Healthcare for UK nationals visiting the EU

How to get state healthcare when you’re on holiday or travelling to a country in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel advice

See the latest health advice for UK travellers following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

This information is about visiting the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. There’s different guidance for healthcare if you’re:

When you travel to an EU country or Switzerland you should have either:

  • a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)
  • a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

You should also have travel insurance with healthcare cover.

An EHIC or GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. Make sure you have both before you travel.

Each healthcare system is different, and in some countries you’ll need to pay to have treatment.

Apply for a GHIC

A GHIC lets you get medically necessary state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost or sometimes for free.

If your EHIC is still in date, you do not need to apply for a new GHIC.

They’re both valid if you’re travelling to an EU country or, if you’re eligible, in Switzerland.

Apply for a GHIC for free on the NHS website.

Visiting Switzerland

You can use your GHIC or EHIC in Switzerland to get state-provided, medically necessary healthcare at a reduced cost (or sometimes for free) if you are a:

  • UK national
  • Swiss national
  • EU citizen
  • refugee
  • stateless person
  • dependant or survivor of someone with one of these nationalities or statuses

You can only use your GHIC or EHIC in Switzerland if one of the above applies to you – even if you can use your GHIC or EHIC in the EU.

You may also be asked to show evidence of your nationality when accessing healthcare using a GHIC or EHIC in Switzerland.

Visiting Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein

You can use a UK passport to get medically necessary healthcare in Norway.

GHICs and most UK EHICs are not valid in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Make sure you take out travel insurance with medical cover for your trip.

You may not have access to free emergency medical treatment and could be charged for your healthcare if you do not get health cover with your travel insurance.

Visits that started in 2020 and end in 2021

If you started your visit to Iceland or Liechtenstein before 1 January 2021, your UK EHIC entitlements will continue until you leave that country.

Who can use a UK-issued EHIC

Some people can get a new UK-issued EHIC which is valid for visits to Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

You’ll be able to apply if you’re:

  • an EU, Norwegian, Icelandic, Liechtenstein or Swiss national, and started living in the UK before 1 January 2021
  • receiving a UK State Pension or some other ‘exportable benefits’, and started living in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland before 1 January 2021
  • a ‘frontier worker’ (someone who works in one state and lives in another), and started being one before 1 January 2021, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state
  • an eligible family member or dependant of one of the above

Apply now for your new UK EHIC on the NHS website.

UK students using an EHIC

If you started living and studying in Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein before 1 January 2021, you need to apply for a new UK-issued EHIC.

This entitles you to medically necessary state healthcare until the end of your course.

Using your EHIC or GHIC

An EHIC or GHIC covers state healthcare, not private treatment.

With an EHIC or GHIC you can get emergency or necessary medical care for the same cost as a resident in the country you’re visiting. This means that you can get healthcare at a reduced cost or for free.

Find out what your card covers in each country. You can select the country you are planning to visit from the drop-down list.

An EHIC or GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance – it does not cover everything, such as mountain rescue or being flown back to the UK (medical repatriation). Make sure you have both before you travel.

You’ll need to pay in full for treatment if you do not have an EHIC, GHIC or provisional replacement certificate (PRC).

The following European countries do not accept the EHIC or GHIC:

  • the Isle of Man
  • Jersey
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • the Vatican

If you do not have your EHIC or GHIC with you

You’ll need to apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) if you need treatment and you do not have your EHIC or GHIC, or your card is lost or stolen abroad.

Call the Overseas Healthcare Services. This is part of the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA).

NHS Overseas Healthcare Services
Telephone: +44 (0)191 218 1999
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Travelling with a health condition

Buy travel insurance with healthcare cover for your condition. Your EHIC or GHIC will cover medically necessary treatment.

Read the Money and Pensions Advice Service guidance for buying travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

If you need to have treatment while you’re abroad, you may need to pre-arrange it. For example, if you need dialysis or oxygen treatment. Speak to your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel.

You cannot take some products prescribed for health conditions with you into the EU. These include special food required for medical reasons containing meat or dairy. There are some exemptions. Read more about taking animal products, food or plants with you into the EU on the Your Europe website.

UK prescriptions can be used in Ireland and Spain. You cannot use a UK prescription elsewhere in the EU.

Bringing medicine with you

Before you travel, make sure you either:

  • take enough medication to last the duration of your trip
  • can get any medicine you need in the country you’re going to

Check with the embassy, high commission or consulate for the country you’re visiting about local rules on any specific medicines.

You need a letter to prove your medicine is prescribed to you if it contains a ‘controlled drug’. You may need to show this at the border when you’re entering or leaving the UK.

You may also need a licence for controlled drugs if:

  • your trip is longer than 3 months
  • you’re travelling with more than 3 months’ supply

Read more about travelling with controlled medicines.

Read guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines.

Getting prescriptions

If you need to get prescribed medicine while you’re away, speak to a pharmacist in the country you’re visiting. You may need a prescription from a local doctor.

You may have to pay something towards the cost of your prescription.

If you have an EHIC or GHIC, you should pay the same as a citizen of the EU country you’re visiting, or a Swiss citizen if in Switzerland. Make sure your prescription is from a state-approved doctor in the EU and Switzerland.

Travelling to have planned treatment

You cannot use an EHIC or GHIC for planned treatment. For example, if you’re going abroad to give birth.

Read the NHS guide to going abroad for medical treatment.

Published 28 January 2019
Last updated 23 December 2022 + show all updates
  1. The 'Using your EHIC or GHIC' section of the attachment has been updated to reflect the new reciprocal health agreement with Guernsey

  2. Updated to reflect the UK-Switzerland Convention on Social Security Coordination coming into effect. From 1 November 2021, eligible people can use GHICs and EHICs to access state-provided, necessary healthcare in Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes for free.

  3. Updated to reflect the rules on taking food prescribed for medical reasons to EEA countries and Switzerland.

  4. Updated 'Travelling with a health condition' section: added guidance on checking you can get your medicine abroad and changes to getting prescriptions in the EU.

  5. Added application link for UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) are still valid for travel to EU countries.

  6. Updated page to reflect that UK-issued European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) will still be accepted in EU countries, with different guidance for people travelling to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland from 1 January 2021.

  7. Updated: ‘Using an EHIC from 1 January 2021’ section. EU nationals living in the UK can now apply for a new UK-issued EHIC valid from 1 January 2021.

  8. Updated section: ‘Using an EHIC from 1 January 2021’. Students and people with a registered S1 can now apply for a new UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) that will remain valid from 1 January 2021.

  9. Link to the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) travel advice added.

  10. Added new section on how to get help paying for treatment after Brexit, and update on student EHICs.

  11. Added link to Foreign Office travel insurance guidance in the travel insurance section.

  12. Increased visibility of calls to actions. Highlighted the guidance on what to do to prepare for Brexit, agreements with EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and studying in the EU.

  13. Updated guidance on buying travel insurance.

  14. First published.