On their way to southern Spain last summer, George and Jean Glover stopped outside the city of Seville for a lunch-time picnic. They left their car by the road and walked down to the cool waters of a river for a very pleasant meal. When they returned to their car, they were horrified to discover that the back window had been forced and smashed.
It took a while to sort out what had gone, mostly small things like their camera, tape player and tapes, a few clothes lying on the back seat – fortunately, they hadn’t bothered with the suitcases. It suddenly dawned on Jean that she had left her handbag in the car, contaning their passports, travellers’ cheques, cash, ferry tickets, car keys and front-door keys.
“It was appalling. How could I have been so stupid? In London, I’d never have left my handbag in the car,” recalls Jean. Initially, they both felt like driving back to the ferry and going home. But they knew they had to report the theft to the police. And they had to call their motor insurance company to arrange for a new back window.
The travel insurance company, which ran a 24-hour emergency assistance service, advised them to call a neighbour, who had a key for their house, to ask her to get the locks changed. They were also advised to speak to the local Consular Office to arrange emergency passports.
The travellers’ cheque company arranged an immediate replacement of their holiday money. Bit by bit, they realised that all was not lost, and they managed to continue with what turned out to be a very enjoyable holiday. “But if we hadn’t had the help and advice available through our travel insurance company, we’d have been totally lost.” Incredibly, there are many people like the Glovers who run into trouble abroad, yet have no travel insurance. That’s why these days people taking a package holiday are normally obliged by the tour operators to have travel insurance; if they don’t take the policy offered in the brochure, then they have to show that they have made alternative arrangements.
There is no such safety net for people travelling independently, but, thanks largely to newspaper horror stories of uninsured tourists having to sell their houses in order to meet £100,000 bills for medical treatment in the States, most travellers abroad appreciate the need to take out insurance.