Lifestyle Guides

Your Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC): the EHIC replacement

Find out what a GHIC is and why you should remember to pack it on your next holiday in Europe

Europe travel

Millions of UK tourists travel to Europe each year. Even though some of our most loved locations are only a hop, skip and a jump away, you still need to ensure you're protected.

Whether you're travelling to the vineyards of Tuscany or the graffiti streets of Berlin, it's important to arrange European Travel Insurance cover before your trip.

And when headed to Europe, you need to make sure you've packed your new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or your old European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if it's still in date.

What is the GHIC?

The GHIC is required in the event that you need medical treatment or assistance when on a trip in Europe. It serves as proof that you are a UK resident eligible for treatment in a European facility which is in a reciprocal health agreement with the UK.

It was brought in to replace the EHIC when we officially left the EU on 31 December 2020, although you can still use your old EHIC if it hasn’t yet expired.

The EHIC was first introduced in 2004, replacing the old E111 system for tourists. It is a free card for residents in the European Economic Area (EEA) (except Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, where the EHIC hasn’t been valid since 31 December 2020).

Owning an EHIC or the new GHIC means you can receive medical treatment at an approved facility when you're abroad in one of these European countries. 

Why do I need a GHIC?

Owning a GHIC card validates your eligibility for treatment in an approved medical facility.

The card acts as a secure and efficient way to inform foreign medical professionals about your identity and medical history. It also reduces the cost of medical expenses or makes them free of charge, depending on the country and the facility for which you receive medical treatment.

Do I still need travel insurance?

Yes. Having the GHIC or old EHIC isn't a replacement for travel insurance – you still need to buy a policy and ensure you're covered in the event of emergency and non-emergency medical treatment, and for other incidents such as theft of belongings or cancellations.

The GHIC or EHIC works as a faster ticket to effective and safe treatment and reduces or omits the cost of treatment. If you require medical treatment when travelling on the continent, whether for a new or pre-existing medical condition, it's strongly advised that you seek out a facility that accepts the GHIC or EHIC and is in agreement with the UK. If you don't seek treatment from one of these facilities, you'll have to pay excess on medical costs abroad.

How do I get a GHIC?

If you've lost your EHIC, aren't sure if you have one, or it has expired, you can apply for the new GHIC online through the NHS website. It only takes 10 days until your card arrives in the post.

The GHIC is free, so you should avoid any websites that request payment for it.

Can I use the GHIC for private medical treatment at home or abroad?

No. You cannot use the GHIC or old EHIC for private medical treatment in the UK or abroad and you're not permitted to use them for any planned medical treatment abroad, such as giving birth. Also, you're not permitted to use the card if you are relocating to work or study in the EEA or Switzerland.

Where is the GHIC/EHIC valid?

The GHIC and EHIC are valid in medical facilities located in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.

If you're a UK resident and are planning a trip, make sure you have a valid GHIC or EHIC as well as comprehensive travel insurance policy.

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