If you’re going on holiday, arranging travel insurance is as important as remembering your passport. But while it’s crucial to ensure you’re covered, policies can vary considerably so be mindful of what you’re buying. Here, we take a look at what a good travel insurance policy should include and what exclusions and limitations you need to be aware of.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is your safety net in case anything goes wrong in relation to your holiday. Policies are ultimately there to minimise the cost to you, for example if you had to cancel your flights because of an emergency, you’d be able to claim your money back.
Travel insurance is not a legal obligation (so you don’t need it in order to book a holiday). However, official government advice is that you should make sure you have an appropriate policy before you leave the UK.
Bear in mind that policies apply to regions, so you’ll need insurance that covers Europe if that’s where you’re going. Confusingly though, insurers decide for themselves which countries are covered by their policies. For example, Egypt is often classed as ‘Europe’ for travel insurance purposes despite being in North Africa.
If you’re going to the USA, you’ll need travel insurance that specifically covers the USA, Canada and the Caribbean.
What should travel insurance include?
Travel insurance varies according to the insurer but on the whole, a good policy should always include these essentials:
Travel insurance will cover your healthcare costs if you become ill or are injured while on holiday. If you’re going to the USA, remember that healthcare is incredibly expensive, in fact, the government estimates that being hospitalised for a stomach bug could set you back £100,000 (including flights back home). With this in mind, if you are heading to the US, you should look for a policy that offers at least £2 million for medical expenses.
If you have pre-existing medical conditions, learn more about what to look for in a policy here.
Repatriation simply means getting you back home in a medical emergency. This is usually included as standard in good policies.
Cancellation and curtailment
If you have to cancel or cut short your holiday, you should be able to claim money back for what you’ve missed out on. Reasons for claiming will vary by insurer so you’ll need to check the policy’s terms, but it could include needing to come back home because a close family member has suddenly passed away.
Missed departure and delays
If you’ve been delayed and missed your flight or departure slot for reasons beyond your control, you should be able to make a claim for overnight accommodation and travel costs.
Your policy should always cover lost, stolen or damaged luggage. There may be a single item limit which is the maximum amount of money you can claim for any one item. If you’re taking anything particularly expensive (like pro camera equipment or skis) then you may have to arrange a standalone policy for these items or ask your insurer to increase cover.
This type of insurance covers costs if someone blames you for causing damage to their property or injuries to them. It might sound far-fetched but all it takes is for you to slip, trip and bump into someone for a claim to be made against you. As with medical travel insurance, look for policies that give you at least £2 million coverage.
Other features to look for
Remember that insurance is there to cover unexpected events so while there are essentials that any good policy should include, there are other features worth considering too. Some insurers may include these as standard, if not, they’ll usually be offered as optional extras for a small increase in your premium:
- Dental emergencies – policies usually only cover genuine emergencies and immediate pain relief, if you need non-emergency treatment you’ll be expected to wait until you get home.
- Cash – covers the cost of stolen cash (or travellers cheques).
- Terrorism – provides compensation if an act of terrorism affects your holiday, some policies now include ‘air disruption’ which covers delays because of unauthorised drones.
- Lost passport – covers any expenses you face if you need to replace your passport while away.
I have a GHIC, do I still need medical travel insurance?
A global health insurance card (GHIC) means you can access state provided healthcare in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. It replaces the European health insurance card (EHIC) but EHICs are still valid right until their expiry date.
It’s important to have a GHIC or EHIC but they’re not substitutes for good medical travel insurance. You can apply for a GHIC for free on NHS.UK so be aware of sites that charge.
What limitations should I be aware of?
Almost all insurance policies come with limitations and exclusions, and travel insurance is no different. While terms and conditions will vary by provider, you’re unlikely to be covered if you:
- Leave your luggage unattended.
- Drink too much alcohol and injure yourself (same with recreational drugs).
- Travel against official government advice.
- Join in any dangerous activities or sports (you can buy extreme sports insurance, but generally standard policies won’t cover you for, say, bungee jumping).
Compare travel insurance
Any policy you choose should give you the confidence and peace of mind to enjoy your holiday. To make sure you find a policy that’s right for your needs, always double check the terms and conditions and make a point of familiarising yourself with any exclusions. Crucially though, don’t forget to ensure your policy covers the country you’re visiting.