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4.1 million travel to Europe without insurance cover

1st August 2014 Print

With the holiday season in full swing, new research from the AA reveals that almost one in ten holidaymakers (9%) travel to Europe without travel insurance. That’s the equivalent of 4.1 million travellers this year without cover.

Worryingly, a fifth (19%) of them – around 780,000 – thinks travel insurance is unnecessary because they carry the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Those aged over 65 are most likely to agree (23%).

Simon Douglas, Director of AA Insurance points out that the EHIC isn’t an alternative to travel insurance:

“Our research shows that many holidaymakers think that the EHIC means they don’t have to pay for travel insurance as well.  But travellers should carry both because treatment for any accident or illness could still come at a possibly high cost.”

The EHIC entitles holders to the same level of state-provided free or subsidised medical treatment that local citizens would expect in the countries that you visit.  The healthcare systems vary from country to country and are likely to be quite different to NHS provision.  

“What the card won’t provide is private medical treatment abroad or other costs such as sea or mountain rescue, an emergency flight home or indeed accommodation an accident or illness means you have to delay your journey home,” Mr Douglas adds. 

“What’s more, some countries may charge EHIC cardholders for ambulance services, visiting a GP, prescriptions or specialist medical treatment.  But a travel insurance policy will cover all of these costs and could save you hundreds or even thousands of pounds.”

Travel insurance will also help meet costs of other things that could go wrong during your holiday such as lost or stolen belongings, cancellation of your travel plans if you fall ill before setting off and other assistance services. 

“For example, even those with a good grasp of the local language could easily run into difficulty explaining symptoms or understanding the advice of medical staff.  Travel insurers provide round-the-clock help with English speaking doctors and will help ensure that the problems you are facing are properly understood. 

Mr Douglas emphasises that it’s not an either/or option: travellers should have both an EHIC and travel cover.  “Most insurers require travellers to have an EHIC and if they make a medical claim they should waive the excess.  Travel insurance can be a real ‘summer saviour’.”

The EHIC is free of charge from  The AA warns applicants to ensure that they apply through the official site as some official-looking sites charge up to £15 for the free card.

The research highlights other common reasons for not taking out travel insurance, which include ‘don’t think insurance is necessary in Europe’ (6%) and ‘too costly’ (4%). Others don’t think they need it because they’re in good health (3%).

Two-fifths (41%) of those who have travel insurance use a price comparison website and one in eight say they buy the cheapest cover they can find.

But Mr Douglas cautions against simply taking out cover based on price: “The cheapest policies may have unexpected exclusions or high excesses so make sure the policy covers everything you need it to.”