Tourists without insurance face huge medical bills / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Survey finds a quarter of British travellers go overseas without protection

Around 40 per cent of young travellers risk being hit with medical bills worth tens of thousands of pounds by going abroad without insurance, research suggests.

Holidaymakers aged 18-24 are most likely to travel without investing in a policy, according a survey of more than 2,000 Britons by The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta).

The group warned that if people are injured or fall ill overseas their families may struggle to raise money for treatment or repatriation. 

One case highlighted was that of 29-year-old Michael Doyle, who was diagnosed with blood poisoning in Bulgaria and passed away before his parents could raise £20,000 to bring him back to the UK for further dialysis treatment. 

His father, John, told the BBC: "Bulgaria is an excellent place to go, it's not different from anywhere else in the world but you need to have insurance."

The family of Craig Lindley, 35, from South Yorkshire, have raised more than £32,000 to help him return to the UK for further treatment after he fell ill in Thailand.

In another case, the loved ones of Dorset grandmother Esther Jones are trying to raise £50,000 after she became unwell while travelling to Australia without insurance.

A quarter of British travellers surveyed said they went on holiday without insurance over the last year, up from 22 per cent the year before, with more than a third feeling they did not need cover.

Abta spokesman Mark Tanzer said: "Rather than having to resort to the kindness of strangers, holidaymakers should make sure that they have the right insurance in place.

"Every year, we see cases of people falling into difficulty due to travelling without insurance.

"Often their families have to raise thousands of pounds for their treatment or repatriation and that's why it is so worrying to see an increase in younger people travelling without insurance."

The average medical claim on a travel policy comes in at almost £1,000. 

Relatives of people who die abroad could face bills of up to £17,000 for the repatriation process - yet insurance policies start at less than £5 for an individual and £17 for a family.

The plans usually provide cover for cancellations and delays, medical expenses if you have to visit a doctor or hospital overseas, personal liability if you cause damage to people or things, protection if your bags or possessions are stolen, lost or damaged and emergency assistance or repatriation if you have to be brought back to the UK after an injury.

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot pay medical bills if you are hospitalised abroad, nor can we fly you home," a spokesperson said.

"Take out an appropriate insurance policy and make sure you know what it covers you for. 

"It may feel like an added expense but it's very worthwhile if you compare it to what you could end up paying if something goes wrong on holiday."

Additional reporting by PA

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