Many people feel that taking out travel insurance is an unnecessary expense, but it can end up saving you thousands of pounds. We all like to believe that holidays and trips abroad are plain sailing and stress free. Unfortunately though flights get delayed, luggage gets lost, people get ill and hotels get overbooked.
While no one wants to think about things going wrong, when weighing up whether or not you need travel insurance, you might want to consider these factors:
You’re not covered by the NHS when you’re overseas. There is no NHS in Ibiza. If you end up needing medical care, you’ll have to somehow fork out the cash to pay the medical bills and medical bills abroad can be exorbitantly expensive.
Your flight has just been cancelled. Cancelled flights as well as lost, damaged or stolen luggage and valuables are frustrating and costly. Why risk losing thousands when you can get peace of mind for as little as the cost of a few drinks?
You could end up in serious debt. Hefty hospital bills and repatriation home could leave you and your family hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt.
Travel insurance is compulsory for some countries. You’re required to have travel insurance in order to gain entry into some countries, including Cuba, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
You could be liable for injuring someone else. It is easy to accidentally cause injury to someone on the ski slopes, especially if you’re not that experienced, but travel insurance can cover you for personal liability claims.
This provides cover for cancellation fees as well as any prepaid deposits you made for travel and accommodation that you are not able to recover if your trip is cancelled or cut short. What am I actually covered for? Trip cancellation insurance will cover tickets, pre-booked accommodation and travel agent fees that are not recoverable. You will only be covered if the reason for the cancellation is outside of your control. You will have cover for the following reasons:
You or a member of your family falls ill or dies.
Your travel operator goes bankrupt
You suffer a serious illness or injury.
You are made redundant.
You are called for jury service or as a witness in court.
You’re home is made uninhabitable due to fire, storm or adverse weather.
Your home or workplace has been burgled.
When won’t I be covered?
The cancellation is due to a pre-existing condition (either yours or that of a relative) that you were aware of when purchasing the policy.
You have been dismissed from your job or taken voluntary redundancy.
If at the time of taking out your policy you or your travel companion knew they would not be able to attend the trip.
You failed to obtain the necessary passport or visa required for your planned trip.
This provides cover for treatment overseas if you suffer a serious illness or injury. It also should include repatriation in case you need to be flown back home. What am I actually covered for?
Emergency medical, surgical and hospital treatment.
Costs of your return to the UK if necessary.
Costs of extra accommodation if medically necessary and you are unable to return home.
Emergency dental treatment.
When won’t I be covered?
Treatment that can be undertaken back in UK at a later date.
If you are travelling against the advice of a doctor.
Expenses more than 12 months from the date you first received treatment for the injury
Treatment for a condition you were aware of when taking out cover.
Any claim made for treatment you had planned to undertake on your trip.
Baggage and Belongings
This provides cover for luggage and personal items that are lost, stolen or damaged on your trip. You can purchase additional cover for specific items. What am I actually covered for?
The repair cost or value of any luggage that is stolen, accidentally damaged or permanently lost.
Specified items listed at the time of your insurance application.
When won’t I be covered?
You fail to report the loss or theft to the police within 24 hours.
Your items were checked in to be held and transported in the cargo hold of a transport carrier.
Your items were left unattended when the loss occurred.
Your items were left in a car overnight.
Loss or damage is the result of wear and tear, weather, mechanical failure or vermin.
This provides cover for delays and cancellations that are beyond your control. Travel delay cover can help you manage some of the additional expenses that may arise as a result, such as accommodation or additional transport. What am I actually covered for?
If your booked transport is delayed or cancelled due to bad weather, industrial action, mechanical breakdown, a storm or serious flood.
You’re delayed by 12 hours or more.
If the vehicle in which you are travelling is involved in an accident, stuck in traffic or affected by road closures.
When won’t I be covered?
The closure of airspace for reasons of safety by any government or local authority.
You miss your flight due to events that could have been reasonably avoided, for example, if you left your bag at the hotel or got caught in traffic
Any claim involving industrial action or possible delay that had been announced or had started before the start date of your policy.
Do I still need travel insurance with an EHIC card?
The EHIC card allows UK citizens to gain access to state healthcare when temporarily staying in another European Economic Area (EEA). Meaning that you will be provided treatment as if you were a citizen of that country, either at a reduced cost or for free.
Whilst the EHIC card offers great benefits, it is important to bear in mind the restrictions placed on your cover with just an EHIC card compared to a travel insurance policy. For example, an EHIC card would not cover you for repatriation if you had a skiing accident and needed to be flown straight back to the UK. It also only offers medical assistance. It does not cover you for delays, loss of baggage or trip cancellation, whereas a travel insurance policy would.
Things to consider when comparing policies
When comparing different travel insurance quotes its important to consider the following points to make sure you’re receiving the right cover for your trip.
