Nearly two-fifths of holidaymakers going abroad this summer do not have travel insurance for their trip, a survey has found.

Some 38% of people planning to go overseas have not yet arranged travel insurance, according to Abta.

This could equate to 8.6 million people potentially putting themselves at risk, if the findings from the survey of more than 2,000 people in May were projected across Britain, Abta said.

They could face paying substantial medical or repatriation costs if they fall ill or hurt themselves abroad, or even having their treatment delayed.

Abta is reminding people to make sure they take out a travel insurance policy as soon as they book their holiday, as this will help protect them if they need to cancel due to an unexpected event or illness.

Imagine the breaks.

Just over a fifth (21%) of holidaymakers said they travelled without insurance in the last year.

Of these people, over a third (37%) said they did not think they needed travel insurance and more than a quarter (28%) said it was a risk they were willing to take.

But among those who have had to pay an additional cost on holiday due to being uninsured or not having the right cover, more than a third (34%) have had to spend between £500 and £4,000.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive at Abta, said: "Millions of holidaymakers are heading off abroad each year either without the right travel insurance in place - or without any insurance at all.

"This leaves people at risk of having to pay significant medical costs or even facing delays in their treatment.

"Our message is clear - don't take the risk, take out travel insurance and make sure it covers you for your circumstances and holiday plans.

"It's also really important holidaymakers carry a copy of their insurance on them at all times, as well as leaving a copy with family or friends back home.

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"That way they'll be able to contact their insurer quickly and without hassle, should they need to."

Julia Longbottom, director of consular services at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), said: "Most people enjoy trouble-free holidays overseas.

"However, I am concerned by these new figures showing that many British holidaymakers continue to travel without insurance.

"The risks are very clear. You could find yourself paying out thousands of pounds in medical bills if you don't have insurance.

"It's important to know the FCO cannot help fund medical bills if you or a family member are taken ill or hospitalised when abroad."

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said claims where British travellers have been covered by insurance include:

ABI spokeswoman Sarah Cordey said: "Having a medical emergency abroad is a nightmare scenario and it's alarming how many people still take the risk of travelling uninsured.

"Bills for medical treatment can quickly run to hundreds of thousands of pounds, particularly if someone needs an air ambulance to get home, and these aren't costs many people can face alone."

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Here are six factors to consider when taking out travel insurance, according to Abta:

  1. Always tell your travel insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions - if you have an annual policy you must inform your insurer about any changes, even if they seem minor. Do not be tempted to leave anything out - by not telling your insurer, your insurance may be void.
  2. Activities as seemingly safe as cycling may require a higher level of cover. Before you travel, always check with your insurer if you are covered for any activities you may participate in while on holiday.
  3. Travel insurance offered through bank accounts or cover via credit cards often provides limited protection. Always check restrictions.
  4. It is important to have travel insurance in place as well as a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you travel in Europe, as an EHIC does not cover everything.
  5. European cover is generally cheaper than worldwide cover. Remember that popular holiday destinations such as Dubai and Egypt will not be covered by a European policy.
  6. ake out your insurance policy as soon as you book your holiday, this should protect you from costs if you have to cancel the holiday due to unforeseen circumstances, such as illness.

More tips and advice on choosing the right travel insurance policy are available at abta.com/travelinsurance.