What is an EHIC?
An EHIC is the European Health Insurance Card. It can allow travellers access to free or discounted care in state-run hospitals or doctors’ surgeries in any EU country, plus a handful of others. It’s valid for five years and everyone can get their own, including children. Just add them to your application.
Following new restrictions implemented on 5 January 2021, you can only travel internationally or within the UK if you're legally permitted to do so while the UK is under full lockdown restrictions.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. See latest FCDO advice for further information.
Any insurance policy purchased to cover a trip to a destination where the local authority, or the FCDO, has instructed citizens not to travel, will not be valid.
For more information, please see our coronavirus and travel insurance page.
Until then, stay safe.
Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions
Our panel includes insurance providers who quote cover for all medical conditions declared on our website, with no exclusions.
The Money and Pensions Service (MaPs) has also launched on its Money Advice Service website a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone, if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at the Money Advice Service or by calling the British Insurance Brokers’ Association on 0370 950 1790.
How does an EHIC compare with travel insurance?
Travel insurance is much more comprehensive than an EHIC. While an EHIC is very useful, it should not be viewed as a replacement for your travel insurance.
The EHIC gives you great protection when it comes to state-run healthcare. In fact, some insurance providers now insist that you have an EHIC and many will waive your excess, if you have one.
But state-run healthcare varies from country to country, and it won’t cover you for any private medical treatment. That means if you end up in a private hospital and you don’t have travel insurance, you’ll have to pay for treatment out of your own pocket.
Also, the EHIC covers medical treatment only. It doesn’t cover the sorts of things that can be covered by travel insurance, such as trip cancellation, loss or theft of luggage, and being brought back to the UK if you become ill or are in an accident.
How do I get an EHIC?
You apply for an EHIC using the NHS online EHIC form or by calling the automated EHIC application service on 0300 330 1350.
Only use the official site or this number to apply. There are unofficial sites out there that will charge you for an EHIC card, but it's free.
Frequently asked questions
Where can I use the EHIC?
The EHIC is valid in these countries:
- Czech Republic
The EHIC is not accepted in these European countries and destinations:
- The Channel Islands, including Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
- the Isle of Man
- San Marino
- The Vatican
What will happen to the EHIC after the Brexit transition period?
UK residents can use their EHIC during the transition phase of the UK leaving the European Union (EU). This means that the EHIC can continue to be used in the same way, until 31 December 2020. What happens to the status of the EHIC after the transition phase will be decided as part of the negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship.
Can I use an EHIC for any type of holiday?
Not quite. You can’t use it on cruises, for example. We recommend you check with your travel agent or holiday provider if you’re unsure.
Do I have to pay for treatment if I have an EHIC?
You’ll have access to state-run treatment on the same basis as a resident in the country you’re visiting, so if they have to pay towards the cost of treatment, so will you. In some cases, where state-run treatment is free, you might have to pay upfront and apply to be reimbursed.
Does my child need an EHIC?
Each member of your party will need their own EHIC. You can make an application on behalf of any dependent children under the age of 16.
Can I use an EHIC if I am pregnant, or have a pre-existing condition?
Yes, you can. If you carry an EHIC, you can receive treatment no matter what the condition or how long you've been suffering from it. But you might not be able to access specialist treatment, so travel insurance for pre-existing conditions is still very important.
The EHIC also covers routine maternity care.
What isn’t covered by the EHIC?
Treatment you can access using the EHIC varies from country to country. What it won’t cover is if you’re going to the EU for planned treatment – for a pre-existing illness, for example, or to have a baby.
What happens if I don’t have my EHIC card with me?
If your card has been lost or stolen and you need healthcare in a country that accepts the EHIC, you’ll need to apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate, which will give you the same cover as an EHIC. You can do this by calling the Overseas Healthcare Services on +44 191 218 1999, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm.
What if my EHIC is refused?
If you intend to use your EHIC to access treatment, make sure the hospital or clinic is state-run and not private. Your EHIC shouldn’t be refused for any state-run healthcare, but if this does happen try to get proof that you tried to use it. You may be able to apply for reimbursement from the Department for Work and Pensions when you get home.
How long does an EHIC last?
An EHIC expires after five years, so check the expiration date on all the cards in your household. When on holiday, keep the cards with you at all times – anything could happen, and you never know when you might require medical care abroad.
From the Travel team
What our expert says
“If you’re travelling in Europe, an EHIC is essential. But it’s in no way a substitute for travel insurance, which can provide much more comprehensive healthcare insurance, as well as covering many other aspects of your trip.”