Medical Care Abroad

Before you travel abroad, it is important that you are prepared for any eventuality and have organised the necessary insurance to pay for any medical care you may require on your trip. Remember that foreign health systems may function very differently to the Irish one and in less developed countries, medical care may be of a low standard, or hard to find. Take note of the address and telephone number of the nearest Irish consulate or embassy to where you are travelling, as they will be able to arrange medical care for you in an emergency.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition that requires ongoing care, or if you are travelling to a country that may require vaccinations, it is advisable to consult your GP or a travel medicine clinic 4-6 weeks before you go.

Health insurance

If you are an Irish resident, there is no need to arrange insurance if you are travelling to Britain or Northern Ireland, but bring proof of identity, such as your passport or driving licence, that indicates your Irish citizenship.

If you are travelling to another EU country, to Switzerland or to the European Economic Area (EEA) countries of Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein, you should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (previously, called an E111 form) before you go. This will entitle you to receive public health care if you become ill or have an accident while visiting one of these countries.

Under the scheme, depending on which country you are in, you may have to pay part of the costs for services you receive. As the European Health Insurance Card only entitles you to state-funded health care in the country where you are staying, costs involved in transporting you back to Ireland are not included.

You can download an application form for a European Health Insurance Form from's Downloadable Resources.

Completed forms should be sent to your Local Health Office at least 1 month before you intend to travel. Each member of a family or group travelling together requires their own card. A card is valid for up to 2 years.

If you are travelling to other destinations that are not covered by the European Health Insurance Card, it is important to arrange private insurance in advance of making your trip. Falling ill in certain destinations, such as the United States, can prove extremely expensive if you are not covered by medical insurance.

Ireland has a reciprocal agreement on medical treatment with Australia, whereby Irish visitors to Australia can receive emergency medical treatment and assistance towards the cost of prescribed medicines at the same cost that applies to Australian residents. You will just need proof of identity that shows you are an Irish citizen.


It is also advisable to check whether you need vaccinations for tropical diseases before travelling to certain destinations. If you are travelling to Africa, South America or Asia, or to other far-flung destinations, you should consult your doctor on what vaccinations are advisable as early as possible. This is because some vaccinations need to be administered a considerable time before travelling to be fully effective. In some countries, certain vaccinations are compulsory and you may be required to show an International Certificate of Vaccination before you can gain access to the country.

Check what vaccines you may need on the Travel Vaccination Calculator.

Reviewed: October 31, 2006