Travel insurance for Europe?

One in five thinks they only need a European Health Insurance Card

Europe travel insurance

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

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

Do I need an EHIC or travel Insurance?

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 if 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 local doctor, 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 have difficulty explaining symptoms or understanding the advice of medical staff. Travel insurers provide round-the-clock help with English speaking doctors, which will help ensure that the problems you are facing are properly understood."

Travel insurers provide round-the-clock help with English speaking doctors, which will help ensure that the problems you are facing are properly understood

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance

Travel insurance can be a real summer saviour

Mr Douglas also emphasises that it's not an either-or option: travellers should have 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 National Health Service website. The AA warns applicants to ensure that they apply through this website 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."

The AA offers single trip and annual multi-trip insurance, as well as backpacker, winter sports, wedding and golf cover. Find out more about our travel insurance.

* Research carried out by Populus among 23,085 AA members aged 18+, 7–15 May 2014. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

For those who don't take out travel insurance when travelling to Europe, the survey asked which, if any, of the following choices best describes the reason.



My credit card/bank account provides free travel cover


Travel insurance isn't necessary as I carry the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)


I don't think travel insurance is necessary in Europe


Travel insurance is too expensive


I'm in pretty good health so I don't need travel insurance


I usually forget to buy travel insurance


I usually think about it too late and then don't bother


I have a medical condition that prevents me getting cover but I travel anyway


None of the above


Don't know


** Based on figures from the Office for National Statistics; in 2013 UK travellers made 45,918,000 visits to European countries.

31 July 2014