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What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance could cover medical expenses, trip cancellation or delays, lost or stolen baggage and personal liability while you’re travelling. The type of cover you need will depend on the countries you’re visiting, the activities you’ll be doing and the length of your trip. You’ll also need to state whether you want travel insurance for a single trip, multiple trips or for backpacking.


On 02 October 2020, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) updated the list of countries that are exempt from its ongoing advice against all non-essential international travel.

If you choose to travel overseas to a destination where the FCDO is advising against non-essential travel at the time of your departure, then your insurance policy will be invalid, and any claim likely to be rejected.

For domestic travel, please check the local public health rules for the destination you wish to travel to within the United Kingdom.

For more information, please see our coronavirus and travel insurance page.

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

Our panel includes insurance providers who quote cover for all medical conditions declared on our website, with no exclusions.

The Money and Pension Service (MaPs) has also launched a directory of insurance providers, who may be able to provide quotes over the phone, if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at the Money Advice Service or by calling the British Insurance Brokers Association on 0370 950 1790.

Why do I need travel insurance?

While we all love to get away from it all, accidents do happen - as well as medical bills, travel insurance covers delays, lost items and thefts. All these can prove costly if you’re not properly insured.

A travel insurance policy can provide the security you need while on holiday. It offers you peace of mind, knowing that, should you need it, you’ll be well looked after, have your belongings replaced, or have alternative accommodation and travel arrangements if required.

The costs of these are more expensive than you’d think. Medical costs abroad can easily run into the tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, if you need specialist treatment or an emergency evacuation.

Something as small as a lost passport can have huge consequences. You’ll need to arrange a replacement, or emergency passport, you might have to make alternative travel arrangements and you may need additional accommodation while you wait for your replacement to be issued. All of this can add up fast, over something that can happen in an instant.

So, whether you’re taking the family to the beach, a student on your gap year taking the trip of a lifetime or simply making the most of your retirement, there’s sure to be a policy to keep you covered.

What does travel insurance typically cover?

The right travel insurance policy can cover you for a wide variety of things that can unfortunately go wrong while travelling, whether it’s a lovely, well-deserved holiday, or an important business trip.  
When trying to find the best travel insurance policy, with the right level of cover and inclusions for you, you’ll want to consider the following:

Loss of baggage 
If your baggage is lost while on its way to your destination, loss of baggage cover will allow you to claim for its value. This is a pretty standard inclusion, but you should check for the amount that your luggage is insured for, as limits do vary. You should also look out for a single-item limit, which is the maximum your provider will pay out for any one specific item. 
If your baggage is lost during transit, you should report it to your airline as soon as possible. 
This will insure your luggage or personal belongings during the journey to your destination, as well as while you’re out and about in destination. You’ll need to report the theft as soon as possible and get a crime reference number or police report, as some policies will not cover you without one. You should also look out for any limits to the amount you can claim for, as these vary between providers. If you’re travelling with a particularly valuable item, you should also look for the single-item limit. 
Cancellation cover 
This type of cover can protect you if you suddenly need to cancel your travel plans at the last minute. This could be due to injury or illness, or perhaps a bereavement of some kind. If your holiday is cancelled for a reason which is listed in your policy, you’ll be able to claim towards the cost of your trip. 
Medical cover 
If you’re travelling with a pre-existing medical condition, you should consider a form of medical cover when travelling. This will usually involve a health questionnaire, but some may require a medical exam. Once you’ve completed either of these, you can tailor your insurance policy to suit your condition(s). If you’re unfortunately refused cover, you may have better luck applying through a specialist provider. 

