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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 in the European Economic Area you will need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).  However, with the current uncertainty around BREXIT and how the outcome will affect travel in and out of the UK, whether there's a deal or not, you should always get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go abroad.

If there's a deal, you'll continue to get state-provided healthcare in the EU if you have an EHIC card.

If there's no deal, your EHIC card may not be valid.

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 with Department of Health 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 Department of Health 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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