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Brits suffering more holiday nightmares

A new report shows increasing numbers of British travellers require consular assistance abroad.

It’s official. More and more British travel-lovers are seeing good holidays go bad.

How do we know? Well, a government department called the Foreign & Commonwealth Office work to help make sure Brits are safe abroad. When things go wrong, they can sometimes intervene to try and help. It’s called consular assistance. The FCO are also alerted when British travellers encounter incidents such as deaths, hospitalisations or sexual assaults.

Basically, if something goes badly wrong for a British traveller abroad, chances are the FCO will know about it.

That’s why the FCO’s new report is so illuminating. They have released detailed figures on everything that has gone wrong for Brits abroad from 1st April 2011 to 31st March 2012. And unfortunately, it doesn’t make pleasant reading. In those twelve months, the FCO handled 19,874 assistance cases – up 3% from the previous year.

10 Brits hospitalised every day

The FCO’s report shows that, on average, ten British travellers are hospitalised every day while they’re abroad. Even more alarming is the revelation that way too many Brits are dangerously unaware of the need for good travel insurance. Out of 2,000 Brits surveyed by the FCO, almost half (48%) did not realise that without travel insurance they would be liable to pay for their own medical bills if they were injured or taken ill abroad.

Scary, isn’t it? Especially as medical bills can easily stretch in to thousands of pounds. In the last twelve months alone the FCO revealed that their staff have witnessed several distressing cases involving families having to raise vast sums of money to fund hospital and repatriation bills.

Where are most incidents occurring?

USA and France both recorded high numbers of total incidents. But nowhere did Brits experience more problems than in Spain, with 5,405 incidents including 1,105 hospitalisations. However, these figures can be misleading. Spain is extremely popular with British holidaymakers. It stands to reason that the more Brits visit, the greater the chance of Brits getting in to trouble. Factor resident numbers in to the FCOs figures and the countries where British travellers required the most consular assistance were the Philippines and Thailand.

The report highlighted a significant increase in the number of hospitalisations among British people travelling to Greece and Egypt. Hospitalisations have also rocketed by 132% in Majorca and 40% in Ibiza, two islands popular with teenagers for their party atmosphere.

Reaction from the FCO

Of course, travel insurance is a holiday essential and can help to cover costs if something goes wrong. But Minister for Consular Services Jeremy Browne urges all policyholders to check the small print of their policy:

“We witness many cases where people have invalidated their policy – perhaps by not declaring a pre-existing medical condition or not checking their policy covers a particular activity, such as hiring a moped. Unfortunately they are then surprised that the Foreign Office cannot pay for their bills and flight home. I urge anyone heading overseas this summer to research their destination, take out comprehensive travel insurance and carefully check the small print of their policy.”

The FCO is urging people to remember three key things before they go away this summer: 

  • Get comprehensive travel insurance – and read the small print!
  • Check the health requirements – so you can get right vaccinations and malaria medication if required
  • Research your destination – the more clued up you are, the smoother your trip will be

You can get specific travel advice based on your destination on the FCO website. Or take a look at our 10 tips for staying safe abroad. For cost-effective travel insurance, visit

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