Do you need a European Health Insurance Card or travel insurance for European breaks?

Sometimes a vacation is what’s needed to escape the daily routine, and with the Easter midterm break on the horizon it’s the perfect opportunity to gather the family for that much-needed sojourn. But in between making sure you’ve packed the kids’ essentials (passport, togs, iPad – check!) it’s easy to forget things like taking out proper travel insurance or to just neglect it all together. In fact, research from the AA reveals that almost 20% of holidaymakers don’t bother with it because they carry the free European Health Insurance Card (previously known as an E111 card).*

Do I need an EHIC or travel insurance?


The EHIC allows you access to healthcare services when travelling to other European Union (EU) and EEA (European Economic Area) 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.

While the EHIC is well worth having, bear in mind that healthcare systems vary from country to country and are quite 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 holiday saviour


A travel insurance policy will cover all of these costs. The most common claim type we receive is for medical emergencies, but it’s important to remember that insurance covers you for a lot more. The second most common claim type is for holiday abandonment with travellers having to cancel their getaways due to unforeseen circumstances. Beyond that, your policy will also help meet the costs of lost or stolen belongings. Those jetting off should bear in mind that some policies won’t cover the cost of treatment at a state hospital if the EHIC should have been used and was not.

And while you might be tempted to go for the cheapest policy on offer, the AA warn against taking out cover based on price. “The cheapest policies often have high excesses, meaning you could be paying anything between €50 and €350 before an insurer will process your claim. Make sure your policy covers everything you need it to,” advises Conor.

The AA offers great value and benefits online with Annual Travel Insurance.  Get a quote now here.


*Research carried out by Populus among 23,085 AA members aged 18+, 7–15 May 2014. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

**Neither your EHIC nor S1 form (a certificate of entitlement) is valid in the parts of the Republic of Cyprus where the government of the republic does not exercise effective control (the northern part of Cyprus).