Where are you travelling? Are there risks specific to that country you should be aware of and is it covered by your insurer? If there has been a travel warning issued against travelling to the country, you may not be able to apply for cover. It is also important to ensure that you are covered for each country you are travelling to, consider worldwide cover if you’re travelling far and wide.
Do you need extra cover for your trip? If you’re off skiing or your trip involves adventurous activities you’re going to need extra cover. You could also need extra cover if you have pre-existing medical conditions, you’re above a certain age, you’re taking valuables that you want to protect.
Discounts. If you’re travelling as a family or a group then you might be able to receive a slight discount on your policy.
How long are you travelling for? Are you a frequent traveller? If you travel often, or you’re planning on taking a gap year, then an annual policy might be more affordable and convenient. Just be aware of the maximum period of travel permitted for individual trips.
Maximum cover available. Make sure you check out the range of benefits and the maximum payment you will receive for each claim, for example, how much will you be able to claim if you suffer a medical emergency, if your flight is delayed or if your luggage or valuables are lost, stolen or damaged
Really? I could have sworn I was covered for that!
The last thing you need is to be left stranded overseas if your claim is rejected. Know exactly what you are covered for and avoid a nasty surprise at claim time.
Had a few drinks? Jumped on a moped after a few drinks and ended up hitting a ditch? Yep, you’re not covered. Insurers do not pay claims that arise while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Renting a motorcycle or moped? You’re only covered if you have a current UK motorcycle licence and you wear a helmet.
Diving or Bungee jumping? Not all activities will be automatically covered. Each insurer will have a list of high-risk pursuits that are excluded from cover. Find out what these are and if you need to purchase any additional cover.
Lost an expensive item? Policies will have limits applied to what will be paid for an item, which may not measure up to what it’s worth. Consider getting specific cover to protect expensive items.
Had to pay more once you returned home? You’re only covered for expenses incurred while on your trip overseas, not once you have returned home to the UK.
Ended up in a war zone or a riot? Very few insurers cover claims that are the result of you travelling to a country against foreign travel advice or other warning issued by the government or mass media. This may include strikes, riots, bad weather, civil unrest, contagious diseases, epidemics, pandemics, or threats of epidemics or pandemics. Claims that arise while you’re in a country under a do-not-travel warning will not be covered.
Left your bag in the back of the taxi? Most insurers do not cover theft if you did not take reasonable care to protect your belongings. Insurers do not cover theft of expensive items that have been left unattended.
Final stages of pregnancy? Generally, insurers exclude cover for complications that arise past the24th week of pregnancy, although the specifics of cover do vary from one insurer to the next.
Waited too long before contacting your insurer or making a claim? Most insurers will require you to notify them of any event leading to a claim within a certain time period, some even as quickly as 24 hours after the event. Find out what this period is and the maximum period of time following your journey that you can lodge a claim.
Still unclear on a few things? Here are some answers to questions you might have.
Purchasing your policy
It’s time to think about purchasing your travel insurance as soon as you have booked any part of your trip, so that your prepaid costs and deposits are covered in the event of cancellations or if your travel company or airline goes bust. You will still only pay for the period of travel you have taken out cover for.
Yes, but not many providers offer this. It is best to buy your travel insurance before you leave the UK.
Yes. There are some policies that will provide cover for unaccompanied children under 18.
Yes. There are some insurers that offer cover for one-way trips. The journey will usually have to start in the UK and restrictions may apply.
You can add additional cover such as cover for specific sports or high-value items on the insurer’s website before entering your trip details.
Yes. You should take your policy with you as it provides you with information and emergency telephone numbers that you may need in the event of an emergency that may require you to make a claim. Your travel insurance document can provide the following details:
What evidence you will require for your claim to be approved.
Your policy number.
What you are actually covered for.
Your insurers emergency contact details.
Choosing the right option
When entering your trip details, you can either enter the countries or cities you are visiting or choose the region you are travelling to. Most insurers offer policies by region, not by specific countries, although there are exceptions to this, in which case you would choose specific countries.
Yes. For example, if you choose “Europe” as the region you’re travelling to, you will be covered for all European countries, although you may not be covered for countries that are not considered to be within Europe. If travelling in multiple regions, you may want to choose a Worldwide policy.
Some brands offer couple policies, which can be much more affordable and convenient than taking out two separate policies. A duo policy will cover both you and your travelling partner under a single policy. There is usually a reduced amount of cover provided for each cover feature for each traveller.
You will need to ensure that your policy provides cover for every destination that you will be visiting as part of your trip. Not all insurers will cover cruises, so do your research and find out which insurers offer cruise travel insurance. You may need to select the Worldwide region.
Adjusting your policy
Most plans will come with a cooling-off period. If you cancel your policy during this time, the premium will be refunded.
Yes, but you usually need to apply for an extension a week before your cover ends.
Yes, provided you cancel your existing cover within the cooling-off period (usually 14 days). You will receive a full refund and be able to take out a different policy.
When you will and won’t be covered
Most insurers exclude cover for this but you may be able to claim compensation from the airline itself, especially if they are ATOL protected.
