You’re Not Worth ¬£20 Million GBP (Of Travel Medical Cover)

The explosion of insurance providers and the baffling array of cover terms they offer are at best frustrating, at worst risk leaving you without valid cover.

One of the most important things to consider is medical cover. In some countries simple medical treatments can be very expensive (I’m calling you out America).

Do most people really need the multi-millions offered by travel insurance companies?

Methodology

I decided to compare travel insurance quotes delivered by Compare The Market using 4 scenarios: trips to the US and EU, comparing standard and winter sports cover.

The trip was proposed for April 17th 2017, for 7 days. I chose a date long into the future so that readers can retrieve the same quotes for analysis. Travel insurance calculations do not seem to be affected by date of travel (I retrieved quotes for a travel date of 17th April 2016 and 2017 and quotes returned were identical).

Travel insurance quotes were provided for 27 year old male with no existing medical conditions.

Medical treatment costs for comparison were taken from a report by AXA (a travel insurance provider).

Results

Count of Quotes

Count of providers and quotes

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43 quotes for standard cover (US & EU) seems like a lot to me – but¬†as a customer it’s nice to have some choice so I won’t complain.¬†Providers typically offer 3 different cover levels (i.e Bronze, Silver, Gold) within each cover type.

Cost by Defaqto rating

Average cost of cover by rating

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Defaqto is an independent company that provides general ratings for insurance policies designed to show customers:

…where a product or proposition sits in the market, based on the quality and comprehensiveness of the features and benefits it offers.

As expected, policies tend to increase in price as the Defaqto rating increases. Though for US standard cover, you can purchase some 5* policies cheaper than some 3* and 4* policies offered.

Average price difference by rating

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For Winter Sports policies there is a large difference between the cheapest and highest premiums. Standard insurance policies have a smaller difference. Choosing a 5* policy over a 2* for US standard cover is, on average, only £3.21 GBP more expensive. Compare that to US Winter Sports Cover where the difference is £44.82 GBP.

Cost of treatment

Average cost of medical treatment

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Average cost of treatment map

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The charts above shows average of estimated costs for three of the most common health claims abroad: Ear infection, Gastroenteritis, Broken bone following a slip or fall.

The US is by far the most expensive for medical treatment (¬£15,888) — twice that of the 2nd most expensive, Singapore (¬£7277). The most expensive place for treatment in Europe is Mainland Greece (¬£5911).

Bear in mind that these costs are for relatively common misfortunes, and that more serious incidents can lead to eye-wateringly high sums — the cost to be incurred by someone falling off a balcony and seriously injuring themselves in the US, for example, is likely to be in the region of ¬£150,000.

Medical cover limits

Average medical cover provided

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Most policies, regardless of their Defaqto rating, offer between £10 Р15 million GBP of cover. Only one policy offers unlimited medical cover.

Even though treatment in Greece is a third of the cost for comparable treatment in the US, medical cover offered by EU and US policies is almost identical.

Medical excess

Average medical excess by rating

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That said, it is very unlikely you’ll ever need millions of GBP worth of medical treatment, even whilst skiing where it can cost ¬£75 GBP per-minute flying time to be evacuated from the mountain by helicopter.

If you’re in Europe it’s very likely you will¬†incur relatively low treatment costs — below ¬£5,000 GBP. The cost of treatment is likely to be even less than the policy excess, especially for 2* policies with relatively¬†high¬†excesses (>¬£150 GBP).

Take 2* and 5* Standard cover in Europe that have average excesses of £188.16 GBP and £35 GBP respectively, a difference of £153.16 GBP. The average premiums for these policies are £11.16 GBP and £20 GBP, a difference of £8.84 GBP. By choosing the 5* policy you could save £144.32 GBP (153.16 Р8.84) on a claim.

Additional factors

Average baggage cover

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Average baggage excess by rating

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Spending a little extra on an EU Standard policy could increase your baggage cover by as much as £1,500 GBP and reduce any excess you would be required to pay by over £150 GBP.

Though beware. Many travel insurers also put a limit on the payout for individual valuable items, such as cameras and laptops. The limits vary between insurers but are typically either £250 or £500. If someone steals your cash while you are on holiday, the payout is again usually limited to £250 or £500.

