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Holiday Insurance


We'd hate to ruin your holiday, but do you know what would happen if you went abroad, drank too much, fell over, needed medical treatment and claimed on your travel insurance?

Many Holiday insurance would probably never find that you had over indulged and would blithely pay out. But if they did ,your holiday insurance might refuse to pay, claiming that you had put yourself in danger or breached their holiday insurance 'no drunkenness' clauses. In some situations holiday insurance will be on the alert - if, for instance, you are 23 and had been at a stag party in Prague, or if you were swimming at night.

The FCO has just brought out its second annual report on 'British Behaviour Abroad' - and there are no accolades for good conduct. In some countries, the biggest dangers we face are the bottles behind the bar - and in many resorts we pose a much greater danger to the locals than they do to us.

Alarmed by the large numbers of English abroad who get into trouble while drunk, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is subtly trying to tackle the problem. The men from the ministry say about 41 per cent of us admit to drinking 'much more' abroad than we would at home.

More than two million Britons a year go abroad for stag and hen parties, terms almost synonymous with debauchery. The British Embassy in Prague reports many embarrassing tales, including that of a stag-party goer turning up on its steps wearing only a sheet, with no passport no holiday insurance, money or hotel address and only a very short-term memory.

'Most holiday insurance are aware that when Britons go abroad they let their hair down,' says Peter Staddon, technical director of the British holiday insurance Brokers' Association (Biba). 'They expect them to drink. But there is a difference between recklessness and reasonableness. If you get absolutely paralytic, you may find that your travel insurance policy will not respond.'

The Financial Ombudsman Service for holiday insurance is well aware of the problem and has braced itself for more disputes as insurers turn down claims from people who have jumped from balcony to balcony, leapt off piers and bridges into water (known as 'tombstoning') or indulged in other clearly reckless behaviour not good for holiday insurance.

However, the ombudsman for holiday insurance will come to the rescue of people who have had just one drink or two and are then turned down by holiday insurance. It cites the example of the father of a bride who had a couple of drinks at a wedding in New Zealand and then slipped over. His holiday insurance pointed to a 'no drinking' clause in his holiday insurance policy, but the ombudsman upheld the man's holiday insurance claim. 'For alcohol to be completely excluded, we would say it would need to be worded very strongly and clearly and pointed out to the consumer,' said a spokeswoman for the ombudsman.

At the moment, heavy drinkers abroad are saved some embarrassment back home because holiday insurance cannot usually tell how much alcohol was in their bloodstream at the time of the incident. 'It's difficult to prove if alcohol was involved,' says Suzi Fenn of Norwich Union. This is especially true if the claim is for theft, for holiday insurance - but if medical bills abroad keep rising, then travel insurance may start asking for blood tests from foreign hospitals more often.

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