We have all seen and read media reports and statistics about the perils of not taking out travel insurance. There is certainly plenty of information on the internet for travellers regarding the importance of insurance. Despite this, however, recent research by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) indicates that one in five British travellers still neglect to take out travel insurance for their trips and holidays.
The British Foreign Office and their ‘Know Before You Go’ service provides excellent and free travel advice and country information to assist travellers before they set off. They also warn of the potentially dire financial consequences for those who risk setting off without travel insurance.
It appears that despite all the warnings many holidaymakers are still either unaware of the risk they are taking, or prepared to take a chance. This is a case of false economy as the cost of travel insurance is very cheap compared to the bills that could mount up over problems that arise while travelling overseas.
The ABTA research has shown that younger travellers, mainly the 15-24 age group, are the most uninformed as they believe that if anything bad happens to them while abroad the government will pick up the cost and take care of it for them. This could not be further from the truth. Many young travellers go abroad with friends, or on adventure holidays, or for Hen or Stag parties so are at particular risk. However, it is important to remember that if intoxication or rowdy behaviour result in injury, fines, or arrest your consulate or embassy cannot pay the bills for you or secure your release.
The sad reality for the families or parents of young travellers who get into trouble abroad is that they are going to receive a desperate telephone call for help and will have no option but to come up with the needed funds. The British Embassy or Consulate will go as far as making calls and contacting friends and relatives for them and advise on the transfer of funds, but that is about the extent of their assistance. The government does not cover payments for hospital treatment, nor does it pay to fly anyone home (repatriate them) or provide funds if they run out of money, get arrested, or have all their money and possessions stolen.
If a traveller is seriously injured or ill and needs to be flown home by air ambulance the costs are truly frightening – running into thousands of pounds for those who do not have adequate travel insurance.
Single Trip travel insurance can be surprisingly cheap, and even the minimum amount of cover it provides can be vital. For young travellers Backpacker policies are very affordable and still provide the necessary cover for medical treatment, liability and legal expenses. There are, of course, terms and conditions as with any type of insurance and policies differ from company to company so it is important to check. Having that insurance policy tucked in your pocket or hand luggage is not a license to act irresponsibly, or put yourself in harm’s way. It is unlikely to cover incidents that are found to be related to the excessive consumption of alcohol or drug use.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides a level of cover for emergency medical treatment in participating member countries, and it is important to carry this (free) card, along with comprehensive travel insurance – but never instead of insurance. The EHIC does not cover anything much other than emergency medical expenses, and does not cover non-urgent or follow-up care. It also does not cover the cost of medical repatriation by air ambulance, if this should become necessary.
Repatriation costs can amount to as much as £45,000 from the East Coast of the USA, up to £16,000 from destinations like Tenerife, and up to £20,000 from destinations ‘down under’. Consider whether you have that sort of disposable money lying around? Most people do not!
Imagine suddenly finding yourself responsible for debt of this kind, either for yourself or for a travelling dependent. In these harsh economical times unexpected expenses of this kind would be totally devastating. Why take such a risk?
For the relatively small cost of insurance you are purchasing peace of mind and, with any luck, you may never need to use it. Consider that most travel insurance will cover costs for common and expensive travel mishaps, including:
- Emergency medical treatment for injury or illness
- Repatriation by air ambulance
- Lost luggage or stolen money, credit cards and possessions
- Personal liability (in case of a lawsuit for damage to property or persons)
- Cover for Legal Expenses
- Cancellation of your trip (for covered reasons)
- Curtailment of your trip (cutting short your trip)
- Scheduled Airline failure
- Personal accident cover for death or disability
It is all too easy to spend a lot of time surfing the internet looking for cheap holidays or travel deals, but forget that it is equally important to take time to purchase travel insurance, and to check what it does and does not include. If unsure, always call and ask – don’t leave it to chance.
If you are not sure whether you might decide to go river rafting, bungee jumping or skiing on your holiday it is important to ensure that you will be covered for these activities and, if necessary, purchase additional cover.
Avoid being tempted to opt for the cheapest policy that you find on a comparison site. Take the time to check that you are getting adequate levels of cover for your money and that all your planned activities are covered. A very cheap policy may have cut the levels of cover where you most need it, or raised ‘excess’ levels (the amount that you contribute towards a claim) in order to tempt you with a cheap quote.
If you plan to make more than one trip in a year it is sensible to save money by opting for the Annual Multi-trip policy as this will work out cheaper in the long run.