The true cost of travelling without insurance

Whether it’s a weekend trip to Paris, a lengthy trek across Southeast Asia or you’ve decided to travel as part of a career break, there’s one thing that should be top of your list: travel insurance. Without it, the costs can quickly mount up.

Research by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has revealed that 22% of people who travelled abroad in the past year did so without travel insurance. The survey also found that those aged 18- 34 are the least likely to take out cover, with 31% taking a trip abroad uninsured1.

Travelling without insurance

Medical bills

An accident or emergency abroad can end up costing thousands in medical bills. For example, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office says that:

  • A stomach bug/infection treated in a Californian hospital with return flights could cost £100,000.
  • A fall resulting in a broken hip and treatment in a Spanish hospital with return flights could cost £15,0002.

And contrary to what 7% of Britons believe3 , the UK government won’t simply cover these costs. Travelling without comprehensive insurance may leave you and your family liable to pay these bills, as well as the cost of getting you back home.

If you are travelling within Europe, it is a good idea to not only buy comprehensive travel insurance but to apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as well. Introduced in 2004, the EHIC replaced the E111 form – and is free to obtain from the NHS website and valid for up to five years.

An EHIC allows state health treatment in member countries either for free or at reduced costs. It also includes care for any pre-existing medical conditions and maternity care although, crucially, not giving birth abroad.

Know the limits

Importantly, whilst the EHIC offers health care assistance, it is not a replacement for travel insurance. There are limitations to its cover5 and several exemptions, such as no cover for private medical treatment, lost or stolen property, mountain rescue at ski resorts or being flown back to the UK.

So, while an EHIC can be extremely beneficial for UK holidaymakers in Europe, travel insurance that includes medical and repatriation cover is still a must.

Weigh up the costs

With single trip travel insurance policies starting under £106 and comprehensive annual policies available for around £607, the cost of travel insurance is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Some current accounts even come with travel insurance included.

Wherever you source your travel insurance, it is important to remember that different policies carry different levels of cover. While it is a good idea to shop around for the best deal, the cheapest policy may not cover all your needs, so be sure to read the finer details.
5 Full information about what’s covered by the EHIC is available on the NHS website

Your next steps

To help stop a dream holiday from turning into an insurance nightmare here are a few sensible precautions:

  • Documentation: don’t leave without your travel insurance documents.
  • Scan and save: make copies or scans of all relevant and important documents and keep them somewhere safe. Perhaps give a copy to a friend or relative too, just in case you can’t access your documents when you need them.
  • Pack light: only take the credit and cash cards you need. Leave the rest at home.
  • Emergency contact details: ensure these are well-documented. It’s good practice to put an ICE (In Case of Emergency) number in your mobile’s contact list.

Further information and support

To understand what your travel insurance should cover, visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The Money Advice Service has some useful information around the value of travel insurance.

Go to the NHS website to apply for an EHIC.

Important legal information

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