Do you need travel insurance?

When you think about jetting off to another country you may think of digging out your passports, packing, duty-free shopping, and stocking up on sunscreen – but do you think of travel insurance?

Well, previous ABTA studies have shown that one in four holidaymakers choose not to take out travel insurance when they go abroad. Whether you think it’s an unnecessary expense, or you think ‘it will never happen to me’, travel insurance is in fact a great way of preventing yourself from encountering any unwanted costs if you happen to fall ill while you’re on holiday.

The cost of no cover

For those who don’t have travel insurance, a medical emergency in a foreign country could mean a bill of thousands of pounds. Research has shown that the cost of hospital treatment abroad is rising fast, which means that travel insurance is becoming more and more important in making sure that you don’t get stuck with a bill you can’t pay.

A recent study by AXA found that medical treatment costs can be shocking for those who don’t have cover. According to this study, treatment in America was the most expensive by a long way, with Singapore, Egypt, Turkey and Greece making up the rest of the top 5. The cheapest country for treatment for foreigners out of the 20 included was France, with Italy and Morocco also offering some of the cheapest cover. However, cheap in this context does not mean affordable.

The research found that stomach problems requiring two to three days in hospital could cost around £3,000 in the Caribbean, with costs jumping to £5,000 in Turkey – and a whopping £20,000 in the US.

Fall and break a bone while you’re abroad and you’ll be in for a similarly shocking bill, starting at £7,000 in Morocco, £15,000 in Singapore and £25,000 in the US. Not only this, but additional costs will be added if you need extra legroom or an extra seat on the flight home.

Get covered

Travel insurance can cover a number of different things, including:

  • Medical costs that you may incur if you are ill on holiday, or if you have an accident while abroad.
  • Cancellation protection in case you have to cancel your trip.
  • Lost, stolen or damaged luggage.
  • Damage or loss of important documents like passports, driving licences, air tickets, or other travel documents, as well as if any of these are stolen.

Key things to look out for are personal liability cover, delay compensation, cancellation and curtailment, medical cover and emergency assistance. When it comes to medical cover experts often recommend £2m of medical cover if you are travelling abroad; this should cover treatment as well as if you need to be flown back to the UK. Be sure to check the limits on your policy; some come with more sizeable limits, but if the cover is unnecessary you could be paying excessive amounts for insurance that you don’t need.

Making the right choice

So, we know that you need travel insurance, but how do you choose the right cover? Well, according to uSwitch, there are a number of things you can keep an eye out for. Make sure that:

  • there’s a 24 hour emergency helpline;
  • you’re covered for lost or stolen items;
  • your medical and health insurance cover serious injuries, hospitalisation and sudden illness;
you’re covered if you need to cancel your trip or cut it short;
  • you’re covered if you’re going to be doing anything risky, such as skiing;
  • your policy covers the full cost of your holiday or if you need to cut a trip short due to illness or other circumstances;
your policy covers the cost of getting home.

Another tip for people travelling from the UK is making sure that you have a European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC. All UK residents are entitled to have an EHIC card which means that you receive state health care when travelling within EU countries. On top of EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also part of the scheme. The idea is that the EHIC covers treatment that is “medically necessary until your planned return home”, which can mean that you may need to contribute.
Although not an alternative to travel insurance, an EHIC is a great additional element of protection. You can apply for a free EHIC card online, at, or you can pick up a form from your local post office.

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