EHIC – Don’t leave yourself uncovered

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For UK travellers – There are a few important things you should always make sure you have with you before you travel – a passport, foreign currency, credit/debit cards and, if you’re travelling within the EU, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

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But, do people really understand what carrying the EHIC entitles you to?

The truth is that many British citizens believe that carrying this little blue card eliminates the need to take out separate travel insurance.  This is where you begin to risk your safety while abroad.

An explanation of the validity of the EHIC on the government website states: “An EHIC lets you get state healthcare in other EEA countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes for free.”  The site also clarifies that there has been ‘no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU’ as a result of the recent Brexit referendum.

Whilst this means you are entitled to healthcare while travelling within the EU should you need it, you are only entitled to healthcare on the same level as locals in the country.

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What the EHIC won’t actually do however, is cover the costs of expensive procedures such as repatriation, when you need to be taken back to your home country.

When it comes to taking out travel insurance you need to ensure you are as truthful as possible with your insurance provider.  Failing to disclose an existing medical condition, any medication you take or any previous illnesses/injuries could leave you without adequate medical insurance cover. Without correct travel insurance you will have to foot the cost of the bill yourself, and it can end up being very costly.

Another thing to consider is whether or not you’re planning on getting involved in any extreme sports while you’re away.

Many travel insurance providers will have dedicated sections to complete for activities such as sky diving, white water rafting and other popular sports.

Extreme Sports

European Health Insurance Cards are free of cost to UK citizens. However, third party websites – which often appear at the top of search results pages – charge for a card which could be obtained for free from the National Health Service. The unofficial sites often look like genuine government websites, and the National Trading Standards eCrime team advise getting the EHIC NHS choices or look for it on GOV.UK. You can also apply by phoning NHS Choices automated service on 0300 3301350.

You can apply for a new EHIC or to renew your current card here.

You’ll need to provide your:

Full name
Date of birth
National Insurance or NHS number (England and Wales)
CHI number (Scotland)
Health and Care number (Northern Ireland)
EHIC doesn’t replace travel insurance.


If you’re worried that you aren’t prepared for your trip abroad, go to the Foreign Office ‘Travel Aware‘ page to find out all you need to know about staying safe and healthy abroad.


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