So you are planning to book your Algarve villa and pack your bags for an amazing time away. But what do you need to consider before you check in? As dull as it sounds, health and safety should be a priority on your Algarve holiday. Taking note of a few simple tips before you leave will give you peace of mind to relax and enjoy your Algarve villa holiday.
In this world of cheap flights and easy excursions, going abroad is now such a routine part of most peoples lives that it can be easy to forget when we jet off to villas in the Algarve that we are visiting a different country with a different health system! Getting ill abroad can be very expensive but it is easy to take simple precautions to avoid big problems later.
Firstly, get a European Health Insurance Card by applying through the NHS website. In countries where there is not universal free health care (Portugal is just one of these) doctors and hospitals charge foreign visitors for treatment. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows citizens of member states of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to receive state-provided health care in other EEA countries at reduced cost or free. Depending on where you are, the EHIC might not cover everything you usually get free from the NHS but it should cover any treatment that becomes necessary during your trip due to an accident or illness or pre-existing condition, just so long as you are not going abroad specifically for treatment or to give birth. If you do not have an EHIC then you are only entitled to treatment on a private basis. Many tourists from the UK staying in villas Algarve do not have EHICs, assuming that the healthcare will be free as in the UK, and then have only the option of private treatment.
In some countries you pay and then claim a refund, so be sure that the doctor you are seeing is not private. In France, for example, state-registered doctors will charge an official social security rate, or charge that amount plus some extra. You pay when you see the doctor (usually 21) and receive a Treatment Form which you use to claim refunds (about 70% usually).
It is just as important that you also have proper travel insurance for your villa Algarve holiday; the European Health Card is not a replacement for insurance. It entitles you to treatment in the country you are in at the time, not, for example, repatriation if you are hospitalised, and it does not cover the loss of valuables or extra expenses that might be incurred if you have to spend extra time abroad in hospital.
Having travel insurance entitles you to some private treatment but in some cases having a European Health Card reduces or eliminates excess payments. Read your policy carefully to see what you are and are not entitled to, and be sure that you tell the insurance company where possible before you get treatment or they may refuse to pay.