Additional research by the insurer found that it takes less than 10 seconds to find an unofficial website when searching for ‘GHIC application’ on a search engine.
Worryingly, five links on the first results page direct you to websites that charge to manage the application process.
One website had even paid the search engine’s advertising rates to come at the top of the search.
“The most common ‘benefit’ these unofficial websites are using to encourage unwitting people to use their ‘service’ is that they will either fast-track or manage the application process for ease,” said the insurer.
“However, the time it takes for the application is sometimes longer than the stated time for the real NHS website.
“It is important to know that if you are planning to travel, when the Government restrictions are lifted and travel is allowed, GHIC applications are completely free and can be applied for using the NHS website.”
Some of those asked even thought that the EHIC/GHIC would cover them for private health care (six per cent or 2.9 million people), elective procedures like tonsillectomy, eye surgery and hernia repair (four per cent or 2.1 million) and cosmetic procedures including dental surgery, liposuctions and facelifts (three per cent or 1.8 million).
Tom Bishop, Head of Direct Line Travel Insurance said: “While a large number of people know what they will be covered for with the GHIC, a significant amount do not. The GHIC covers you for the same level of state healthcare offered to residents of the country, not the same level of healthcare you would receive in the UK.
“It’s therefore vital to take out travel insurance in case you need more than the GHIC or EHIC provides, plus it provides plenty of non-healthcare related cover too. Reciprocal healthcare is a brilliant thing to have, but make sure it is accompanied by comprehensive travel insurance when we can all go away again.”