Tips For Travelling With Pre Existing Medical Conditions

Everyone knows how important it is to purchase a travel insurance policy for even single trip travel these days – especially if you have a winter sports holiday planned! But what happens when you have existing medical conditions that aren’t covered by standard travel insurance policies?

travel insurance with pre existing medical conditions - map of the world with hat, binoculars, sunglasses and trainers

Does travel insurance cover pre-existing medical conditions? Does this mean that your holiday horizons are limited to a UK staycation?

The answer to both these questions is ‘not necessarily’ but it is up to you to do your research.

Can you get travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions?

Firstly, if you are planning a trip, ask your insurer for their list of pre-existing medical conditions. Pre-existing medical conditions describe any illness or condition that has occurred before you take out an insurance policy, ranging all the way from asthma to cancer.

You need this because your policy’s medical cover won’t always cover you for existing medical conditions as standard. You will need to declare any existing conditions when you buy your policy, otherwise, your claim may not be paid.

Travelling with a medical condition is stressful enough as it is, without the additional worry of what might happen if you are taken ill.

My mum is a long-term sufferer of epilepsy and whilst you may think this restricts her choice of holiday destination, many insurers now offer medical travel insurance for conditions such as epilepsy. You still need to do your research though and, if like me, you have elderly parents who are not in the best of health, that job may well fall to you.  Although, generally, my parents holiday in the UK, mum has visited Amsterdam and Bruges in recent years.

travel insurance with pre existing medical conditions - map of the world with claim forms and passports

Points to consider when taking out travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions

Is it safe for you to travel?

There are still conditions you may need to satisfy with policies like these, however. For example, some insurers will turn you away if they consider it is not safe for you to travel.

You might be refused cover if you are travelling against the advice of a doctor or are travelling with the intention of having medical treatment abroad. Similarly, you may be turned down if you have been given a terminal prognosis.

If it is safe for you to travel, you can typically expect to be covered for most of the common conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart conditions and joint replacements.

Before you book

Always seek medical advice from your GP before booking your holiday and ask whether you will need vaccinations prior to travelling.

Make sure any special dietary requirements are noted as well as any allergies.

Ensure there will be help with your wheelchair or medical equipment

Locate the nearest hospitals and doctors are in case of emergency

Taking care of your medication

It’s vital that you have your medication well organised and that your travelling companions know what to do in an emergency.

Keep a doctor’s note to hand of all your medications and their doses. See if you can get someone to type this up for you and print it out – ideally get it laminated and have more than one copy.

Depending on where you’re travelling, it may be worth getting this translated into the language of the country you plan to visit.

Keep your medication in its original packaging, not in unmarked containers and make sure you have ordered backup medication from Express pharmacy in case it gets lost or you run out.

Store your medication safely, whether this is refrigerated or kept in safe packaging. You might have to contact the airline before you travel.

Before travelling check that your medication is actually allowed in another country.  Different rules and regulations may apply for not only your medication but the quantity you are allowed to bring in to the country.

travel with pre existing medical conditions - tablets and a syringe

Remember your EHIC

This is a medical card that can be used throughout the EU and Switzerland and is used to be called the E111.  Currently, this entitles you to free medical or reduced costs within the countries in the EEA but what will happen after Brexit remains to be seen.

Note, however, that the EHIC card does not entitle you to free private healthcare and it is not an alternative to travel insurance.  It will not cover the cost of repatriation if you need to be flown back to the UK due to accident or illness.


UK-issued European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) are still valid but, for UK citizens, once they have expired you will need a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which offers the same cover.

These are FREE and you apply for them via the NHS website here.

Every family member requires a GHIC. You can apply for yourself and on behalf of your partner and any dependent children under the age of 16.

What do GHICs cover?

Global Health Insurance Cards allow you to get what is deemed necessary healthcare from state services when you’re visiting an EU country.

In other words, healthcare which becomes medically necessary during your stay, and for which you cannot reasonably wait until you’re back in the UK to have it.

The NHS says that this includes things like:

  • emergency treatment and visits to A&E
  • treatment for a long-term or pre-existing medical condition
  • routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring
  • routine maternity care, as long as you’re not going abroad to give birth
  • oxygen and kidney dialysis

Some treatments will need to be pre-arranged with the relevant healthcare provider in the country you are visiting, for example, kidney dialysis or chemotherapy.

Note that treatment carried out by private healthcare providers is NOT covered by the GHIC.

With some careful research and thorough planning, it is possible to travel abroad with a medical condition.  By making sure you have the right level of medical travel insurance, you will have a greater chance of a more relaxed and enjoyable trip.



  1. Susan Smith
    13 September, 2019 / 12:35 am

    Great tips here, thank you

  2. Barbara Finemore
    16 September, 2018 / 4:33 pm

    Hi Linda,
    Uncle Terry and I are on holiday in St Anton Austria- on a coach trip.
    Minutes after we arrived at the hotel and as I began to unpack, I tripped over the suitcase and landed heavily on the back of my head and shoulder. I panicked as I thought I would pass out, so got outside the bedroom door, taking Terry with me. I then thought I could reach the end of the corridor and lift. I reached ground floor and reception and relayed what happened. Arrangements were made to fetch our amazing coach lady to me who organised the hotel minibus to take the three of us to local doctor. He examined the “ostrich egg” which had risen on the back of my head, shone lights in my eyes and took lots of x rays of shoulder and head. He pronounced “nothing broken” and said he needed to see me next morning, but to keep placing ice on “egg” and to take paracetamol, which he gave me. Next morning he gave me the “all clear”, a DVD of my x rays and a duplicated bill for €600+
    (The E111 card was not acceptable as I attended a private clinic). My Saga Insurance contact has agreed the bill will be covered and appeared relieved to learn I didn’t need repatriation! I have a bruised shoulder and a very tender head (painful to touch) but I have been able to continue my holiday without worry!
    Terrys ‘s heart condition, new valve, defibrillator etc would be covered, should there be a need to claim for any illness or accident he may have.
    Our single trip insurance cost was around £260 – last year the “annual cover” was a few pounds off £1,000.
    Much love,
    Barbara xxx
    (P.s. I have not announced my holiday plans on facebook! I notice many of my friends have done so! )

  3. Margaret Gallagher
    14 September, 2018 / 7:39 pm

    Very useful – we’re in the process of planning an overseas trip – can’t be too careful with health

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