Do I really need travel insurance?

If you’re planning a holiday and the unexpected happens, travel insurance cover could protect you from hefty costs and medical bills. No one wants to be thinking of accidents or incidents while they’re on holiday, but if the worst does happen, the right policy can be indispensable. 

If you’re planning a holiday and the unexpected happens, travel insurance cover could protect you from hefty costs and medical bills. No one wants to be thinking of accidents or incidents while they’re on holiday, but if the worst does happen, the right policy can be indispensable. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update - From 4am on Monday 1st November, all countries will be removed from the UK red list. You still need to check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through as they can change at short notice, check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information or find out more here.

Josh Daniels
From the Travel team
minute read
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Posted 15 JANUARY 2021

Why is travel insurance important?

Imagine if you, or one of your family members, were injured or became ill during your holiday. Emergency medical treatment in another country can be very expensive. Depending where you go, public hospital facilities could be very basic, which makes travel insurance more than worth it.  

According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), 1 in 5 Brits has needed some kind of medical treatment while abroad. Yet as many as 10 million holidaymakers travel without the right travel insurance, or even no travel insurance at all.

The average cost of a medical claim of £1,300 has risen by 40% in recent years. But it’s not uncommon for medical treatment to run into thousands. Treatment in a USA hospital for a stomach bug alone could set you back £100,000.

If you’re faced with a medical emergency, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot pay for treatment or fly you home. However, a standard travel insurance policy can cover your medical costs while abroad, and even arrange repatriation flights if it’s medically necessary. 

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. 

MoneyHelper has 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 MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.

Is travel insurance a legal requirement?

No, you’re not legally required to have travel insurance. Some tour operators will insist you have a policy in place before they confirm your travel, especially to countries like the USA where there’s no public health service. You may feel it’s more necessary for countries like these, but, in general, travel insurance is usually worth it. 

For peace of mind, you should ensure you and your loved ones are properly covered on holiday. Accidents can happen and they’re more difficult to deal with away from home. It’s not worth leaving it to chance when the costs could be so high. 

Do I need travel insurance for Europe?

Yes, even when travelling in Europe, insurance is a wise idea. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is also a good addition to your travel documentation. As the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office explains, the EHIC ‘is not an alternative to travel insurance’, and recommends having both an EHIC and separate travel insurance when visiting Europe.

After Brexit, and the UK officially left the EU with a deal in place, 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 EHIC/GHIC will only cover emergency medical care in the local equivalent of an NHS hospital. It won’t cover treatment if you’re taken to a private hospital. 

What types of travel insurance are available?

You can choose from a wide variety of travel insurance policies depending on your needs. Make sure you look for the right type of policy, by considering factors such as:

  • the type of trip you’re taking
  • where you’re going
  • how long your trip is
  • your age
  • your medical condition
  • what kind of activities you intend doing on your trip
  • how often you’ll be travelling over a 12-month period
  • how many are going on the trip

Whatever your circumstances, it should be possible to find the right level of cover that’s tailored to suit your needs. Examples include:

If you’re pregnant or have a pre-existing medical condition, ensure you check whether your condition is covered. You may need to add extra cover or opt for a special insurance policy that will cater to your specific needs.

What travel insurance do I need? 

One of the most important things you need for your travel insurance is getting the right medical cover. This should be your priority, as medical treatment abroad can cost tens of thousands of pounds. It’s always best to ensure you’re covered for any possible treatment you may need. For example, a policy with a minimum medical cover of a million pounds is typically recommended. 
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, or qualify for over 50s travel insurance, it’s well worth looking into the different types of policies available to you, as these can offer different benefits, and will ensure you’re properly covered. 
It all depends on the type of trip you’re taking, too. If you’re a frequent traveller, you should look at the benefits of an annual policy, which can cover you for as many trips as you’d like. If these multiple trips include any business travel, you should look for specific business travel insurance, which can also cover you for work equipment and more. 
If you’re travelling on a single, but lengthy, trip, a backpacker travel insurance policy can cover you for longer holidays, and even trips that take you through several countries. It’s always best to check for any limits though, such as number of countries visited, or the total length of your travel. 
Finally, if you’ll be taking part in any high-risk activities, such as water, winter or extreme sports, you’ll need to look at special cover that will protect you for these activities. Standard travel insurance policies will usually exclude these sorts of activities. 

Does travel insurance protect my possessions too?

The right policy can also cover theft, loss or damage to your baggage and personal possessions. 

Your baggage can go astray when you’re travelling, and if you lose your passport, cards and phone, then it’s a relief to have an insurance provider on hand to provide 24-hour assistance.  

Check to see if your insurance provider includes baggage protection in their standard travel insurance policy. If not, ask if you can get extra cover added. Alternatively, you could consider separate baggage insurance cover.

What else does travel insurance cover?

As well as medical costs, travel insurance policies may also cover:

  • cancellation of a pre-booked holiday due to unforeseen circumstances
  • missed flights, cancellations and delays
  • repatriation if it’s medically necessary
  • loss, theft or damage of baggage and personal items
  • 24/7 assistance

In 2018, £145 million was paid out on 167,000 claims for cancelled holidays, says the ABI. Cancellations and delays will only be covered for valid reasons specified in your policy. If an airline offers compensation, most travel insurance providers won’t pay out. And those that do will only usually cover the difference on top of the airline’s compensation. Another reason to check the small print carefully. 

Standard travel insurance can differ between providers, so always read their terms and conditions carefully before committing to a policy to ensure you have the level of cover you want.

If you’re planning a more adventurous holiday, you may need to add extra cover to your policy, or even look for a specialist insurance provider who covers more extreme activities. 

Also, be aware that if you’re travelling to a country that the FCO advises against, your travel insurance policy may be invalid. Check their relevant country travel advice pages for updates on your chosen destination.

Check your policy details carefully if you’re intending to do any sports activities while away. Sports cover can vary greatly between insurance providers, so you’ll need to make a note of what’s included and excluded in their standard policies. This is especially important for winter sports and water sports. Again, you may need extra cover or specialist insurance if your chosen activity isn’t covered.

We’ve made finding and comparing travel insurance quick and easy. Compare policies in minutes and see if you could save money by finding the right cover to suit your holiday needs.

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