Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: We're off to Portugal - what's best for holiday's insurance?

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Q Best company for holiday insurance? Mum 64, Dad 74, going to Portugal.

Laura McIlroy, Northern Ireland

A The first essential to be properly covered in Europe is to obtain the free European Health Insurance Card, which provides for treatment in public hospitals in the EU on the same terms as local people. Note that tapping "EHIC" into Google will produce paid links at the top of the results that will charge you money for something that is free; I have created a short link,, to take you to the right place. You can alternatively apply phone, on 0300 330 1350.

The best-value insurance policies, especially for older travellers, require you to get EHIC in place to limit the insurer's risk exposure. For example, €HICPlus ( says: "All insured persons must have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) at the time of purchase of the policy, and throughout the duration of the policy. Failure to maintain this Card will result in medical charges being incurred which will not be recoverable under this policy, which will always act as if a full recovery under EHIC was made."

€HICPlus is quoting £34 for a week or £60 for a fortnight for your father and mother together, which looks pretty good value, though if they are planning further travels then the £102 annual policy is worth considering.

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