What is an EHIC or GHIC?

GHIC is a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) that gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in the European Union (EU) at the same price as the residents of the country you are visiting. So if they get free treatment, you get free treatment. An EHIC is the older version (pre Brexit) - European Health Insurance Card. If you are going on one of our trips in Bulgaria, Spain or France and are a UK resident, you should apply for one.

Should I get an EHIC or GHIC?

EHICS are no longer being issued or renewed in the UK, except to a few groups (mostly EU nationals that live in the UK). If you received an EHIC on or after 1 January 2021, it will also work in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The card is free and has to be renewed every five years. You can order a card via the EHIC website. Most people will now be given a GHIC card instead.

Who can apply for a GHIC?

Essentially entitlement to a UK GHIC is not based on your nationality, but it is based on being a UK resident.

The UK operates a residency-based healthcare system (the NHS), which means access is generally determined by residency and not by the past or present payment of National Insurance contributions or UK taxes.

If you're ordinarily resident in the UK and not insured by an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you're likely to be considered insured by the UK and will be entitled to a GHIC.

You'll need to provide the necessary evidence when applying.

There are certain circumstances where you may be entitled to a GHIC or UK-issued EHIC despite living in an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

Is the GHIC Card free?

Yes! It is totally free to apply for the card. There are some companies offering to process your application for you at a cost, however it is not necessary to use them and there is no advantages in turnaround times. Apply for your GHIC card here.

How can I apply for a GHIC?

You apply for your GHIC card online via the NHS here.

What does an GHIC cover me for?

You can use a GHIC to get "necessary healthcare" from state services when you’re visiting an EU country.

Necessary healthcare means healthcare which becomes medically necessary during your stay, and you cannot reasonably wait until you’re back in the UK to get it.

This includes things like:

  • emergency treatment and visits to A&E
  • treatment for a long-term or pre-existing medical condition
  • routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring
  • routine maternity care, as long as you're not going abroad to give birth
  • oxygen and kidney dialysis

You’ll need to pre-arrange some treatments with the relevant healthcare provider in the country you are visiting, for example kidney dialysis or chemotherapy.

Check that you're not booked with a private healthcare provider, as these are not covered by GHIC.

If you fall ill on a ship or plane, your GHIC also covers you for necessary treatment when you arrive in an EU country.

Not all state healthcare is free in the EU and you may have to pay for services that you’d get for free on the NHS.

What does a GHIC not cover?

GHICs and old UK EHICs only cover you in EU countries. They do not cover you in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

However, if you were already on a visit to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland before 1 January 2021, your UK EHIC entitlements will continue until you leave that country. You can also use a UK passport to get medically necessary treatment in Norway.

Each country's health system is different and might not include all the things you might expect to get free of charge from the NHS.

In some countries, you have to pay a percentage towards the cost of any state-provided treatment, known as a patient co-payment.

You'll have to pay the same as a patient from that country. Find out more in the GOV.UK country healthcare guides.

How do I use my GHIC?

GHICS are simple to use. All you have to do is present your card before you have treatment and you shouldn’t have any problems. Remember to keep it on you at all times – if you are rushed to a medical centre and don’t have it with you, it can be more difficult to get treatment. The important thing to remember is that you can only use your card for state-run medical treatment. If you end up in a private health centre or hospital, then you will probably have to foot the entire bill yourself, unless you're covered for this by travel insurance.

If I have a GHIC, do I still need travel insurance?

An EHIC or GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance – it does not cover everything, such as mountain rescue or being flown back to the UK (medical repatriation), nor other elements of travel insurance such as theft, lost bags, travel delays etc. Make sure you have both before you travel.

Do all European countries accept GHIC?

The following European countries do not accept the EHIC or GHIC:

  • the Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
  • the Isle of Man
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • the Vatican

If I have a GHIC, do I need to pay for treatment then claim it back?

In some countries you may be expected to pay your bill upfront and then claim a refund afterwards.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary). You or your insurance company may need them if you're applying for a refund.

Some countries ask patients to pay a contribution towards the cost of their care, such as for prescription costs. This is known as a co-payment or patient share.

More GHIC Information?

Would you like to read more? Check out the NHS site and also Which for more details.

Adventure Alternative trips that a GHIC is applicable for UK residents in Bulgaria would be the Summits and Ridges of Bulgaria and the Winter trek in the Rila Mountains; in Spain the Picos de Europa Trek, the Sierra Nevada Trek and the Quixote Safari.