Average cancellation cover by rating

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Average cancellation excess by rating

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Again cover and excesses are much more favourable for customers choosing Defaqto higher rated policies for cancellation cover too.

Cover, excesses, and premiums

Whilst medical cover is similar (¬£10-15 million GBP) for all policies, regardless of their Defaqto rating; excesses, baggage, and cancellation cover offered are much more attractive the higher the policies rating. And higher rated polices are not significantly more expensive than those with a lower rating. The more expensive US Winter Sports policies have an average difference of ¬£44.82 GBP between 2* and 5* policies — and you will immediately make a saving by choosing the higher rated policy due to lower excesses should you need to make a claim .

All-in-all, medical cover should probably be the least of your considerations when choosing a policy. Reputable providers offer more than adequate cover.

Improvements

With enough time, deconstructing each individual policy for the differences in cover and terms would help in comparing them all (I imagine this task would take a small army to complete). Instead of using broad Defaqto ratings, I could better consider each policy against the other to see which was the most cost effective for requirements.

tl;dr

It’s very rare to need¬†tens of millions worth of medical cover. You¬†should be more concerned with policy excesses.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The Most Common Passport Colours 2016

Passports are beautiful documents. Take a page out of the new UK passport¬†as an example.¬†If¬†you’ve ever taken the time to admire your own passport you will know this¬†— and for the cost, it should be!

Purples, reds, blues, blacks. Coats of arms, flags, intricate typography. Animals, people of distinction, iconic objects. Design elements that often make up the national identity of the country.

Enjoy them, passports as we know them might not be around for too much longer.

But which colours are you most likely to see? And how are colours chosen?

Methodology

The relevant standards for passport design is set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Document 9303, which sets standards for machine readable travel documents (which includes most government-issued ID cards as well as passports).

The size ID-3 is specified in ISO/IEC 7810. The ICAO standard has a lot to say about security, what photos should look like, what belongs on the data page, etc., but doesn’t restrict the design any further beyond recommending a size.

Countries are completely free to choose the colours of their passports, as evidenced by the fantastic variety of passport designs.

I collected scans of passport covers from PassportIndex.com to analyse. To the best of my knowledge, they are all the most recent versions.

For population statistics I used the most recent figures published by the World Bank (2014).

Analysis

Dominant colours

Passport colour map 2016

Full size map.

Count of passport dominant colours all countries 2016

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Examining the dominant colours in passports from all 201 issuing authorities, blue (70) and red (67) are by far the most abundant colours in use today.

Potential passports that could be issued by dominant colour 2016

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Adjusting for the total number of passports that could be issued to everyone worldwide, which is very different to actual number of passports issued, things change. In this case, red would be by far the most common passport colour due to its use by highly populated countries like China.

Significance of colour

Passport colour distribution by region 2016

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Colours have always held cultural significance in design choices. In many Asian countries red often symbolises good luck, in the US most would associate the colour with anger or danger.

Some regional groups of countries have agreed to use a common design for their passports: Regular EU passports are burgundy red (official and diplomatic passports vary), CARICOM passports are all dark blue (officials green, diplomats red) and show the CARICOM logo.

Swiss passport design

All passport images.

Other countries choose colours familiar from national symbols. For instance, the Swiss passport is bright red, like their flag, and many Islamic countries make their passports green or black.

Improvements

The passport scans I used were not dated. Whilst brief research shows them to be correct, I have my doubts.

Quality of scanned passport covers could also be improved to identify subtle differences in colour. I did attempt to do this with the current scans but the colours calculated seemed inaccurate.

tl;dr

  • The most common passport colour is Blue…
  • .. but if everyone in the world owned¬†a passport the most common colour would be Red.
  • Regional groups of countries have agreed to use a common design for their passports, which is why over 75% of EU passports are red.

Acknowledgements

Get the Data

Passport Power Rank 2016

If you have a visa or visa-free access to enter a country your journey through a border is often much easier.

As the modern world becomes ever more interconnected one would expect an increase of visa-free travel relationships between countries. But with the seemingly growing list of conflicts such freedoms can vary significantly depending on nationality.

