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Gap year travellers ignoring need for vaccinations and insurance

21st October 2014

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It’s that time of year when teenagers and graduates from all over the country pack up their rucksacks and head off an gap year adventures – but a many are forgetting to get their vaccinations and take out travel insurance, according to research.

The Post Office Travel Insurance has found that 47% of gap year travellers have left home without the vaccinations required for their destination, and that 15% haven’t taken out any travel insurance.

This is despite the majority of backpackers carrying with them smartphones, iPods, laptops and digital cameras - which could mean carrying a backpack filled with over £2,500 worth of gadgets.

It’s a huge change from 25 years ago – in a world that might seem slightly alien now, the top gadgets for student travellers a quarter of a century ago included alarm clocks (carried by 41%), travel irons (20%), and Swiss army knives (31%).

Health-wise, neglecting to look after the important bits of travel admin can be costly – on average 20% of gappers fall ill whilst abroad, whilst a further 10% suffer from some form of injury.

To put this into perspective, in the USA gap year claims for air ambulances have added up to £100,000 - hardly a bill that you want to be footing yourself.

In the USA, which is the fifth most popular gap year destination and does not have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK, treatment for a broken leg can cost up to £50,000 and just 48 hours of hospital treatment £10,000.

In India, another hugely popular destination, 48 hours in hospital for something as minor as an upset stomach (an extremely likely bugbear of travel in the country) could cost the unhappy backpacker between £2,000 and £4,000.

It’s not like Brit tourists abroad are immune from dangers, either - last year alone, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office assisted in 3,599 cases of British holidaymakers being hospitalised abroad, and in backpacker hotspot Thailand incidences of hospitalisation requiring consular assistance increased by a third on the previous year, with road traffic accidents being particularly to blame.

Paul Havenhand, Head of Insurance at Post Office, said: “Gap years are something of a rite of passage these days, with three quarters of those surveyed (76%) working to save for the trip of a lifetime, but it can quickly become a nightmare if you’re not prepared properly.  People are shelling out more than £6,000 each, taking into account the cost of the trip and the value of the kit they take with them, but despite that vast numbers are still heading off without insurance.

“Backpackers are known to let their hair down on their gap year, and rightly so, but sadly risk-taking goes hand in hand with accidents and theft, so we’re urging those planning their trip of a lifetime to take the proper precautions.  Insurance, vaccinations and common sense should be on everyone’s checklist.”

We agree – come on travellers, you know it’s not worth the risk.

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