This week my one-year anniversary of living in Spain happened to coincide with my God-knows-how-long anniversary with the same pair of glasses—it was time to bite the bullet and buy some new specs. I’d much rather spend money on fun things, like tomar copas with friends or ir de vacaciones, but I suppose seeing is alright. If you’re traveling or moving to Spain and fall into the category of less-than-perfect eyesight like me, eventually you will have to purchase prescription glasses. No worries, though, the whole process was super simple, and quite cheap!
First things first, the eye exam. If you don’t need a new prescription, the opticians can just use a tool to read your prescription off your current glasses. I needed a new script so after shopping a few ópticas (eyeglass stores) in my town, I walked in without an appointment and was done in 15 minutes. Getting the exam in Spain is exactly like it is in America, except for the puff-air-into-your-eye-and-give-you-a-heart-attack part. Oh, and it’s in Spanish. With that being said, really the only important thing to know is how to say all of the letters of the alphabet (of course), so don’t be nervous if your Spanish isn’t up to par. When they cover one eye and ask you differences in the lenses, answer mejor (better), peor (worse), or igual (equal)—and that’s about all you need. Eye exams are free with a purchase of glasses or contacts.
That famous Galician weather.
Unlike in America, I wasn’t asked for my insurance card since eye-care is privatized in Spain and not part of the healthcare, but glasses are already cheaper here. Average prices ranged from 49€ frames (which were really flimsy) to around 150€ for name brands like Ray Ban, Dior, or Coach frames. I ended up buying gafas from a company called Opticalia since they had a sale of any two pairs of frames with the lens for only 99€ (tax included). Although prices can vary depending on how strong your prescription is, the options for lenses were 99€ for regular glass, 119€ for scratch-proof, or 159€ for scratch-proof and anti-glare. My frames were Mango and Pepe Jeans which both had price tags of 99€ for just the frames, so it was a really good deal. The optician took my name, number, and address and I returned two business days later to pick them up and pay the 159€.
As for contacts, prices are about 80€ for a 6-month supply and the process is the same as for glasses when you go to any shop. If you need a certain brand of contact solution, ask at any farmacia or óptica. To save even more, another option is Lentillasonline, a great site where you can order contacts online.