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Repatriation is defined as, 'the process of returning a person back to one's place of origin or citizenship.' This could mean a refugee, or a solider coming back from war. But it could equally apply to a holiday-maker who has suffered a serious illness or accident while abroad and needs to be brought back to their native country as they are unable to go under their own steam.
But, whether you are travelling within Europe or to far-flung corners of the globe, you won't need to buy specific 'repatriation insurance' for this unfortunate event. This is because repatriation is already covered under all standard travel insurance policies. Usually you will find repatriation under the medical emergency expenses section of the terms and conditions.
Cover for repatriation
Pay out limits on repatriation cover will vary between insurers and even between different kinds of policies with the same insurer. For example, a cheap backpackers policy may carry less repatriation cover than specialist adventure sports insurance.
But, on first glance, all levels of repatriation cover appear eye-wateringly high. Standard cover limits for repatriation is usually around £5million but cover could be up to £10million.
However, it is recommended that, when shopping around for your travel insurance repatriation cover, limits should be at least £1million.
So why are repatriation costs so high? Firstly, you may not be able to come home via scheduled airline services. A specialist air ambulance may have to be deployed instead - all the way back to the UK. You might also require specialist medical equipment and potentially one or more medical escorts.
This is not to mention the expenses you may have incurred at the destination you left behind such as rescue helicopters and/or water ambulances - as well the services of any medical teams or healthcare.
Who decides if I will be repatriated?
Travel insurers would clearly prefer not to fork out millions of pounds on your repatriation back to the UK. However, to put it brutally, it will be a lot more expensive for the insurer if you die.
Your case will therefore be assessed in detail by a specialist team at the travel insurers who will decide if and when you should be repatriated home.
Depending on the facilities and level of care available in the country in which you became sick or had a serious accident, it might be that you are repatriated immediately to the UK to seek treatment and recover.
However, it may equally be that it is medically unsafe for you to travel. This is usually established by way of an authorisation note from a doctor who is treating you in that country
Shopping around for repatriation
Repatriation cover comes as standard in every travel insurance policy, but when you are shopping around for the best deal, keep an eye on the level of cover it offers. Although it might seem a lot on first glance, if the worst comes to the absolute worst, you or your family could be left with a very expensive shortfall.
A few extra pounds in premiums when buying your policy could prove to make a world of difference to the rest of your life.