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 (EEA) 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 like 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 European 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 the EHIC will not, such as paying for your return journey if illness delays you, or covering your personal contributions toward 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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