International health insurance

International health insurance lets you access the highest healthcare standards wherever you go.

What is international health insurance?

International health insurance covers all your healthcare needs if you're living outside of the UK permanently or semi-permanently. It enables you to access routine and emergency medical treatment in private hospitals and surgeries anywhere in the world.

Why you might need international health insurance

The UK is one of the few countries that offers free healthcare to its residents. Most countries in the world do not, especially not for visitors.

If you live abroad or are a frequent traveller, international medical insurance gives you confidence that should you need medical care, your medical expenses are covered.

Three people are exploring a city.

Who can benefit from international health insurance?

If you're one of the following, you could benefit from having an international health insurance plan.

  • Expats - If you're living abroad, you may not be entitled to free health care in your new home country. International private medical insurance guarantees you'll get the treatment plan you need, should you need it.
  • Frequent travellers - Other countries have different rules around healthcare. International health insurance gives you all the benefits without any of the hassles.
  • Temporarily living abroad - Even if you're not staying abroad permanently, an international health insurance policy will often give you better medical cover than local insurance.
A couple is hiking by a lake.

How does international health insurance work?

International health insurance plans cover the cost of any medical treatment you need outside the UK. Here's how it works:


Choose a policy

Ensure you check which countries you're covered for and which treatments are included.

Pay your premiums

Begin paying your monthly or annual premiums (in most cases, it's slightly cheaper to pay annually).

Travel freely

Travel abroad, safe in the knowledge that it's all taken care of if you fall ill or need emergency cover.

Get medical care

If you need medical treatment, contact your insurance company, and they'll take care of the rest.

What our customers say

Benefits of international health insurance

International health insurance brings several benefits, including:

Treatment icon

Better treatment

Your international medical plan gives you access to the best private medical facilities in the country where you're staying.
Knowledgeable icon

No waiting time

Having international health insurance lets you skip the queue when you need treatment. Get immediate care without waiting lists.
Professionalism icon

Evacuation and repatriation

If your condition cannot be treated abroad, your insurance will cover the cost of flying you back home.
Knowledgeable icon

More choice

International medical insurance gives you flexibility. If you wish, you can choose your doctor and hospital. You may also opt to return to the UK for treatment.
Professionalism icon


It could be costly if you need emergency treatment in a foreign country. International medical plans provide cover for those costs.
Knowledgeable icon

Global outlook

While you can nominate the countries you will need coverage for (e.g. EU countries), you can also purchase global health insurance to cover you worldwide.
Quickly compare international health insurance policies

What does international health insurance cover?

Typically, international medical insurance policies cover you for a list of healthcare services up to an annual financial limit. Most insurance providers offer tiered levels for their international health insurance plans. Here's how the different levels compare.

Parents are playing with a baby outside by a lake.

Basic policies (acute conditions only)

  • Hospital charges and surgery as an inpatient
  • Virtual doctor service
  • Emergency treatment cover
  • Medical evacuation and repatriation
  • Treatment for cancer diagnosis
  • Ambulance transfer
  • Prescription drugs
  • £100k - £200k annual plan limit

Mid-range policies (acute conditions only)

  • Everything in basic
  • Complex diagnostic scans such as CT, PET and MIRo
  • Dental care (not check-ups)
  • £1m-£2m annual plan limit

Comprehensive policies (acute and chronic conditions)

  • Everything in basic and mid-range
  • Cover for chronic conditions
  • Outpatient treatment, tests and vaccinations
  • Eye tests and prescription glasses
  • £2m - £3m annual plan limit

High-end policies:

  • Everything in basic, mid-range and comprehensive
  • Routine pregnancy cover
  • Annual health checks
  • Travel Insurance
  • £5m-£8m annual plan limit

Optional extras

With basic and standard policies, you have the option to enhance your cover by adding optional outpatient cove

Young man walking in the airport.

Areas of cover

Wherever you travel in the world, you can insure yourself with international cover.

Many people choose to exclude the USA from their policy. This is because health care in the USA is often more expensive than in other countries, so omitting it from your policy may make it more affordable. Many policies will still cover you for emergency treatment in the US even if you do choose to exclude it from your policy.

How is international health insurance different to travel insurance?

Travel insurance typically covers short-term medical emergencies while you're away and non-medical benefits like lost luggage. It would not protect you from any treatment that could wait until you return home.

International health insurance plans cover routine and emergency procedures for people moving abroad and staying long-term in a different country.

For example, an international policy would cover you for a hip replacement and the tests and scans relating to it. Travel insurance would not. If you're travelling to a new country for less than a year, some insurers offer short-term international medical plans, which are a hybrid of travel insurance and international health insurance.

A woman is crossing a road in a city.

International health insurance vs local insurance

Rather than purchase a global health plan, some expats prefer to buy health insurance from a local insurance provider when they reach their destination, as premiums are often cheaper.

However, there are many drawbacks to purchasing insurance policies in this way, including:

  • You'll only be covered in the country where you bought your insurance, not in other foreign countries or if you return to the UK.
  • You may not have as much control or flexibility over your treatment.
  • Buying insurance could be challenging if you don't speak the local language fluently.

Buying international cover is much better as you get much more benefits and protection.

Happy couple sitting on a bench looking out to sea

International health insurance vs EHIC and GHIC

Before the UK left the EU, UK nationals could access health care in the EU in the same way as locals by applying for a European Health Insurance Card or EHIC. The EHIC programme ended in 2020, but cards are still valid until their expiry date.

You can now apply for a Global Health Insurance Card or GHIC to access health care similarly. However, an international health insurance plan is still a better option because:

  • You're covered outside the EU as well as inside
  • You get a better standard of health care
  • You can access support in your language
Thank you for all the care and attention you have taken in finding me a cheaper but equally supportive private healthcare provider.
Diana B

How much does international health insurance cost?

Premiums for international health insurance depend on several factors, including:

  • Age - The older you are, the higher your premiums may be
  • Pre-existing medical conditions - If you have a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, for example, your insurance policy may cost more
  • Medical history - If you have experienced a heart attack or stroke, for example, you may find your insurance premiums are higher
  • Countries you want to cover - It costs more to cover more countries. If you're travelling to an area of conflict or danger, this may be reflected in higher premiums
  • Level of cover - If you go for a higher tier of policy, it will be more expensive
  • Excess level - You can lower your annual or monthly premiums by agreeing to pay an excess on any claim
  • Maximum yearly cover limit - The more you insure yourself for, the higher the premiums

How to claim on international health insurance

If you're abroad and fall ill, you or someone you are with should call your insurer. All major insurers run a 24-hour helpline to advise you on what to do and where to go.

In most cases, your insurer can liaise with the hospital or medical facility and take care of the medical underwriting directly.

However, you may sometimes have to pay for your treatment upfront. Then, you claim your policy for reimbursement. Make sure you keep all relevant records to show how much you have paid.

Happy  middle-aged couple getting advice

Getting treatment when you return to the UK

If you move abroad permanently but then return to the UK, you may find it hard to get free treatment on the NHS, depending on whether you have paid National Insurance. Check the NHS website for more details.

An international health insurance policy will ensure you can receive any necessary treatment in the UK. In addition, you can access private medical facilities and avoid waiting lists.

Man with backpack walking in airport

Let us take the hassle out of comparing insurance quotes

With years of experience, relationships with leading providers and a commitment to providing the highest possible service levels, we aim to become your go-to for insurance advice. Put us to the test and find out why hundreds of clients come back to us and refer us each year.

Tobias Britton, Director
Tobias Britton
Get in touch, or get a quote.

Frequently asked questions