If you’re reading that heading and you really have no idea what we’re talking about, then this is article is one you seriously need to read!

If you have never heard of the EHIC, this basically stands for European Health Insurance Card, and it is your fast-track to affordable (free) healthcare whenever you travel from one EU country to another.

You might be wondering why you need this extra item when you already have travel insurance (or at least you should already have travel insurance – never travel without it!) but there some very large and also some subtle differences between the two, which means carrying both with you is vital.

Travel insurance covers you for lots of different things, depending on your particular policy limitations and small print, but basically covers you for travel-related topics as well as medical; for instance, if your baggage goes missing or your flight is cancelled for some reason. Now, travel insurance does cover you for certain medical issues, but you will have to pay an excess cost to access that policy reward. An EHIC on the other hand entitles you to free medical attention and treatment in an EU country (provided you are a resident of another EU country), and that takes away the problem of paying an excess. Of course, there are some limitations, so you really need to read the website for the full list of applicable countries and stipulations, but generally speaking, provided you are not travelling with the sole intention of giving birth in a foreign country, you’re not travelling to access private healthcare, and you’re not trying to get cosmetic surgery done on the cheap, you should be covered.

Ordering your EHIC is easy and free; simply head online to the website, input your details, and wait for the post to come. Everyone who travels needs a card, so if you are travelling as a family, every single member will need to order one, children included. It doesn’t take long to order however, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Cards generally arrive quite quickly, although do try and do this well ahead of time, just to avoid any delays during particularly busy times, e.g. summer.

All you need to do then is store it somewhere safe, perhaps with your passport and travel insurance details, and hope that you never have to use it. If it does ever need to see the light of day, at least you can be reassured that you won’t have to foot a rather large medical bill at the end of the whole episode.