What is a GHIC and why do you need one?

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Travelling to Europe? Make sure you have a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) as well as travel insurance. Here's why you need both...

What is a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)?

Since 1 January 2021 the GHIC is accepted in all EU countries as well as Switzerland. It's not currently accepted in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) lets you get state healthcare in Europe at a reduced or no cost on the same basis as a local resident. If you don’t have one, you can apply for free before you travel at Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).

However, not all medical costs are covered by these health agreements, so your travel insurance will cover you for any medical expenses outside of that. This includes bringing you home if you're not well enough to complete your trip.

The good news is that when you use your GHIC or a reciprocal health agreement to get public healthcare in Europe, you may benefit from a reduced or waived medical excess on your insurance policy.

The GHIC will also cover you for pre-existing medical conditions that won’t necessarily be covered by your travel insurance. So if you're receiving treatment for a heart condition in the UK, that treatment will be available if you need it when you show your required documentation in Europe. However, you can’t specifically travel to Europe to get treatment using your GHIC.

If you're pregnant and you need treatment for your pregnancy, your GHIC will cover both routine and emergency treatment while you’re in Europe.

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

Yes! The GHIC is complementary to your travel insurance rather than a replacement. Your GHIC will only cover you for medical treatment that's normally provided by the state in the country you’re visiting, while your travel insurance is there for what's not.

In the UK, we're used to the NHS providing free medical care at the point of need, but in some European countries, the state may charge for medical care. So, if the local residents are required to pay for some GP services (for example), so will you.

The GHIC covers you for state treatment, but any costs that aren't covered, can be claimed against your travel insurance. With LV= travel insurance, we waive the excess if a GHIC has been used to reduce the cost of the claim.

In addition to medical cover, our travel insurance can also cover you if:

  • You need to cancel your holiday
  • You need repatriation to the UK (if medically necessary) 
  • You need to cancel booked excursions
  • Your luggage, money or passport is lost or stolen
  • You need emergency rescue services while taking part in winter sports


Many travel insurance policies, including ours, expect you to use public health facilities, not private ones, where possible. To do this, you'll need to ask to be treated at a public facility and show your required documentation when you arrive at the hospital or clinic.

Do I have to pay for a GHIC?

No, the GHIC is free. The process is very straightforward, so there’s no need to pay for help to get a card.

How do I get a GHIC?

The simplest way to apply for a GHIC is online. You can do this through the UK government website. 

Do children need a GHIC?

Yes, each member of your family will need their own GHIC if they're travelling to Europe. If a child is under 16, their parent or guardian can apply for a card for them.

How long does a GHIC last?

Your GHIC is valid for five years. After that time, you’ll need to replace it with a new one. Keep an eye on the renewal date, as without your GHIC it could be expensive to get medical treatment. The expiry date is shown on the card. 

Things to remember about your GHIC

  • It's not a substitute for travel insurance 
  • They're free, so don't pay for one
  • Children need their own card 
  • They last for up to five years
  • Carry it with you at all times when travelling

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