/ Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

A little tipple abroad could trip up your travel insurance

A new piece of research has found that travel insurance companies are turning down more and more claims for accidents that happen after you’ve been drinking or taking any kind of drugs.

The findings from the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) showed that many of the UK’s 20 leading travel insurers are clamping down on holiday drinking by including more stringent alcohol and drugs exclusions. The stark fact is that the amount of alcohol you’ve had could invalidate your claim.

When is a ‘few’ too many?

My initial thought was – where do insurers draw the line? Having a few drinks when you’re on holiday is par for the course for most of us. You can easily have a few early-evening cocktails, some wine with dinner and a couple of nightcaps without overdoing it. But will this be deemed acceptable by insurers if you do have a mishap?

The second question that popped into my head was – how can they prove how much you’ve had to drink? If you’ve fallen over a sun lounger or slipped on some sun cream, the last thing on your mind will be exactly how many drinks you’ve had. Of course, if you had an accident and needed to give a blood sample in the course of medical treatment, it would be possible to gauge your blood alcohol level.

Different definitions don’t help

The problem seems to be that insurers set their levels with alcohol exclusions very differently. Some companies talk about excluding claims arising from ‘excessive intake’, while others are more specific.

One insurance company excludes ‘claims arising directly or indirectly from a blood alcohol level that exceeds 0.19%’. That’s about four pints or four 175ml glasses of wine to you and me.

Another insurer talks about drinking so much alcohol ‘that your judgement is seriously affected’. There’s the worry that the vagueness of some definitions will open the way for companies to dispute valid claims.

What’s your tipple?

These sort of exclusions tend to give travel insurance companies a bad name, but aren’t they sensible to include? Why should the insurer foot the bill if you’ve got smashed abroad and ended up hurting yourself?

Or is this the reason you buy insurance in the first place, with these terms being just another way for companies to make sure they can avoid paying claims if something untoward occurs while you’re away?


It would appear on the surface that such a penalty is incorporated to limit claims from so called “lager louts” or anyone who chooses to really get trollied. I suspect most people have done this at one time or another, both at home and whilst on holiday. Rightly or wrongly, at home the NHS deals with the worst cases, where there are no exclusions to my knowledge based on the amount of alcohol imbibed. I would suggest therefore that it is reasonable to expect insurance to cover you for such eventualities whilst on holiday in a foreign country. It would seem to be another way of increasing premiums. By increasing exclusions at the expense of the majority whether for holiday insurance or for other types of cover, such actions may well hoist insurance companies by their own petard and potentially render insurance a laughable extravagance.

The main problem I see with these types of exclusions is when Insurance companies apply them immediately and automatically leaving you with no emergency medical cover for treatment and possibly stranded abroad .

You may well eventually win your case that the exclusion does not apply but in the mean time you have to have access to enough funds to pay for treatment and travel home.

I can see the scenario of a trip down a couple of steps on leaving the restaurant after dinner and a couple of glasses of wine – broken leg , insurer disclaiming responsibility as due to alcohol.

On holiday, I like the odd tipple during the daytime as well as a little wine with my dinner, plus the occasional post-prandial libation, and apart from one ocasion when a chair collapsed under me [free bottle of wine offfered by the management – and accepted – in recompense], there have been no mishaps to disturb the peace of my insurance company’s call-centre. For some people, however, getting bladddered nightly is the entire object of the exercise – they think it either makes them irresistible or weakens their resistance, depending on their agenda. Eventually they end up being drunk and incapable so before long they have to be stretchered off to the clinic. They are lying there in the green garment having a credit card transfusion passing the time pondering the Aviva deal. I can only assume the insurance companies are getting a bit fed up with having to cough up the moulars for all these not-quite-accidental medicalamities. In their usual blundering way, instead of doing it decently – and with appropriate publicity – through the proper trade bodies, they are making up their own rules and interpretations that are bound to lead to legal wrangling. It is almost guaranteed that the insurers will repudiate all claims where the slightest hint of an intake of alcohol is suggested and that will disadvantage everyone who genuinely trips over a step in an unfamiliar environment. I believe it is the case that all carriers insist on some form of travel insurance being taken out so it is not an avoidable extra, and the less extensive the cover and the lower the premium the more arguments there will be . . . as if to add insult to injury!

“how can they prove how much you’ve had to drink?”

Just don’t tell them.

Insurance companies are always finding a way to not have to pay out, regardless of whether you’ve been drinking or not.

as says:
30 June 2012

I remember seeing one policy that excluded injuries caused by drunkenness with no more specific definition. A strict reading of it would suggest that it does not even have to be your own drunkenness – if you got beat up by a drunken local you wouldn’t be covered !

On the other hand, if you were, say driving drunk and caused an accident, car insurance in some countries becomes invalid as well.

Anyway, I think it’s good which highlights this. We should vote with our custom and go for coverage that doesn’t include wide exclusions like this.