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The Ultimate Guide to EHIC and GHIC Cards: What You Need to Know

Weronika Popiolek
Weronika Popiolek

Marketing & PR Coordinator

Weronika Popiolek

Weronika Popiolek

Marketing & PR Coordinator

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The free EHIC and GHIC cards serve as a bridge to peace of mind for travelers within Europe, granting them access to state-provided healthcare during temporary stays. This access can range from emergency medical care to treatment for chronic conditions or routine maternity care, ensuring that your health is never a barrier to exploring the cultural riches of Europe. Moreover, holding an EHIC or GHIC could potentially save travelers substantial expenses, as these cards often allow for reduced costs or free services that would otherwise be out-of-pocket. It is important to note, however, that with the transition from the EHIC to the GHIC due to changes in the UK’s relationship with the EU, understanding which card you need and how to apply becomes all the more crucial.

Always keep in mind that while EHIC and GHIC provide significant health coverage, they do not replace comprehensive travel insurance, making it critical to secure both for well-rounded protection against unforeseen events.

What is an EHIC card?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a free card that gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 27 EU countries, along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, under the same conditions and at the same cost (free or reduced-cost) as people insured in that country. Cards are issued by your national health insurance provider.

What is an EHIC card?

Limitations of the EHIC:

It’s important to note that the EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It won’t cover any private medical healthcare or costs such as a return flight to your home country or lost/stolen property, and it does not guarantee free services. As each country’s healthcare system is different services that cost nothing at home might not be free in another country.

GHIC – The Global Health Insurance Card:

Following the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, the new Global Health Insurance Card, or GHIC, has been introduced to replace the UK’s EHIC for those who are eligible. UK residents can apply for a GHIC for free, and like the EHIC, it entitles travelers to state-provided medical treatment in EU countries. However, GHIC is not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

Key Features of the GHIC:

Remember, in some countries medical care is free, and in some you’ll pay, but only the same as a local. Ensure you show your card before treatment, and keep any receipts.

Here’s a list of links to the relevant European Commission pages:

The GHIC is not valid in these countries. But you can use your EHIC if it hasn’t expired:

  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Switzerland

If I have an EHIC/GHIC, do I need travel insurance when traveling in Europe?

Carrying an EHIC or GHIC serves as a safety net for travelers. The importance of these cards cannot be overstated. They can drastically reduce the costs associated with receiving medical attention abroad, which can be incredibly high, especially for tourists. Healthcare costs in different countries are often much higher for individuals without insurance or an EHIC/GHIC.

For instance, something as seemingly simple as a broken limb or a severe cold could translate to hundreds, if not thousands, of euros in medical fees. With an EHIC or a GHIC, the cost would be significantly lowered, and in some cases, the treatment might be free. This can ensure that you do not find yourself in a financial crisis due to unforeseen medical expenses during your European travels.

Moreover, in some European locations, being able to show your EHIC or GHIC might be necessary to access any state healthcare at all. This means the difference between getting immediate help or going through the stress and hassle of paying upfront or seeking private healthcare options.

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In case of an emergency, always carry your EHIC/GHIC card with you. You should contact the emergency services number of the country you are in and show them your card. The EHIC/GHIC card covers essential medical care at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. However, it is not a substitute for travel insurance and does not cover non-medical costs, such as lost or stolen property, cancelled flights or accommodation, amongst others. Find out more about our Travel Insurance and what cover options may be available to you.