can choose whether you want to be covered there as well or not. Although, this may make the overall cost of your policy higher, so you may just want to get short-term travel insurance for your trip instead.
Here is a table comparing Cigna’s available plans:
Overall, Cigna’s plans are very flexible and allow you to add coverage (including dental and eye care or international evacuation and crisis assistance) as needed.
The company also offers several payment options such as annual, monthly, and quarterly.
What I like about international health insurance for Cigna Global:
- They handle reimbursement requests quickly (according to the company, 95% of reimbursement requests are received within 10 days)
- They have a list of more than 3,000 available hospitals, as well as information guides, in their online help center
- They are partnered with over 1.65 million hospitals, doctors, clinics, and specialists worldwide, so you can get medical care anywhere you may need it
- Customer service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
What I don’t like about international student health insurance from Cigna Global:
- Their most basic plan doesn’t cover prenatal and postnatal care
- They don’t cover outpatient consultations with specialists and doctors
Now Health International has established itself as a prominent figure in the international insurance industry, dedicated to satisfying clients with effective and cost-efficient insurance options.
A notable advantage of this company is its state-of-the-art customer service, which promptly provides information in a convenient manner.
All Now Health plans are meticulously tailored to address and resolve the unique obstacles faced by expatriates living in foreign countries, including international students and exchange students across the globe.
Additionally, these plans can be fully personalized to perfectly align with your specific needs and preferences.
What I like about Now Health International Student Plans:
- Clear information and 24/7 customer service
- Coverage in over 190 countries and territories
- Various international insurance options and customizable plans
- Some plans offer coverage for maternity routines
What I don’t like about Now Health International Student Plans:
- In some procedures, Now Health works with a reimbursement system
- For plans with routine maternity coverage, you must wait a 12-month waiting period to access this benefit
Foyer Global Health has an amazing variety of plans! From Basic to Premium, for short stays or long stays, as an individual or a family…no matter what you need in Portugal, they have a policy that will work for you!
All that said, their plans can be loosely grouped into 3 main categories. Here’s a quick rundown of what each of those categories includes:
- Surgeries and anesthetics, as well consultations
- Medical devices such as cardiac pacemakers and rescue measures, if needed
- Congenital diseases (up to a maximum of €100,000 per life)
- Does not cover maternity and childbirth
- Surgeries and anesthetics, as well as consultations
- Therapeutic and supportive devices (such as artificial limbs and prostheses), up to €2,000
- Congenital diseases up to a maximum of €150,000 per life
- Maternity and birth care (up to €5,000 with a 10-month waiting period)
- Surgeries and anesthetics, plus consultations
- Therapeutic devices
- Congenital diseases up to a maximum of €200,000 per life
- Maternity care, childbirth care, and in-hospital midwifery or nursing services (up to €20,000 with a 10-month waiting period)
What I like about health insurance plans for international students from Foyer Global Health:
- All plans cover consultations, surgeries, and primary dental care
- 24/7 customer service via phone and online (email) with experienced consultants, doctors, and specialists
- Evacuation and repatriation coverage available
- They offer medical support and pre-travel advice (such as information on vaccinations and the preparation of a first aid kit)
What I don’t like about health insurance plans for international students from Foyer Global Health:
- Their most basic plan doesn’t cover prenatal and postnatal care
Each of their four levels of student insurance coverage should work great for your time in Portugal! Those levels include:
- This has the lowest deductibles and the highest maximum coverage compared HCCMIS’s other plans
- There is a 6-month wait before a pre-existing condition can be covered
- Provides coverage for club/intercollegiate sports
- Offers personal liability coverage
- 6-month waiting period before a pre-existing condition can be covered
- Optional Crisis Response Benefit for rescue, natural disaster evacuation and protection of your personal belongings
- Coverage for pre-existing conditions begins 12 months after plan purchase
- Average benefits and higher deductibles (lower monthly cost than many other options)
- Lower cost (but lower overall benefits and coverage)
- Has the highest deductible of all plans
- No coverage for club sports
- Only covers a pre-existing condition in its acute onset
Below is a comparison of the four HCCStudentSecure plans discussed above (click to see the full graphic):
What I like about HCCMIS StudentSecure plans:
- They include emergency dental coverage of up to $250 maximum per tooth and $500 maximum for the certification period
- You can save money if you pay the full amount of your plan in advance
- They have some of the cheapest plans on this list
What I don’t like about HCCMIS StudentSecure plans:
- No coverage for pre-existing conditions in the Smart plan
- There is a 6-month waiting period to cover pre-existing conditions (even on the Elite plan)
- No vaccination coverage unless you choose the Elite plan
- No coverage for maternity care or nursery for newborns on the Smart plan
- Their cheaper plan have pretty high deductibles
3 international health insurance companies that can also be used by international students in Portugal
The two companies I’ll list below don’t offer health insurance specifically designed for students, but they do offer international health insurance that can, most likely, be accepted by your educational institution as proof of medical coverage.
