Before the UK's departure from the European Union, British travellers could use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to gain access to state-provided medical care in the EU, as well as non-EU countries Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
On the 1st January 2021, the UK completed its formal separation from the European Union. The EHIC is now being phased out and will be replaced by a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).
Just like the EHIC, the new GHIC is free and gives you the right to access state-provided medical care during a temporary stay in the EU. You do not need to apply for a GHIC if you already have a valid EHIC.
If your current EHIC is still in-date, this will remain valid for travel in the EU until it expires. You can find the expiry date on the front of your card. Once your EHIC expiry date has passed, you'll be able to replace it with the new GHIC.
It's important to note that while the old EHIC provided cover for travel to EU countries, extending to non-EU countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, sadly neither the EHIC nor the new GHIC are valid for travel outside the EU from 1st January 2021.
Remember a GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance.
They will not cover any private medical costs or help towards costs for emergencies such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. The EHIC or GHIC is also not valid for travel on cruise ships.
To find out more about visiting Europe after 1st January 2021, the government has published a range of guidance and notes.
You can apply for a GHIC if you are UK national by visiting the official NHS website.
The GHIC is free, but there are websites out there which claim that for a fee they can fast track your application or check it over for you.
Avoid these and only use the official website to apply for your card for free.
You can apply if you're:
To find out more information about whether you could be eligible to apply for a UK EHIC, visit the NHS website.
While an EHIC or GHIC is a worthwhile accompaniment, it doesn't provide the protection and reassurance of a good travel insurance policy. Neither will cover the costs of your flight back home if you get badly hurt, or the cost of replacing your handbag you last saw when you popped it down on the Spanish Steps to take a picture of a glorious Roman sunset.
Having the right travel insurance policy in place can save you a lot of heartache if something goes wrong while you're away from home sweet home. As well as the financial benefits of being insured, your insurer's helpline may get you out of a tight spot if you don't speak the local language or need advice on where to go for medical help.
If you'd like more information about travel insurance, including what travel insurance covers and how to make a claim on your insurance policy , our travel insurance guides are full of handy information to help you get the right policy for your next trip.