Not sure what policy to take out? Read our guide to getting the right travel insurance.
Choosing the right cover
When you’ve already paid for flights, hotels and other travel expenses it’s tempting to go with the cheapest travel insurance option, especially if you’re just looking for some basic coverage. However, it’s more important to weigh up what different travel policies include (and what they exclude) rather than simply comparing prices.
At the very least, your travel insurance should include coverage for the following:
- Medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad, including medical evacuation
- 24-hour emergency service and assistance
- Personal liability cover in case you’re sued for accidentally causing an injury to a person or property
- Lost or stolen luggage
- Cancellation or cutting short your trip
- Extra cover for potentially dangerous activities such as scuba diving or skiing
Policies for travel to certain parts of the world can cost more than to others depending on your intended destinations – for example, the USA has high medical-care costs.
How long are you travelling for?
As well as ensuring your policy covers the above, make sure it is valid for the whole time you’re away. If you’re planning an extended holiday, look for insurance that offers coverage for long trips. If you travel frequently, you may want to consider getting an annual multi-trip policy.
Read the small print
The devil's in the details, so they say, and there's a hell of a lot of it when it comes to travel insurance. Some things to look out for: Make sure refunds will cover your total (not partial) costs. Check the policy's excess fees and how much they are – some policies may be cheaper if you opt for higher excess. Also check whether the policy pays out if you have to cut short or cancel your trip.
A good policy will cover you if you are forced to cut short or cancel your trip due to:
- Personal accidents
- Pregnancy (providing you didn't know about it at the time of booking your holiday)
- Financial protection against your airline or travel company going bust before or during your trip
- Jury service/witness summons
- An emergency at home such as fire, burglary, storm or flooding
- Bad weather (that prevents you from flying)
Look out for what the policy doesn't cover. Most won't cover you for drink- or drug-related incidents and not all will cover loss or injury caused by terrorism. Also understand that your insurer will not pay out if it proves you have been negligent or reckless or have flouted the laws of the country you're visiting.
Apart from what a policy covers, you're going to be interested in the payout. While it could save you a few pounds to have a smaller payout, there’s no point choosing a policy that will leave you out of pocket. At the same time don’t over-insure yourself, you can only get back what you claim.
Find out what your valuable travelling possessions (camera, laptop, mobile etc) are worth and what it would cost to replace them. Then make sure your policy will cover them if they're lost or stolen. Some policies cover up to a flat amount for all electronic equipment taken on a trip, while others will require extra cover for these items. Most will require an itemised list of electronic equipment, including serial numbers. You should also be allowed to cover single valuable items such as jewellery.
If any of your items do go missing, you must report the loss to the local police within 24 hours. When you make a claim, you will be asked to prove this, usually by supplying a copy of the police report you filed at the time of notification.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), previously known as the E111 form, entitles you to state-provided medical treatment in EU countries, which could be free of charge or at reduced cost, depending on the country. It can be used if you become ill or have an accident during your stay, though you will be expected to pay the gap between the cost of treatment and the discount the EHIC card provides. The EHIC also covers treatment for long-term and existing illnesses, such as dialysis for kidney disease and routine maternity care.
This is an excellent benefit of European Union membership; however, it should not prevent you from taking out a travel insurance policy that has substantial health cover. The EHIC will only cover you in a state-owned hospital – not in private hospitals or clinics – and it will not cover emergency assistance such as mountain rescue or repatriation. Depending on which country you're visiting, you might find the state health care does not live up to what you'd receive at home, so it's important to have other options.
For more information on EHIC, consult the NHS website. You can apply for an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) ; to apply by phone, ring 0845 606 2030. To apply by post, enquire at your local post office for the necessary forms.
Legal help: Some policies include cover for any liability you may have, or to help you pursue compensation you are due, for personal injury or property damage. Check your policy's coverage for legal assistance before you buy.
Tips for buying travel insurance
- Check to see if your current bank account or Credit cards includes worldwide travel insurance cover as one of its benefits.
- If you have a car or home Insurance policy, check with your insurance company to see if they can offer you their travel insurance at a discount.
- Remember to always ensure you know what’s covered and what’s not by reading the policy document.
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