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.
Your essential travel checklist
With some holidays abroad from England given the go-ahead, we’ve teamed up with travel expert and podcast host Holly Rubenstein to bring you the essential holiday checklist. She also explains the traffic light system for travel. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
9 things to check before you travel
- Have you got at least six months left on your passport?
- Do you need a visa?
- What are the lockdown restrictions where you’re going?
- Are you covered for cancellation?
How does the traffic light system work?
The government has announced a ‘green list’ of countries you’ll be able to legally visit on holiday from England without quarantining when you get back. They include:
See more countries on the green list here
The list may change, so make sure you check the relevant government websites before you book and travel.Find out more
Correct 10 May - the situation is changing all the time so check your local government advice within your devolved nation on the latest rules.
From 17 May 2021, a travel traffic light system has been introduced and trips to green listed countries will be legally permitted if you live in England and Scotland. If you live in Wales and Northern Ireland, you still need to follow the rules for your relevant local authority, which can be found here.
If a country is on the green list, you still need to check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. This is to ensure you're aware of any specific requirements relating to entry and to check travellers from the UK are permitted. Countries can have their traffic light status changed at short notice and you should take this into consideration when looking to travel. Please check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice for the latest information.
The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to most amber and red listed countries. Should you choose to travel against the FCDO rules, you will not be covered by any travel insurance policy you purchase. Some providers do offer cover for international travel if you’re travelling for essential purposes, however most do not. In all cases, should you have any queries please check the policy wording or contact your chosen provider before purchasing to ensure the cover meets your needs.
Travel within England, Scotland and Wales is permitted under the current guidelines. However, public health rules and lockdown restrictions continue to vary, including entry restrictions for Northern Ireland. Check the latest guidance from the official tourism boards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.Find out more here
Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions
When you declare medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show quotes from insurance providers who will cover all declared medical conditions, with no exclusions.
The Money Advice Service 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 them on 0800 138 7777.
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/get an 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, you’re a student on a gap year taking the trip of a lifetime or simply someone making the most of 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 a 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 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 at your 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.
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 that is listed in your policy, you’ll be able to claim towards the cost of your trip.
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.
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:
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
Can I get travel insurance to cover Covid-19?
Can I get travel insurance to cover Covid-19?
Yes, some travel insurance providers are now offering enhanced COVID-19 cover. Policies could include cover for:
- cancellation if you or anyone covered by the policy gets a positive coronavirus test in the two weeks before you travel
- medical costs if you get coronavirus while you are away and need medical help
- additional transport and/or accommodation expenses if you fall ill with coronavirus while you are away
Not every policy or every provider will offer this kind of cover and some may specifically exclude pandemics. So, if you’re interested in this kind of cover, we’ve made it easier to find and compare. When you’re getting a quote, simply:
- tick the box on the quote results page so that you see only policies that offer enhanced coronavirus cover
- read the policy document thoroughly so you can see just what is and isn’t covered before you buy
You can easily see the policy documents to check what COVID-19 cover is offered:
- select the “More details” button
- scroll down to “Full Policy Details”
- select “Full Policy Wording” and check out the cover and the exclusions
Take a close look at the policy to make sure it offers you what you want, not just for coronavirus, but for the usual things too, like baggage cover, flight delays or other issues.
While you’re at it, see what evidence you’ll need to support any COVID-19 claim, as terms and conditions will apply here too, like with any insurance policy. That way you can make sure you’ll get the necessary documents to help make sure your claim is processed speedily. So, for example, if you test positive for coronavirus just before you are due to go away, you’ll have to provide written evidence of the positive test from a health professional, for example.
How will Brexit affect travel insurance?
The Brexit transition period ended at midnight on 31 December 2020. The UK now has a different relationship with the EU, which will affect how we travel to and from our nearest neighbours. We won’t have the same freedom of movement as we used to.
New rules will require you to have at least six months to run on your passport to visit countries in the EU, so you’ll need to get it renewed ahead of your trip if it’s close to the expiry date. There are also time limits on how long you can stay in the EU for. If you’re a tourist you’ll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
If you’re planning on taking your car abroad or hiring a vehicle, you’ll need the right driving documents.
Your EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card) will remain valid until the date of expiry, but will eventually be replaced by the GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card), which UK residents can apply for now. However, it’s still recommended to make sure your travel insurance gives you an adequate level of cover.
See more on the changes that Brexit will bring to travellers in 2021.
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.
After Brexit, things have changed. You won’t be able to apply for an EHIC anymore, but, if you have one already, issued before the end of 2020, then it’ll still be valid until the expiry date.
However, the UK government has introduced a replacement called the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). If you don’t have an EHIC, or once yours expires, you can apply for a GHIC here, and it should arrive within 10 days. The GHIC will offer the same cover as the EHIC did in EU countries. Your GHIC card should be free. Unofficial websites may charge you if you apply through them, so be careful to use only the official NHS website.
For these reasons, having a good travel-insurance policy is always the best choice, however, an EHIC/GHIC may allow you to avoid claiming on your insurance policy in some situations.
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.
Again, you may wish to consider a policy with enhanced coronavirus cover.
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.
Can I get travel insurance when I am already on holiday?
Although you should arrange cover before you set off, you may be able to buy specialist travel insurance after you’ve departed. Your circumstances and whether you intend to make a claim will be taken into account and there may be a waiting period to prevent you from making an immediate claim.
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 pay-out. 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
And if you require enhanced COVID-19 cover just tick the box on the travel insurance quote results page.