Travel insurance is essential for travelling abroad
by Brean Horne, Senior Writer
Whenever you plan or book a trip you may have found yourself asking do I need travel insurance?
After all, people usually set out on a trip expecting to have an enjoyable experience.
But often despite the best of intentions, life happens. Whether it’s luggage that never arrives at your destination or feeling poorly and needing medical treatment.
Having a travel insurance policy could help save you a lot of money in the event of costly incidents that affect your trip.
Here, we explain why it’s so important and how to find the right policy for your holiday.
Do I need travel insurance?
The short answer is yes – you do need travel insurance, particularly if you’re going abroad. Why? Well, travel insurance is a simple and effective way to cover the cost of mishaps and unexpected events that may disrupt your trip.
From health emergencies to flight delays and cancellations, a good travel policy will pay out for a variety of incidents that could be very expensive to cover out of pocket.
Now travel insurance isn’t compulsory in the UK – in the way that car insurance is – so in theory you could travel without it. But doing so runs the risk of having to pay out pretty hefty bills if things don’t go to plan.
Before setting off on your trip it’s worth checking whether you’re already covered. Some packaged bank accounts and credit cards offer travel insurance but you’ll need to make sure the policy gives you the right level of cover for your holiday.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is a policy that covers the cost of unexpected mishaps that may happen on your trip. This could be anything from lost or stolen baggage to covering the cost of medical emergencies.
There are lots of options when it comes to buying a policy and you can choose to get one directly from insurers, banks, travel agents, price comparison websites and holiday companies.
Types of travel insurance policy
The main types of travel insurance you’ll have to choose from will likely be one or a mix of the following:
A single-trip policy covers you for one trip within 12 months of buying it for a set number of days. You can buy a single-trip policy for just yourself, a couple, or a family.
Multi-trip or annual cover
A multi-trip policy covers you for multiple trips within 12 months of buying a policy. It may offer better value than buying several single-trip insurance during the year. Multi-trip cover can also be bought individually or for a couple or family.
European travel insurance
As the name suggests, European travel insurance covers trips to countries in Europe. The countries listed may vary between providers though. For example, some insurers count Turkey while others don’t. A European cover can be bought as a single-trip or multi-trip policy.
Worldwide travel insurance
You’ll need worldwide travel cover if you plan on venturing outside of Europe. Most providers offer two types of cover – one that includes the USA, Canada and the Caribbean and one that excludes them. As with European cover, this type of policy can be bought for a single trip or for multiple trips during the year.
Winter sports travel insurance
A standard travel policy won’t usually cover things like skiing or snowboarding. So you’ll need to get a specialist winter sports policy if you plan on hitting the slopes during your trip.
Adventure sports travel insurance
As with winter sports, adventure sports and activities like rock climbing, scuba diving and paragliding aren’t usually covered by travel standard policies. And you’ll need a specialist policy to cover you for any incidents that may happen while taking part in them.
Backpacker travel insurance
This type of policy covers extended trips to multiple countries. Backpacker travel insurance usually lasts between two and 18 months – which is a lot longer than a standard travel policy.
Over 65s travel insurance
Many insurers have a maximum age limit for their policies, however, there is specialist travel insurance available for holidayers aged 65 and over. These types of policies usually come with extended medical cover.
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What should travel insurance cover as standard?
A good travel insurance policy will cover the following incidents as standard:
Medical bills can add up pretty quickly and in some cases can total well into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. A good travel policy will offer £2m in medical cover for European countries and £5m for treatment worldwide. It’ll also pay out for:
- Emergency medical treatment
- A return flight if you miss yours due to medical problems
- Accommodation and travel expenses for someone to stay with you
- The cost of someone to travel out from the UK if recommended by your doctor
Most travel policies cover the cost of you having to cancel your holiday or cut it short due to reasons outside of your control for example an accident, illness, bereavement, bad weather and redundancy to name a few.
Now, the types of incidents covered may vary between insurers so it’s really important to check what level of protection a policy offers before buying to avoid being caught out. Ideally, you’ll want a policy that offers at least £2,000 for cancellations.
