The pitfalls of travelling without holiday insurance

A couple lying in the sea

A lot has been said and written recently about travelling abroad and the use of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) - but here at Fiveways we have concerns this may lead to some confusion about just exactly what is needed to cover yourself if you are off on holiday.

Being in possession of the EHIC means as a traveller abroad you will be entitled to the same service as the locals in the country you are visiting, at state-run clinics or hospitals. This applies to any country in the EU and also includes Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland.

It is believed more than 50 per cent of Britons don’t have an EHIC and getting one can be extremely beneficial in getting discounted or free treatment - but it is vitally important to stress that travel insurance should still be taken out in conjunction with the card and the card should not be used without the added protection travel insurance gives.

A lot of insurance firms say you need both the card and travel insurance and that the card doesn’t necessarily mean a free or discounted service - having travel insurance more often than not does. An added bonus in having the card is that it may lead to the excess on your policy being waived.

The majority of people going away believe the card will allow them free emergency medical care anywhere in Europe. But the way care and treatment are carried out varies from place to place and so does what you are entitled to. If the local population get free treatment, then so will you. But if they have to pay for all or part of various treatments and services, then so will you.

And even if you know the place you’re going offers free or reduced-price care, you cannot know if something happens that you will be taken to a state or private hospital. The card may not be accepted if you find yourself in a private clinic - and there are things the card won’t cover anyway. The card won’t be accepted if you are on a cruise or need the services of a helicopter or mountain rescue team.

If the unthinkable happens and you need to be flown back to the UK or your body repatriated, then that won’t be covered by the card either. And that is an exceptionally expensive experience.

EHIC cards are free and valid for up to five years. They are available by visiting the Government’s EHIC website. For more information or advice on travel insurance and the EHIC, give us a call on 01952 812380.