Travel Advice

Using your EHIC in Spain

This video has been jointly produced by the Department of Health and the British Embassy, Madrid to explain how to use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in Spain. The EHIC can only be used in public hospitals and it entitles the cardholder to any medically-necessary treatment that cannot wait until they return home. For further information, please visit
FCO Travel Advice Government Travel Advice:
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Travel Advice Notices aim to ensure that British travellers are well prepared before departure. Our website also contains answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) on Travel Advice.
Department of Health EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) and Health Advice for Travellers
Every year, residents of the United Kingdom go on more than 59 million overseas journeys. Travel across the world is now so common that it is easy to forget the health risks which can be involved and the fact that very few countries offer such easy access to medical facilities as Britain. This area of the website contains advice for travellers about planning ahead, staying healthy and getting treatment elsewhere in the world. Also in this area is information about the EHIC, UK citizens’ passport to free or reduced-cost emergency care in most other European countries.

Travel Advice News



Over 12 million British nationals are planning to visit friends and family abroad this year1 but new research published today by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office shows that young people are more likely to buy a present for their host than take out a travel insurance policy.2

The survey shows that a third of people did not take out travel insurance the last time they stayed with family and friends overseas. More than three quarters (77%) of those who stated they were visiting friends and family this year said that saving money is a key factor in this decision. However not taking out comprehensive travel insurance cover is often a false economy as people could face serious financial difficulty if they need medical treatment or lose valuable possessions.

Minister for Consular Affairs, Jeremy Browne, said: "With over 5 million Britons living abroad3, people are increasingly making the most of opportunities to visit their loved ones across the world. However, it's important to understand that staying in someone's home does not make you exempt from encountering serious problems. Take the same steps before you go as you would for any other holiday, such as taking out travel insurance and doing some pre-trip research, to ensure you are prepared if something does go wrong."

Despite the belief that they don't have to prepare for a holiday when visiting friends and family, 39% of British nationals have ended up relying on their host when things have gone wrong during their trip. British expats hosting visitors have to deal with a range of problems from taking their guests to hospital when they fall ill to providing financial help. Dean Churm, British Consul for Florida, said: "What would your host appreciate more? A box of teabags or dealing with a hefty medical bill because you had an accident and were not insured? Getting comprehensive travel insurance means that whilst an accident may disrupt your holiday, it won't bankrupt you in extortionate medical or repatriation bills"

Examples of cases handled by the Foreign Office:

  • A man was visiting his mother in Canada and extended his stay. He suffered a heart attack and had to pay over $40,000 in medical bills as his insurance had lapsed during the prolonged trip.
  • A man had a stroke while visiting family in Cape Town. He was taken to a private hospital but could not pay for the treatment nor did he have any health insurance. The family could not cover the increasing costs and he was moved to state facilities where the level of treatment is significantly lower and where he eventually died.
  • A woman did not take anti-malarial medication before visiting her mother in Tanzania as she'd been to the area many times before. She became sick and was diagnosed with cerebral malaria which she later died from.

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For further information, interviews or case studies please contact the Know Before You Go team on 0207 478 7840 or


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a survey conducted by Opinion Matters. Total sample size was 4,647 UK adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd February ' 7th March 2011. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

1. This equates to 1 in 4, taken from Opinion Matters research. The total 18+ UK population was taken from the Office of National Statistics and divided by 4 to give this figure
2. Figures taken from Opinion Matters research. When asked about the last time they visited friends and family abroad 63% of 16-24 year olds took their host a present whilst only 55% took out travel insurance
3. This figure is taken from IPPR report Global Brit, Making the most of the British diaspora, Appendix C

The FCO's Know Before You Go campaign encourages British nationals to prepare for their foreign travel so they can avoid preventable problems. The campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad. The campaign works with over 400 travel industry partners to communicate its messages. For more information visit

Gifts Brits pack for their loved ones living abroad:

  • Food including teabags, shortbread, custard and baked beans
  • Alcohol including whisky and wine
  • Clothes including UK football club shirts
  • British memorabilia including Union Jack mug and a board game