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What to do if you fall ill

Falling ill is unpleasant enough at any time, but when it happens in an unfamiliar country, it adds extra level of stress to an already difficult situation. Here’s some advice to help you be prepared in the event that you fall sick overseas.

Seeking treatment

If you need a doctor or nurse, try to find one who speaks English so you can communicate your symptoms and understand their advice with the minimum of stress. If in doubt about where to find one, contact the British Embassy or Consulate of the country you’re travelling in.

Treatment in Europe

If you’re travelling in the European Economic Area (EEA), you should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card entitles you to medical treatment at a highly reduced rate or, in some cases, free of charge, dependent on the country you’re in. Without the card, you may have to pay very high fees.

You should apply for the card directly from the NHS, and can do so either online or over the phone.

Treatment outside Europe

The UK has agreements with another 20 countries – including Turkmenistan, Russia and New Zealand – which mean UK citizens can receive some healthcare free.

Check this list to see if the country you’re visiting has one of these arrangements before you travel.

Take out insurance

Even if you’re travelling to a country which has a healthcare agreement with the UK, it’s worth taking out adequate Travel Insurance, as even a European Health Insurance Card won’t cover emergencies such as skiing accidents, for instance.

A premium is a small price to pay to ensure you have access to the right medical services in an emergency whilst abroad.

Further information

To read more advice and information on getting the help you need should you fall ill abroad, see our page on emergency contact numbers.

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The content of these pages are for general information only, They do not constitute advice and must not be acted or relied on as being so.