So here’s my advice for you: get a quote from these two companies below and compare it to the other quotes you’ve had from the companies above. If you find that one of them offers better coverage at a cheaper price, check with your Portuguese school or university to see if they accept this type of policy.
Global Underwriters has a wide range of international health insurance plans for all types of travelers, including exchange and international students studying abroad.
When it comes to GU’s plans, I normally recommend the Diplomat Long Term and the Diplomat International as the best options for international students in Portugal.
What I like about international student health insurance from Global Underwriters:
- Their student plans cover medical evacuations, emergency dentistry, and repatriation of mortal remains
- The Diplomat Long Term and Diplomat International both have coverage of up to $1,000,000
- They offer coverage and assistance in case of lost luggage and travel interruptions
- Customer service available 24 hours a day, every day of the week
What I don’t like about international student health insurance from Global Underwriters:
- The Diplomat International plan doesn’t include Covid-19 coverage
- The Diplomat Long Term plan is not open to students residing in Australia or Iran, as well as the American states of New York, Maryland, or South Dakota (although this shouldn’t be an issue if you have moved to Portugal!)
- They are a little more expensive than the others on this list
GeoBlue is yet another good option if you are looking for a health insurance policy to cover you while in Portugal.
What I like about GeoBlue’s international health insurance plans:
- Their policies are highly adaptable and flexible based on your particular medical needs
- They have 24/7 customer service
- Certain plans cover extra medical costs like evacuation, preventive medical care, and maternity care.
- There is an option to add ophthalmology and dentistry coverage
- Their Xplorer plan covers extreme sports but does not have a maximum coverage limit for medical expenses, does not charge deductibles for standard services, and has no cancellation fees
What I don’t like about GeoBlue’s international health insurance plans:
- Residents of New York and Washington aren’t able to be covered by GeoBlue plans (although this may not be an issue if you move your official residence to Portugal!)
- You need to contact a broker and speak with them personally to get a quote (which complicates the process)
Aetna is a company with a great reputation in the field of health insurance. Aetna’s biggest advantage is the flexibility of their many plans as you can customize based on exactly what you need. They are also known for their excellent customer service.
What I like about Aetna’s international health insurance plans:
- They have over 50 years of experience in the health insurance industry
- They offer flexible plans with many ways to customize
- Their customer service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Their plans cover emergency evacuations, cancer treatments, repatriation, and hospitalization
- They’ve won awards like as “Health Insurer of the Year” and “Best International Private Health Insurance Provider”
- They have an online platform that encourages healthier habits with a points and rewards system
What I don’t like about Aetna’s international health insurance plans:
- Their website is a little unclear about the exact coverage of some of their policies
- They don’t offer any type of travel insurance plan
Table comparison of the 7 best health insurance plans for international/exchange students in Portugal
|Medical Maximum||Unlimited (for the Platinum plan)||$5,000,000||There are no limits independent of the plan||US$1,000,000 per year||$1,000,000|
|Mental Health Benefit||Unspecified||Unlimited for up to 90 days||Included in all plans with a 10-month waiting period||Outpatient: $50 per day max up to $500 in total||Yes|
|Inpatient Prescription Drugs||80% coverage out-of-network, 100% in the USA and internationally||Unspecified||Coverage available||Name-brand drugs: 50% coinsurance
Generic drugs: 100% coinsurance
Special drugs: no coverage
|Outpatient Prescription Drugs||50% of actual costs, 90 days maximum per dispensation||Unspecified||Unspecified||coinsurance
Generic drugs: 100% coinsurance
Special drugs: no coverage
|Mental Health Benefit||Inpatient and Outpatient: $5,000 lifetime maximum to paid in full depending on the plan||Inpatient and Outpatient: $50,000 lifetime maximum||None||Inpatient and Outpatient: limit not specified||Inpatient, outpatient, and therapy: limit not specific|
|Outpatient Prescription Drugs||None, unless you buy the International Outpatient Option||Up to $8,000,000||Full reimbursement||Yes||Yes|
|Repatriation of Remains||$25,000 maximum or $5,000 for cremation||Optional||Optional||$50,000 maximum or $5,000 for cremation||$13,500 maximum|
|Hospital room coverage||Offered up to the average semi-private room rate||Private room||Private Room||Usual||Usual|
|Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD & D)||Principal sum of $25,000 that is not subject to deduction||$25,000 for main policy holder, $10,000 for spouse on the plan, $5,000 for child on the plan
Total limit of $250,000
|Optional||$25,000 for main policy holder, $10,000 for spouse on the plan, $5,000 for child on the plan
Total limit of $250,000
|There is coverage|
|Emergency Dental||$500 per injury for the coverage period||Optional||Optional||$2,500||Yes|
|Maternity Care||Only covered in Platinum plan||$14,000/€11,000/£9,000 in the Platinum plan||Only available in the Special and Exclusive plans||Within the US: up to 80% coverage with a $25,000 limit within the PPO network/Outside PPO: up to 50% coverage with a $25,000 limit
Outside the United States:
Up to 80% coverage with a $25,000 limit. Benefits reduced by 25% if pregnancy is not reported within the first 90 days.
