Information on this page is applicable to UK residents only.
For residents of the US & Canada: Squaremouth came top in review of Travel Insurance comparison sites for US and Canadian citizens – see why.

European Health Insurance Card – don’t go without it

What it is, and which countries:

An EHIC provides access to some free/reclaimable or reduced cost state provided medical treatment within the European Economic Area(EEA) plus Switzerland. The EEA comprises the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

N.B. it is NOT valid for The Isle of Man (but see next section), Channel Islands (own section below), Monaco, San Marino, or the Vatican.

Read the NHS’s EHIC information page for more information. For each participating country, it identifies what healthcare you can get, and what you have to pay.

Obtaining or renewing your EHIC

Your EHIC lasts 5 years (although Brexit might change this). You can apply for or renew your EHIC using the NHS link above, or by telephoning 0300 330 1350.

Scam Alert:

NEVER PAY FOR YOUR EHIC. Top of your Google search will be scamming “EHIC application services” they just forward your information to the Government site and charge a fee – they do not provide a faster service. Order for free through the NHS link above.

Reciprocal arrangements that the British Government has with non-EEA countries:

The UK also has arrangements for your urgent medical treatment with 28 15 (as at July 2017) other countries and territories.

The NHS provides details of countries with reciprocal health care arrangements and identifies required documentation, what is free, and what you pay for.

At the time of writing these include Australia and New Zealand, but most of the other countries are low volume destinations. The type, cost and quality of state provided medical treatment offered by each of these countries differs.

Note: as of 2017 there are no longer reciprocal arrangements with Russia, Ukraine and other countries that formed the former USSR.

Isle of Man

At the time of writing the NHS link above indicated that on providing proof of residence you will be entitled to free treatment similar to the NHS (excluding dental treatment and prescriptions).

The Channel Islands

Like many Brits I assumed that as the Channel Islands are part of the British Isles then I would be automatically be entitled to free NHS style treatment – this IS NOT the case.

Bailiwick of Guernsey (includes Sark, Herm and Alderney)

There is no reciprocal arrangement with the UK. You or your insurer will have to pay for all treatments and health services.


Has a reciprocal treatment arrangement with the UK (for visits of less than 3 months). The details provided in the NHS link above are misleading e.g. you DO have to pay for treatment by a GP – see Jersey’s own information on what you have to pay for.

Ambulance, rescue services, and medical repatriation

You are charged for ambulance and rescue services; and like anywhere else, you or your insurer will have to pay for your medical repatriation back to the UK.

Hospitals ignoring their EHIC obligations

According to the ABI (updated in July 2016 so I assume still true) some state run Hospitals in Spain are refusing to meet their obligations to treat all visitors with EHIC cards; and instead refer some patients to expensive private facilities.

If a state run hospital refuses to meet its obligation to treat you, contact your insurer immediately. If you don’t have insurance then contact the local British Consular services.

Do I still need travel insurance?

I don’t insure my appliances against breakdown but I always get travel insurance. All the sensible advice I have seen including that from the Foreign Office is that you do. The EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance, state healthcare provision elsewhere probably won’t provide the same level of free cover as the NHS. The EHIC will NOT cover all your expenses or medical repatriation home (even for a leg fracture this can run to many thousands of pounds).