Emergency repatriation 
If you or a family member are injured or fall seriously ill while abroad, then you may find that you need to be brought back to the UK to ensure you receive the best care. Emergency repatriation cover will protect you against the costs of bringing you home, which can be eye-wateringly expensive. To give you an idea, travel insurance policies typically provide cover with a limit of £10 million. 
Most annual and single policies cover you for between 90 and 180 days, so you should check the details if you’re planning a long break away. If you’re away for longer than this, you may need a long-stay policy. 
You should also be able to add  extras  to your policy for anything that isn’t included as standard – for example:

  1. Winter sports - typically covers you for skiing and snowboarding trips
  2. Extreme sports - includes covers for higher-risk activities such as rock climbing or sky diving
  3. Water sports - typically covers you for scuba-diving or white-water rafting

What type of travel insurance is right for me?

Picking the right travel insurance policy depends on a few things.  

The most common types of policy are:

  • Single trip: Single trip cover will cover you for one short trip.
  • Annual multi-trip: If you’re taking more than one trip a year, then a multi-trip policy will likely be the most cost-effective. There may be a limit on the total number of days abroad you’re covered for, typically 30 or 31 days.
  • Worldwide: Generally, travel insurance for trips within Europe are cheaper. This is largely because medical costs in countries outside the EU can be much higher.
  • Winter sports: You’ll need this for skiing, snowboarding or other winter activities that are generally a bit more dangerous and might require special provisions. They can also involve expensive specialist equipment, which this policy should cover.
  • Cruise: Covers the specific risks and activities associated with this type of holiday. 
  • Couples: This is for two adults, who live at the same address and are in a relationship. 
  • Family: This covers members of a family in one simple policy. Some insurance providers will also offer free cover to anyone under 18 in the family. 
  • Group: This could suit you if you’re travelling with up to 10 friends or family members, if you’re all travelling from the same country.
  • Business travel: If you’re travelling for work, then business travel is tailored for your needs. 

You can also find specialist insurance for:

Frequently asked questions

Will the coronavirus impact travel insurance?

The right travel insurance is even more vital as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to affect many destinations, with government advice regarding travel changing regularly. This could mean trips having to be cancelled or rearranged.

If the FCDO has advised against travelling to your destination because of coronavirus, you should be able to claim on your travel insurance provided you bought it before the advice was issued. Although, understandably, some people might be put off going on their trips because of the virus, you can’t claim if the FCDO hasn’t advised against travelling to your destination as it will be interpreted as your voluntary decision not to go. Read our guide to coronavirus and travel insurance.

Do I need travel insurance if I have a European Health Insurance Card?

A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides you with either free or discounted medical care in state-run hospitals or surgeries in EU and other participating nations. However, you shouldn’t just presume this offers you the same protection as travel insurance. 
First of all, it only offers a form of medical cover, so you won’t receive any of the other great benefits travel insurance can offer. For example, if your flight gets cancelled or your baggage is lost or stolen, you won’t receive any protection with an EHIC. 
Also, while an EHIC does offer medical care benefits, it won’t cover you for any private medical costs. These are typically more expensive than state-run facilities, and you may not be able to choose where you receive your care from in an emergency. An EHIC also won’t offer you emergency repatriation cover, if you need to be returned to the UK for specialist medical care. This can be extremely expensive to fund yourself. 
Finally, with the UK fast approaching the end of the Brexit transition phase, the EHIC may no longer be valid after 31 December 2020. So, you may not be able to use it for much longer anyway. 
For these reasons, having a good travel insurance policy is always the best choice, however, an EHIC may allow you to avoid claiming on your insurance policy in some situations. At least in the short-term, depending on whatever happens with Brexit.

Can I get travel insurance for the UK?

Yes, of course you can, and we recommend you get travel insurance for trips in the UK. If you’re thinking of taking a staycation in the UK, you’ll still face some of the same risks you would travelling abroad. Of course, the NHS will cover you for any medical needs, but you may still find an internal flight or train is cancelled, your hotel closes, or your baggage is lost or damaged. 
The right travel insurance policy can cover you for all these things, so don’t leave anything to chance and get that peace of mind before you go away.

Will travel insurance cover lost passports?

