A couple of years ago, Telegraph readers were regaled with the adventures of one ‘Edward’, who had lived something of an adventurous life. During his frequent and far-flung travels, ‘Edward’ had been imprisoned, caught up in wars, robbed of all money and documents, trapped in nations undergoing revolution, and repatriated sans passport. He had succesfully survived all of this, and regretted none of it – particularly not the fact that he had made it through all of this turmoil without even a modicum of travel insurance. Many readers in this precautionary world were somewhat shocked by this – they would insure themselves to the hilt for a weekend in Benidorm, let alone for a sojourn in war-torn Kabul. Yet Edward stood firmly by his laissez-faire attitude to travel, pointing out that insurance would have been useless at getting him out of his tight squeezes, and that he was, in the end, better off than he would have been had he insured himself. “…it is my firm conviction”, he told readers, “that in the end I’ve lost far less cash than I would have paid for policies”. When asked what he’d do if he had a heart attack in California and was forced to pay extortionate American hospital fees, Edward considered the question before insouciantly replying “If you have a heart attack before you’re 40, you’re stuffed anyway; after 40 it’s not worth going to California”. Some may consider Edward’s attitude recklessly foolhardy. Some may consider it admirable. And some may cautiously wonder if he has a point. Travel insurance is often sold to us as a completely necessary aspect of travel – but are we being ripped off?
Travel is an expensive business, and costs can quickly spiral out of control if you find yourself in dire straits in an unfamiliar country. Ostensibly, travel insurance exists to cover unexpected costs like healthcare and unscheduled flights in the case of an emergency. In practice, however, this is often not the case. 12% of all insurance complaints recieved by the financial ombudsman relate to travel insurance – an astonishing figure when one considers the comparatively small sector of the insurance market occupied by travel insurers. Part of the problem appears to be that people do not take nearly as much time choosing their travel insurance policies as they do other forms of insurance. Travel insurance is frequently sold in packages with things like flights, and may even come as part of a currency exchange deal. People don’t tend to read the small print, and they don’t tend to worry about the finer details – which leaves them in the lurch when they need their insurer to pay out. All too often, it seems that travel insurance are simply a licence to print money for insurance companies – for they know that they probably won’t end up paying out much at the end of the holiday season. However, if this is the case, it begs the question – do we really need travel insurance?
Do You Need It?
It’s worth noting that, if you do get caught out in a foreign country, the costs of things like healthcare and repatriation really can be prohibitive. Furthermore, some people like to have travel insurance purely for the psychological benefit of making them feel safer in an unfamiliar place. From a healthcare point of view, though, travel within Europe may not require full travel insurance. If you are heading to a nation like the USA, in which healthcare costs are astronomical even for citizens, health insurance is strongly advised. However, if you are a British person travelling within Europe, your European citizenship entitles you to state-provided healthcare at reduced cost or free of charge in any EU nation you are visiting. All you need is a European Health Insurance Card, (EHIC) which is free and easy to apply for. This does not, of course, protect you from non-healthcare related emergencies. Nor does it entitle you to private healthcare. However, if you buy travel insurance for health-related reasons, and do most of your travelling in Europe, this may be worth looking into. Do not make the mistake of believing that the EHIC is a full alternative to travel insurance – it isn’t – but it could save you some money nonetheless.
Get The Right Insurance
If you do wish to bolster your sense of safety with travel insurance, be sure to read the small print. Too many holidaymakers get caught out each year with exclusions on their policies – so carefully consider what you need, and ensure that your policy covers it. It’s very easy to snap up a quick and easy package deal, but this can prove to be wasted money. With any luck, you won’t need to use your travel insurance at all – but if you do, you’ll be pleased that you took the time to ensure that you got the right deal for you.