Initially, setting up eye care in Spain can seem a bit confusing, but just a little planning ahead can make this process run smoothly. Here, we’ll break down everything expats should know about eye care before retiring to Spain.

Using your UK glasses prescription in Spain

If you already have a prescription for glasses (gafas) or contact lenses (lentillas) in the UK, then you will be able to use these in Spain too. But before moving, it will be worthwhile making an appointment with your current optometrist to obtain a copy of your most recent UK prescription.

Visiting an eye care specialist in Spain

If you have an eye condition that requires more extensive care than that offered by an optician, you’ll have to either go through the Spanish state healthcare system and be referred to an ophthalmologist (oftalmólogo) or book an appointment through private health insurance. Below we have outlined some pros and cons of these two options for expats in Spain, along with some suggestions on how to go about setting them up.

Setting up state-funded eye care in Spain

If you receive ongoing care for an existing eye condition, you’ll need to consider setting up a treatment plan in Spain before you move. In Spain, a number of eye care treatments are available through the Spanish healthcare system.

If you’re retired and receive a UK pension, you can receive public healthcare in Spain paid for by the UK by applying for a certificate of entitlement before your departure, simply by filling out an S1 form. If you’re eligible, you’ll receive a certificate which will give you access to Spanish healthcare services.

Organising private health insurance in Spain

The other option for expats is private health insurance, which tends to be a little more affordable in Spain than it is in the UK. While it requires you to pay for treatment, it means you’ll be able to bypass waiting lists often found within state healthcare systems.

When selecting your provider, you’ll come across two types of policy: con copagos (with copayment) and sin copagos (without co-payment). If you frequently visit an eye specialist on a regular basis, sin copagos may be the more affordable option.

For more information, read our full guide to expat eye care cover in Spain.

Finding an expat-friendly optician near me

There are a number of factors to consider when looking for an optician in Spain. These include certification, funding (state or private) as well as language. Communication is at the heart of any opticians experience. It’s important that your optometrist clearly understands your eye health concerns, and that you clearly understand essential information about diagnosis and treatment.

For ease of mind, most expats choose to visit an optician who is fluent in English. At Specsavers Opticas, you’ll find an English-speaking optometrist in each of our stores.

Using your UK driving licence in Spain

A new agreement between Spain and the UK means that you will be able to swap your UK license for a Spanish one without needing to take a Spanish driving test provided you meet the following conditions.

  • Your current UK licence was issued by the DVLA (Great Britain licensing authority), DVA (Northern Ireland licensing authority), or Gibraltar licensing authority
  • You pass the psycho-physical aptitude test
  • You exchange your current licence for a Spanish one within 6 months of living in Spain

Can I swap my UK licence now?

The main agreement between the two countries is still being finalised. When it is finished the agreement will be published in the BOE (Boletin Oficial Estado) and will come into force.

From that day on, British residents living in Spain will have a period of six months to exchange their UK driving licence for a Spanish one.

What is the psycho-physical aptitude test? ('Psicotecnico' Exam)

The psycho-physical aptitude test will determine whether you are fit to exchange your licencse. During the test you will have the following:

  • Eye examination
  • Hearing and audiometry evaluation
  • A Blood pressure check and pulmonary auscultation
  • Tests of mobility, strength, and coordination
  • Psychological test
  • Questions concerning your health in general

You will need a certificate indicating you have passed the exam in order to switch your licence. The certificate will be valid for three months. A list of test centres may be found on the DGT (Driver recognition centre) website

My UK licence has expired. Will I be able to exchange it without taking a test?

Once the agreement is in place, expired licences to be accepted for exchange provided they were valid at the time you began living in Spain.

What if I got my licencse outside the UK?

Whether you can swap your licencse will depend upon whether the country you obtained your licencse also has an official driving licencse exchange agreement with Spain. Countries that have an agreement include Japan, Switzerland, Croatia, Morocco and Venezuela.

Countries that do not have an agreement include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the U.S.A. If you took your driving test in one of these countries and then converted your licence to a UK one, you won’t be permitted to exchange it for a Spanish licence.

What type of licence category will this be for?

Only category B licences are being considered for now. Additional licence categories such as motorbikes and mopeds are anticipated to be included at a later date.

Going for an eye test in Spain

Eye tests in Spain are very similar to the UK — the only differences will come with language. Before you begin, it’s important to make it clear to the optician whether you’ll be reading the eye charts in English or Spanish so that there is no confusion. Or if you’d feel more comfortable in English, you can choose to visit an expat-friendly optician, like Specsavers. Use our handy store locator to request an appointment one of our English-speaking opticians.

For more information on arranging eye care and treatment in Spain, visit our expat advice hub, or speak to one of our experts in-store.

At Specsavers Opticas, we offer a fully comprehensive experience for British expats, providing the same quality service you’d expect in the UK.