While you should always check your policy beforehand, most travel insurance providers will cover you for lost or stolen passports. If your passport is lost or stolen, it’s important that you report this quickly and apply for an Emergency Travel Document (ETD), to minimise the disruption to your holiday. Keep any reference numbers when you report the loss/theft, as these will be needed when claiming on your insurance.

Can I still get travel insurance if I've got a medical condition?

Yes, you can still get travel insurance even if you have a medical condition, although you might need to look for a specialist provider. That’s because having certain health issues could mean that you’re more likely to need medical treatment while you’re on holiday. Unlike in the UK, you’ll be expected to pay for any care you receive and even common procedures can cost thousands of pounds.

See more on travel insurance with medical conditions with some specialist advice if you have cancer or heart conditions.

Can I get travel insurance when I am already on holiday?

While this used to be a problem for travellers, you can now find providers who will cover you, even if you’ve already started your holiday. However, providers may have stricter terms and conditions for you to meet, and it may depend on how long you’ve already been on holiday. Therefore, it’s best to get covered as soon as possible.

Can travel insurance be extended?

If you decide to make your holiday last a bit longer, many providers will let you extend your cover. You should inform them as soon as possible and avoid letting your cover expire where possible, as this may make an extension more complicated.

What does “doubling up” on travel insurance mean?

Doubling up on insurance means that you’ve taken out more than one type of cover. This might be because you’ve taken out an insurance policy but also receive cover from another source, such as a bank or credit card provider.

However, having two forms of cover doesn’t mean you’ll get twice the payout. Typically, insurance providers will each pay out for their share of the claim. This may also delay your claim being processed, as both providers may ask each other to cover the cost. Therefore, it’s not usually advantageous to be ‘double’ insured.

How can I make a claim on my travel insurance?

If you’re unlucky enough to need to make a claim on your travel insurance, here’s what you’ll need to do: 
Have your policy and travel documents with you 
Your policy documents will have your reference number, the contact details of your insurance provider, as well as information on the claims process. They’ll also have the terms of your cover, including any limits, restrictions or exclusions you may have. It’s a good idea to have a printed and e-version of these, just in case your battery dies or you don’t have the right signal. 
You may also need other documents such as booking confirmations, hotel or flight reservations and your passport. 
Contact the police or relevant authority 
If your claim is for theft, or the result of any other criminal activity, you should contact the police and obtain an official police report. The sooner you do this, the better. Insurance providers will usually ask for a police report, and may not pay out if you don’t provide one, or within a specified period. This can be as short as 24 hours after the crime took place. 
Contact your insurance provider 
Of course, you should also contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. Even if you’re waiting for a police report, we’d still recommend letting them know immediately, to start the process and get further advice. If it’s a claim for medical treatment, you’ll want to confirm which procedures you’re covered for, and for how much. We know this isn’t always possible in an emergency, but it can help you avoid nasty surprises. Contact details should be found on your policy documents. 
Keep, request or gather any evidence to support your claim 
Depending on what it is you’re claiming for, this could be simple things like receipts as a proof of purchase, any booking confirmations, or more serious documents such as a police or medical report. The more you’re able to offer as evidence, the greater the chance of your claim being successful. Most insurance providers will request this sort of information to validate your claim.

How can I compare travel insurance?

When looking for the best travel insurance policy for you, comparing the latest deals is a good place to start. We provide  impartial and independent comparison  from a range of UK travel insurance providers.

Here's what you need to compare travel insurance quotes:

  • The type of cover you’re looking for – single trip, annual or backpacker cover 
  • The destination(s) you’re travelling to 
  • Your departure and returning travel dates 
  • The type of trip you’re taking – this could be a business trip or a cruise 
  • Details of any higher-risk activities you’ll be participating in 
  • The number of travellers you need to insure 
  • The cost of your trip 
  • Details on your baggage cover requirements 
  • Whether you will require medical cover 

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