Press release

Young Brits putting family finances at risk overseas

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

FCO and ABTA issue warning to young British travellers about the importance of travel insurance.

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Travelling abroad uninsured can cost thousands if a trip goes wrong. Yet according to new research issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), over one in three (38%)* young Brits** don’t think it is necessary to take out insurance when they travel overseas, often leaving their families to pick up the pieces.

The findings from research conducted by ABTA come as the FCO and ABTA urge young holidaymakers to be better prepared for their travels abroad and ensure they are properly covered.

Medical costs arising from uninsured accidents abroad can be significant, and it is often parents who are presented with an unexpected and large bill with no hope of reclaiming the money. The cost of bailing out a loved one can run into thousands – but despite this, almost half of 16-24 year olds claim the reason they don’t take out insurance is because they are willing to take the risk.

One in five young people also think that a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) acts as a full insurance policy when abroad. However, an EHIC only provides access to state medical care in the European Economic Area and does not cover other costs such as bringing the individual back to the UK.

16% of young people surveyed wrongly presumed that all of their treatment costs would be covered by the UK Government if they had an accident or fell ill while abroad. In reality it is the holidaymaker or their family who will pick up the bill if they are not covered, and this can range from £500 to treat a sprained ankle in a popular holiday resort like Corfu, to £15,000 to £20,000 for a scheduled flight, stretcher and medical escort from Australia.*** Serious injuries can also lead to bills of thousands of pounds a day which can rapidly escalate to very substantial sums.

FCO Minister Mark Simmonds said:

It’s the time of year when people are preparing to travel abroad for summer trips, including some for the first time without their parents. Arranging comprehensive travel insurance should be at the top of their to-do list before departing. An accident or emergency abroad can end up costing thousands and it’s often the family who is left to cover the costs.

Although we will do what we can to support people who encounter difficulties while abroad, the FCO cannot cover medical bills or fly them home. We urge all travellers, particularly young people, to think about the effect not having comprehensive insurance can have on both themselves and their families. Don’t leave it to others to pick up the pieces if things go wrong.

ABTA Head of Communications Victoria Bacon said:

Every year ABTA sees tragic cases of young people who have had an accident or incident while on holiday overseas that requires very serious medical help. In some of these cases parents are presented with massive medical bills because their children went on holiday uninsured – and this is despite the cost of insurance being as little as £25 for an annual policy. In extreme cases people have had to sell their house to cover the costs, or desperately try and get funds from their friends and family. Buying adequate travel insurance should be the top of every holidaymaker’s list.

Notes

*The ABTA Consumer Trends survey generated response from a nationally representative sample of 2008 consumers using an online research methodology and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to August 2013. Fieldwork was conducted by Arkenford in August 2013.

**Young people aged 16-24.

***Figures supplied by FirstAssist Services Ltd.

The EHIC

An EHIC entitles you to state healthcare for medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip, for example because of illness or an accident. It includes treatment of a pre-existing medical condition that becomes necessary during your visit. It will not cover your medical expenses if you are going abroad specifically to have treatment (including giving birth).

You should be able to get the same treatment as a resident of the country you’re visiting. However each country’s healthcare system is slightly different, so your EHIC might not cover everything that would be free on the NHS.

The EHIC is valid in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland. You may not be able to use the card in some parts of the EEA if state-provided healthcare is not available.

For more information about the EHIC and to apply for your free card, visit the NHS Healthcare Abroad

Further information

The FCO’s Know Before You Go campaign encourages British nationals to prepare for their foreign travel so they can avoid preventable problems. The campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad. The campaign works with around 550 travel industry partners to communicate its messages. For more information visit our Know Before You Go page.

ABTA offers advice to holidaymakers on travel essentials, including travel insurance – visit ABTA’s travel insurance page for more details.

Our new Travel Insurance Infographic 2014 (PDF, 176KB, 1 page) outlines some interesting travel insurance facts and figures.

For further information please contact the Know Before You Go team on 020 7781 2342 or by email

Published 17 June 2014