1 in 3 passengers travel without travel insurance

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MORE than a third of passengers travel without travel insurance, risking huge medical bills if they have an accident or become ill abroad.

This was revealed in a survey of 4,000 passengers by low cost airline Ryanair which also shows 82 per cent with insurance did not know if their policy offered ski, business travel or sports (golf) cover.

Ninety per cent of those who travelled without insurance were unaware that medical repatriation flights within Europe could cost them more than €18,000, and substantially more from other parts of the world, should they become seriously ill when abroad.

British Embassy spokesperson, James Birkett told EWN: “Medical treatment abroad can be very expensive and to avoid being faced with large bills if taken ill or after having an accident, the Foreign Office is urging people to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy before travelling to Spain and other foreign destinations.

“The UK has mutual health care agreements with many countries, but these arrangements do not cover all expenses”.

In 2010, around 12 million UK residents visited Spain, and the first six months of 2011 unrest in North African destinations produced a 25 per cent year-on-year increase, Foreign & Commonwealth Office figures show.

But experts warn not all travel insurance policies are the same.

“It is important to know exactly what is and what is not covered by your travel insurance policy, so don’t select a policy simply on price,” David Deveson from Globelink Travel Insurance said.

Retired Britons David, 80 and Gloria Smith, 69 paid the price of not having travel insurance during a visit to Spain earlier this month. The couple travelled to the Costa del Sol from London to attend the christening of their granddaughter. “We didn’t think to get travel insurance because we thought it was just a short trip within Europe,” Gloria said.

They were due to fly back to London two days after the wedding and just hours before they were due to depart for the airport, David collapsed in the hotel.

He had suffered a heart attack.

David was taken to the nearest clinic which was a private one, where he was stabilised. “When the clinic found out I did not have insurance I had to leave a €2,000 deposit,” she said.

A few hours later David was transferred to the state hospital in Malaga City. “But before leaving the clinic asked for a further €4,000 deposit,” she said. The clinic later returned €3,000, so the cost of him being there for a few hours was €3,000.

“My husband was in a critical state, and we were very distressed as hardly anyone in the Spanish hospital spoke any English,” she said. Two weeks later David was discharged from hospital and has since returned to London.

“I feel so stupid for not taking out travel insurance” she admitted. “It has been an expensive and stressful lesson which we have learnt.”

 By John Jackson

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