Lost or stolen luggage and belongings
The value of your personal belongings – including money and passports – and luggage should be covered as standard by most travel insurance policies. A good policy will offer at least £1,500 or the cost of replacing your belongings.
But you’ll need to keep an eye on the claim limits as some may restrict the amount you can get back for single items. If you plan on traveling with expensive gadgets like DSLR cameras, tablets or laptops, it may be worth adding additional gadget cover to your policy.
Personal liability protects you in case you run into legal trouble on your trip. For example, if you accidentally injure someone or damage property while you’re abroad.
As a general guide, you’ll want to have a policy that offers at least £1m for legal expenses. Again, no one ever goes abroad expecting to run into legal trouble, but it’s always better to be prepared.
What doesn’t travel insurance cover?
As helpful as travel insurance can be, there are some incidents that won’t be covered. Common travel insurance exclusions include:
Holidaymakers aged 65 and over might not be covered by a standard travel insurance policy. That’s because a lot of insurers have a maximum age restriction.
So it’s really important to check that you’re within the age range of the policy you buy because you won’t be covered otherwise.
Natural disasters and pandemics
Most travel policies don’t cover claims relating to natural disasters like earthquakes or cyclones. They also won’t cover things like civil unrest including protests and riots.
Since COVID-19, many providers now also exclude pandemics from their policy. However, some do offer limited cancellation and medical protection.
Although cover for incidents relating to terrorism is limited as standard, many providers offer additional cover as an add-on.
One thing to look out for in any travel policy is that you’re covered for emergency medical expenses and travel home. This will ensure that whatever happens, you’ll be covered for the treatment you need and can get back home.
Travelling against government advice
Always check before you decide to plan a trip. Your insurance won’t cover incidents in countries where you have ignored government advice not to visit.
For the latest travel advice have a look on GOV.UK, where you can search for a country or territory to see if it’s clear for travel. You can also sign up for email updates as well to get them quicker.
Adventure sports and activities
As mentioned a little earlier, standard travel insurance policies won’t cover adventure sports or activities such as scuba diving, paragliding or skydiving. It also won’t cover winter sports like skiing, or snowboarding. That’s mainly down to the additional risk that these activities have. You can get specialist insurance for them though.
So whether you have these activities planned or decide to sign up for an impromptu excursion, it’s best to get a policy that covers you just in case.
Most policies won’t pay out if you were careless with your belongings. For instance, if you left your baggage unattended and it was stolen. Or, if you don’t report the items you’re claiming for in a reasonable amount of time.
Insurers also won’t usually cover claims for cancellations that were within your control. Let’s say you simply changed your mind about going on a trip – your policy won’t pay out.
Breaking the law
As with most insurance policies, you won’t be covered if you break the law at your destination. Common examples include ignoring local driving rules or even trespassing on private property. If you’re ever unsure about rules or regulations in a particular country, check before acting. It’s not worth the risk and could end up being really costly.
Putting yourself in danger may reduce the chances of your claim being approved. For example, if you get injured after a few too many drinks or taking drugs.
Reckless behaviour also includes things like, not wearing the right equipment or safety gear for an activity or ignoring safety advice from a tour guide on an excursion. The only exception to this rule is if you purposefully put yourself in danger to try and save someone’s life.
Incidents you’ve already been compensated for
As annoying as things like cancellations and delays can be, you’ll only get compensated once. So if you’ve already received a payout from your airline, it’s unlikely you’ll get a payout from your insurer too, unless it’s related to additional costs you had to pay.
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Does travel insurance cover airport strikes?
Usually, flights that are delayed or cancelled due to airport strikes are covered by the airline. Your travel insurance will cover your costs that are directly related to the delay or cancellation, for instance, having to arrange alternative accommodation or cancel an existing booking if the trip doesn’t go ahead.
Insurers will also look at when you bought tickets when deciding whether to approve your claim. For example, purchasing tickets after the dates for an airport strike are publicly announced may reduce the chances of your claim being approved.
Can I get travel insurance for pre-existing conditions?
