Travel

Sun, Sex and Safety

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Sun, sea sex and safe travel: get all the details here.

Sun, sex and cheap booze – the appeals of Majorca are well know to most young travellers, especially students looking for a blow-out after their hectic studies. However, the hugely popular Spanish destination has downsides that many are not aware of, and hence they arrive, en masse, ill prepared.

Results are often terrible, and I don’t mean exam results. An astonishingly high number of Brits are hospitalised each year whilst overseas. According to the FCO, last year, on average, 70 British people were hospitalised every week while abroad.  A huge 30% of these were in Spain – of which half were on the islands of Majorca and neighbouring Ibiza which have seen a steep rise in cases over the past two years.  So, you may be asking yourself, what can you do to avoid becoming one of them?

Well the answer is very simple, be aware, and be prepared! Alcohol in this part of the world can seem insanely cheap in comparison to what we’re used to paying at home. Ask, Sophie Waldron, 21, from Yorkshire: “You can buy an entire round of vodka shots and cocktails on the Punta Ballena for less than £3.” Alcohol poisoning and accidents are commonplace, but for Sophie, in common with most students out here on holiday, such consequences were far from her mind.

Over the past few years there has been a 132% rise in hospitalisations in Majorca and this spring three British youngsters were killed after falling off balconies or down steep stairwells in Magaluf. The Spanish authorities and the Foreign Office Consular Staff are overwhelmingly in agreement that most of these would have been avoided if students focused less on the ‘bargain value’ of the booze and kept to within their alcohol tolerance limits. This doesn’t mean going out there and living like a nun. However, drinking to the point of losing consciousness or to the point of dependence on others to get you home is a sure fire way to increase your likelihood of falling victim to a crime or a tragic accident.

At this time of year the resort is a magnet for thousands of youngsters from all over the UK as they celebrate the end of exams or their school days. Many of them will not have taken out travel insurance. It’s unsurprising then that for some students, doing so will make them feel like the odd one out. And no one, least of all cash strapped young tourists, wants to feel that they are forking out for a luxury that they’re unlikely to use.

However, it is far from an extravagance. It is essential you have it.  In some countries medical bills are not paid for by the government, even for the local population. Any treatment you require, be it for an illness or an injury, can easily result in medical bills that run into the thousands. Buying comprehensive travel insurance means you’ll be far less likely to be in the position of spending years in debt due to medical bills, plus it can cushion the blow when you lose valuables abroad. If you’re travelling to a European resort be sure to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as well as your travel insurance, as this may allow you to access state provided health care for free or at a reduced cost. For more information about the EHIC, check out the FCO’s advice.

One of the victims of a balcony fall, Charlotte Faris, 23, had not taken out travel insurance. Her family were left struggling to raise the £5000 funds to repatriate her body as a result.2 Needing to make a claim in such tragic circumstances is mercifully rare. What is more common though is for a broken bone or even a minor injury abroad resulting in years of financial hardship.

Just ask Matthew Ragwell, 22, after falling from one of the many treacherous balconies in Magaluf (which are notorious for their insufficiently tall railings) he was left with a £40,000 bill to pay after requiring an ambulance to a local hospital, followed by repeated scans, the care of several medical staff and the bed rent for a fortnight stay. All this was done due to the risk, in fact unrealised, that he may have broken his back. “I know I’m lucky to escape with my health intact, but I cannot believe that people don’t know about these fierce costs abroad. I guess, looking back, I always took for granted that an equivalent of the NHS would be out there. Stupid I know! When the nursing staff asked to see my insurance before they even asked my name I was stunned. It took some effort to persuade them that I had sufficient funds for my treatment. It’s terrifying to me to think that, if I hadn’t been in the position of being able to call mum and dad to transfer funds, I might have be turned away altogether.”

Matt has had to take an interruption of study to work to pay back his parents.  “I’m absolutely gutted, I’ll be working minimum wage jobs for two years now before I can return to uni, and I’m not looking forward to having to explain to future employers just exactly the specifics of my extenuating circumstances that meant it took me 5 years to finish a 3 year course.

Most insurance policies will not cover you if you have an accident whilst intoxicated. It’s vital that you check the wording of any policy you take out to make sure that it will cover any activities you’re planning. Don’t let wading through inappropriate ones dissuade you though. A final word from Matt, “Don’t learn the hard way like me, this incident has brought so much disruption to my life. When I think it could have all been avoided, for the sake of travel insurance, and a bit of common sense, I could cry.”

 

For more info about how to prepare for trips abroad, go to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website and follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

Written by Rhiannon Davies

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