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Dealing with your worst holiday nightmare ABI advice on what to do if you fall ill abroad

The ABI has issued advice to help the 181 million travellers expected to holiday abroad this summer cope with their worst holiday nightmare – falling ill overseas. Last year 3,689 British holidaymakers had a stay in an overseas hospital.

ABI figures out today show that travel insurers helped on average 4,600 travellers a week who needed emergency medical treatment while abroad, paying out the equivalent of £4 million a week in medical treatment costs.

The ABI advises anyone travelling abroad to:

  • Ensure you have travel insurance to cover the costs of any emergency medical treatment. Medical costs abroad can be very expensive. In Spain for example an overnight hospital stay to treat an allergic reaction can cost £3,000. In the USA, the medical bill for treating a broken leg can be around £40,000.
  • If travelling in Europe have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). While this is not a substitute for having travel insurance, it is free and allows you to receive treatment from public hospitals in all European Economic Area countries and Switzerland on the same basis as a resident of that country.
  • When travelling, take details of the emergency medical assistance company provided under your travel insurance. They should be your first contact point should you fall ill, will arrange for the right medical treatment and speak to the hospital and doctor on your behalf.
  • If you are unable to speak to the medical assistance company first, if urgent then get to the nearest public hospital as soon as possible and contact your travel insurer as soon as you can.
  • Contact the emergency medical assistance company provided under your travel insurance if you run into any problems with a hospital, such as acceptance of the EHIC.

Nick Starling, ABI’s Director of General Insurance, said:

"Every traveller’s worst nightmare must be to fall ill or get injured abroad. Not being able to speak the language, and not knowing how or where to get the right treatment adds to the trauma.

"This is why travel insurance is a must-have for anyone travelling abroad – an essential, not a luxury purchase. From arranging and paying for the cost of emergency medical treatment to covering lost possessions and cancellation costs, last year travel insurers came to the aid of 638,000 travellers whose face problems abroad.”

Read the ABI’s travel insurance advice on what to do if you fall ill or are injured abroad.

For more insurance industry statistics, visit our Industry data section.


1 Foreign and Commonwealth Office; ABTA, May 2013

Last updated 01/07/2016