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British holidaymakers will still get free emergency healthcare in EU after 1 Jan

British travellers will continue to benefit from free emergency medical treatment within the EU from 1 January, the Government and European countries have confirmed.

The Government says that existing EHIC – European Health Insurance Cards – will still be valid as part of the new Brexit deal reached with the EU.

The EHICs entitle you to free healthcare during a temporary stay in any EU country on the same basis as local residents.

However, from 1 January EHICs will no longer be valid in Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein or Switzerland.

The EHIC will be replaced by a new UK Global Health Insurance Card but if you already have an EHIC it will remain valid until its expiry date. When it expires you should apply for a GHIC.

The continuation of the EHIC system should ensure that there is no sudden rise in travel insurance premiums for travel to the EU.

You still need travel insurance

The Government is warning that travellers should still take out travel insurance, even for short trips to Europe, even if you have an EHIC.

EHICs only cover emergency medical treatment. The scheme doesn’t cover repatriation costs or other expenses normally included in travel insurance.

Note, however, that standard travel insurance doesn’t usually provide any cover if you travel to a country against the Foreign Office (FCDO) advice. The FCDO is currently advising against non-essential travel to many countries around the world.

If you are travelling against FCDO advice, which is not recommended, you will need a specialist insurance policy.  Battleface* is one of a small handful of travel insurance companies providing cover for travel against FCO advice. For new policies, it also includes cover for Covid-related medical expenses, but not for cancellation or curtailment due to Covid-19 or local or national lockdowns.

Traveller’s top tip: Always read your travel insurance policy carefully so you know what is and isn’t cover. Pay special attention to Covid cover – for example, does it cover cancellation costs if you can’t travel because you’re told to isolate, or if your area goes into lockdown? Also check the limits on payments for single items or events, the extent of medical cover and the excess – the amount of any claim you have to pay yourself.


*Battleface is an affiliate, if you buy one of their insurance policies I might receive a small commission, which will help fund this site.



Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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