Category: Travel Insurance – The Facts

Hospitalised abroad without travel insurance, who foots the bill?

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By , October 5, 2011 12:09 pm
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In short, if you don’t have travel insurance, the answer is you or perhaps your family if you’re lucky. However a recent survey by ABTA, the Travel Association has worryingly revealed that 21% of people wrongly believe that the UK Government will cover the costs.

The poll by ABTA has revealed some shocking statistics regarding UK travellers and their travel insurance buying habits.

ABTA’s survey has revealed that one in five, 20% of travellers, are running the risk of sky high medical bills when travelling abroad through not taking out travel insurance in spite of recent high profile cases highlighting the significant risks of doing so to both health and finances.

This fact may be partly explained by 21% mistakenly believing that the UK Government will cover their bills in the event that something goes wrong. One in four, 25% of 15-24 year olds think that this is the case.

Medical treatment abroad can be very expensive and to avoid being faced with large bills if taken ill or after having an accident, the Foreign Office urges people to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy every time they go away. Although the Foreign Office can provide support and assistance if you are hospitalised abroad, they do not foot the bill.

A recent case of an uninsured man having a motorcycle accident Bali draws attention to how high those costs can be. The man’s family are facing bills in excess of £120,000 for medical treatment and a further £110,000 for an air ambulance to fly him home.

The survey also revealed that 17% of respondents also mistakenly believe that travel insurance is unnecessary when travelling in Europe if they have a European Health Insurance Card.

This is not the case, because although an EHIC card entitles you to basic free state health care in the country you are travelling to, this is unlikely to be of the same standard that you would receive on the NHS and it does not cover repatriation back to the UK. Which means that you could find yourself stranded in a foreign hospital for months on end, or footing an expensive bill for air ambulance transport back to the UK.

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Travel Insurance Tip No. 4 – Think about the start date on your annual travel insurance

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By , October 4, 2011 4:42 pm
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When you buy an annual travel insurance policy you will usually be asked when you want the travel insurance cover to start. Now, it may seem sensible to start your travel insurance cover on the date you depart for your next holiday, but that might leave you financially exposed if you need to cancel the trip.

For the same reason that you should buy single trip travel insurance cover as soon as you book your holiday, if you have a holiday booked you should start your annual travel insurance cover immediately.

That way, your annual travel insurance is in place in case you need to cancel your holiday for reasons beyond your control, such as illness, of either yourself or a close family member, redundancy or your home becoming uninhabitable.

If you already have an annual policy which is about to expire, you should start your new policy on the day after your current policy expires so that you get uninterrupted cover for cancellation and are not exposed to any unnecessary financial risk. 

When you have an annual travel insurance policy your insurance provider has a responsibility to contact you  before it expires to make sure that you are aware that your cover is about to end.

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Travel Insurance Tip No. 3: Two good reasons to buy travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday

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By , September 26, 2011 1:55 pm
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Many of people leave buying travel insurance to the last minute, if you’re one of them,  I’m going to give you two very good reasons why you should buy travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your holiday.

1. You or a family member falls ill and you need to cancel your holiday

Here’s the scenario, you research your holiday carefully, you book your holiday, pay for it and then you get on with the rest of your life whilst in the background dreaming about your upcoming trip. 

Then, the week before you go, you have a last minute panic about all the things you need to sort out before you go, such as currency, how you’re getting to the airport, who’s feeding the cat and buying travel insurance. You rush around getting everything sorted out and then jet off on holiday to relax and enjoy your break.

Now, consider a change in this scenario, you book and pay for your holiday, get on with the rest of your life and dream about your forthcoming trip, then two weeks before you are due to go on holiday, your daughter gets chicken pox and is not allowed to travel.  The result is that you have to cancel your family holiday.

If you’d already bought travel insurance, you’d be able to make a claim for the cost of the holiday under the cancellation section of the travel insurance policy.  You wait for your daughter to recover and re-book your holiday for a convenient date.

