Thinking about all the documents you need for travelling may not be much fun, but having the right piece of paper to hand may save you hours (or even days) when you are away. Dealing with paperwork before you go is much easier than having to worry about it when you are on your travels.
A medical insurance policy to cover illness and accidents is vital. It is very wise to make sure your policy also covers you against loss and theft. Medical costs and the availability of medical care differ depending on where you are travelling to. The UK has reciprocal health agreements with certain countries, which means that you can get access to emergency healthcare for free or at a reduced rate.
If you are travelling to a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which offers you access to reduced-cost medical treatment. The easiest and most efficient way to apply for an EHIC is online at www.nhs.uk/Healthcareabroad
You may also receive free healthcare if you are travelling outside the EEA provided that the country in question has a reciprocal healthcare arrangement with the UK. Read the Country-by-country guide on the NHS website and find out what the situation is in the country you are travelling to.
It is vitally important that you have good medical insurance when you travel to the USA as medical costs are usually much higher there than in the UK. If you plan to include the USA in your trip, the insurance premium will be higher.
Rest of the world
The UK has healthcare agreements with a few other countries, e.g. Australia and New Zealand.
Points to note
The following are important points that you should consider when taking out travel insurance.
- Most insurance policies have exclusions. Be sure to read the small print very carefully before you buy, and talk to someone at the insurance company if you have any questions at all about what is and isn’t covered.
- Check that the policy covers pre-existing medical conditions, or you will not be covered for anything relating to these.
- Even if the policy provides cover, you need to tell the insurer to record that you have diabetes.
- If you are planning on doing any ‘dangerous’ activities, e.g. whitewater rafting, diving or parascending, these will need additional cover. Check carefully to make sure that your planned activities are covered by the policy.
- Check that the policy includes emergency transport back home in the event that you need it.
- Look around for the best deal. Comparison websites are good way of finding the best policy for the best price.
- You can find more information on travel insurance on the Diabetes UK website here.
As well as your travel insurance paperwork, you should take care of the following before you travel.
- Find out about visa requirements well in advance.
- Get a letter (on headed notepaper) from your diabetes care team explaining that you have diabetes and need to carry insulin, insulin cartridges, pens and pen needles and so on with you. Border controls and customs can sometimes be difficult otherwise.
- Get a prescription letter from your clinic with all the medical items you may need. Medications should be listed with both their generic and their brand names. Pens, pen needles and blood-testing items should also be listed.
Always carry some form of ID on you. Medic Alert Foundation ID bracelets are recognised worldwide and can be personalised with information such as your name, details of who to contact in an emergency, and the type of diabetes you have and how you manage it. See https://www.medicalert.org.uk/ for more details.
If you are a UK resident and manage your diabetes by taking insulin, your driving licence will be renewable every three years. If you are planning to drive when you are away, you must make sure that your driving licence will remain valid for your whole trip. Check that your car insurance covers you for everything you are likely to be doing too. For more information see Driving.