Do you need travel insurance?

Travel insurance (or holiday insurance) is important if you want to make sure you’ll be able to afford medical care when you’re abroad.

Why take out travel insurance?

Health and medical emergencies are probably the most important reason to have travel insurance. A medical emergency in another country can be very expensive.

These are real examples taken from the Foreign Office website:

£15,000: a fall in Spain, resulting in a broken hip, hospital treatment and flights.

£25,000: a moped accident in Greece, with surgery and repatriation to the UK

£100,000: a stomach bug or infection treated in hospital in the USA with return flights.

  • Getting medical care on holiday could cost you thousands of pounds.
  • Travel insurance that covers getting you home and medical expenses is essential.
  • Other insurance – like credit card accident cover and private health insurance – doesn’t cover most travel emergencies.
  • Without insurance, you might have to cover emergency expenses on your own – the British Consulate is unlikely to help you.

What does travel insurance cover?

One in three claims on travel insurance is for medical treatment.

Source: Money Advice Service

Most policies include cover for:

  • lost or stolen bags*
  • emergency medical expenses
  • the costs of cancelling, delaying or cutting your trip short*
  • personal liability, in case you’re sued for damaging property or causing injury.

*Baggage and cancellation cover might be additional extras within some policies.

What isn’t covered by travel insurance?

There are some common things you should watch out for:

  • If you’re over 65 or have a medical condition, you might need specialist insurance. If you have a medical condition you have to tell your insurer if asked or risk invalidating your insurance policy. Pre-existing medical conditions are typically excluded however some insurers will underwrite the medical risk to potentially provide you with cover.When you buy insurance you must answer all questions about your circumstances and health honestly. You have to include everything, even if you think it’s not important, for example taking regular tablets for high blood pressure or angina. If you don’t your policy won’t be valid.
  • Adventure sports, winter sports and any ‘dangerous activities’ are often not covered as part of a standard travel insurance policy and you might need extra cover.
  • With most policies, you aren’t covered for travel to countries or regions that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommends avoiding – view the latest list on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website
  • Coverage for strikes, civil unrest, earthquakes, acts of terrorism and epidemics such as SARS varies.
  • COVID-19. Typically coronavirus-related events, including medical cover and travel disruption, will be excluded. This applies toexisting and new policies – so check with your insurance provider before you travel.
  • Travel insurance is invalid if it is not taken outbefore you leave the UK. You cannot arrange a valid policy after you leave.

Because travel insurance policies vary, we’ve prepared some guides to help you find the specific information – and cover – you need.

Do you still need travel insurance if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

Since 1 January 2021, the deal negotiated by the UK government allows those issued with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before the end of 2020 to continue to use it before its expiry date. The EHIC gives you the right to access emergency state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in those countries.

The EHIC card was never an alternative to travel insurance. It wouldn’t have covered private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property, and was not valid on cruises.

Having travel insurance which covers your healthcare needs remains an essential requirement when travelling.

It’s important to make sure you understand the terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy, and that you’re happy with the level of healthcare and travel disruption cover it provides.

If you have an existing travel insurance policy that’s been affected due to the ending of the implementation period with the EU, your travel insurance provider should let you know.

For foreign travel advice, visit the GOV.UK websiteopens in new window

Can travel insurance represent good value?

Britons spend more than double the cost of an average single trip travel insurance policy on magazines and sweets at the airport.

Source: Association of British Insurers

The main benefit of travel insurance is in having emergency medical cover on holiday.

  • What happens if you have a bad fall on the ski slopes and need a helicopter to a good hospital?
  • How would you cope if one of the kids fell ill – even with something minor – in the US or another country with sky-high medical costs?

With those costs covered, you’ll quickly realise the value of having a holiday insurance policy.

The cover you get for personal possessions may be covered under your home contents insurance policy.

It’s best to check whether you have this already before you add it to your travel policy.

Some travel insurers will give you a discount if you exclude baggage cover or have a higher policy excess when you accept you are liable for some cost of the claim.

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