Football fans heading to the World Cup in Russia this year will find their EHIC card won’t cover them for medical bills – but that’s not the only potential pitfall that could cost you dearly.
Supporting your team at a major global event is a lifelong dream for many football fans. Having travel insurance is one way to make sure the experience isn’t ruined by unexpected circumstances – and it’s important that you understand what is, and isn’t, covered by your policy.
Here, we round up the most important things to think about before taking off.
1. Take out medical expenses cover
Brits who travel often in Europe have come to rely on the EHIC, which allows EU members to benefit from free medical care in other EU states.
Russia may not be an EU member but, until recently, it had an agreement in place with the UK meaning that British citizens could access Russian healthcare and vice versa. However, this was terminated in 2016.
If you have to be treated at a hospital or by a doctor while you’re in Russia for the World Cup, you’ll now be liable to pay for the costs.
For this reason, it’s vital to have a travel insurance policy that covers you for any medical expenses and emergency treatment you might need.
- Find out more: best and worst travel insurance providers
2. Carry an emergency credit card
In most cases, you’ll need to pay upfront for medical care and then claim reimbursement from your insurer later.
It can therefore be wise to travel with a credit card that you could use to pay for any medical bills, or you might risk wiping out your entire debit card balance.
- Find out more: compare credit cards with Which? Money Compare
3. Check your insurer’s medical transport policy
Flights from Moscow to London are over four hours, which is a long time to travel alone if you’re unwell or injured.
If you have to return to the UK for medical reasons, you might require a nurse to accompany you, or even an air ambulance – and this could cost well in excess of £20,000.
Check your policy to make sure you’re covered for medical transport back to the UK, including necessary medical support staff or equipment.
- Find out more: European travel insurance reviews
4. Are you heading east of the Ural Mountains?
Russia is the world’s largest country, so your travel insurance may be sold to you by region.
Often, the area ‘west of the Urals’ – which would cover most World Cup venues – is treated as Europe under travel insurance policies.
But if you see a game at Ekaterinburg Stadium, over 1,700km east of Moscow, you may need cover for ‘east of the Urals’, which is likely to be more expensive. This will also apply if you plan to travel to this area before or after the World Cup matches.
Keep in mind that while travel to Russia is by and large safe, travel warnings are in effect for some regions, including the North Caucus. While these are unlikely to feature in your holiday itinerary, your policy may not cover you for travel there.
- Find out more: worldwide travel insurance reviews
5. Check whether you’re covered for private hospital treatment
In some parts of Russia, there’s a big gap between the treatment you’ll receive in a private hospital and one that’s state-run, so check whether your insurer will cover the costs of private hospital treatment.
Many insurers allow emergency treatment at a private facility if it’s the closest one, but will then ask you to move to a state-run hospital when you’re stable enough.
Private hospital bills can be steep, so it’s worth understanding your insurer’s policy before you incur a bill.
If you find yourself in an emergency, seek treatment first but contact your insurer at the earliest opportunity after you’ve been admitted.
6. Disclose pre-existing conditions
Whenever you take out travel insurance, you need to be upfront about any pre-existing medical conditions – even though it may make your cover more expensive.
Failing to disclose relevant medical history may lead to the insurer rejecting your claim, leaving you with a hefty bill.
You could also be out of pocket if you miss a flight due to a pre-existing condition that you didn’t mention, so it’s best to be fully upfront about anything that may be relevant.
Some insurers specialise in cover for people with medical conditions, so it may be worth seeking out these providers.
- Find out more: medical conditions travel insurance reviews
7. Avoid drinking to excess
Celebrating victories with other fans is a key draw for the World Cup – but be careful about celebrating too hard.
Under your travel insurance terms and conditions, you usually have a responsibility to take reasonable care for your own safety and wellbeing. So if you injure yourself while drunk, your insurer may reject your claim.
That’s not to say you’re not able to drink at all. Generally, the insurer would have to prove that your alcohol consumption was excessive, or that your injury was directly caused by alcohol.
8. Check your cancellation cover
A World Cup trip could involve multiple flights and hotel stays, especially if you’re visiting a few different stadiums.
If you miss a flight due to reasons beyond your control, a comprehensive travel insurance policy will often reimburse your out-of-pocket expenses, such as additional nights at a hotel or re-booking fees.
Many often offer curtailment cover, which means you can be reimbursed for the costs of calling off your trip early – but you would need to check with your insurer in what circumstances that would apply and what you’d be entitled to claim.
Some policies also offer cancellation cover, which allows you to cancel for any reason, though this is generally more expensive.
However, it’s unlikely your insurer will reimburse your match tickets if you can’t make it to a game. In this case, you’d need to try to re-sell them on the official re-sale platform – you can find more information here.
9. Keep an eye on political unrest
Russia is a fairly safe destination for travellers, and security has been heightened in the run-up to World Cup matches.
But it’s worth considering the worst-case scenario.
Many travel insurance policies have exclusions for war, civil unrest or terrorism. This means that, while your medical expenses would be covered, you may not be able to claim for disrupted flights, help getting home or lost belongings.
Unless you have cancellation cover, insurers may also not allow you to cancel a trip if you feel unsafe or are worried about the political situation. The only exception may be if the government issues a ‘do not travel’ warning.
For more information on travel insurance, read our guide to the best and worst insurers.