FCO highlights importance of travel insurance

By , September 1, 2011 10:02 am
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Every year the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) publishes a report entitled ‘British Behaviour Abroad’. The report details the numbers of UK citizens that the FCO have provided help and assistance to over the course of the year, it also highlights the importance of travel insurance.

Did you know that you are statistically most likely to need consular assistance in Thailand? And if you do require assistance the chances are you will also incur unexpected expenses such as medical fees or the cost of replacing a passport – that’s where travel insurance comes in.

See our illustration ‘Brits Abroad’ which combines figures from the FCO report with information on lost luggage and flight delays to illustrate the why travel insurance matters.

Travel insurance, hospitalisation and medical expenses

3689 Brits were hospitalised abroad in the year from April 2009 to March 2010. The highest number of hospitalisations occurred in Spain, however in proportion to the number of visitors, Brits were statistically most likely to be hospitalised in Thailand.

Although the FCO can provide assistance, such as contacting family or visiting you in hospital, if you require hospitalisation or medical treatment abroad, they won’t cover the cost. This why it’s important to have travel insurance comes.

The case of a British National who fell off the back of a motorbike in Thailand illustrates the importance of taking out travel insurance every time you travel. The man seriously injured his knee, and despite taking the prescribed medication it became severely infected and he required intravenous antibiotics. Fortunately he was insured and his travel insurance covered the full cost of his treatment which came to about £10,000. Without travel insurance, the man would have had to foot the bill himself. In comparison to a few pounds on a travel insurance policy, this is huge expense that most people simply could not afford.

An example without such a satisfactory ending is that of a 19 year old man who was on a working holiday in Australia. During a party he fell from a 3rd floor apartment and landed on a concrete pavement below. His injuries were severe and he remained in intensive care for several weeks. Fortunately his emergency hospital treatment was covered under the reciprocal healthcare arrangements between the UK and Australia. But he had let his travel insurance expire, so his parents had to cover the high cost of bringing him back to the UK.

Got an EHIC? You still need travel insurance

You may think if you are travelling to Europe you can make do with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) instead of travel insurance, but that is not the case. The FCO highlights the case of a British man who spent 5 weeks in hospital in Spain after a serious motorcycle accident. He was repatriated back to the UK by his travel insurance company. If he did not have travel insurance this could have been a very different story and the man could have been stuck in a Spanish hospital for much longer.

Although an EHIC entitles you to reduced cost or free emergency care within the European Economic Area and Switzerland, it is not a replacement for travel insurance, because as illustrated above, it does not provide cover for repatriation back to the UK.

Get travel insurance cover for activities

A man was on a skiing holiday when he had a bad fall, breaking his collar bone. He ended up with a €4500 bill for mountain rescue, transport and medical costs because he didn’t have adequate travel insurance cover.

The lesson to learn here is, always check that your travel insurance will cover you for the sports and activities that you intend to take part in whilst you’re away.

Lost and stolen passports are covered by travel insurance

In the year, April 2009 to March 2010, the FCO dealt with over 27,000 cases of lost or stolen passports. In proportion to the number of visits, UK travellers are statistically most likely to have their passport lost or stolen in New Zealand. One reason for this is that a driving licence is not accepted as a valid form of id in bars and pubs, therefore Brits carry their passports with them to prove their age.

Although the FCO can issue a replacement passport, they don’t do it free of charge and I’m guessing that a replacement passport was not what you planned to spend your hard earned holiday cash on. Travel insurance can cover the cost of a replacement passport in the event that yours is lost or stolen whilst you are away.

Lost and delayed baggage – check your travel insurance

According to the Association of European Airlines, you have a 1 in 77 chance of losing your bag when you fly with a European Airline. From November 2008 to March 2009 European Airlines lost 1,583,068 bags. Although 85% of mishandled luggage is reunited with its owner within a day or 2, it is still highly inconvenient if you arrive in your holiday destination without a change of clothes.

Travel insurance can provide a benefit to cover necessary expenses such as toiletries and clothes if you reach your resort before your bag does.

And, in the unfortunate event that you never become reunited with your bag, your travel insurance can provide cover which will help you replace your lost possessions.

Flight delays and travel insurance

In 2010, the average flight delay from a UK Airport was 16.85 minutes, with just under 1% of flights delayed by more than 3 hours. 1% may not seem like many flights but that equated to 12,374 flights in 2010. (Figures from the CAA, analysed by flightontime.info)

If your flight is delayed, your travel insurance can provide a benefit to help cover additional expenses, such as food and drink whilst you wait at the airport. Many travel insurance policies also give you the option to abandon your holiday and claim back the cost after a delay of 12 or 24 hours. Check your travel insurance policy for details.

The FCO and travel insurance

Wherever you go on holiday, and whatever you’re doing, from visiting friends to taking part in adventurous activities it is important to have adequate travel insurance for your trip. The FCO are available to offer you assistance when things go wrong abroad, but they don’t pick up the cost – that’s where your travel insurance comes in.

Visit the FCO website for the latest information on a country before you travel and be aware that your travel insurance may not cover you if you travel against FCO advice.

This article is intended to provide a general guide to the importance of travel insurance. You should refer to the terms and conditions of your policy for detailed information on cover and benefits.

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