Traveller Healthcare in Estonia
Budget flights from the UK have opened up the former Soviet state of Estonia to a huge number of British tourists, and as Estonia is part of the European Economic Area, reciprocal health care agreements are in place between the two countries. Although it’s always wise to get a EHIC card when travelling to Estonia, be aware that this card might not give you all of the cover you need.
EHIC in Estonia
EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is proof of your identity as a UK citizen, and give you the same rights as an Estonian to access their state healthcare. Apply for the card free of charge by filling in the form on the NHS website. The Estonian state healthcare system is called Eesti Haigekassa, and there is limited information in English on the website regarding the current systems and changes to charges and fees. You will not be charged to see a GP, but will be expected to pay towards home visits or hospital stays. The charges are minimal at around 2.50 euros per night in hospital. Standard fees are also charged for prescription medicines, and most dental treatment will be charged for too. You won’t be able to claim back any charges which you incur through the NHS agreement, but if you are covered by additional travel insurance you might be able to get a refund through your insurer so always ask for detailed invoices and keep all paperwork. Private medicine is a much smaller sector in Estonia than in other countries, but always make it clear that you want to see a state doctor, and be treated under the state system. EHIC will not reimburse any costs for private tests, diagnosis or treatment.
Travel Insurance for Estonia
Although the state sector in Estonia is efficient and good quality, one of the benefits of having private cover on your travel insurance is that you can quickly access healthcare when you need it, and can choose a preferred hospital. Estonia is also becoming a popular destination for “health tourism” due to the quality of surgical options and lower costs, but remember that cosmetic procedures are unlikely to be covered by travel insurance. If you are planning to claim on your travel insurance, make sure the hospital or doctor are aware of this and get the go ahead from your insurer before starting treatment. Many private clinics have English language websites, and many doctors will speak good English. Most of the private clinics and hospitals are found in the Estonian capital, Tallinn. Even if you are admitted to a state hospital under the EHIC rules, you can use your travel insurance to cover extra expenses such as rearranging flights to get you home when you are better, or in the worst case scenario, for a special air ambulance to bring you back to the UK. Always make sure that you get a fully itemised invoice from any private clinic, and speak to your insurance company regularly to keep them up to date with your progress.