So which country has the most powerful passport for visa-free travel?

Methodology

Each year Henley & Partners¬†publishes a “Visa Restriction Index”,¬†a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy.

Points are awarded to countries for the number of destinations that offer visa-free travel to their citizens. e-Visas are treated the same as visas on arrival. Where the conditions for obtaining an e-visa are straightforward (fee, return ticket, hotel reservation), a visa-free point was assigned.

Analysis

Best and worst passports for travel

Country visa free count 2016 map

Full-size map.

Visa-free Rank Country Visa-free Destinations for Citizens
1 Germany 177
2 Sweden 176
3 Italy 175
3 France 175
3 Spain 175
3 Finland 175
3 United Kingdom 175
8 United States 174
8 Denmark 174
8 Belgium 174
8 Netherlands 174

Visa-free Rank Country Visa-free Destinations for Citizens
188 Palestine, State of 37
188 Sudan 37
188 Eritrea 37
188 Nepal 37
188 Ethiopia 37
188 Iran, Islamic Republic of 37
194 Libya 36
195 Syrian Arab Republic 32
196 Somalia 31
197 Iraq 30
198 Pakistan 29
199 Afghanistan 25

Full list.

Citizens in Western countries enjoy the most freedoms to travel. The top 10 countries by number of visa-free destinations for passport holders consists mostly of European nations.

No European countries in the bottom 10 list of countries for visa-free travel, however. Sadly, many Middle Eastern and African countries that have suffered war and poor international relationships make up most of this list.

Did you know? Citizens of North Korea can travel to 42 countries without a visa (should they be granted permission to travel). Surprisingly, 20 other countries have fewer visa-free destinations than North Korea.

Year-on-year changes

Total of Visa Free Relationships by Year

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Visa-free travel between countries has increased from 18,003 in 2013 to 19,072 in 2016, with a slight dip between 2014 and 2015.

2016 - 2013 Change in Visa Free Destinations for Citizens by Country

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Of 199 countries between 2013 – 2016, 25 countries saw places their citizens can visit without a visa decrease, 13 had no change, and 161 saw an increase.

Out of the 25 of the countries that saw visa-free travel reduce, 16 were African. Comparing all African countries, it is the only region to see a decrease between 2013 Р2016 for visa-free travel.

Regional differences

Cumulative total of visa-free destinations by region by year

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Citizens of the 27 EU member states automatically qualify for the largest freedom of movement anywhere in the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, cumulatively European citizens enjoy the fewest travel visa requirements to travel worldwide (note, the European region includes 22 non EU nations).

Region Count of countries
Middle East 13
Africa 53
Americas 35
Asia and the Pacific 50
Europe 49

View calculations.

However, the cumulative number of visa-free destinations does not take into account region size. Europe has the largest cumulative count of visa-free destinations, but it also contains the second largest number of countries.

Average adjusted visa-free destinations per country by region year

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Adjusting for countries in each region (cumulative visa free destinations per region / count of countries), European citizens still fare best in 2016, and all years post 2012 for that matter.

This adjustment also highlights¬†the fact large differences in visa restrictions between regions. On average in 2016, African citizens could travel to about 53 countries without a visa. In contrast European citizens could visit 146 destinations without a visa — a massive difference even when you ignore the EU freedom of movement area.

Improvements

Visa-free travel represents only part of the movement of people around the world. Consequently, numbers on all types of entries by country would be very interesting to compare, for example; what countries issue the most business / tourism / long-term visas etc?

tl;dr

  • The passports that have the most¬†visa-free destinations¬†for holders in 2016 from a total of 199 countries: 1. Germany (177), 2. Sweden (176), 3. Italy, France, Finland, UK (175).
  • The passports that have the least visa-free destinations¬†for holders in 2016 from a total of 199 countries: 197. Iraq (30), 198. Pakistan (29), 199. Afghanistan (25).
  • European citizens enjoy the least travel restrictions being allowed to travel, on average, to 146 countries without requiring a visa. Citizens of African nations on the other hand fare the worst, with only 53 countries welcoming them without a visa.

    Acknowledgements