Do I Need Travel Insurance if I Have a EHIC?

in Travel Tips

The EHIC does not cover ambulance rides in Spain - Photo: Pablo Roja

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives citizens throughout Europe access to emergency medical state treatment for any injuries or illnesses that are incurred whilst on holiday. There can be some confusion as to what the EHIC does and does not cover, with the question sometimes arising “is it necessary to obtain travel insurance if I have an EHIC?” The short answer is yes, however it’s useful to know what you are covered for with the EHIC and how it differs from travel insurance.

The EHIC makes sure that you can be treated for any illness or injury that you suffer whilst on holiday in the same manner as if you were a citizen of that country. The EHIC basically allows you to be treated for emergencies in local hospitals without the need to be transported back to your country of origin. What’s more, obtaining an EHIC is free.

With access to free treatment throughout the EU, many may wonder what the need for buying travel insurance is. The first major difference between travel insurance and the EHIC is that travel insurance covers you for any possessions, passports or currency that are lost or stolen. This can often be overlooked when comparing travel insurance with the EHIC, as it can be easy to only view the medical benefits and forget that travel insurance covers your luggage too. Additionally, the EHIC only covers you for medical emergency treatment that cannot wait to be carried out on your return home. This means that anything such as dental work most likely would not be covered as it is not viewed as an emergency.

Travellers relying solely on the EHIC, especially from the UK, will need to be mindful of extra charges that they may be liable for whilst in foreign countries. For example in some EU countries (such as Spain and Italy) the ambulance service is ran by private companies who will charge you for using their service – something that we take for granted in the UK. Your EHIC card would not cover the cost of an ambulance call out, whereas your travel insurance would.

There are many recommendations that travellers should have adequate travel insurance to accompany their EHIC; the NHS website (where the EHIC can be obtained for free) is one of them, as is the British Embassy. Travel insurance needn’t be expensive and there are companies that cater for older travellers, as well as travellers with pre-existing medical conditions. Obtaining travel insurance is well worth the peace of mind that it provides you and your family, leaving you to just enjoy your holiday.


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