Confused holidaymakers who think the government will pick up the tab if they need medical treatment while on holiday are failing to take out travel insurance for their trips.
Almost one in five tourists believe they do not need travel insurance in Europe if they have an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Many find out to their cost that this card does not cover medical bills and repatriation costs if they fall ill or have an accident.
The EHIC card only lets travellers obtain the same free medical services that someone living in that state would receive.
John de Vial, of ABTA, said: “It is worrying that so many people are putting their health and finances at risk by travelling abroad without insurance.
“Many wrongly assume that it is the Foreign Office’s responsibility to pay for their hospital bills, particularly younger travellers. In the current economic climate customers should be careful to purchase insurance at the time of booking their holiday to obtain cancellation cover for redundancy as well as any potential illness before travelling.”
The government is warning overseas travellers that embassy and consulate staff have limits on how they can help anyone in trouble.
Lynda St Cooke, of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, said: “We are concerned at the numbers of people travelling without comprehensive travel insurance and then ending up severely out of pocket.
“Our staff cannot pay hospital bills for British travellers, nor fly them home if they run out of holiday money.”
The best way to buy travel insurance is to shop around online.
List the cover needed – like medical and repatriation costs – plus standard cover for lost baggage, cancelled flights or ferries.
For special trips that include skiing, extreme sports, backpacking or multiple destinations, extra cover may be required.
Shortlist the travel insurance companies offering that cover that offers the right cover – and then look the best value policy.
Shopping for the cheapest travel insurance often means opting for less effective cover when something goes wrong.