What happens if you are sick when travelling in the EU? How do you best protect yourself from unexpected health expenses that may occur when you are away from home in the EU? Does your health insurance still cover you? 

European healthcare provision and healthcare entitlements remain the responsibility of each individual EU country.

Despite initiatives, such as the European Health Union to coordinate preparedness for health crises, and to cooperatively address prevention, treatment, and aftercare for diseases such as cancer, there is no overall European healthcare system as such.

However, there are ways to protect yourself from unexpected medical bills if you are travelling, working, or on holidays in another EU country.

European Health Insurance Plan Explained

European Health Insurance Card

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is available to all citizens of the European Union, including Ireland for free.

This card allows you to access the public healthcare system in another EU country, or in the European Economic Area (EEA) or in Switzerland. Healthcare may be free of charge or at a reduced cost.

The card is designed for use while on holiday or a short term stay of up to 3 months in another EU or EEA country. Students may avail of the protection offered by the EHIC card for a full academic year if they are studying in the EU, EEA, or Switzerland.

The EHIC is suitable for use for necessary, unplanned medical treatment only. It may cover a GP visit or hospital stay for an accident or unexpected illness. The card does not offer cover for you to choose to have an elective procedure with a clinic or healthcare provider of your choice.

Travel Insurance for European travel

Whilst the EHIC offers protection for unexpected medical costs while you are travelling in the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, it is also strongly advised to take out travel insurance also.

Travel insurance can be purchased for a single trip, multiple trips, or for an extended term. If you require insurance cover solely for travel within Europe, this will be more affordable than worldwide or US travel insurance cover.

Travel insurance will offer protection for unexpected expenses while travelling such as:

  • Cancellation or curtailment of your holiday
  • Travel disruption e.g. flight cancellation or delays
  • Lost or stolen possessions, including baggage, money, or passports.

These protections are in addition to the medical cover offered by travel insurance. Travel insurance will offer cover for private healthcare for a medical emergency that requires hospital treatment. Travel insurance will also usually offer protection for medical repatriation, should this be necessary.

It is important to check whether you are covered for any pre-existing conditions on your travel insurance medical cover as this is not always the case. You must also ensure that the travel insurance covers you for any activity that you are planning to undertake such as winter sports.

Travel insurance may be available in Ireland from the following providers:

  • AIG
  • Blue Insurance
  • Multitrip.com
  • Insureandgo.ie
  • Allianz
  • Aviva
  • VHI

Travel insurance offers financial protection if you require medical assistance while on holiday

Health Insurance Overseas Cover for Europe

Many Irish private health insurance policies offer some protection should you be ill while on holiday in Europe. If you are admitted to hospital while on holiday, many Irish health insurance policies will offer protection on your existing Irish health insurance policy.

You may also be able to choose to be treated overseas with the prior approval of your health insurer if it is medically necessary.

However, this cover is very limited and would not always offer protection if you were studying or working in Europe. It may not offer cover for routine healthcare or checkups either should these be necessary.

Tailored Heath Insurance Quotes

We are Ireland’s first impartial insurance comparison website.

  • Our mission is to help consumers find the best insurance deals in Ireland

  • All research is examined through an independent market research body

  • Our central bank regulated insurance partners will provide you with free gadget insurance quotes from every provider so you always get the best deal

International Health Insurance in Europe

If you are planning on being based in Europe for more than three months, international health insurance is a good option to ensure that you are covered for emergency and routine healthcare, as well as pregnancy and dental care depending on your policy.

International health insurance works in much the same way as regular private health insurance by offering protection for medical expenses for illness, injury, check ups, and for pre- existing illnesses.

International health insurance may also be available which offers cover for pre-existing health conditions, should this be an issue for you.

International health insurance may be available from the following providers:


VHI International

AXA - Home Insurance
Allianz - Home Insurance

How to apply for a European Health Insurance Card

If you live in Ireland or are an EU citizen living in Ireland, you may apply in Ireland for an EHIC.

In some circumstances you may apply for an EHIC card if you are a Northern Ireland resident who works in the Republic of Ireland.

If you are Irish but live or work in another EU or EEA country, you may be able to apply for an EHIC in that country.

You can apply for the EHIC free of charge from your local health office, by post or online.

apply for a European Health Insurance Card

Contact us today.

Having an accident or illness can really take the shine off your holiday. If you are planning on studying or working in Europe, you may be concerned about health insurance cover in case you fall ill or need medical care.

We can help you to arrange travel or health insurance in Europe, whether you are planning a holiday, travelling, working, or studying in Europe.

Fill in our online form and our qualified advisers can discuss your options with you and find you the best insurance cover for your European adventure.

health insurance quote

Get the lowest premiums by comparing all the policies in the Irish market

Choose your insurance type, fill out the relevant assessment and speak to a central bank regulated insurance advisor