Travel Question of the Day: Simon Calder on travel insurance for people over 70 – The Independent

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Q Which companies offer acceptable worldwide travel insurance for over 70s? We are looking to travel to Europe plus Spain and possibly Asia, the US and the Caribbean.

Ann and John Williams, Leeds

As you will have discovered, once you begin your eighth decade, premiums for travel insurance can escalate sharply. This practice is often characterised as profiteering on the part of the insurers. But from what I can see it is mostly a reflection of the actuarial reality: that claims from older travellers tend to be more frequent and more expensive than from younger age groups.

The cost of annual insurance rises particularly sharply because of the perception that people in their 70s are more likely to be retired and therefore able to take holidays more often and to stay longer abroad – both of which add to the risk exposure from the insurer’s perspective. And there’s another dimension for travellers aiming for North America: it’s long been the case that premiums for the US and Canada are higher than for the rest of the world, to reflect the high costs of medical treatment in those countries. Claims for cardio-vascular issues are particularly expensive, and again tend to prevail among older travellers. So year-round cover that includes North America (and often the Caribbean) can be painfully expensive, even if you are in the happy position of having no pre-existing medical condition.

Companies such as Saga and charities such as Age UK, as well as specialist travel insurers, are well worth consulting. They have competitive offers and are likely to ask the right questions about your current state of health. But some older travellers still end up paying more for travel insurance than for a transatlantic flight. 

So what are your options? You could shop around for the best deal and then reluctantly pay up. Or you could base your choice of destination partly on the cost of travel insurance. 

British travellers to Spain (or elsewhere in the EU) are covered by a reciprocal health agreement. This reduces the risk for insurers, because if you fall in you can be treated in a public hospital at little cost. So over 70s can find some very good deals for travel within Europe. For example, the Nationwide Flex Account provides free European travel insurance for account holders under 75, so long as you meet eligibility criteria in terms of paying in/switching direct debits.

You could even opt not to insure at all – so long it is a considered decision, rather than inertia. If you are prepared to tolerate the kinds of risks typically covered by travel insurance, such as missed flights and lost or stolen property, and are happy to forego the option of medical repatriation, then you could rationally rely on the local public hospital to provide health care in the unfortunate event that you need it.

Every day, our travel correspondent Simon Calder tackles readers’ questions. Just email yours to: or tweet @simoncalder

Travel Question of the Day: Simon Calder on travel insurance for people over 70 – The Independent