A recent study by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has revealed that more British holidaymakers than ever are opting to take the risk of travelling without any insurance cover at all. The age group least likely to take insurance for holidays in Europe or beyond is the 18-34 age group, with 31% of them heading off to the airport without EHIC cover or a travel insurance policy in place.
It won’t happen to us!
When quizzed, the most common reason given by younger travellers for not arranging EHIC cover or taking out a travel insurance policy was the mistaken belief that it wasn’t necessary. Most young people simply don’t believe anything bad will happen to them on holiday, or are prepared to take the risk for the sake of additional expense on insurance costs. This isn’t borne out by the facts however. Every year the UK embassy network has to step in and assist almost 20,000 UK citizens who get into medical or legal trouble overseas, and that’s not counting the thousands more who are admitted to hospital and do not require consular assistance.
EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) and its predecessor the E111 form have been around for decades, but the ABTA survey shows an increasing lack of knowledge among younger travellers about what EHIC is, and what is covers you for. 10% of younger travellers mistakenly believe that the UK government will pick up the tab for any medical treatment if they need to be admitted to hospital overseas, and a quarter think that EHIC is an exact substitute for travel insurance. Although EHIC will entitle the holder to access public healthcare overseas, it doesn’t cover for loss of passport, cancellation or getting the holder home in an emergency. And it goes without saying that travellers aren’t covered by EHIC arrangements unless they’ve logged onto the website before they go on holiday and have ordered the card.
Advice for young travellers
ABTA are perhaps understandably taking the view that the best thing travellers can do is to take out insurance from their travel agent when they book their holiday. That’s certainly one possibility, but may not be the cheapest. If heading to the popular Mediterranean resorts, the one best piece of advice for younger travellers on a budget is to get online and apply for EHIC cover as soon as the holiday is booked. EHIC covers basic emergency medical care at the costs charged to locals, which means it’s either free, or at a minimal cost. Many travel insurance companies will offer discounts to customers who can prove they already have EHIC cover in place. Take copies of your EHIC with you, as you’ll need it if you need to access medical care overseas. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking travelling without insurance will save you money; ending up in a Greek or Spanish hospital with no insurance or EHIC cover after a car accident or other accident could end up costing you thousands.