Travel insurance

By taking out travel insurance and getting a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can avoid huge medical bills if you have an emergency during your trip.

Healthcare is free at the point of delivery in the UK, but don't assume it's the same abroad. You will often have to pay part, if not all, of your medical bills. If it's serious, the costs could easily be very high.

Having travel insurance and the EHIC can avoid large medical bills, delays in treatment and undue stress in the event of a medical emergency.

The EHIC, which is free of charge, replaces the now obsolete E111 form. It entitles UK residents to free or reduced-cost medical treatment in European Economic Area countries and Switzerland.

Check your policy

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or the cost of things such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property.

It's important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy. Some insurers now insist you hold an EHIC and many will waive the excess if you have one.

Each country’s healthcare system varies, so your EHIC may not cover all costs or you may be expected to pay for your treatment and then claim a refund using your EHIC or insurance policy.

Travel insurance will cover other medical costs that the EHIC will not, such as paying for your return journey if illness delays you, or covering your personal contributions towards treatment.

You will also normally receive cover for non-medical emergencies, such as replacing possessions or a lost passport. 

Your insurance policy will vary according to your destination and insurer, but cover generally starts at just a few pounds and could save you tens of thousands of pounds.

You may not be fully covered if you are doing any hazardous sports, such as climbing or skiing. Check whether your policy covers the activities you'll be doing.

Page last reviewed: 26/05/2014

Next review due: 26/05/2016


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The 9 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

hughmccourt said on 05 May 2015

going to spain for 10 days my wife has copd and d.v.t does ehic cover for this

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CUNLIFFE said on 28 November 2013

I am trying to update my EHIC card.
How do I do this please?

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stak11 said on 14 March 2013

I had both an EHIC card and travel insurance for a recent trip to Europe. Unfortunately I had an accident that required medical treatment which I had to pay for up front. I made a claim on my travel insurance and was recompensed but did have to pay a £250 excess.

When I attempted to claim this back from EHIC, I was informed that I should never have claimed from my travel; insurance. If I had simply claimed on my EHIC card, I would have received all of the medical expenses.

My advice would be that if you do have both EHIC and travel insurance, make a claim through EHIC first....

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LOSailor said on 15 May 2011

In order to avoid invalidating your insurance, don't forget to tell your insurer if there is a change in your medical condition. If you have a significant medical condition discuss it with your GP before you take out insurance - you can obtain valuable advice on what you should declare and what is not relevant, and thus obtain cover that meets your condition. This will help in your discussion with the insurer.

If appropriate, your GP can annotate your medical record shortly before your departure that you are considered fit enough to endure the planned journey.

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Juniper5 said on 01 November 2010

Why on earth can there not be reciprocal arrangements for the health care of people on holiday between EU countries? It would be so much easier for everyone.
If some countries think they would be paying out a lot more in health services than their own nationals would use abroad they could be allowed to opt out. I suppose Spain would be one of those but others, like Germany for instance, appear to be on a level with us re numbers of visitors.
I wonder if the EU have looked into this possibility?

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ChrisMilton said on 19 April 2010

A note of caution re our Germany experience.

When we visited a standard GP, they did not have the knowledge, familiarity or relevant paperwork to deal with the EHIC, it being a rare event for a practice.

Similarly with the recommended German Hospital, they did not have their registration software set up to accept EHOC info, it had to be done manually.

We have been invoiced and have to pay the Doctors and Hospital bills ourselves, obtain receipts and then try to claim back later.

I'm a confident person and have the advantage of
someone who has a foot in both UK and DE culture languages - and I found it stressful enough. My sympathy is with those less fortunate than I who will have a greater struggle with language and local paperwork.

So in addition to getting the EHIC, also prepare for time (lots of it) and money just in case you should require medical treatment.

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Anonymous said on 28 August 2008

I have visited this web site because I have lost my EHICard. The site recognises that I have been issued with one and instead of asking me why I am applying again it refuses me and gives me a number to phone. Why cannot the site accomodate applications on line for a replacement?

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anthony said on 23 August 2008

my niece is in spain living for 9 months and has been seriuously mauled by a dog, can she be returned to the uk for treatment.?

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lynne said on 10 May 2008

if u visit turkey for six months would u be able to have nhs on your return to england

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