Posts tagged: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

48% of Brits not aware that without travel insurance they risk large medical bills

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By , July 20, 2012 10:08 am
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New figures from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) highlight common misconceptions over who will foots the bill for medical treatment abroad.

A survey of 2000 British holidaymakers, conducted on behalf of the FCO, showed that almost half (48%) did not realise that without travel insurance they would be liable to pay for their own medical bills if they were injured or taken ill abroad.

Plus, when asked about their ability to cover medical costs for a loved one who had travelled without insurance, 78% of people admitted that they would not have the money to hand to cover a £10,000 hospital bill.

A medical emergency abroad can be extremely expensive and if you don’t have valid travel insurance in place, medical bills can quickly mount up to thousands of pounds.

Foreign Office staff witness a number of distressing cases every year involving families having to raise vast sums of money to pay hospital and repatriation bills for their loved ones who did not have travel insurance to cover cost of their medical treatment abroad.

Increase in hospitalisations abroad – 1o Brits hospitalised abroad every day

The FCO has also just released the latest of their annual British Behaviour Abroad which provides figures on the numbers of British nationals they have provided assistance to over the course of the year.

This year’s report has highlighted a significant rise in the number of hospitalisations of British travellers in popular holiday hotspots including Spain, Greece and Egypt. During the year from 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2012 approximately 70 British travellers per week were hospitalised abroad – that’s 10 people every day!

Without travel insurance you could be left with a large medical bill

The FCO are hoping that by highlighting this information they can increase awareness amongst the British travelling public about the importance of having comprehensive travel insurance every time they travel abroad.

British nationals who have travelled without travel insurance or have invalidated their travel insurance by not declaring a pre-existing medical condition, or taking part in a sport or activity which was not covered by their policy, will find themselves or their families facing large medical bills if they are hospitalised abroad.

Foreign Office staff are there to offer assistance if you become ill or have an accident, but they do not cover the cost of medical treatment. If you don’t have travel insurance or are not properly covered by your travel insurance you or your family will have to cover the cost of medical treatment.

Jeremy Browne, the Minister for Consular Services said:

“ Whilst the prospect of ending up in a foreign hospital may be the last thing on your mind as you head overseas for a summer break, sometimes things do go wrong on holiday and many people deeply regret not taking out comprehensive travel insurance.

We witness many cases where people have invalidated their policy – perhaps by not declaring a pre-existing medical condition or not checking their policy covers a particular activity, such as hiring a moped. Unfortunately they are then surprised that the Foreign Office cannot pay for their bills and flight home”

Travel Checklist – Don’t go away without doing these 4 things:

– Buy travel insurance

– Declare any pre-existing medical conditions

– Check that any activities or sports are covered by your travel insurance

– Check the latest travel advice from the FCO before you leave the UK

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FCO advise against all but essential travel to Maldives capital

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By , February 9, 2012 5:12 pm
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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have advised British Nationals against all but essential travel to the Island of Male in the Maldives. The latest advice from the FCO follows political unrest, demonstrations and the resignation of the president earlier in the week.

Maldives from the air 3

If you travel to the Male Island against FCO advice your travel insurance may not be valid.

The FCO have advised British Nationals who are in Male already to avoid demonstrations and beware of spontaneous gatherings. Those staying on other islands in the Maldives, or about to visit the Maldives should avoid travelling to Male altogether.

Holiday makers should be aware that if they choose to travel Male against the advice of the FCO that their travel insurance is unlikely to be valid. Most travel insurance policies have a clause in the terms and conditions which states that they will not provide cover in the event that you are travelling against the advice of the FCO.

Read our earlier post for more information about how FCO travel advice affects travel insurance cover.

There are currently no reported incidents or unrest in the tourist resorts on the other islands in the Maldives and the FCO have specifically pointed out that their advice against travel does not include Male International Airport (which is actually on a different island) or travel to and from the airport to any part of the country other than Male Island.

If you are travelling to the Maldives soon your travel insurance should be valid, so long as you don’t travel to any of the areas which the FCO advise against. This is currently just the island of Male.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office update their travel advice regularly based on what is happening on the ground, so if you are travelling to the Maldives soon you should keep up to date with the latest advice on their website.

You should also contact your tour operator for further information.

If you are worried about whether your travel insurance will provide cover for your trip contact your travel insurance provider who will be able to confirm whether you travel insurance is affected.

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Check the latest advice from the FCO: It can impact your travel insurance cover

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By , January 27, 2012 11:29 am
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Summary: The travel advice published by the FCO can have an impact on your travel insurance cover. Travelling against FCO advice can make your travel insurance void: find out why.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides a wealth of useful information to help you stay safe abroad. This includes information on local laws and customs, dangerous areas that you should avoid, and any upcoming strikes or industrial action that could impact your travel plans.

You should check the latest information for the country you are visiting, before you travel or even before you plan your trip.

How does the FCO travel advice impact your travel insurance cover?

The FCO publishes travel advice by country which is updated daily. They have a page of in-depth information about every country in the world, if there are any travel alerts that you need to be aware of they will be highlighted at the top of these pages.

This information is important to your travel insurance cover, because if the FCO is advising against travel to a country or a particular area of a country, your travel insurance will not provide cover if you travel to those areas. Most travel insurance policies have an exclusion in the terms and conditions which states that they will not provide travel insurance cover if you are travelling against Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice.

