Everyone travelling abroad should take out suitable travel insurance for their trip as a matter of course. Insurance will cover the expenses involved in loss of personal belongings, documents, and money, and many policies will also reimburse you should you have to cancel the trip for any reason.
Most importantly, it pays for any emergency medical treatment if you fall ill or have an accident. A single incident that requires hospital treatment can run up costs in the tens, even hundreds, of thousands of pounds, figures which are definitely unaffordable for the average traveller.
For the older traveller the risk of becoming ill abroad is naturally higher, which is all the more reason why you should invest in a good travel insurance policy as a safety net. Yet as many as 65% of people aged over 55 travel abroad without insurance, for a variety of reasons they consider to be valid. Similarly, many more invalidate their insurance by not declaring all their existing medical problems.
So what are the main things your over 50s travel insurance must provide?
- Crucially, your insurance must give you access to a doctor and hospital treatment where necessary. Bear in mind, though, that in many hospitals you will need to pay before treatment starts – or one of your travelling companions may need to do so for you if you are too ill. You can claim for the expense when you return home. In some countries, ambulances also need to be paid for, assuming an ambulance service is provided – in some smaller towns and cities, they may not be available. If you become unwell in a rural area, you may need to hire whatever transport is available and pay for it on the spot.
- Cover to allow repatriation back to the UK is also a must, because if you suffer from a sufficiently debilitating illness or injury whilst on holiday, you may need to be transported home to receive the care you need.
- You’ll need recompense if you are forced to cancel your trip, whether due to your illness, transport problems such as scheduled airline failure, or simply plane or ship cancellation due to bad weather. Insurance will also cover problems on the return journey if, for instance, the carrier has gone into administration while you were abroad, or some unavoidable delay causes you to miss your plane back.
Consider also that, in many countries, the limited quality of care and the poor facilities in state-run hospitals may make using them out of the question. In such places you could need to head straight for a good quality private hospital. It is worth finding out where these are in your locality beforehand, or at least when you first arrive, just in case of an emergency, but check that your insurance will cover them too!
A useful link to guidance from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office not only details the reasons why, and the risks involved when people fail to obtain insurance, it also explains what help the Foreign Office can provide and, more importantly, what it cannot.
Insurance is purely a safeguard in case you have problems – most holidays do go without a hitch! However, it’s important to check that your travel insurance company provides a 24 hour telephone helpline for use in an emergency. If you find yourself in trouble during your stay, you could need it!
Laura Maddison is Head of Marketing at Avanti Travelcare who specialise in travel insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions, and are one of very few that have no upper age limit on their policies.