Health insurance when travelling abroad

Travel broadens the mind, as they say; going on holiday is an incredibly fun and stimulating experience. Seeing new sights, enjoying local cultures and sampling delicious delicacies far more exciting than the grub served up back home. Yes, holidays are great, but sometimes our best-laid plans can go up in smoke due to injuries or emergencies. As such, it's incredibly important that travellers take out health insurance before they step foot in the airport.

Travelling to Europe
Before heading to any country in the EU, travellers from the UK should first apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), carrying this card with them as they travel. The EHIC grants holders access to the medical services of the host country, in effect granting them the same rights as any native citizen of that particular nation. With it, you'll be able to access treatment that will allow you to continue your stay until the date you plan on returning back to the UK.

This doesn't mean you'll be guaranteed free healthcare. While some countries do offer a free-at-point-of-use health provision, many operate on a paid-for basis. If you find yourself in need of help in one of these countries though, you will only be charged as much as a native would have to pay. However, be aware that you may be taken to a private clinic – not all hospitals may be state-run. For more info, find out the particular rules for your chosen country with the country-by-country guide provided by the NHS here.

You could also take out health insurance as well, even if the chosen country offers a degree of free healthcare. Depending on the particular plan you purchase, travel insurance should cover the costs of any expensive medical issues that might arise during your stay – especially those that aren't covered under the particular country's universal healthcare system – although you might still have to pay an excess. Also, the great thing about travel insurance is that, alongside medical bills, it will sometime cover your personal belongings, baggage and money, saving you from all sorts of possible headaches.

Travelling to the rest of the world
When travelling outside of the EU, you should always be sure that you purchase worldwide travel insurance. Many basic plans only offer cover in Europe and North Africa, so it's always a good idea to check the small print when buying a plan - or simply search for the worldwide option.

Some countries do have reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK that allow British travellers to enjoy subsidised or free treatment. Australia, for instance, has one of these agreements, although you should check the government's country-by-country guide to check whether any agreements are in place and if so, what they cover, here.

Even if agreements are in place, you should always have adequate travel insurance anyway as a backup, just in case your treatment is not covered or costs more than the agreement states . If you're heading on a sporting holiday – skiing, for instance – then you may also need extra insurance, so always ask your provider any questions you may have.

Only then will you have complete cover, and utter peace of mind to enjoy your time away!

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