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Last updateSun, 06 Nov 2016 10am

Back You are here: Home Home Site Sections News Healthcare Access And Costs Abroad

Healthcare Access And Costs Abroad

Many disabled people miss out on holidays to places they’d otherwise love to go, because they’re worried that they would not get the healthcare they need there. Sadly, in some cases this is the truth. Health infrastructure issues, economic limitations, or the convoluted (and sometimes expensive) nature of the healthcare systems in some places means that those with serious conditions which may need medical treatment during the holiday would be better off picking a more medically congenial country. However, a disability need not be nearly so limiting as one may expect. Plenty of countries have agreeable deals with Ireland, allowing Irish citizens easy access to necessary healthcare. Read on to find out more.

Great Britain And Northern Ireland

Irish citizens travelling to Great Britain or Northern Ireland are entitled to free healthcare on the NHS. They have no need to obtain any kind of health insurance, but may need to show an identity card which proves that you are Irish.

EEA Nations

If you are travelling to a nation within the European Economic Area (including Iceland), you may well be entitled to free or greatly reduced healthcare. The precise nature of the healthcare you’ll be able to obtain varies greatly from nation to nation, of course, as does the price (or lack thereof). Nations like Germany and Denmark provide a high standard of easily accessible healthcare, while you may experience more issues in nations like Romania. The important thing to note for travel within the EEA is that in order to access the benefits of Ireland’s EU membership when it comes to healthcare, you will need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). These are easily obtainable via the health service. The EHIC entitles you to reduced-price or free healthcare in participating European nations, but will not cover the costs of any emergency transport back to Ireland, should you so require it.

The USA And Canada

You’d be well advised to sort out some health insurance some time in advance of heading to the USA, as their privatized healthcare system can be prohibitively expensive. Sadly, this is especially true for foreigners and those who have long-term medical conditions. It’s not too hard to find some insurance to suit you, but do make sure that you do your research properly and find something which will cover you properly should you find yourself needing to make use of an American hospital. Canada, meanwhile, has a nationalized health service, which means that its healthcare is generally more accessible and affordable than that in the USA. However, the government of Canada does not extend free healthcare to foreign nationals who are not resident in Canada. Should you wish for healthcare in Canada, you are similarly advised to obtain health insurance before flying out. On the plus side, the standard of healthcare in both these nations is reasonably sound, meaning that you’ll probably be in safe hands should you find yourself in need of medical attention.


Australia has a Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement with Ireland, meaning that Irish citizens are entitled to subsidized (although not free) health services. It’s worth noting that not all services are covered under this agreement, so check before you go!

Elsewhere In The World

The quality, availability, and affordability of healthcare elsewhere in the world varies greatly. Some nations have deals with Ireland which allow Irish citizens more affordable healthcare, while others don’t. You can usually find out whether or not this is the case via a simple internet search.


If you must travel with medications, it is crucial that you check whether or not these are allowed in the nation to which you are heading, and whether or not you must declare them at customs. While most common medications can cross borders fairly easily, some are regarded as controlled substances or even drugs in certain nations. You could find yourself labelled a drug smuggler simply for attempting to preserve your health! So check before you go what the bigger picture is regarding any drugs you have to take with you. Your embassy will be able to help you with this, as will any good travel agent. Should you find that your medicine is banned or controlled - don't despair. Your doctor may be able to suggest a non-prohibited alternative

Post written and submitted for publication by Anne Smith