Melanie Bien: No travel cover? You could be lost in Lisbon

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The Independent Online

By the time you read this, depending on what time of day you sit down with your Sunday paper, I will either be on my way to Gatwick airport, in mid-air or enjoying a leisurely lunch in Lisbon. Or if you leave your newspaper reading until very late in the day, I may actually be at the football.

By the time you read this, depending on what time of day you sit down with your Sunday paper, I will either be on my way to Gatwick airport, in mid-air or enjoying a leisurely lunch in Lisbon. Or if you leave your newspaper reading until very late in the day, I may actually be at the football.

But whether England or France emerge victorious, at least I don't have to worry about my travel insurance because I have an annual multi-trip policy.

Yes, you read that last line correctly. While some people will be fretting over little details such as the game itself, insurers are determined that travel cover should be at the forefront of our minds.

This may sound a bit of a joke: what sort of fan would be thinking about insurance instead of the diamond formation? But there is a serious message here: 14,000 fans will travel to Portugal without travel cover, according to research by supermarket Asda.

And even those who have arranged insurance may inadvertently invalidate their policy doing something that practically every English football fan will participate in: enjoying a beer (or several).

According to research from insuresupermarket.com, a site that lets you compare the cost of various policies, your cover may be worthless if you are under the influence. Although many people don't realise it, the small print of virtually every travel policy includes a clause that states the cover is rendered invalid if alcohol or drugs played some part in the incident for which you are making a claim.

This could be bad news given that treatment for a broken leg in Portugal can cost anything from £500 to £15,000 depending on whether surgery is required. And repatriation to the UK costs up to £45,000 for an air ambulance.

Trying to foot this bill will be too much for many, particularly if the other press releases making their way on to my desk in the past couple of weeks are anything to go by. Fans are already splashing out to follow their team: the average cost is £1,594 per England supporter on flights, accommodation, match tickets and food and drink, according to Capital One.

American Express offers a breakdown of the cost of travelling to Lisbon just to attend the game against France: fans will spend, on average, £459 each. Given that Amex has calculated a lager bill of no more than £5.20 per person, perhaps these fans are worried about invalidating their insurance policies.

The AA has also weighed in with research, this time involving people driving to Portugal. The AA is concerned that "some football fans ... may leave commonsense behind and risk squeezing one more person in their car". It says this is dangerous because that "extra" person won't have a seatbelt and could attract the attention of the police.

Armchair fans at home will also spend some serious dosh, according to yet more research. Capital One estimates that they will fork out an average of £68 each on food, drinks, house parties, and team shirts and flags. England supporters in the North-west will spend the most - £87 each - while the Scots will spend the least - £52 per person. Given that they're not participating, perhaps the Scots are only opening their wallets at all so they can celebrate an England defeat or two.

Even the most tenuous connections are not beyond companies desperate in their quest for publicity. For example, stockbroker The Share Centre is trying to convince investors that the further England progress in Euro 2004, the better it will be for their portfolios - but only if they are invested in the likes of pub operators, off-licences and supermarkets, which all stand to benefit from sales of beer and food for the barbie.

And don't forget the bookmakers, such as Paddy Power and Sportingbet, which are also tipped for a good summer depending on how far England progress.

Tenuous links aside, if you are travelling to Portugal, make sure insurance is up there on your list of priorities, behind getting hold of your match ticket and booking your flights.

And don't forget to take a copy of your travel insurance documents with you, as many hospitals will insist on seeing evidence of your policy before they proceed.

Come on England.

m.bien@independent.co.uk

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