Travel insurance can cover car hire but it does not cover costs associated with you being involved in a car accident or if the vehicle is stolen. This is a separate policy that you take out with the car hire company.
Conditions around travel insurance for working overseas vary between insurers. Generally, you will not be covered for injuries sustained if the work is labour-intensive or high-risk. It’s crucial to know exactly how you will be covered if you’re looking to work overseas.
Yes, all family members listed on the policy will be covered for travel on separate trips by themselves (except if they are dependent children travelling alone).
No. Your insurer won’t cover follow-up treatment for injuries or illnesses sustained overseas after you return home to the UK.
Yes, provided you were not aware of the condition and not seeking treatment related to the condition prior to taking out cover. You will be covered for trip cancellation as a result of the condition.
Travel insurance does cover theft, but there are conditions for when a claim will be paid. You must not have left the items unattended, and you must obtain an official police statement within 24 hours of the theft taking place.
Some policies will provide cover for hijackings, but most policies exclude claims related to terrorism.
Making a claim
You should contact your insurer’s emergency medical assistance service as soon as possible. This service should be available 24 hours a day. The insurer will work with local medical providers and services to ensure you receive the attention required.
Generally, you should make a claim within 30 days of returning home.
It will depend on the nature of the condition. For major procedures where the bill is significant, you should be able to contact your insurer to authorise payment. Where the condition is not as serious, treatment should be paid and receipted. In any case, you must obtain a medical certificate showing the nature of the condition or illness.
If deemed necessary, your insurer will cover the costs to bring you home to the UK to receive medical treatment, then the NHS will be able to treat you.
Generally, the insurer will require you to have some kind of proof of purchase in order to make a claim for expensive items. Such proof may include receipts or valuation certificates. It’s worth checking the conditions around what will be required prior to making a claim.
Common travel insurance claims and how to avoid them
Lost, stolen or delayed personal belongings
Steps to avoid this claim:
Take care not to leave your items unattended while travelling.
Tag your luggage with your contact details appropriately.
Take photos of expensive items to help describe lost items.
Ensure you have travel locks secured to your items.
Find accommodation that offers adequate security for expensive items, such as a room safe or luggage locker at hostels.
When travelling on public buses or trains, keep your luggage with valuables secure on your lap.
Keep travel cards separate from one another to ensure you always have a backup.
Keep photocopies of cards and travel documents.
Trip cancellation and lost deposits
Steps to avoid this claim:
Take out travel insurance as soon as you make any significant bookings to ensure you are covered for cancellations in the period leading up to your trip.
Keep evidence of any significant bookings made with your travel agent.
Keep copies of transactions made for flight, tour or accommodation bookings.
Overseas medical expenses
Steps to avoid this claim:
Be aware of any medical risks such as diseases or unsanitary water and food in the country you are travelling to. Find out what shots are necessary to avoid infection.
Be wise about where you are eating or drinking and avoid local spots where the risk of illness may be increased.
Bring the necessary medication for any pre-existing conditions. You may find it difficult or very expensive to purchase the same medication overseas.
Take necessary precautions to avoid serious injury if participating in sports and activities.
Travel delays and alternative transport
Steps to avoid this claim:
Contact your airline in the days prior to and on the day of your flight to find out if there have been any adjustments to the flight schedule.
If a weather warning is issued, contact your airline to find out if your flight is likely to be affected.
Follow luggage restrictions and get to the airport well ahead of your flight.
Some final points before you buy travel insurance
Tell the truth. It’s really not worth leaving out details of an old medical condition or anything that you think might be able to save you a few extra pounds. Insurance companies will take the time to ensure that your claim is genuine and that you were truthful at the time of application, so it’s important to be upfront from the start to ensure you are covered appropriately.
Read the important stuff. You might not read 10 different product disclosure statements cover to cover, but at the very least read through the exclusions and cover benefits section so you know when you will and won’t be covered. It’s also worth checking out the claims section so you know exactly what you will need to provide and who to contact in the event of a claim.
Know the excess you will be charged. Excess charges can vary greatly between insurers. You will be charged an excess for each individual claim you make under the policy, so it is important to know how much you’ll need to fork out in the event of a claim.
Want to avoid the excess altogether? Some insurers offer policies with no excess. However, this does mean that you’ll be required to pay a higher premium when you purchase the policy so that you no longer have to pay an excess.
Know what you will be paid for the loss of valuable items. Most policies will have a sub-limit for individual items. If you are taking out additional cover for expensive items, make sure you know the maximum amount your insurer will pay for multiple items in the event of a claim.
Keep an eye out for discounts. Competition between insurers for your business means there are some great chances to lock down great savings and bonus gifts.
*Disclaimer: Please take reasonable care to answer all the questions honestly and to the best of your knowledge. If you don’t answer the questions correctly, your policy may be cancelled, or your claim rejected or not fully paid.
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