Monday 24 October 2016

Ask the Expert: Do I need travel insurance, an EHIC, or both?

Travel tips & advice

Orla O'Callaghan

Published 22/04/2016 | 06:35

Family holidays. Photo: Deposit
Family holidays. Photo: Deposit

What's the difference between travel insurance and an EHIC? AA Ireland spokesperson Orla O'Callaghan fills us in.

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We all love holidays. In between packing the essentials (passports, tickets, iPod – check!), however, it’s easy to forget things like travel insurance.

In fact, AA research reveals that almost 20pc of holidaymakers don’t bother with it because they carry the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

So what's the difference between the two?

Basically, the EHIC (previously known as the E111) allows you access to healthcare services when travelling to other EU and EEA countries.

There, you can avail of the same level of state-provided free or subsidised medical treatment that local citizens would expect within that country.

Once you’re living in Ireland or intend to live here for a year, you can apply for the EHIC from the HSE ( - it's a free public service.

While the EHIC is well worth having, bear in mind that healthcare systems vary from country to country and are likely to be different to the system here in Ireland.

The EHIC doesn’t provide for private medical treatment abroad, or other costs such as sea or mountain rescue, an emergency flight home, or indeed accommodation if an accident or illness means you have to delay your journey home.

Some countries may even charge EHIC cardholders for ambulance services, local doctor visits, prescriptions or specialist medical costs.

Costs can vary and you may be required to make a contribution towards your treatment. Holidaymakers should also remember that there are some areas within the EEA where the EHIC is invalid, such as parts of the Republic of Cyprus.

A travel insurance policy will cover all of these costs.

At AA, the most common claim type is for medical emergencies, but it’s important to remember that insurance covers you for a lot more too.

Our second most common claim is for holiday abandonment, for example, with travellers having to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances.

Bear in mind too, that some policies won’t cover the cost of treatment at a state hospital if the EHIC should have been used and was not.

Ultimately, the best advice is to carry both.

For more travel articles from AA Ireland, see

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