British cruise holidaymakers with pre-existing health conditions are being advised to ensure they are properly insured.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office says people considering a cruise should research the right travel insurance options, understand the potential cost of not being adequately insured and give a detailed and accurate medical history to insurers.

The advice follows a recent poll by over-50s specialist Saga which found that 8% of people approaching retirement said they would use some of their pension money for holidays.

Changes to pension regulations from April 6 mean it is more feasible for people to dip into their pension pot. A survey for Saga last year showed the over 50s accounted for more than half of the UK’s expenditure on travel and tourism.

FCO head of consular campaigns John Heppenstall said: “Arranging comprehensive travel insurance should be at the top of your to-do list before heading overseas.

“We urge all travellers to think about the effect not having comprehensive insurance can have on both themselves and their families. A medical emergency abroad can be extremely expensive if a traveller is not adequately insured for pre-existing conditions.

“By taking out the right travel insurance, the cost of emergency medical treatment should be covered if you become ill or are injured abroad.”

Roger Ramsden, chief executive of Saga Services, added: “It is great that people who have saved hard can now decide how they make the most of their retirement savings.

“We know that today’s over 50s account for more than half the UK’s travel and tourism spend and they are as adventurous and active as their younger counterparts, so it is important they make sure they are properly covered.

“Travel insurance should meet the changing needs of the over 50s.

“Buying adequate travel insurance should be the top of every holidaymaker’s list and something which should be carefully considered rather than rushed at the last minute, potentially leaving people inadequately covered.”

When buying travel insurance, the FCO advises travellers with pre-existing medical conditions to:

  • Answer questions about their medical history fully and honestly. If your health condition changes between buying insurance and travelling, contact your insurer to discuss.

  • Read policy documents carefully so that you understand what you are and are not covered for.

  • Think about using specialist insurers or brokers. The British Insurance Brokers’ Association’s free ‘Find a Broker’ service can provide access to specialist insurance.

  • Consider taking out a single trip policy for each holiday rather than an annual one. This allows insurers to provide a more accurate quote based on the type of holiday.

  • Think about the destination you are travelling to – the price of medical care can vary from country to country, which will be reflected in the price of insurance.

  • Where appropriate, consider choosing a policy that excludes treatment related to your condition(s). But it is still important to understand exactly what you will and will not be covered for, and the potential costs if things go wrong.

  • Research whether there are suitable medical facilities nearby should they need treatment on holiday.

A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles holidaymakers to reduced cost emergency state healthcare in the European Economic Area.
It includes emergency treatment related to pre-existing medical conditions, but will not pay for other costs such as recuperation after treatment or travel back to the UK.

The FCO added that travellers should remember that the level of free public healthcare varies between countries, so they may not have access to the same specialist treatment that they would at home.