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Gap Year Gamblers: Travellers Forgo Protection

Press release   •   Sep 15, 2014 14:50 BST

- Forty seven per cent travelled without the vaccinations required
- One in five (20 per cent) fell ill whilst abroad, with a further ten per cent suffering injury
- One in seven (15 per cent) did not have travel insurance
- Recent gap year claims include £100,000 Air Ambulance from USA

Almost half (47 per cent) of gap year travellers are not getting the vaccinations they need to prevent illness and infection around the world, according to research from Post Office Travel Insurance. 1 This is particularly worrying as one in six (15 per cent) admitted to travelling without insurance.

Yet the risk of health problems occurring whilst away is very real, with one in five (20 per cent) saying they fell ill on their trip and a further nine per cent were injured. Last year alone, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) assisted in 3,599 cases of British holidaymakers being hospitalised. Thailand, a popular destination for backpackers, has seen incidences of hospitalisation requiring consular assistance increase by a third on the previous year, with road traffic accidents in particular to blame. 2

Costs of medical care abroad can be incredibly expensive, and for countries that do not have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK, such as the USA (fifth most popular gap year destination and where treatment for a broken leg costs up to £50,000) 3, those without travel insurance will be left to foot the bill. Even treatment for an upset stomach can run into the thousands – in India, 48 hours of hospital treatment costs between £2,000 and £4,000, in Spain £3,000-£4,000, and up to £10,000 in the USA. An air ambulance from the West Coast of the United States can cost as much as £100,000, and between £23,000 and £25,000 from the Canary Islands.

Gap year finances

Many are not properly financially prepared to go on their gap year either, with travellers who needed to find extra money needing an average £483 from friends, family, or fellow travellers to continue on their holiday. Of those who ran out of money, 54 per cent said they had not budgeted enough, a quarter (23 per cent) said they had to pay for extra flights, 11 per cent had to recover from a theft and 8 per cent had to pay for medical treatment of an illness or injury.

This extra money is part of an average total outlay of £3,683 for each traveller. The spend of a gap year peaked about 15 years ago, when young people invested an average of £4,110 in their time away.*

Despite the costs and risks involved with travelling on your gap year, one in six (15 per cent) admitted that they did not take out travel insurance for their trip.

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 per cent) 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.”

Insurance is now particularly important considering the increased value of the possessions tourists take abroad. The most commonly carried gap year gadgets in the last five years are smart phones (71 per cent), digital cameras (69 per cent), laptops (45 per cent), iPod/ Mp3 players (41 per cent) and video cameras (29 per cent), which could mean carrying a backpack filled with over £2,500 4 worth of kit.

This is a significant step up in value from the gadgets of around 25 years ago, with alarm clocks (41 per cent), travel irons (20 per cent), and Swiss army knives (31 per cent) among the most popular.**

Top 5 Gap Year Destinations


32 per cent


31 per cent


26 per cent


25 per cent


22 per cent

Top 5 Desired Gap Year Destinations


28 per cent


25 per cent

New Zealand

22 per cent


16 per cent


15 per cent


Notes to editors

1. Research taken from 1009 UK respondents who have been on a gap year when aged between 18 to 30, between 6th- 8th July 2014. A gap year is defined as an extended period of travel of at least 3 months.

53% of all respondents say they got all the vaccinations required for all the countries / places they visited.

* £4,110 is the estimated actual total cost of gap year for those who took their gap year between 11-20 years ago.

** Popular items taken by those who took their gap year between 21-30 years ago.

2. FCO data taken from the ABTA Travel Trends Report 2014

3. All costs for treatment quoted are from Gap Year claims data from AXA Insurance

4. Prices accurate as of 21/08/2014. Products selected are:

Smartphone: iPhone 5C, £429,

Digital Camera: Samsung Galaxy 2, £339.99,

Laptop: Toshiba Satellite S70-B-10U 17.3", £1,199.99,

iPod / Mp3 player: iPod Touch, £199,

Video camera: Sony HDR-PJ530 Handycam Camcorder, £414,

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