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
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 you should have either:
- a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
- a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)
- 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.
Visiting Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland
You can use a UK passport to get medically necessary healthcare in Norway.
GHICs and most UK EHICs are not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. 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, Liechtenstein or Switzerland 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, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
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
UK students using an EHIC
If you started living and studying in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland 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 Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
- the Isle of Man
- 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.
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.
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.
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. Make sure your prescription is from a state-approved doctor in the EU.
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.