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After a year of chaos and volatility, one of the most common questions I get asked is ‘when can I book a holiday’.

We’re all being bombarded by travel adverts at the moment – both on the TV and in print. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all current travel restrictions are likely to be over by May.

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but the fact is booking a holiday is still a risk right now. Despite the glossy ads, you should stop and think about future travel before booking.

What if Covid has a resurgence in the country you want to visit? What if you don’t feel safe to travel? And most importantly – can you cancel and get your money back if the advice is still not to travel.

But it’s not just Covid complications that cause problems.

At the end of 2020 Britain left the European Union and no matter what side of the debate you stand on, things have changed significantly for UK travellers to the EU.

Travel, health problems and the EHIC card

Lurking in your wallet or purse may be an old EHIC or E111 card.

These cards (the European Health Insurance Card and its predecessor) allowed UK travellers to get limited cover for health issues when visiting countries in the EU (and a few other countries like Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein).

Much as the EHIC card was a useful – and free – thing to have handy when travelling abroad, it was never intended to be a substitute for travel insurance.

The things the card covered you for varied from country to country and generally allowed some state healthcare free or reduced.

Many a holidaymaker came a cropper after wandering into a private hospital unawares, only to be hit with a bill. Regardless, it was well worth travelling with the card handy.

EHIC cards now the Brexit transition has ended

Now we’ve left the EU, the EHIC card will eventually cease to exist.

Check the expiry date on the card – yours will be valid until that date. The good news is there will be a replacement, the GHIC card.

The GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) has just been announced by the Government and – caveat warning – is so new the details are still being ironed out.

The new rules are a little complicated, so it’s simpler to say, don’t assume your old EHIC or new GHIC will cover you in every country so check the website before traveling. Confusingly, if you apply now, you go through the old process. Here’s how you apply

Now, if you’re thinking you can put in a sneaky application and get an extended EHIC expiry, I’m afraid the system will figure this out and make you apply for a replacement card!

You need your National Insurance number to apply so you can’t use different registration details either.

A word of warning. Our mates over at MoneySavingExpert have highlighted that there are a number of fake websites out there that look official but are charging to help you with the application process.

This is legal, but immoral. So only go through the official Government website.

The card and process is free so if anyone asks for cash you know it’s not legit.

Travel insurance

Even if the EHIC/GHIC card is covered in the country you are going to (and don’t be fooled by the ‘global’ – much is yet to be sorted), you need to have a fully comprehensive travel insurance policy.

It’s been a chaotic year for travel cover, with new policies drying up completely at one point. 

Good news though, you can still get policies and many of them will cover you for Covid – but only if you are diagnosed (not just displaying symptoms).

Travel insurance documents are long and complicated, but it’s really important you read the key facts documents so you know exactly what you’re covered for and what excess limits/claim requirements are.

Don’t forget to take the docs with you if you travel – and keep the emergency claim number and your policy number on your phone or email so you can locate it quickly if you need it.

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