Home travel The one free thing you should organise before your next trip to Europe

The one free thing you should organise before your next trip to Europe

by Clare Mansell
The one free thing you should organise before your next trip to Europe

It may only be March, but like many people we are already making plans for the summer holidays. This year we are in the rare position of having two trips planned, both to which will be to France.

As well as booking ferry crossings and accommodation, we are stocking up on spares for Maggie who will be our transport for one of the trips and sorting out Alice’s first passport, but there’s another thing I need to organise which I’ve completely overlooked for the last few years… a European Health Card.

Jim already has one and looked at me with a face of total disbelief when I admitted I didn’t. “But they’re free! Why would you not have one?”

on holiday in France

Like so many things in life the answer is simply that I’ve never got round to it. Although a European Health Card is not an alternative to health insurance (it won’t cover things like an emergency flight home) it does give you access to state provided health care in 28 European countries, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.

If you like me have been fortunate enough to have had a lifetime of good health it’s easy to be ambivalent and assume you’ll never need access to healthcare during the short space of time you are on holiday, but why risk it when applying for cover is free and easy?

In the UK all you need to do is register and then complete a short online form. You’ll need either your National Insurance or NHS number, but the rest is straight forward and the entire process only takes a couple of minutes.

You can also apply for cards for your spouse and children at the same time and if you do, remember your children’s NHS number will be on the front page of their red book. Your European health card is then sent out to you in the post and generally arrives within 10 days.

There’s also now an app which explains how to use the card, lists emergency numbers and tells you what treatments are covered and their costs. The app download links are listed on the European Commission website along with information about the card and links to apply from other European countries.

This is a collaborative post

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