Revealed: The shocking hidden expense of dying abroad if you have the wrong travel


Death is the last thing on most people’s minds when going on holidays, but it’s something to consider, as failing to prepare for the worst-case scenario could see your loved ones pay the price.

That’s because the cost of repatriation – the transportation of a body from one country to another – can cost tens of thousands of pounds. 

So says funeral director Jackie Lymn Rose, a director at AW Lymn The Family Funeral Service in England’s Midlands region and a repatriation specialist with more than 30 years’ experience on the matter.

She says it’s ‘completely understandable’ that people do not immediately turn to the possibility of death when booking a trip abroad, but reveals why it’s ‘important to understand’ the practical and financial consequences of such a scenario.

Here Jackie and travel insurance expert Garry Nelson reveal just how much it can cost to lose a loved one overseas… 

Funeral director Jackie Lymn Rose, pictured, explains what happens when a death occurs overseas and how to be prepared for it

Funeral director Jackie Lymn Rose, pictured, explains what happens when a death occurs overseas and how to be prepared for it

WHAT DOES REPATRIATION ENTAIL?  

Jackie describes repatriation as the process where ‘the body of a deceased person is returned to their country of residency or citizenship’. 

She says: ‘Many steps are involved in repatriation, with various actions required to be taken depending on the laws and customs of the country where the person died and the circumstances of their death.

‘Throw in the mix flight disruptions and delays, it can be an incredibly upsetting time for families waiting to say their final farewell.’ 

Jackie Lymn Rose conducting a funeral. She says it's 'completely understandable' that people do not immediately turn to the possibility of death when booking a trip abroad

Jackie Lymn Rose conducting a funeral. She says it’s ‘completely understandable’ that people do not immediately turn to the possibility of death when booking a trip abroad

THE GENERAL COST OF REPATRIATION

Australia to the UK: £7,500 – £10,000

Africa to the UK: £5,000 – £7,000

Europe to the UK: £5,000 – £10,000

South America to the UK: £10,000 – £15,000 

HOW MUCH DOES REPATRIATION COST? 

Jackie recommends taking out travel insurance when holidaying abroad and reading the small print to ensure you have sufficient cover in the case of a death. 

She says: ‘Taking out travel insurance will protect the bereaved family from having to deal with and fund the formalities of repatriation… having worked in the industry for many years, I have witnessed first-hand the stress and devastation that can be caused when you aren’t covered by travel insurance.’ 

Giving an example of what can happen to travellers without repatriation cover, Jackie recalls one ‘truly heartbreaking’ incident experienced by a family on holiday in the Canary Islands.

She says: ‘[The family was] told that it would cost €100,000 (£86,600) to bring their loved one back home from Lanzarote because they did not have the right insurance. 

‘Unfortunately they did not seek our opinion and the deceased was buried in Lanzarote.’

Another case involved an elderly couple who had been holidaying in Tenerife when one of the pair died unexpectedly with no insurance in place.

‘The police sent a funeral director who said they wouldn’t remove the body until £6,000 was paid upfront,’ Jackie says.

Garry Nelson, Head of Corporate Affairs at AllClear Travel Insurance, says ‘expenses can escalate rapidly’ when it comes to repatriation.

One family was told that it would cost €100,000 (£86,600) to bring their loved one back home from Lanzarote

‘For instance, a medical-team-escorted air ambulance from Spain to the UK might be between £25,000 and £30,000,’ he says.

‘In cases requiring repatriation from the U.S, the cost can easily run in to six figures.

‘When you factor in the additional accommodation and living expenses for a spouse who needs to extend their stay due to their partner’s hospitalisation, the total cost can become prohibitively high.

‘In these cases, the value of comprehensive insurance becomes all clear as these elements will usually be covered.’

Another fact to bear in mind, Mr Nelson says, is that the Global Health Insurance Card does not cover any form of repatriation, which means cardholders need separate travel insurance to cover such an event. 

OTHER COMPLEXITIES TO DYING ABROAD

Those planning a funeral are advised to leave a 48-hour gap after the planned arrival of the deceased in their home country to allow time for unexpected last-minute delays

Those planning a funeral are advised to leave a 48-hour gap after the planned arrival of the deceased in their home country to allow time for unexpected last-minute delays

Families are always told to expect delays when waiting for a deceased to be returned home, Jackie reveals.

She says: ‘If the person died of natural causes, it could take between five to seven days, but there are cases where it can take weeks.’

One potential challenge to overcome is not speaking the local language and not understanding the country’s culture and attitudes towards death, Jackie suggests. 

Those planning a funeral are advised to leave a 48-hour gap after the planned arrival of the deceased in their home country to allow time for unexpected last-minute delays

Then there’s the fact that any death occurring abroad must be reported to the UK coroner in whose jurisdiction the committal will take place, as they ‘may need to investigate further before issuing documentation for burial or cremation’.

Jackie continues: ‘If we are repatriating a deceased from England, there are formalities to deal with to gain permission which, dependent on the country we are sending to, may include gaining consular permission from that country, which can be a protracted procedure.’

There may be transportation issues, too. 

Jackie continues: ‘If the plane has hit capacity, funeral directors have to hold the body until a later flight.’

And the flight sometimes isn’t confirmed until the day before, which often leaves families in limbo.

Jackie adds: ‘Even if someone is being transported by ferry, bad weather can cause a holdup. In situations such as this, we do everything we can to ensure the deceased returns home in time, such as using alternative routes via different countries or using multiple forms of transport such as by road.’

With all this in mind, those planning a funeral are advised to leave a 48-hour gap after the planned arrival of the deceased in their home country to allow time for unexpected last-minute delays. 

When a loved one dies overseas, a potential challenge to overcome is not speaking the local language and not understanding the country's culture and attitudes towards death

When a loved one dies overseas, a potential challenge to overcome is not speaking the local language and not understanding the country’s culture and attitudes towards death 

Jackie stresses that while flight delays and disruptions are beyond a funeral director’s control, this is another area where having the right insurance can help and ensure you are given the right care.  

Jackie urges anyone planning to travel abroad to ‘do your research’ beforehand and assures, for those who need it, that her family business is there to make ‘the process of saying goodbye to a loved one as easy as it can be’. 

 She adds: ‘Whether death occurs at home or abroad, we do everything we can do to undue stress and ensure a smooth process.’



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