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Travel site Skyscanner investigates the best places to fall ill abroad

NHS vs US: illness abroad – best countries to be sick on holiday

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Obama’s plans to make the US healthcare system more like the NHS has led to an outcry from right wing Americans who have demonised the NHS, claiming that Obama’s plans are “evil”.

In the past, the NHS has been somewhat like the British weather – an endless source of grumbling material for Brits – but it seems we don’t like it when someone else is doing the criticising. Thousands of Brits have leapt to the defence of the NHS, with national media, bloggers and tweeters all standing up for the British system.

According to World Health Organisation, the UK’s healthcare system ranks 18th in the world, but the USA lags behind in 37th place, and is outranked by several developing countries including Colombia, Costa Rica and Morocco.

Barry Smith, Skyscanner co-founder and director said: “Getting ill in your home country is bad enough, but when you’re abroad it’s even more stressful, though some countries are undoubtedly better than others. In our recent survey, 11% of people said that illness spoiled their holiday, so we’ve looked at the countries with the best levels of healthcare where tourists can be assured of receiving high quality treatment should they fall ill whilst abroad.”

1. France

According to the WHO, our neighbours across the channel have the best healthcare system in the world, so if you’re going to get ill whilst on holiday – here’s the place to do it.

2. Italy

Italy’s national health service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) provides a high level of service for visitors with well trained Italian doctors who are very passionate about their profession. Some state hospitals in southern Italy are less well funded, so get medical travel insurance which will allow you to use private hospitals if required.

3. San Marino

The tiny country of San Marino is surrounded on all sides by Italy, so it’s not surprising that the excellence of the Italian system is also being upheld here, with a high standard of facilities and expertise on hand for tourists.

4. Andorra

This small country sat between Spain and France in the Pyrenees is a favourite with British skiers and snowboarders, some of whom will have visited an Andorran hospital following an on-piste accident. Medical travel insurance is vital here, but as long as you’re covered you can expect excellent medical attention.

5. Malta

What better place to get sick than on this idyllic Mediterranean island country?  Malta has a well funded system, and in fact the quality of private health care is so good that the country is trying to promote itself as a destination for medical tourism.

6. Singapore

This pint sized city-state may be small, but is has a great healthcare system with 13 private hospitals, 10 public hospitals and several specialist clinics that tourists will be able to use should they fall ill during their visit. However, insurance is a must because costs are very high and doctors and hospitals normally expect immediate payment for services.

7. Spain

Spain has a great healthcare system on offer to tourists, the only potential problem that visitors may find is that not all medical staff speak English, so be sure to pack your phrasebook!

8. Oman

Oman’s small population and numerous private and public medical facilities mean that long waiting lists are almost unheard of. Although some doctors and medical staff in Oman are local, the vast majority are foreign and were trained in their home countries, and visitors can expect a high level of care.

9. Austria

Plenty of Brits will have seen the inside of an Austrian emergency room following ski injuries, and the modern and efficient system will have served them well. Treatment is free of charge in public hospitals but in all other cases you’ll be charged so medical insurance is vital.

10. Japan

Perhaps no great surprise that this high-tech country has a top healthcare system with highly trained staff and well equipped hospitals and clinics. The cost of treatment is steep, and as a visitor you will be expected to pay the whole cost of any you receive – so again, medical insurance is vital in Japan.
Skyscanner’s Health Travel Tips

1. EU citizens should apply for a European Health Insurance Card (which has replaced the E111 form).  This can be done online and is free, fast and simple. The card entitles you to medical care at reduced or free rates within the European Economic Area (EEA).

2. Get travel insurance that covers medical expenses, even if you’re an EU citizen and you’re travelling in the EU. You may require the use of private healthcare facilities or care that goes beyond your free allocation, so be sure you’ve got adequate coverage. Due to the very high costs of healthcare in North America, you will need to pay extra for a policy that covers you there.

3. Each country in Europe has its own emergency number but you can also dial 112 which should work from anywhere in the EU.

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Tatiana is the news co-ordinator for TravelDailyNews Media Network (, and Her role includes to monitor the hundrends of news sources of TravelDailyNews Media Network and skim the most important according to our strategy. She holds a Bachelor degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.