If you hadn’t already bought travel insurance, you’d be forced to cancel your holiday, you’d be out of pocket and may not be able to afford to book another holiday.
We all know that the most important aspect of travel insurance is to cover you for any unforeseen medical expenses whilst you’re away, but another important part is the cancellation cover that you get on your policy.

Cancellation cover is designed to provide financial protection for you in the event that you need to cancel your holiday due to various reasons such as illness or redundancy. The exact definition of this cover will vary with different travel insurance policies, so should always check the terms and conditions.

The key thing to remember is that when you book and pay for a holiday in advance, you should buy travel insurance immediately to protect that investment and when choosing which travel insurance policy make sure that the amount of cancellation cover included reflects the cost of your holiday.

2. A strike is announced that affects your travel plans

Another reason to buy travel insurance cover as early as possible and something I have touched on before, is to ensure that you are covered for travel delays due to strike action. For example the recent general strikes in Italy and Greece which affected air traffic control and caused cancellation and delays for many travellers.

If you booked your holiday and bought your travel insurance before any strike dates are announced you should be covered for travel delay and abandonment due to strike action.  This will usually take the form of a set benefit per 12 or 24 hours of delay to help cover additional expenses, such as food and drink, plus most travel insurance policies will also give you the option to ‘abandon’ your holiday after a delay of 12 or 24 hours and make a claim for the cost. This will be up to the amount specified in the policy, so make sure you buy cover that reflects the cost of your holiday.

If you buy travel insurance after a strike has been announced you will not be covered by your travel insurance if your holiday is affected. Once a strike has been announced it becomes a known risk, travel insurance is designed to cover unforeseen events.

The only way to ensure you would be covered is to buy travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your holiday. Look at it as a way of protecting the money you’ve invested in your holiday.

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Travel Insurance Tip No 2: Are you eligable for cover?

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By , September 21, 2011 3:04 pm
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2. Check that you are eligible for travel insurance cover and buy the policy before you leave the UK.

Tip number 2 of our top ten travel insurance tips is to check that you are eligible for the travel insurance cover you want to buy and to make sure you buy your travel insurance policy before you leave the UK.

When you buy travel insurance, online or by phone, you will usually be presented with a list of requirements to ascertain whether you are eligible to be covered under that policy.

You must read these requirements carefully and be honest, because if you are not eligible for cover and you go ahead and purchase the travel insurance anyway, your policy will not be valid and you will not be covered if you need to make a claim.

Most travel insurance policies sold by insurance providers in the UK, require you to be a UK resident in order to be covered. Definitions of a UK resident may vary from policy to policy, but a common requirement is that you have been living in the UK for 6 months or more at the time of purchase. They will probably also require you to have been registered with a general practitioner or GP for 6 months.

Other requirements are likely to include:

– You need to be in the UK when you buy the travel insurance policy.
– The trip must start and finish in the UK and the policy must cover the entire duration of your holiday.

This means it’s vital that you remember to buy your travel insurance before you depart on your trip. Once you have the left the UK it is too late and you won’t be able to get travel insurance cover.

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FCO highlights importance of travel insurance

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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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Travel insurance tip no.1: Are your travel dates right?

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By , August 21, 2011 9:26 am
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1. Get your travel dates right on your travel insurance policy

It sounds simple, but it’s a mistake that people do make, and it’s very important to get it right because if you don’t you could invalidate your whole travel insurance policy.

A common mistake is to start your travel insurance policy on the date that you arrive in, or leave resort, rather than the date you leave or arrive home, which on a long journey could be different. Be careful with return flights that leave resort late at night, it could be the next morning by the time you land back in the UK.

It is very important that you buy travel insurance cover for the entire duration of your holiday. This means that your outbound journey and return journey must both be completed during the period of travel insurance cover. If you don’t do this your policy could be invalidated and you will be effectively travelling without insurance cover.

It only takes a second to double check your travel dates when you buy your travel insurance policy to ensure that you will be covered.

See more travel insurance tips.

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