Top Tips for Your European Holiday
The summer holidays are fast approaching and many of us will be thinking about jetting off to Europe for a few days of sun, sea and sand. We’ve all got a checklist of things to remember before we go – passports, sunscreen, mobile phone chargers – and the Europe Direct Information Centre team has put together a few quick top travel tips of our own.
Remember your European Health Insurance Card
Falling ill or injuring yourself on holiday is no fun, but it can be made even worse by having to pay the full cost of any healthcare. Getting a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is free, and allows you to access reduced cost or free healthcare in any of the 28 European Union countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
You can apply for your free card through GOV.UK - just click the link to get started! The European Commission has also produced a smartphone app with information on emergency phone numbers, covered treatments and how to claim for reimbursement. You can download this at the following links:
Remember that the EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance.
Watch out for dynamic currency conversion
Many retailers and some ATMs will offer you the option to make transactions in your own currency - a process known as Dynamic Currency Conversion. While this can be convenient and can help you better understand the cost of various items and services, it can also come at a cost, with poor exchange rates or hidden fees being common.
To get the best deal on travel money, make sure to shop around before you go. MoneySavingExpert.com offers a simple comparison service to help you with this.
If you'd like to find out more about how Dynamic Currency Conversion works, check out this report (PDF) from BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.
Know what to do if things go wrong
We'd all like to hope that nothing will go wrong while we're on holiday. Unfortunately, sometimes it can't be helped - members of your party fall ill, or important travel documents get lost or stolen. Be prepared so that if the worst should happen, you know where to turn for help.
First and foremost, should you find yourself in an emergency situation, remember that the Europe-wide emergency number is 112. This can be called free of charge in any EU member state.
It's also important to know where your nearest embassy or consulate is. Consular staff can help issue you with emergency travel documents and provide a range of aid and assistance to UK citizens abroad. You can find a full list of British embassies and consulates on the GOV.UK website.
Finally, make sure to check the Government's official foreign travel advice before you go.
Remember your two-pin adaptor
With the rise in power and capabilities of smartphones and other portable devices like tablets, many of us now rely on these not just for entertainment but to help us find out way around a strange city, to store digital copies of important travel documents, and even to provide instant translation services. After all, why carry around travel maps and phrasebooks when it can all be accessed at the swipe of a finger?
However, remember before you go that the UK is one of just a few countries in the EU to use the square three-pin plugs (others are Cyprus, Ireland and Malta). Most EU countries use a two-pin plug, and you will need to make sure you have an adaptor so that you can charge your devices.
While these are generally available in airports and at holiday resorts, you're likely to get a better deal if you buy before you go, so make sure to shop around and get yourself prepared before you travel.
Don’t forget your pet needs a passport too
As an EU citizen you can freely travel with your pet dog, cat or ferret so long as it has a valid European pet passport. You can find full guidance on what is required at the GOV.UK site or by checking with your local vet.