Travel insurance and repatriation

What happens if you suffer a serious illness or injury while you’re abroad and you need to be repatriated back home? If you have travel insurance, the costs may be covered by your policy. Let’s take a look.

What happens if you suffer a serious illness or injury while you’re abroad and you need to be repatriated back home? If you have travel insurance, the costs may be covered by your policy. Let’s take a look.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: please check the latest government travel advice that sets out what you need to do, if anything, before you travel abroad and before you return home. You should also check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. Travel rules can change at short notice, so check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

Josh Daniels
Travel Insurance expert
3
minute read
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Last Updated 10 NOVEMBER 2022

What does repatriation mean?

When it comes to travel insurance, repatriation doesn’t simply mean taking an early flight home. Depending on the nature of your condition, emergency repatriation could involve being medically escorted back to the UK on a scheduled flight or being flown back home in a specially equipped air ambulance.

What is repatriation cover?

Repatriation cover can offer protection against the high cost of bringing you (or a family member) home after illness, injury, or death suffered while abroad. It may be necessary to transport you home because you can’t get the appropriate treatment where you are, or because it’ll work out cheaper (for the insurance provider) to bring you home and complete your treatment in the UK.

The UK government has advice on coping with a death abroad if the worst happens to a loved one while you’re away.

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, the price you pay for travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. However, there are still many providers out there and you should be able to find affordable cover. Whatever happens, don’t be tempted to lie to an insurance provider, because if you do and then need to make a claim, it could be rejected.

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.

Does travel insurance include repatriation?

Yes, repatriation insurance is included as standard in most travel insurance policies. There will typically be a section, sometimes called the ‘key features’, where you can see the list of circumstances where a travel insurance provider will offer repatriation.

The high levels of cover represent the realistic costs of repatriation, especially from remote locations and places where costs are relatively high.

What does repatriation insurance cover?

The levels of cover may vary between providers, but repatriation will typically include:

  • The cost of getting you home
  • Accommodation and travel costs for a friend or relative to stay with you during treatment and repatriation
  • Organisation of getting you home
  • 24/7 emergency assistance helpline
  • Repatriation of the body if a traveller on the policy dies while abroad.

What won’t repatriation insurance cover?

There are some things that could invalidate your travel insurance, meaning you’ll have to cover the cost of medical expenses and getting back home yourself. These include:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions that haven’t been declared to your insurance provider
  • Illness and injuries that happen while you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Injuries caused by violent conduct and reckless behaviour
  • Travelling to countries against UK government advice
  • High-risk sports and activities that aren’t covered by your travel insurance policy.

How much repatriation cover do I need?

Travel insurance policies typically provide up to £10 million of cover for repatriation. This reflects the high costs of bringing you home on a private plane, for example, and for the extra costs of any specialist equipment and medical treatment.

Do I need repatriation insurance?

Repatriation should be included as standard when you buy your travel insurance, so there’s no need to look for a specific policy. If, for any reason, you want more cover than is provided as standard, you can shop around for a travel insurance policy with higher limits.

What else should I know about travel insurance with repatriation?

Repatriation should be included as standard on every travel insurance policy. That said, cover levels may vary between providers, so you might want to check the features to ensure you have the level of protection you need.

When you compare travel insurance quotes with us, we’ll show you the features of each policy so it’s easier to find the right one for you.

Once you’ve settled on a policy, make sure you keep your provider’s details with you in case you need to get in touch with them during your trip.

Frequently asked questions

Does an EHIC/GHIC card cover repatriation?

No. While a valid EHIC or the new GHIC card will give you access to state-provided emergency healthcare in the EU, it won’t cover repatriation costs to get you home. You’ll need travel insurance for that.

What does “medically necessary repatriation” mean?

Medically necessary repatriation means that you have an injury or illness that cannot be treated locally or would be better treated back home in the UK. It will need to be requested by a doctor.

How much does medical repatriation to the UK cost?

An eye-watering amount! According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the cost of an air ambulance alone could be as much as £35,000. In one case, the cost of medical treatment in Spain following a fall and emergency repatriation back to the UK totalled a staggering £124,000. And that’s just Europe. Medical treatment and repatriation from the US and further afield could cost much more.

That’s why travel insurance is so important. Without it you’d have to cover medical and repatriation costs yourself.

Who decides if I need to be repatriated?

The decision to repatriate is usually made by your insurance provider. They will assign a specialist medical assistance team to monitor your condition and liaise with the doctors in the country you’re being treated in. The team will let your insurance provider know if emergency repatriation is necessary. Ultimately, the doctor who is treating you will judge if it’s medically safe for you to travel or not.

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