Safe Travels: EHIC - European Health Insurance Card - Don't leave home without one!

Image of a European Health Insurance Card

Booking your next holiday is the first step to getting away and gives you something to look forward to. Easy access to low-cost budget flights and the availability of affordable accommodation has opened up destinations, we only dreamt of visiting years ago.

Checking off all the key ingredients you need to go on holiday, would include items such as -passport, boarding pass, visas, hotel voucher etc. One item generally missed off the list is the EHIC card. But why do millions of people forget to apply for one and take it abroad, when it could be one of the most important things to take with you?

The European Health Insurance Card or better known as the “EHIC” is a MUST have card when you, your family and friends are travelling in Europe. Please send this blog on to your friends and family to create awareness of the card and its many benefits. If you have older parents or family members etc who do not use the internet, let them know about the card and assist them in applying for one online.

What is the EHIC for?

The EHIC is a free card that gives you access to state-provided healthcare (including emergency treatment) that is medically necessary before your planned date of return during a temporary stay in any of the 28 EU countries. This means that routine or specialist treatment, the monitoring of pre-existing conditions and repeat prescriptions may be covered on the EHIC. However, it is the healthcare provider who determines whether the treatment is necessary. Remember that the EHIC is only accepted in public hospitals or health centres and does not include any private healthcare options you may wish to use.

Who is entitled to use the UK EHIC?

If you are on holiday or a temporary stay within the EEA or Switzerland (e.g. you own a second home and spend a few months of the year abroad, but still consider that you live mainly in the UK), you can use the EHIC. If you are a UK state pensioner living within the EEA and Switzerland and registered for healthcare with an S1, you can apply for an EHIC to use on a temporary visit to another EU member state (outside your country of residence). Call the Overseas Healthcare Team for more information.

Is the EHIC a replacement for travel insurance?

No!. You should never travel abroad without a good travel insurance policy for you and your family. Travel insurance is very inexpensive these days, but should always be included as part of those key items on your pre-holiday checklist.

NOTE – Many travel insurance companies will insist as part of the terms and conditions of the policy, that you have a valid EHIC. The reason for this, is, if you need to be treated by a private hospital because a publicly run hospital cannot treat you, the costs to be covered by the insurance company are drastically reduced. Be aware, that in these cases, insurance companies will NOT pay the full amount of the costs incurred if you do not have an EHIC, and you will be left to pay the balance.

Furthermore, if you are unfortunate and need to receive medical treatment when abroad, be very careful of what forms you are being asked to sign at the hospital. Some publicly run hospitals have private wings and often, foreign nationals requiring treatment are asked to sign forms, these may be to say that you are accepting to pay all costs associated with the treatment.   

                                                 Travel Insurance Options

How to get your EHIC 

You will find many companies online offering a service to complete the EHIC application process for you where they will charge you a fee. However, the card is 100% free of charge and can be completed quite easily from the following  link EHIC Application

Further EHIC information from

Important telephone numbers while your abroad

In an emergency, call 112

Call the Overseas Healthcare Team if you lose your EHIC card whilst abroad if you need a PRC - provisional replacement certificate, which will cover you temporarily: (+44) 191 218 1999 ( Mon-Fri 8-5 )

Call the FCO Consular Assistance Team for all consular enquiries abroad in Europe: (+44) 20 7008 1500 (24 hour helpline)

See our recent blog for more information on travel insurance - don't get caught out.


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