I need new glasses but I’ve never had my eyes tested here. Where do I start?
To get an eye test (examen de la vista) here, there are various options. The first is to go to your local public doctor’s surgery (CAP or Centre d’Atenció Primaria) and talk to your GP about your sight. If necessary, he or she will refer you to an ophthalmologist (oftamologista)—however, bear in mind that if you do need to have glasses (ulleres in Catalan, gafas in Castilian) fitted, these are not provided for free. There were reports last year that the Generalitat was investigating whether to provide free glasses (and hearing-aids) to low-income pensioners some time during 2008—more information should be available from your CAP.
Alternatively, if you have private health insurance, ophthalmological services may be included under your cover.
Another place to go for an eye test is to your local optician (òptic), who often provides this service free of charge and you don’t have to be registered with any particular one. There are both big chains, such as Cottet Òptics and Federoptics, as well as independent shops; a good way to find one is to ask friends for recommendations.
If it turns out that you do have to get new frames (muntures) and or lenses (lenses), as with anything, it is a good idea to look at prices in different shops. As Spain is the European country with most opticians per inhabitant—in 2008, it had 13,000 practising opticians working in 9,000 optician shops—there should be no problem in finding a good deal. While service and quality can vary from place to place, price is probably the best indicator of what to expect. Opticians that charge a lot for their lenses and frames do tend to offer the latest technology and can get your glasses to you quickly. They can also be the best option if you have a difficult prescription or need a special kind of lens. In contrast, those opticians that have a lot of two-for-one style offers and other discounts can have a more restricted range of frame brands, but they make up for this in terms of price.
More info... A selection of local opticians
L'Optica Universitária (the eye exam is over in a flash but they have some of the cheapest frames around)
Federoptics (branches in the comarca of Barcelona)