Argentina's doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other medical staff are highly-educated professionals that work to a very high standard. Hospitals and clinics in Buenos Aires, in particular, are well equipped and professionally maintained. If you venture out into the provincial small towns the standard drops somewhat but medical facilities in larger cities are at international levels of healthcare standards. One of the first questions people ask when looking at living in Argentina is, “what is medical care like?”. Hopefully, you won't require the services of a doctor or hospital in Argentina but in any event, here's some useful information that will help.
There are over 5000 hospitals in Argentina so finding one is not a problem. The question is which one to go to and how to get attended by the medical staff. 70% of hospitals in Argentina are private.
First things first, getting medical attention does not have to cost you anything if you go to a public hospital. Complicated procedures will obviously need to be funded but emergencies are free. However, your medical cover will mean how fast you get seen to. It might be an emergency but there's still a queue. As everyone else in the country is using the same limited resources so there will be times where the waiting list is very long, especially if you use a public hospital and have no private health insurance or an Argentinian medical card. I recommend using a private hospital and paying the costs. The outlay will be much less than a similar treatment in Europe or the US, and it saves time and stress.
The benefits of using a private hospital also mean less paperwork (public hospitals will require a lot of signatures and declarations). If you've been in Argentina for any length of time you'll know all about paperwork. The likelihood of finding an English-speaking doctor is much higher and you can schedule appointments much easier.
Hospitals in Argentina
Most foreigners will head to one of two clinics:
British Hospital (Hospital Britanico)
Perdriel 74, C1280AEB CABA, Argentina
Phone: +54 11 4309-6400
Italian Hospital (Hospital Italiano)
Juan D. Peron 4190, C1181ACH CABA, Argentina
Phone: +54 11 4959-0200
There's also the Hospital Alemán (which means German hospital but it's never usually referred to as this)
Av Pueyrredón 1640, C1118AAT CABA, Argentina
Phone: +54 11 4827-7000
And last but certainly not least, you can always try one of the Swiss Medical centres. Standards are high and it's a bit more expensive, as befitting of the title ‘Swiss'.
All are open 24 hours.
If you plan on going down the public hospital route then try this medical centre:
Hospital Fernandez, right in the heart of Palermo (where many foreigners will stay and live)
Cerviño 3356, C1425AGP CABA, Argentina
+54 11 4808-2600
Private Medical Insurance
There are several private insurance companies that deal with foreign nationals.
Medicus – This is the insurance I use and have used for a long time. Zero problems so far. I've used the service for dentistry also as it's included. Worth the money!
OSDE – It's been around for a while so they understand the system well. Recommended by many people.
Galeno is another highly recommended medical insurance provider.
Omint is one I hadn't heard of but by all accounts is at a similar level of the others.
Travel insurance is not expensive and definitely gives the extra sense of security in case of a major accident or emergency. Repatriation is included in many cases so you know you'll be back home for treatment at no extra expense if required. Try World Nomads Travel Insurance for comprehensive coverage.
Read your medical insurance small print carefully. Both private health and travel insurance cover certain geographical areas only. It's possible that your health plan in Buenos Aires will not have the same reach in the provinces. Travel plans don't always cover winter sports (for your trip to Bariloche or Mendoza in winter) so make sure you add that on if you plan on hitting the slopes in Las Leñas.
Prevention is better than cure, don't you know!
Most medical issues experienced by foreigners in Argentina are cold & flu-related, or stomach upsets from food. The airborne germs in cities like Buenos Aires that cause colds and flu are different to the ones in the US, UK, Europe, or anywhere else, for that matter. Hot, humid (everywhere in summer) and cold, humid (Buenos Aires in the winter) are ideal breeding grounds for airborne pathogens.
Try to wash your hands after using public transport. The handrail and door handle on buses, metro carriages, and taxis are some of the world's most potent bacterial breeding grounds. Never touch your face (especially nose, mouth, and eyes) if you've already had your hands on the hand rails of a bus, for example. I can tell you from experience that this will make you sick.
The Water in Argentina is safe to drink but don't drink liquids that have been sitting idle for any period of time. Boil water if you're not sure. Food-wise, you will just have to be careful. Clean-looking restaurants don't always have the best hygiene and the reverse is true. To be fair to restaurants the summer heat and humidity makes things very difficult. Vermin and insects are in every building in the country and maintaining high food hygiene standards is extremely costly and time-consuming. If you're in Argentina for any period of time the likelihood of getting an upset tummy is pretty high. It's not India, but gastroenteritis is common among foreigners due to the unfamiliar bacteria in foodstuffs.
Now, with the risk of generalising, it would be fair to say that travellers, tourists, and independent expats are open to meeting people and broadening their horizons. Taking a relationship with the opposite (or same) sex from the bar/restaurant/cafe/library and into the bedroom comes with complications, not least of which is the risk of a sexually transmitted disease. If you are worried about contracting an STD you should get some tests done as soon as recommended by a doctor. Contact the Hospital de Clínicas for blood tests.
Vocabulary For Your Hospital Visit in Spanish
Necesito un médico qué hable Inglés – I need a doctor that speaks English
La guardia – Emergency room (ER)
Me duele el estómago – My stomach hurts
Tengo gripe – I've got the flu
Estoy enfermo – I'm ill (pretty general but useful to start the conversation)
¿Cuanto va a costar? – How much is it going to cost?
Check out this guide to living in Argentina (by someone who spent 5 years there) for a comprehensive look at this amazing country.
Recommendations and Tips
- Bring your passport! Driver's licences might also work but nothing works like a passport.
- Bring cash and bring your credit card. If you go to a private hospital you will often be expected to pay upfront. If you have no cash then they might send you away. With inflation running pretty high I won't specify the minimum cost of seeing a doctor here. It changes rapidly and depends on the hospital. Bring at least the equivalent of what it would cost you back home. Remember that you will have to pay for any medication you need also.
- Contact your embassy in Buenos Aires if you would like their recommendations for hospitals to use for your particular case.
- A full list of hospitals is provided on this helpful list but the Buenos Aires government
- If you have a medical emergency in Argentina call 107 from any phone. Try to have a Spanish speaker to help communicate the issue.
Blogger, lifelong learner, entrepreneur & musician from Ireland. I've been travelling and living overseas for over 20 years. My mission is to build businesses that allow me to have a simple and independent lifestyle. In the process, I hope to help myself and others with my writing.