Drinking on holiday could leave you high and dry

Updated: 

beer on the beachDPA DEUTSCHE PRESS-AGENTUR/DPA/Press Association Images

The British Insurance Brokers Association has warned that travel insurance firms are clamping down on holidaymakers who drink or take drugs. Those who have an accident after partying overseas will find themselves stranded without cover.

So what's happening and why?

No cover

Insurers have always taken a dim view of insurance claims that come as a result of drinking or taking drugs. Many have always had an exclusion in the small print that says anyone who was in an impaired condition which caused the claim will have voided their cover.


However, the study found that of the 20 leading travel insurance policies they studied, every single one now removes cover for those who go drinking overseas. BIBA also found that the exclusions have been strengthened in recent years, so that more holiday makers than ever will find themselves without cover. This is particularly worrying, as the average cost for medical treatment overseas was £2,040 in 2011, which isn't the sort of sum that most people could easily get their hands on.

Different rules

However, they say that the small print varies from policy to policy, so it's vital to check exactly what you would need to do in order to have been deemed to have invalidated your insurance. Exclusions range from 'excessive alcohol intake' or 'drinking so much alcohol that your judgment is seriously affected' through to some policies which reject 'any claims that result from using alcohol'.

The range of exclusions included:

  • 'We do not expect you to avoid alcohol on your trips or holidays but we will not cover any claims arising because you have drunk so much alcohol that your judgment is seriously affected and you need to make a claim as a result;'
  • 'Any claim arising directly or indirectly from you having a blood alcohol content level that exceeds 0.19%, this being the equivalent of you having consumed 8 units of alcohol in a single session. 1 unit of alcohol equals half a pint of normal strength (4%) beer, lager or cider or half a standard 175ml glass of 12% wine or one 25ml measure of spirit.'
  • 'Any claim arising directly or indirectly from your drug addiction or solvent abuse, excessive alcohol intake, or you being under the influence of drug(s).'

Protect yourself

The key is to know what your policy says about alcohol. Graeme Trudgill, BIBA's Head of Corporate Affairs, says: "We believe that travellers will be surprised that there is such a variety of exclusions within policies and they need to understand what level of alcohol could invalidate a claim and if excessive, it almost certainly will."

Leighann Forsyth, BIBA's Head of Communications, adds: "Travel insurance is vitally important. Travellers could be confused by the different attitudes that are taken by insurers so it is important for them to check their specific policy wording, stay safe and speak to an insurance broker to fully understand the policy cover and condition.

Of course, it also pays to be sensible. According to a survey by Santander, we are more likely to take stupid risks with drinking when we are on holiday. So, for example, one in four people have been skiing while still under the influence of alcohol from the night before, and 17% while under the influence from lunchtime drinking.

Clearly there are plenty of people who want to let their hair down while they are on holiday. According to Churchill, one in four all-inclusive holidaymakers also admit that they try and get their money's worth out of their holiday package by drinking as much free alcohol as they can during their stay. However, unless you want to risk being left with a medical bill of several thousands of pounds, it pays to hold back.

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