AS the gloomier weather of Autumn hits, many Scots families will be heading abroad for a break during the October school holidays.
Here are some pointers and useful links to make sure you come back from your break with special memories, rather than suffering a travel nightmare…
- Research where you’re going beforehand. Don’t just pick out the sights and things to do, consider local cultures, customs, rules and laws as well.
- Find out what the weather is likely to be like when you’re there and prepare appropriately.
- Make sure you know what areas are safe and the common scams and crimes in the area.
- When it comes to where you’re staying, pay heed to reviews and reputation for hotels, hostels and self-catering accommodation.
- Take as little as you need with you – it’s less to lose.
- Take copies of your passport and other documents and keep them in a separate place to the ones you are carrying about. Also leave a copy at home.
- If you suffer from health problems that require medication or have a disability, make sure you know how this will affect your travel arrangements and where you are staying.
- Make sure your insurance is up to date, as well as your passport and any visas or permits required wherever you are travelling.
- Keep your valuables safe, always carry a map with you and beware of being a tourist – a top target for crime.
- Make sure your bank or credit card provider know you’ll be abroad to avoid payments on plastic being blocked. Always carry some cash with you.
- Beware of roaming charges when using data on your phone to browse Google Maps or look up destinations. Turn off your data roaming when not using it to avoid running up costs and make use of Wi-Fi where possible.
Getting medical treatment abroad
New research by MoneySuperMarket has revealed that one in seven Scots have required medical treatment while on holiday – but nearly one in ten still do not take out travel insurance.
The average cost is around £31 for a single-trip policy which works out as a fraction of the cost of medical fees abroad should injury or illness strike.
Currently, Brits travelling to most countries in Europe are able to obtain emergency medical treatment on the same terms as a local resident if they are carrying an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is available free from the NHS.
This can reduce or even eliminate any fees for the treatment received. The EHIC is valid in any EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Prescriptions issued by a doctor registered in the EU are valid in all EU countries. However, in order to make it easier to get your prescription medicine dispensed abroad, make sure your doctor includes all the required information.
It’s important to state that an EHIC card is not a substitute for travel insurance since the policy will provide essential cover for problems such as cancellation and the loss or theft of belongings.
Gastroenteritis, often caused by drinking unsafe tap water or a change in diet, is the most common ailment suffered by British travellers.
More serious common health issues include broken bones, heart conditions and respiratory problems.
Top 8 medical reasons for travel insurance claims
Cancer related conditions
Diabetes and related complications
In the US, even minor treatments for cases of food poisoning or general stomach upsets are considerably more expensive at £1,250, over double that of Spain (£510) and France (£550) and over three times that of Italy (£350).
According to MoneySuperMarket data, major procedures in the USA cost around £75,000 and a daily room rate in hospital costs close to £4,000. Medical treatment associated with a heart by-pass in the USA costs a massive £113,000.
Although Brits would still need to fork out thousands of pounds for major surgery in other popular holiday resorts, costs in Spain (£13,175) and Cyprus (£13,175) are five times lower than the USA.
In fact, a hospital daily room rate is over 10 times less expensive in Cyprus (£440), Thailand (£300), Bulgaria (£175) and South Africa (£300).
A MoneySuperMarket spokesperson said: “It is never worth the risk to book a holiday without travel insurance, regardless of where you are going. If you fall ill or suffer an injury, medical expenses can cost thousands of pounds. If you need to be repatriated to the UK, the costs can sky-rocket even higher.
“It’s important that you read up on the exclusions when you buy a policy and declare any pre-existing medical conditions. The research showed that 20 per cent of those that do take out a policy are not clued up on what they are covered for, which could lead to problems if a claim were to be made.
“Exclusions usually include dangerous sports and hazardous activities such as scuba diving, horse-riding and rock climbing – so you need to check you’ve got the cover you need. There might also be key conditions, such as a requirement to wear a helmet on a motorcycle, even if it’s not required by local laws.
“Taking out travel insurance when you book your holiday also means you’ve got cover in the event that you’re unable to go due to an illness or injury, a family bereavement, or other emergency. You’ll also have cover for your possessions, your personal liabilities and for your problems arising from travel delays.”
