travel intelligence

Over 55s and Holiday Insurance – information from the UK Foreign Office

English: Using underarm crutches. Español: Cam...The FCO has identified that many over 55’s travelling abroad do not have holiday insurance or fail to declare medical conditions.

The FCOs press release, below, explains the importance of Insurance and the need to declare any medical conditions. If you didn’t disclose that you are taking tablets for blood pressure or cholesterol and have a stroke or heart attack abroad your medical costs won’t be covered  (in the USA these could reach £100,000).

Unfortunately, the older you are the more expensive insurance becomes; if you are over 85 or have certain medical conditions it can also be hard to find.

On this page:

Finding Insurance

Most people should be able to get an idea of availability and price by using one of the comparison sites; there are also specialist companies you can try.

Price Comparison

In our review of travel insurance price comparison we discovered most of the major sites use the same insurance quotation search company and display the same results.

MoneySupermarket.Com provided quotes from the most insurers. However; for cruise insurance or annual/multi-trip/backpacker insurance that covers you outside of Europe we suggest you try USwitch or Confused.Com (they use the same search).

Note: The cheapest may not be suitable; it is up to you to read the policy and ensure it meets your needs. Only those licensed by the FSA are allowed to provide advice on insurance so we cannot comment on the pros and cons of the comapanies and policies listed.


The following are sites we have seen suggested in the press for the old and those with problem pre-existing conditions. You are welcome to suggest others (use the Comments form at the bottom of the page).

World First Specialist, offering travel insurance up to age 100, those with medical conditions, and not so young gap year travellers,

Saga Single and multi trip for the over 50s.

Free Spirit Single and multi-trip policies for those with medical conditions.

Age UK The charity formed by the merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged.

The cost of falling ill abroad


Minor injury: Broken leg onboard a cruise ship treated by the Ships Medic: $10,000; but this did include the supply of a walking stick!

Hospitalisation: One month in a Spanish hospital €37,000.

Getting Home

If you break your leg you may be required to pay for 3 seats on your flight home, or even travel first class; and at short notice this could be very expensive.

If you can’t make it home under your own steam costs rise dramatically an air ambulance can cost you tens of thousands.

FCO press release (13/2/2013)


You could be hit with a bill for many thousands of pounds for medical treatment if you are taken ill or injured while abroad.  And yet one in ten over 55-year-olds admit that they do not always take out travel insurance before going on holiday  – even though more than half say they suffer from a medical condition of some sort.

Research carried out by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) shows that a third (35%) of those who don’t always take out travel insurance choose not to because they are only going on a short break. Just over a quarter (27%) say it’s too expensive and nearly one in five (18%) believe they don’t need to as they are visiting family and friends.  Many also say they don’t need a policy as they are covered by their bank.

Perhaps more concerning is the fact that one in five (21%) with a policy are willing to risk invalidating it by not declaring an existing condition because they are on medication which allows them to manage it. While 15 per cent admit that they wouldn’t update their policy at all if they developed a medical condition or were prescribed new drugs for an existing condition.

Every year, FCO staff provide assistance to thousands of British nationals, including over-55-year-old travellers who have invalidated their policy or taken out the wrong cover.

Mark Simmonds, Minister for Consular Policy at the FCO, said: “It won’t happen to me’ or ‘I’ll be fine’ are risky assumptions to make when deciding whether or not to take out comprehensive travel insurance.  Our consular staff around the world deal with thousands of cases each year that prove that things can and do go wrong. Being prepared can mean the difference between the holiday of a lifetime and a holiday from hell. Being unwell abroad is stressful enough without the added pressure of having to find thousands of pounds to pay for treatment.

“We will do everything we can to support people who find themselves needing medical assistance or treatment abroad, but the FCO cannot pay medical bills or fund medical repatriation back to the UK. Taking out a comprehensive policy and declaring any medical condition may be an added expense at the time but it’s a worthwhile investment compared to what you could end up paying if something goes wrong when you are on holiday.”

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the cost of medical treatment is often significantly underestimated by people travelling abroad. Information shared by the ABI reveals that a claim in the United States for blood pressure and cholesterol-related medical emergencies, such as heart attacks and strokes, could cost up to £100,000. When asked by the FCO to state which, if any, medical conditions they suffered from, the majority of respondents listed blood pressure and cholesterol.

A spokesperson for the ABI said: “Travel insurance is a must for all holidaymakers.  Policies are widely available for people of all ages, but the insurance industry recognises that some older people need help finding cover.  Under the Age Agreement which we developed with Government and the British Insurance Brokers’ Association, older people who are unable to find cover at the first firm they approach should be directed to an alternative provider who will be able to offer insurance or to a signposting service.”

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1 Comment

  1. Your basic approach to insurance is to only cover expenses that could be potentially catastrophic. Health coverage (especially in the U.S.) fits that category, as does automobile liability (again in the U.S.), emergency evacuation services, and possibly some others. Everything else we self insure.

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