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Travel Health

Insurance and getting free medical care abroad

At present, the UK has reciprocal travel agreements with some other countries, so if you are a UK citizen you may be able to receive emergency medical treatment whilst abroad. For further information about individual countries and what to do, see the Department of Health website.

If you are travelling to an EU country, you will need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).  You can continue to use your EHIC if it is still in date.  If you don’t have an EHIC or it had expired, you will need to apply for a GHIC.  This will allow you to access emergency or medically necessary state healthcare in Europe for the same cost as a resident in the country you’re visiting. As each healthcare system is different, what is covered by the card and whether you will be charged for treatment will vary depending on where you are travelling to.

You can find further information on what is covered by the EHIC/GHIC, how to apply and exceptions to the scheme on the links below:


Please be aware that the EHIC/GHIC does not cover everything (for example, medical repatriation), therefore you should always get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go abroad.

It's particularly important you get travel insurance with the right cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition.  This is because the EHIC scheme covers pre-existing conditions, while many travel insurance policies do not.  Make sure your travel insurance covers you adequately for where you are travelling to and any activities you will be doing when you get there, e.g. some activities like skiing or sky diving may require additional insurance.

Get several quotations for your travel insurance before you buy.

You can read advice on buying travel insurance with the right cover.


Your GP will be able give you more information about what vaccinations you need for different countries. You should check this out as soon as you know where you are going to be travelling to, and at least six weeks before you travel.

Check here each time you travel for further details about immunisations and medical care abroad. Travel advice changes, so you should bear this in mind and re-check before each new trip. The link above will give you advice about cost of immunisations and medical care, as well as advice on what to take with you.

General Points

If you are on any kind of prescribed medication, make sure you take enough with you to last the full duration of your journey.

Check whether the medication you are taking is restricted in any way in terms of taking it out of the UK or the country which you are intending to visit - if you have any questions, contact Home Office Drugs Licensing Unit.

Carry details with you about any existing medical condition you have - ask your GP for more advice about this.

Have a dental check up before you travel.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT or a blood clot in the leg) can happen on long journeys, due to immobility. Minimise your risk of DVT by getting up and moving around if you can, or at least moving your legs around. Make sure you do not become dehydrated by drinking plenty of clear fluids and avoiding alcohol. Some factors mean you are at an increased risk of DVT. These include a family history of clotting conditions, previous history of DVT, recent major surgery, heart disease and cancer. Please check with your GP for further information.

For further information on travel advice by country, including information relating to health, see Foreign Travel Advice.

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