If you are travelling abroad, it’s a good idea to make sure you have all the information you need about accessing medical care in the country or countries you are travelling to before you travel. You can find comprehensive information and advice for getting healthcare around the world on the NHS website.

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Accessing care within the EEA and Switzerland
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If you are travelling within the European Economic Area (EEA) or to Switzerland, you should first make sure you get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Most European countries have reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK. This means that you will be entitled to free or reduced cost medical care in these countries as long as you have got your EHIC. Make sure you read through the notes that come with the card as they will be able to tell you exactly what the card will entitle you to in the country you are travelling to. You can also read about this online on the NHS website

Countries within Europe where the EHIC is valid are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus (except Northern Cyprus), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including the Canary and Balearic Islands), Sweden and Switzerland.

To get a European Health Insurance Card, you will need to supply your name, date of birth and NHS or NI number. You can apply online by visiting the EHIC page.

To apply by phone you can call the automated application service on 0300 330 1350. For general enquiries about the EHIC or claim refunds, call the Overseas Healthcare Team on 0191 218 1999.

You can also apply by post by downloading an application form from the EHIC page on the NHS website and returning it to the address given.  

Each EEA country has specific guidance on how to access healthcare or claim refunds. You can find out what to do in each country by visiting the country-by-country guide on the NHS website.

The EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. Whilst it will entitle you to free or reduced cost medical care, it will not cover you for costs such as flights home if you need to return early, nor will it cover you for non-medical losses that travel insurance would cover, such as theft of property or loss of baggage. It is therefore important to think about getting appropriate travel insurance as well as your EHIC.

You can read about travel insurance for people with HIV in the section on Travel Insurance

Care outside the EEA (countries with reciprocal healthcare agreement with UK)

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In some countries around the world where the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is not valid, there is a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK. This means that in these countries you will be able to get urgent medical treatment at reduced cost or even for free.

Countries with reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK are: Anguilla, Australia, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Channel Islands, Croatia, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Macedonia, Montenegro, Montserrat, New Zealand, Romania, Russia, St. Helena, Serbia, Turks and Caicos Islands and the former USSR (Soviet Union).

Each country has different rules about what you will be entitled to, and you can read about these by visiting the NHS website

Find out before you travel exactly what you are entitled to, and also how you go about claiming refunds for any medical care you received if you are entitled to claim money back. If you do have to pay anything towards your treatment it is vital that you keep any receipts to enable you to get any refund.

You should also make sure you have appropriate travel insurance for any country you travel to. You can read about travel insurance for people with HIV in the section on Travel Insurance. For information on travelling to non-EEA countries, click here.

Care outside the EEA (countries with no reciprocal healthcare agreement with UK)

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All countries, other than those mentioned in the sections above, do not have reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK. This means that should you need any medical treatment in these countries you will probably need to pay all medical costs and then claim them back from your travel insurance company. It is therefore vital that you obtain a high level of comprehensive and appropriate travel insurance before travelling to any country without a healthcare agreement with the UK, otherwise you could end up facing a bill running into many thousands of pounds for any treatment you need.

You can read about travel insurance for people with HIV in the section on travel insurance.

Some examples of parts of the world without reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK are: Turkey, Canada, USA, Mexico, most Caribbean islands, South America, the Middle East, Africa, most of Asia (including India, Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong) and the whole Pacific region (except Australia and New Zealand).

As with any medical treatment abroad that you have to pay up front for, make sure you keep all receipts to enable you to claim the money back on your travel insurance. 

What do I do in a medical emergency?
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If you find yourself in an emergency during your visit in Europe dial 112. The European emergency number is valid all in all EU/EEA member states and is free of charge. You can use it to reach emergency services such as ambulance or police from any telephone or mobile phone free of charge.

It’s worth considering the following checklist before you travel - it should help you if you do need to arrange emergency medical treatment abroad:

  • Make sure you’ve got all the documents you need: your passport, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you have one, proof of UK residence (e.g. your driving licence or NHS card), and vaccination certificates.
  • Check your insurance policy, so you know what your insurers will pay for.
  • Contact your travel company representative if you have one.
  • Give the doctor the generic name – not just the brand name – of any medication you’re taking.
  • Tell the doctor if you’ve been to any other countries on this trip.
  • Keep the names and addresses of a few friends and relatives with your passport so they can be contacted if necessary.
  • Contact British Consular officials if you need to get back to the UK quickly. They may be able to arrange this for you – but, remember, you will have to pay.
  • If you pay for any treatment or drugs and plan to claim on your insurance or get a refund, keep all receipts, special proofs of purchase, price tags and labels.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website has comprehensive travel advice by country, including information about UK embassies and consular offices.