Almost half (47 per cent) of gap year travellers are not getting the vaccinations they need to prevent illness and infection around the world, according to research from Post Office Travel Insurance. This is particularly worrying as one in six (15 per cent) admitted to travelling without insurance. Yet the risk of health problems occurring whilst away is very real, with one in five (20 per cent) saying they fell ill on their trip and a further nine per cent saying they were injured. Last year alone, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) assisted with 3,599 cases of British holidaymakers being hospitalised. Thailand, a popular destination for backpackers, has seen incidences of hospitalisation requiring consular assistance increase by a third on the previous year, with road traffic accidents in particular to blame.
Gap year finances
Many travellers are not properly financially prepared to go on their gap year either, with travellers who needed to find extra money needing an average £483 from friends, family, or fellow travellers to continue on their holiday. Of those who ran out of money, 54 per cent said they had not budgeted enough, a quarter (23 per cent) said they had to pay for extra flights, 11 per cent had to recover from a theft and eight per cent had to pay for medical treatment of an illness or injury.
This extra money is part of an average total outlay of £3,683 for each traveller. The spend of a gap year peaked about 15 years ago, when young people invested an average of £4,110 in their time away. Despite the costs and risks involved with travelling on your gap year, one in six (15 per cent) admitted that they did not take out travel insurance for their trip.
Paul Havenhand, head of insurance at Post Office, said: “Gap years are something of a rite of passage these days, with three quarters of those surveyed (76 per cent) working to save for the trip of a lifetime, but it can quickly become a nightmare if you’re not prepared properly. People are shelling out more than £6,000 each, taking into account the cost of the trip and the value of the kit they take with them, but despite that vast numbers are still heading off without insurance. Backpackers are known to let their hair down on their gap year, and rightly so, but sadly risk-taking goes hand in hand with accidents and theft, so we’re urging those planning their trip of a lifetime to take the proper precautions. Insurance, vaccinations and common sense should be on everyone’s checklist.”
Insurance is now particularly important considering the increased value of the possessions tourists take abroad. The most commonly carried gap year gadgets in the last five years were smart phones (71 per cent), digital cameras (69 per cent), laptops (45 per cent), iPods / mp3 players (41 per cent) and video cameras (29 per cent), which could mean carrying a backpack filled with over £2,500 worth of kit.
This is a significant step up in value from the gadgets of around 25 years ago, with alarm clocks (41 per cent), travel irons (20 per cent), and Swiss army knives (31 per cent) among the most popular.