You can still get travel insurance if you have pre-existing medical conditions. It is likely to be more expensive though. Everyone has to fill out a medical declaration when applying for travel cover.
And it’s really important that you’re honest about any conditions you have so that you get a policy that covers what you need. Your insurer won’t pay out for any claims relating to medical conditions you already knew about before travelling that you didn’t declare.
Do I need travel insurance for a UK holiday?
Travel insurance can offer extra protection even when you’re having a staycation in the UK. While you won’t have to worry so much about medical cover as you can get free treatment from the NHS, it could help with other unexpected mishaps. For example, if your holiday is cancelled or cut short due to illness or injury.
A UK travel policy may also offer extra protection for your belongings and any high-value items like specialist equipment or gadgets you might bring.
Getting travel cover for a UK holiday isn’t mandatory though. And you may already be covered for your personal belongings through a home contents insurance policy or standalone gadget insurance.
Andy’s Top Travel Insurance Hack
Though most people don’t need UK travel insurance, there is one perk if you buy it (or any insurance policy) from Compare the Market.
You’ll get access to Compare the Meerkat, which offers 2-4-1 cinema tickets midweek and a similar offer in some big restaurant chains.
I think it’s such a good reward that I tell people to buy a one day UK protection even if you’re not going to use it. And the cost for this hack? Just £1!
Do I need travel insurance for a holiday in Europe?
With some European destinations, like Paris and Amsterdam, taking just under an hour to get to, it’s easy to overlook taking out a travel policy for your trip. However, despite how close these places are, it’s important to take out travel cover to protect your trip. It’s also worth taking a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) for access to emergency state medical treatment that locals get.
Do I need a GHIC?
The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) gives UK nationals access to the same emergency or state healthcare as locals. So depending on the country you’ll get access to treatment for free or at a reduced rate. It replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) after the UK left the European Union.
Although having a GHIC isn’t mandatory, some travel insurance providers require you to have one otherwise your cover might not be valid. You can find out what treatment a GHIC entitles you to in each country on the EU’s website.
You can apply for a GHIC free of charge on the NHS website and it takes about 15 up to 15 working days to arrive.
It’s worth noting that a GHIC doesn’t replace travel cover, it just helps you access emergency care and treatment quickly at the same cost as locals. You still need to purchase travel cover for things like cancellations and delays. And also extra medical costs. For example, if you need an air ambulance to travel back to the UK for more extensive treatment.
Is travel insurance a legal requirement?
Travel insurance isn’t a legal requirement in the UK but is highly recommended, especially if you’re going abroad. As we’ve mentioned earlier, travel insurance covers a variety of things as standard including delays, cancellations, medical bills and personal belongings as standard.
It’s worth pointing out that some destinations have added some form of travel insurance to their entry requirements since the pandemic. So it’s essential to check before you travel to avoid being caught out or denied entry to your travel destination altogether.
What happens if I don’t buy travel insurance?
It’s still possible to travel abroad if you don’t have travel insurance to destinations that don’t require you to have a policy. However, you won’t be covered for unexpected events or mishaps that could end up being very expensive.
Medical bills, for instance, are often quite costly and cun into the thousands for basic treatment depending on where you are in the world. You might also have to cover the cost of things like ambulance bills and medication too.
Do I need cruise insurance?
Similarly to travel insurance, cruise insurance isn’t a legal requirement. However, buying a cruise insurance policy means that you can travel with peace of mind that your trip is protected against any potential issues.
While a standard travel insurance policy can offer some protection while you’re on a cruise, it’s better to take out specialist cruise insurance instead. That’s because a cruise insurance policy is designed specifically with issues that affect cruise holidays in mind such as:
- missed port departure
- cabin confinement for medical reasons
- change of itinerary
- unused excursions
- airlifting from the cruise ship to a hospital
Is travel insurance worth it?
When you weigh everything up, travel insurance is definitely worth it. It’s a pretty cost-effective way to cover yourself against unexpected events that could become quite expensive if you have to pay out of pocket. And having the right cover gives you peace of mind while you’re on holiday.