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If you are living in the UK, the type of travel health insurance for Europe you will need depends on your nationality.
UK citizens are eligible for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which covers medically necessary treatment in state-run hospitals during short trips in the EU. If you are a non-UK citizen living in the UK, you may also be eligible for a GHIC, but chances are that you also have to get Schengen travel insurance.
If you are a UK citizen, travel insurance for Europe is an essential part of your trip, but it is not required by law. In other words, even though you are highly encouraged to get a health insurance plan whenever travelling abroad, you will be allowed to visit the rest of Europe even without it – at your own risk.
If you do not have any type of health insurance coverage and you happen to need medical treatment while on your trip to the EU, you will have to pay all expenses out-of-pocket. Most European countries are not known to be cheap when it comes to medical costs for uninsured individuals.
British citizens travelling to the EU must have one of the following types of health insurance:
But remember that neither the EHIC nor GHIC is a replacement for travel insurance, so to be fully covered, you should get both an EHIC/GHIC and a private travel insurance plan.
If you are a non-UK citizen who needs a visa to go to Europe, you must get Schengen travel insurance even if you are living in Britain at the time. If you are also contributing to the NHS – for example, you work or study in the UK – you can get a GHIC as well.
Schengen travel insurance refers to the type of insurance you need when you apply for a Schengen visa. In order for the Consulate or Embassy to accept it, your Schengen visa insurance must meet the following criteria:
Those who do not need a Schengen visa don’t have to get travel insurance which necessarily meets the requirements set by the Schengen countries.
Health insurance companies AXA Assistance and Europ Assistance provide the mandatory insurance certificate required when applying for a Schengen visa from the UK.
If you are a third-country citizen legally residing in the UK and receiving public healthcare benefits from the NHS, but you don’t need a visa to visit Europe, you can use a GHIC during a trip to Europe, just like British citizens. You do not need to get Schengen or Europe travel insurance, necessarily – but as always, it is a good idea.
Even though there are separate European travel insurance rules based on nationality, there really is no restriction on who can purchase a certain type of travel insurance; so, you can purchase an insurance policy covering the Schengen area even if you do not need a Schengen visa. As such, here’s a list of plans from some of the leading travel insurance providers for Europe and Schengen:
Yes, you do. For one, if you need Schengen travel insurance as part of your visa application, the Embassy is not going to accept an EHIC/GHIC as proof of health coverage, even though they both cover medical emergencies.
Additionally – even if you don’t need a visa at all – an EHIC/GHIC offers no coverage for trip-related incidents, such as delayed flights or loss of baggage, for emergency evacuation or repatriation, and can only be used to receive treatment in state-run medical facilities in Europe.
Yes, you can use a UK GHIC to receive medical treatment in Europe, but only at public, state-run hospitals. As convenient as a GHIC is, keep in mind the following limitations:
This can vary between travel insurance companies, but the travel insurance policy for Europe usually covers all EU countries. However, you might also be covered in some European countries which aren’t part of the European Union. These may include:
Countries such as Albania, Serbia, Turkey, Montenegro, Kosovo or the Canary Islands are rarely included in Europe travel insurance policies.
So, if you plan to travel to non-EU countries as well during your trip to Europe, you can get a separate policy to cover you there or ask your insurance providers whether they have options to extend coverage.
Regardless of your nationality, you can easily purchase a travel insurance policy for your trip to Europe online through travel insurance companies’ websites. All you have to do is:
Because of the nature of the Schengen zone, you will likely find a policy covering you through the entire area, not just the specific country you are visiting.
You can also approach a local travel insurance office in person and purchase a policy or get it through a tour operator – if you are travelling as part of an organized group.
Yes, if you are travelling in Europe and need medical assistance, you will likely have to show proof of health insurance to avoid paying out-of-pocket. This can be your EHIC, GHIC, or a copy of your travel insurance certificate (either physical or digital). You will likely be asked for your insurance details as you check out or before your appointment.
If you have purchased your European travel insurance from a reputable company, such as AXA Assistance, Europ Assistance, or Mondial Care, then you will also have access to a 24/7 call line. You should contact your travel insurance providers if you receive medical treatment and you are unclear on how to proceed or if you need help.
While medical treatment in Europe is not as expensive as in the US, for example, it still does not come cheap. The actual cost will depend on the specific country you are visiting, whether you seek treatment in a public or private hospital and the severity of your condition. A simple doctor’s visit for the flu or stomach bug might not set you back too much – usually about €30 – but if you get into an accident or have a broken arm or leg, then the prices can easily creep up.
In France for example, a doctor’s visit is about €25. If you need to be hospitalized, you would pay around €18 per night in addition to the cost of treatment. It is similar in Germany – visiting a GP is about €25-€30, with prices increasing with the nature of your condition and a separate fee for each night you spend in the hospital.
But this is only in public hospitals – if you are admitted to a private hospital, you can easily expect to have a bill in the hundreds if not thousands.
On the other hand, travel insurance for Europe for a single trip (one week) ranges from €18 to €35 in most reputable insurance companies. Looking at the bigger picture, this price is likely a very small fraction of the overall cost of your trip and well worth it for your peace of mind.
No matter how prepared you are for your trip to the rest of Europe, some extra tips can always be handy. Here are our top tips for a trip to Europe:
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