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What would you do if you fell ill abroad?

What would you do if you fell ill abroad?

Category: Travel insurance

Updated: 13/07/2016
First Published: 13/07/2016

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Going on holiday is something everyone looks forward to, but the experience can be dampened by falling ill – particularly if you're on foreign soil. It isn't something that's nice to think about but it's important to consider nonetheless, because if the worst were to happen, just what would you do?

Well, research suggests that many people would be unprepared, particularly when it comes to insurance. Saga Travel Insurance found that about eight in 10 over-50s intend to jet off to foreign lands in the months ahead, yet one in 10 will travel without suitable insurance, despite the fact that many (around 40%) have fallen ill when abroad in the past.

It's clear that many people assume that the worst won't happen to them, but the reality is unfortunately quite different – and they could be facing a hefty medical bill if they're not prepared.

No contact

This could be the case even if you've got travel insurance, with only one in eight respondents saying that they'll contact their insurance provider if they need non-emergency medical treatment. This could not only mean they're at risk of not getting the best treatment (as not everyone will be able to provide the most suitable advice), but it could mean they delay settling their insurance claim, too.

Indeed, the over-50s surveyed were more likely to contact a family member they're on holiday with (27%), a rep (19%) or the hotel receptionist (16%) if they needed medical assistance, while 5% would go straight to the nearest hospital, which in itself may not be ideal as the nearest may not offer the treatment they need.

Don't always rely on the locals, either – anecdotal evidence suggests that, in some countries, people may direct tourists to expensive private hospitals when there may be others that are better suited to provide the necessary treatment, so it's always best to speak to the professionals.

"While many people say they will call their insurer first, people often forget in the heat of the moment," said Kevin McMullan, head of Travel Insurance at Saga. "We're finding that only 5% of customers contact us before seeking medical attention.

"However, if people are able to call us straightaway then they should as we can direct them to the most suitable doctor or hospital and guide them through the whole process. It also means we can get their insurance claim settled as quickly as possible.

"We hope that those going on holiday have a nice time and won't need to use their insurance. However, if anyone does fall ill and it's not an emergency then we're urging people to call their insurer first."

Be prepared

In a nutshell, if you fall ill abroad, you should always contact your travel insurance provider before you do anything else. Saga also recommends that people pack their travel insurance documents, or at the very least make a note of the policy number and emergency telephone numbers, and that they keep a note of any medication being taken to give to the local doctor should the worst happen. And don't even think about not having a policy!

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Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.