When booking a relaxing holiday abroad, the last thing you want to think about is what could go wrong – especially what it would be like to spend some time in a foreign hospital. Unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan when holidaying abroad and the need to see a doctor is more common than you might think.

More than 4,000 Britons fall ill abroad every week during peak season. This fact is made even more alarming when we consider that nearly a quarter of holidaymakers fail to cover themselves with adequate travel insurance.

Travel insurance policies can cost as little as £10 to purchase. But they also have the potential to save individuals and families thousands of pounds in covering the cost of treatment for illnesses and injuries.


Choosing the right cover

Choosing the right health insurance can be more of a challenge for travellers with pre-existing medical conditions. Under these circumstances it is crucial to go through the insurers’ terms and conditions with a fine-toothed comb in order to avoid the risk of invalid cover.


Nowadays, most insurers post their terms and conditions online, but making a phone call to double check with a representative from the insurer in question, can be both quicker and reassuring. The same applies for individuals due to have surgery in the run up to a holiday.


If you are planning on participating in any sporting activities or risky adventures abroad, it is likely that you will need to purchase a specific type of policy and incur extra fees. Don’t skimp on cover here, though. If you are booking a ski holiday, always select a policy that reflects the added danger. The last thing you want is to foot the bill for a helicopter rescue off a mountaintop!


Shop around

Thanks to modern comparison sites it is getting easier to find the best deals on insurance at the click of a button. However, it is important that you don’t just choose the first, cheap policy you stumble across. Take the time to read the small print and fully understand what the insurer will cover you for before making your decision. Policies are rarely like for like, and while an offer might be good for covering lost baggage and delayed flights, they may not even cover you for a basic doctor’s appointment.


You should look for policies offering at least £1 million of cover for medical expenses in Europe and £2 million in medical cover for areas outside of Europe. You should also seek policies offering a 24-hour helpline that lets you phone your insurance company in an emergency.

It is also beneficial to choose a policy that covers any accommodation costs, should someone need to stay with you in hospital, or if you need to stay with a child or other family member if they are hospitalised.


Depending on which country you’re visiting, you may need to undergo certain travel vaccinations to protect yourself from tropical diseases and other illnesses. The team here at Express Travel Clinic advise on the appropriate vaccinations for travel all over the world.



Do I need insurance if I have an EHIC card?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to state-provided medical treatment within Europe, coving any necessary medical treatment due to an accident or illness. The card covers you to receive the same level of care in the country you’re visiting, as someone who is a resident there. However, it is important to remember that the level of care may not be the same standard of that in the UK. EHIC also won’t cover the costs of repatriation – getting you back home – after a medical emergency, and this can end up being extremely costly.


The EHIC card will only cover you for travel in the European Economic Area and Switzerland; it has no use for travel to the rest of the world. It only covers you for absolutely necessary treatment, meaning if you need to see a doctor for something minor you most likely won’t be covered.


Although you should always obtain an EHIC card before any travel within Europe, you will receive more peace of mind by purchasing travel insurance alongside it to ensure you’re covered from every angle should the worst happen.

If you need to claim

Before you leave for your holiday, make sure you have full details from your insurer of how to claim, and take note of any emergency telephone numbers. Most companies will have a dedicated line to call, should you find yourself in a health-related emergency.


Some insurers have specific hospitals or clinics they would prefer you to visit, so if you need to seek medical attention, consult your paperwork to check or call the emergency telephone number you were supplied with for more information.


In some cases, you may still be required to pay an excess up front when seeking medical attention abroad, until your insurance provider settles the bill. This can most often be claimed back, but it’s always a good idea to take a credit card with you when travelling in case you find yourself such a situation.


Want to know more about protecting yourself before you travel? Speak to one of our travel clinicians on 0208 993 5889.