Flying south for winter. A travel insurance guide.
It’s that time of year when you might be starting to think about the annual migration south to escape the worst of the British winter. If you are one of the lucky ones who can, why wouldn’t you? Average high temperatures on the Costa del Sol in January, for example, are right up there at around 16 degrees with an average of 5 hours of sunshine per day. You might have to forgo your winter fuel allowance if you are over retirement age but would it really be so bad?
Before you go, don't forget about your travel cover. It's just as important for long stays as it is for the annual summer holiday!
Our guide to travel insurance for European long stays
1 Do you need travel insurance?
While anyone can go anywhere without cover, we wouldn't recommend it. A travel insurance policy will protect you against all kinds of disasters if you are spending a long time abroad, even if you have an EHIC card.
This EHIC card will give you access to basic medical healthcare in many parts of Europe (see our brief guide below) but it won't cover repatriation or anything other than routine. In some places it won't cover the cost of an ambulance! So if you need medication, long term care or out-patient care, you may have to pay for it. Your policy will also give you access to 24 hour emergency assistance and protect you if you lose your luggage, mislay your passport, have an accident, or have any of your possessions stolen. With some policies we’ll also cover your gadgets, valuables and even unauthorised calls on your mobile if it gets stolen. A travel policy is peace of mind if things go wrong. And they can.
For more information on using the EHIC card in Spain, CLICK HERE.
2 Your access to healthcare in Europe
In Spain (and the Canary Islands), British citizens are entitled you to the same level of complimentary medical care as the Spanish locals receive. So you won't have to pay the medical bills yourself in the unlikely event that you need urgent treatment while you're away.
However, your EHIC won't cover everything. It will not cover ongoing medical care, non-urgent treatment or medical repatriation. So if you need any kind of ongoing treatment, be prepared to pay for it. And be prepared for big bills if you don’t have travel insurance. According to figures from the Association of British Insurers fixing a broken arm in Spain can cost as much as £11,000!!!
In Portugal it is much the same. The healthcare system consists of three coexisting systems: the National Health Service (NHS), special social health insurance schemes (health subsystems) and voluntary private health insurance. As a foreign visitor from an EU country with an EHIC card you are entitled to the same level of care that any Portuguese citizen is entitled to that is free under the NHS system. However, your EHIC may only cover basic health issues such as sickness and accidents and can only be used at state run surgeries and hospitals. As with Spain the EHIC won’t cover ongoing medical care, non-urgent treatment or medical repatriation.
In France, things are slightly different. Your EHIC will cover around 30% - 40% of the cost of treatment as an in-patient in an approved hospital (state hospital or recognised private clinic). You will also be billed for the balance as well as a fixed daily hospital charge of around €16. Funding for other medical care – such as a trip to the Doctors or the purchase of prescription medicines – works on a pay first, claim later basis. Prescribed medicines are between 35% and 65% subsidised by your EHIC, while the cost of ambulances and out-patient procedures is not covered in any part.
For other countries, see our Quick Guides on our website HERE.
3 What policy should you go for?
We have a range of policies for people who want to stay away for the winter. For those up to the age of 89, our Single Trip policy will cover you for up to six months abroad. For those over the age of 89 and up to the age of 100 the maximum duration is 31 days for a single trip policy.
But who’s to say a little trip back at Christmas wouldn’t be nice?
However, if you plan on going for a few weeks at a time (up to 31 or 62 days) on a few occasions over the winter, then an Annual Multi Trip policy will be right for you. You can go away as often as you like to multiple destinations - so the world is your oyster!
Then again, if you plan to take off on a trip to multiple countries, our Long Stay policy may be right for you. Anyone from 18 to 65 can head off with us for up to 18 months.
4 Declaring your medical conditions
Here at World First we cover 1000s of medical conditions. So don’t be afraid of the costs you might incur by declaring all your conditions for a long stay abroad. As specialist insurers we have seen it all and offer very competitive quotes for all kinds of conditions. In many cases we make travel possible for people living with medical conditions.
5 Taking medication for your trip
With our travel insurance policies your medication will be insured if you misplace it. But you will need to produce a copy of your prescription if you lose it, so it's always wise to take a copy with you. If you are staying for long periods though you may have to ask your GP for a repeat prescription. However, don’t forget that GPs are only allowed to prescribe for up to 3 months ahead. This could mean sourcing medication when you are abroad, which also means you should always remember to take that copy of your prescription with you. It will also make it easier to get through customs if you are stopped and have to explain yourself.
Also, it's worth remembering that if you don't pay for your prescriptions in the UK it doesn’t mean you automatically get them free abroad or can get them at all.
For more information read our ‘Sunbird’s Survival Guide’ or call us on 0845 90 80 161.