It is likely to still be possible to buy flights to areas that are considered unsafe, so it is up to you to check the latest travel advice to see whether it is safe to go there and whether your travel insurance will be valid.

For example, British Airways have recently announced that they are to restart flights to Tripoli, the Libyan capital from the beginning of May.  (Flights were stopped last year when tensions in Libya escalated).

This may be an extreme example, as not many people are going to be planning a holiday to Libya, however it does illustrate the point. Although you can easily book a flight from London to Libya, the FCO are advising against all but essential travel to some areas of the country, and against all travel to other areas.  If you do choose to visit Libya against FCO advice, a standard travel insurance policy will not cover you.

Even if you are going to a popular holiday destination, you should still check the latest FCO travel advice before you depart, as the recent events in Kenya and the revolution in Egypt last year highlight. Both destinations are popular with UK holidaymakers and although the FCO didn’t advise against all travel, they did and do advise against travel to specific regions, so if you are travelling to these countries you should be aware of which areas should be avoided.

Is it fair that travel insurance doesn’t provide cover if you are travelling against FCO advice?

In a word, I would say yes. As we’ve discussed in various posts before, travel insurance, as all insurance, is designed to cover unexpected and unforeseen risk.  Travelling to a country or area of a country that the FCO considers dangerous for British Nationals is a much higher risk than travelling somewhere that is considered safe.

Information on strikes and Industrial action

The FCO also publishes the latest information on strikes and industrial action which could have an impact on your trip.  This is type of information is definitely worth knowing, because even if you can’t change your dates of travel, it pays to be aware of any upcoming strikes so you make plans accordingly, such as allowing more time for journey’s on public transport.

For more information about travel insurance cover for strikes and industrial action read our post.

Delays due to strikes: Travel insurance cover & your rights

Where to find travel advice from the FCO!/fcotravel

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Floods and hurricanes: What does your travel insurance cover?

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By , October 27, 2011 12:24 pm
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In the past week news headlines have been filled with stories of disruption caused by the weather which could affect British holiday makers.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has just updated their travel advice to Thailand and are now advising against all but essential travel to the city of Bangkok and the twenty-six provinces in the country which are currently affected by widespread flooding.

The approach of hurricane Rina has caused tourists to be evacuated and cruise ships change route as it approaches he Mexican coast near the popular resort of Cancun.

But, it’s not only long haul destinations that can be affected by severe weather, there were flash floods in Spain last week and flooding in Dublin city centre earlier this week.

But what happens if your holiday is affected by floods, hurricanes or other similar events?

Contact your tour operator or airline first

Whether you are in the UK waiting to depart for your holiday or you are actually overseas, if you think your holiday may be affected, the first thing you should do is contact your tour operator or airline for the latest information. You have a contract with them and they have a duty to get you to the destination you have booked to travel to, or bring you home if you are abroad.

Check the latest travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

The FCO publishes regularly updated travel advice by country; you should check their website for the latest information before you travel. If the FCO advise against travel to a country or particular part of a country, you should contact your tour operator or airline. Be aware, that if you choose to travel against FCO advice that your travel insurance cover will be not be valid.

What does travel insurance cover?

There are two sections of your travel insurance policy that could provide cover if your holiday is affected by flooding or hurricanes.

Travel delay under your travel insurance

If flooding or a hurricane delays or prevents your departure from the UK, or delays your return flight to the UK, you may be able to make a claim under the travel delay section of your policy.

Generally, if your outbound or return flight to or from the UK is delayed due to adverse weather conditions you can claim a benefit for every full 12 or 24 hours that you are delayed, check your policy wording for details. This benefit is intended to help cover additional expenses such as food and drink if you are stuck at the airport for longer than expected.

Also, if your outbound flight is delayed by more than 12 or 24 hours you might have the option with your travel insurance policy to abandon your holiday and make a claim for the cost, again, you should check your policy terms and conditions for full details.

Always check the terms and conditions of your policy – you usually have to have checked in for your flight for the travel delay cover to be applicable.

Catastrophe or uninhabitable accommodation cover

Catastrophe cover, which can also be known as uninhabitable accommodation cover or accommodation cover is included in many travel insurance policies.

It is designed to provide cover for additional, irrecoverable travel or accommodation costs if you are forced to move from your pre-paid, pre-booked holiday accommodation (outside of the UK) as a result of unforeseen events such as flood, fire, earthquake, hurricane and medical epidemic. The cover is intended to enable you to continue your holiday in alternative accommodation, or if that’s not possible, return to the UK. Check your travel insurance policy before you travel for full details.

Natural Catastrophe Cover or Natural Disaster Cover

This is a relatively new area of cover for travel insurance and was introduced as an optional extra by some travel insurance providers in response the volcanic ash crisis in 2010. It is intended to enhance your policy by providing cover for cancellation, delay and additional expenses incurred due to unexpected events such as volcanic ash clouds and other natural disasters; such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes.

Remember the terms and conditions of different travel insurance policies will vary, so should always read your policy wording carefully to ensure it provides the cover you need. By law you get a 14 day cooling off period, this gives you the time, once you have bought your policy, to read the terms and conditions and cancel the policy without charge if it is not suitable for your needs.

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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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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

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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