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Can you make do without travel insurance?

With travel insurance premiums on the rise it is understandable that more and more people are questioning the need for travel insurance and asking whether they can manage without it. Travel insurance costs have risen steeply in the last few years and are expected to continue to rise. Elderly people and those suffering from pre-existing medical conditions are the most likely to face increases; with some companies increasing prices by as much as 90%. Travel insurance is something that many of us consider a necessity for any trip but with such steep price increases more of us are considering avoiding travel insurance altogether. With that in mind we thought it would be worth looking at the risks of not having travel insurance compared to the costs.

Prima facie you might think that you could avoid travel insurance for certain destinations. The European health card has, for many people, replaced travel insurance within Europe. If you’re travelling to developed countries the risks of illness seem minimal. In a way this is completely true. The European health card covers any medical care the country offers while your risks of illness in developed countries is severely diminished. However, you also need to consider that if you fall ill in Europe and need special transportation to return home, or are fine to travel but have missed your flights you will have to pay out of pocket to cover these costs.

If you’re travelling to developed countries the same applies except that, in addition, you will also be responsible for any medical bills. If we take the United States a visit to a general doctor will cost anything from $50 to $300, and that’s excluding any medication you may need. If you visit a hospital the average bill, according to the Association of British Insurers, will be closer to £5000. When we consider these implications we can clearly see that the risks of not having medical insurance are high.

You might think you are fit, young and healthy but, if even a small injury can land you with a bill that costs more than a travel insurance policy, is it worth the risks? It seems evident that even if your travel insurance costsrise the risks are still severe. However, while the medical insurance clauses of travel insurance policies are clearly necessary, you might be able to bring down other costs by excluding “extras”.

For example flight cancellations, trip cancellations and lost baggage are all events that have a very slim probability of actually occurring. Here you are of course running a risk but the comparative chances of these things transpiring are slim. In recent memory there have been only a handful of times when flights and trips were actually cancelled – such as the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010. Excluding severe problems most trips will be delayed or rescheduled to avoid harm. Yes this may put your travel preparations out of sync and ruin hotel bookings etc. but the comparative costs and risks are lower.

Losing baggage is also equally unlikely with an estimated 0.0005% of bags actually being lost; according to the American Transport Authority at least. These kinds of risks are much lower than medical risks so you potentially can do without them in your travel insurance policy. However, they are still risks and the additional costs you can accrue by having to reschedule or rebook hotels can cause you financial issues.

Overall it seems that we really can’t do without travel insurance. Even if the probabilities of falling ill, being injured or our trip being interrupted are incredibly low there are still risks; and being protected from them is always a beneficial step.

Michael Cook is a freelance Travel Researcher and specialist Travel Consultant.

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