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Healthcare in Iceland

Iceland is a popular destination for those looking for a holiday with a difference, and Reykjavik’s thriving business district sees visiting British companies arrive every day. For most visitors, a trip to the most northerly capital city in the world or beyond is an experience of a lifetime. But if you haven’t looked into the Icelandic healthcare system and ensured you and the family are covered, it could be a trip to remember for all of the wrong reasons. A EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is available free from the NHS website, so get one for each member of the family before you leave home. EHIC cover might not be all you need though.

EHIC and Iceland

The principle of EHIC is that it is proof of your EU status, and gives you the same rights as Icelandic people to access their state healthcare system. Always keep your EHIC with you and preferably your passport too; you never know when you’ll have to go to hospital in an emergency. Iceland has a system of universal state healthcare, split into three tiers. First tier is the many doctors who are spread across the country. Second tier provision are the regional health centres which provide more services but stop short of being hospitals. Finally, the third tier comprises the nation’s two hospitals both of which are in the capital. In Reykjavik, finding a doctor shouldn’t be too hard, but in rural areas it can be more of a challenge. Most Icelanders speak excellent English and the medical profession perhaps better English than most.

Accessing the Icelandic state healthcare means visitors will have to pay the same contributions as Icelandic residents. If you cannot show your EHIC, you will be charged the full price of treatment. Expect to pay 1,000 Icelandic Krona (around £5.65) to see a GP, and similar charges apply to see a hospital doctor, for tests and for overnight admissions. Always ask to have fees explained to you, and keep receipts for any charges you pay.

Travel Insurance for Trips to Iceland

Unlike most other European countries, there is no private medicine system in Iceland, and no private hospitals. It is therefore unlikely that you will be able to skip queues or see a doctor of your choosing if you have organised travel insurance. If you have forgotten an EHIC or haven’t got around to applying for one, you will be charged for care at full overseas rates and may be able to claim this back from your insurer. Also, travel insurance will help meet some of the other costs of getting sick way from home, such as paying for flights home once you have recovered or accommodation for a relative to stay with you as you recover. Many people travel to Iceland to go mountaineering or take part in other extreme sports, and if this is the case you will need to ensure that you pay for additional travel insurance to cover sporting accidents and injuries.