|Pre-existing condition exclusion period||Maximum limit of $1,500 with a 12-month waiting period||$14,000/€11,000/£9,000 in the Platinum plan||Coverage available||Limited of $250,000 per plan||Unspecified|
|Intensive Care Unit (ICU)||100% coverage after the deductible has been met||Full coverage with the Platinum plan||Coverage available||Up to $50,000||Not specified|
|Vaccines||Unspecified||Optional||Only in the Special and Exclusive plans||$200||Yes, but must be paid as a separate plan|
|Routine care for newborns||Unspecified||Optional||Only in the Special and Exclusive plans||Up to $750||Yes, but must be paid as a separate plan|
|Pre-existing annual maximum once covered||Unlimited depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Full reimbursement||Unlimited depending on the plan||Depends on the plan|
|Pre-existing lifetime maximum once covered||Unlimited depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Full reimbursement||Unlimited depending on the plan||Depends on the plan|
Worldwide Medical Insurance / Comparison Chart*
Part of the table courtesy of Tokio Marine HCC
*Note: this table is just for informational purposes and subject to change. It was accurate as of the time we wrote it here, but please check each company’s individual website for updated info.
What types of courses can I take to study in Portugal?
Now that you know more about how the Portuguese health system works and what the best health insurance companies for students are, you just need to know what course to apply for. But no worries! Below, I’ll list out some of the most common courses that foreign students take in Portugal.
One more thing: Portugal invests a lot to incentivize research and international exchange students, as well as immigration in general, so it’s worth taking some time to research the types of scholarships that the country offers.
Technical courses in Portugal
A technical course is a specialized professional program that varies from one to two years. There are three main technical course offerings for the job market: Technical Education, Technological Specialization Course (CET), and Professional Higher Education Technical Course (CTeSP).
Technical Education is for young people who are in the last three years of high school. There are two Technical Education tracks to choose from: a scientific-humanistic program, for those who plan to go to higher education, or a vocational program, which includes education and training for professional or technological modalities.
CET is focused on post-secondary education, lasts approximately one year, and is a scientific or technological specialization in a certain area. To enroll in this type of course, you’ll have to present a valid high school diploma that meets Portuguese standards.
The CTeSP is composed of 2-year courses in universities and polytechnic institutes. This type of program is 30% theoretical training hours and 70% practical training, with an internship at a company or public institution during your final semester.
Higher education in Portugal
Portugal has a very old tradition of higher education, beginning with the University of Coimbra, which was founded in 1290. This university continues to serve as the country’s intellectual heart and is home to some of the country’s best programs.
The country’s most celebrated educational disciplines include medicine, architecture, nursing, engineering, and law (Portuguese law, in this case). Several well-known universities accept international students.
International students will need to take a special entrance exam, the requirements of which are based on the exact institution you choose. Beyond this, you’ll also have to offer proof of your certifications (such as your academic transcript, and high school/university diploma).
What types of student visas can I apply for in Portugal?
Anyone thinking of studying abroad will need to double-check the type of visa they qualify for and need to apply for.
Visas are required for students, and must be acquired before you arrive in Portugal. To get your visa, you’ll have to go to your country’s Portuguese Consulate with your application.
The documents you’ll need include:
- Acceptance letter from your Portuguese educational institution
- A completed and signed visa application
- Passport with a validity of more than 6 months
- Two 3×4 photos with a white background
- Criminal background check
- Health insurance
- International vaccine card with up-to-date vaccinations
- Proof of (financial) means to support oneself in the country
- Proof of accommodation/residence in Portugal
- Visa application fee
As a final reminder, here are the 5 best and cheapest health insurance policies for international students in Portugal:
- Student Health Advantage from IMG
- International student health insurance from Cigna Global
- Now Health International
- Foyer Global Health
- StudentSecure from HCCMIS
To sum it all up…as you continue with your preparations for studying abroad in Portugal, make sure that health insurance isn’t something that gets forgotten. (You have, after all, seen how important it is!)
At the end of the day, you won’t be able to enroll in your course and study in Portugal without it…plus, no one wants to pay for unexpected medical expenses out of pocket!
If you still have any questions or concerns about your student health insurance in Portugal (or about moving abroad in general), leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
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