EHIC - the European Health Insurance Card (the old E111 card)
The free EHIC card enables you to access reduced-cost, sometimes free, state-provided healthcare that becomes necessary during your trip because of either illness or an accident. It also covers you for pre-existing conditions. But if the locals pay towards healthcare, you too will have to stump up the cost. You can find full details of the cover and who is eligible on the NHS Choices website.
You should also remember that the EHIC usually only covers treatment in state-run hospitals - and in some countries the standard of state hospitals is poor. You will also have to pay any repatriation costs as the card does not include the cost of a flight home if you fall ill or have an accident while on holiday.
Don’t be fooled by anyone trying to charge you for the EHIC card as it's free and there are no admin fees or postage costs. You can apply by calling the EHIC application line on 0845 606 2030 or online.
The quickest way to secure one, however, is online. To apply free, visit www.nhs.uk/healthcareabroad. Don't fear a tax-return-style encounter; you need little more than name, address and NHS number.
The EHIC is valid in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries, including Switzerland. For more information about what is covered in each country see our country-by-country guide. You can apply for a free EHIC online.
If you're having difficulties with the online application form, you want to update your personal details or replace a lost or stolen card, call the automated EHIC application service on 0845 606 2030.
Protect your health when you travel
A little preparation can make a big difference. Before travelling:
- Make sure you also purchase adequate and appropriate travel insurance
- Check the NHS Choices website for information about healthcare in the country you are going to
- Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for the latest medical advice for travellers
- Find out what vaccinations you need at least six weeks before you travel – your GP's surgery will be able to tell you
- Take enough supplies of any medication that you have been prescribed and carry a copy of the prescription with you
- Carry any medical letters about your health condition to help doctors and nurses abroad if you are taken ill
- If you are travelling within the EEA or Switzerland, get your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)