The first precaution is to have adequate and appropriate travel insurance to cover not just medical expenses, but also the costs of getting you home following or to receive medical treatment.
At least six weeks before you travel, ask your GP what vaccinations are needed (if any) for visiting your chosen destination(s).
If you take regular medication, check if it is legal in the country you are proposing to visit.
If you are taking prescribed medication, take the prescription and a doctor’s letter with you.
Make sure you pack all your medication in your hand luggage.
Check with the Department of Health on their general medical advice for travellers.
If you have Saga Travel Insurance, our 24 hour helpline Saga Travel Assistance can provide advice such as guidance for you and your relatives, friends or employers if you are unfortunate enough to go into hospital.
The European Health Insurance Card
If you are travelling in the EU, as an EU citizen you are entitled to reduced cost or free emergency care in any of the member countries. The ‘E111’ form was previously the method for proving eligibility for such care, but has been replaced by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and is now obsolete. Each individual travelling must now apply for the new card by completing an EHIC application form. You can apply for an EHIC card free of charge by calling 0300 330 1350 or online at www.ehic.org.uk
The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip, because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only, and you’ll be treated on the same basis as an ‘insured’ person living in the country you are visiting. Remember, this might not cover all the things you’d expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK. You may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care.
The EHIC also covers any treatment you need for chronic disease or pre-existing illness. You need to make arrangements in advance for kidney dialysis and oxygen therapy. To arrange for kidney dialysis while you are away, contact your NHS renal unit in the UK before you travel.
Even if you are travelling in Europe with an EHIC you are advised to take out separate comprehensive travel insurance rather than rely on the EHIC because:
- It does not cover all medical conditions.
- It does not provide for repatriation to the UK.
- Travel insurance also provides cover for baggage, cancellation and many other eventualities.