MoneySuperMarket’s “Hidden Medical Costs Abroad” page has tips on how to stay safe and be aware of the potential costs of medical treatment abroad without travel insurance.
Medicine at airports
You’ll need a letter from your doctor explaining what they’re for if you need to carry medicines and medical equipment such as needles or syringes through an airport in your hand luggage.
If you want to carry over 100ml of liquid medication, you’ll need to check with your airline before you fly. You’ll also need to carry the medication separately and declare it at security.
Some countries don’t allow certain medication to be brought in. Check any restrictions with the country’s embassy or high commission.
You need to tell your airline about a disability at least 48 hours before departure should you require extra assistance.
The Foreign Office lists your rights at airports here.
Travelling in Europe
If you experience delays or cancellations while travelling in Europe, EU Passenger rights will apply and you could be entitled to compensation.
See the links below for more information about your rights:
Hiring a car
By Russell Blackstock, Raw Deal Editor
If you are hiring a car on holiday, ensure you have a credit, not a debit card with you – or you could end up paying dearly.
That is what happened to me on a recent break in Sardinia.
We had prepaid the full amount of £202 for the hire to international online company Cartrawler.
But when we arrived at the Wow Rent office on the outskirts of Cagliari to pick up the vehicle, things went pear-shaped.
We were asked for a further holding deposit of €500 but were told this could only be accepted on a credit card, which neither of us had with us.
We were told Visa debit cards were OK to pay for cars up front, but they could not be used to put a “hold” on money.
We offered to leave €500 in cash instead – but this was refused, too.
The result was that we could not drive away a car we had already paid for.
We were not alone, as two other couples in the queue had ran into the same issue.
At this point we called Cartrawler customer services in the UK but were told we were too late to cancel – by one minute.
However, we could not possibly have cancelled earlier as we were busy filling in all the paperwork.
Things took a more unusual turn when the manager at Wow Rent then moved to another desk and offered to rent us a car with another of his companies, Joy Rentals.
He explained he could not take a deposit via Visa debit card on the first car because it was originally booked through an online intermediary, which insisted on credit cards only.
He said he could accept a holding deposit for the second car via Visa debit card as we were hiring it directly from him.
In the end we had little choice but to take the second car, which cost us another £220 on top of the £202 we had already lost on the first vehicle.
When I contacted Cartrawler on our return to the UK, the company declined to issue a refund, pointing out that customers are informed in advance that a credit card is required at the pick-up point.
We accept we should have paid more attention to the terms and conditions but feel it was not made clear enough that Visa debit cards were not accepted at the pick-up point.
So remember, if hiring a car online, double-check beforehand exactly what method of payment is needed to secure it when you turn up to collect it.
If you get there and find your accommodation is not up to scratch you don’t have to suffer in silence.
You can claim make a claim either while on holiday or back home.
Ask for a complaint form to lodge it officially with hotel staff or a tour rep.
Take photos and video of the problems encountered as evidence to back your claim.
Make notes and consult fellow travellers who can back you up.
Keep a hold of receipts of extra expenses you have to pay to make your stay better (e.g. changing hotel)
Which? Magazine recommends that if you receive an offer of compensation, you check whether it’s made on condition that it’s a ‘full and final settlement’.
If so, consider carefully whether it compensates you in full for the problems you’ve had.
If it doesn’t, make it clear that you are reserving the right to claim for more compensation when you return home.
Make an immediate complaint by writing to the customer services department of the company involved, whether it’s a hotel chain or a tour operator.
Make sure you give them all the details and evidence required.
If you paid by credit card you could also claim against your credit card company.
Under Section 75, the credit card company is jointly and severally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by a company for items or services that cost between £100 and £30,000
You can also contact a trade body if you book through a travel company and they fail to resolve your complaint.
If you run into further issues, you can contact our Raw Deal team.
Foreign Office advice
If you’re thinking of heading to an area affected by conflict, terrorism, natural disasters or other factors that may make it unsafe or dangerous to travel, consult the Foreign Office travel guide before booking and for the latest advice if you choose to travel.
If you need help
As a UK citizen, you can go to any EU member state’s consulate or embassy, where the UK is not represented, to ask for help.
You are also entitled to assistance and/or evacuation in crisis situations.
If you lose your passport or have it stolen you must report it as soon as possible.