Travel health and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

With a little forward planning, you can protect your health when travelling and avoid unexpected medical bills. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is free and entitles you to free or reduced-cost treatment in certain European countries. Find out how to apply for or renew an EHIC.

Advice if there is a 'no deal' Brexit

You can find advice about EHIC if there is a 'no deal' Brexit at this link:

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Your EHIC is valid throughout the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. The EEA consists of the European Union member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

You can apply for an EHIC online, by phone or by post. Find out more at this link:

Applying for children and partner

You can apply on behalf of your partner and any of your children under 16. Every family member requires an EHIC.

For each person you are applying for, you will have to provide their:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • National Insurance or Health and Care number (NHS number in England and Wales, CHI in Scotland)

Healthcare treatment

The EHIC 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 chronic or pre-existing conditions.

You can find full details of the cover and who is eligible at the following link:

Not covered by EHIC

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as:

  • mountain rescue in ski resorts
  • treatment on cruises
  • being flown back to the UK
  • lost or stolen property

This makes it important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy.

The EHIC will not cover your medical expenses if you're going abroad specifically to have treatment (including giving birth). 

You may not be able to use the card in some parts of the EEA, as state-provided healthcare may not be available.

Renewing an EHIC

EHICs are valid for up to five years. You should apply for a new one before its expiry date - you can apply up to six months before your old card expires.

The easiest way to apply is online if none of your personal details have changed, or by phone.

You can find out more at the following link:

Replacing a lost or stolen EHIC

If you need to replace a lost or stolen EHIC, contact:

If the EHIC is lost or stolen while you're abroad, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC). Someone else can also do this on your behalf. This will give you the same cover as an EHIC while you are abroad.

To get a PRC, call:

  • phone: +44 (0)191 218 1999 (Monday to Friday, 8.00 am to 5.00 pm)

It's a good idea to store this number and take it with you when you travel abroad.

When applying for a PRC, you will need to give your:

  • full name
  • UK address
  • date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • your Health and Social Care number if possible
  • the email address or fax number for the specific department in the organisation that provides your treatment

Before you travel

As well as getting an EHIC, there are things you can do before you go abroad to protect you and your family's health. Before travelling:

  • buy adequate travel insurance for your specific circumstances
  • check the NHS Choices website for information about healthcare in the country you are going to
  • check online for the latest medical advice for travellers
  • find out what vaccinations you need at least six weeks before you travel – your GP 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
  • Travel insurance

Travelling with children

Contact your GP, practice nurse or travel clinic for up-to-date information on any immunisations your child may need.

Claiming a refund using your EHIC

Some countries expect you to pay your health bill when you are treated and then claim a refund afterwards using your EHIC. You should always try to apply for your refund before you travel home.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary). You or your insurance company may need them if you're applying for a refund.

For details on how to claim a refund, see the information for the country you're visiting.

Some countries ask patients to pay a contribution towards the cost of their care, such as for prescription costs. This is known as a co-payment or ‘patient share’. 

You can claim back the difference between the total bill and the ‘patient share’, however, the actual ‘patient share’ is non-refundable (since July 2014).

It's the responsibility of the foreign authority to decide the amount of the ‘patient share’ and therefore how much is refundable from the total bill.

For further advice, contact the Overseas Healthcare Team at the Department of Work and Pensions:

  • phone: 0191 218 1999 (Monday to Friday, 8.00 am to 5.00 pm)
Overseas Healthcare Team
Room MO401
Durham House
Tyne & Wear
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE38 7SF

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