A simples guide

USA travel insurance

Did you know that the USA has given the world some pretty awesome inventions? Like masking tape which was invented in 1925, post-it notes and even the humble barcode. Now, with inventions like that, who wouldn’t want to visit the country from where they came – and over three million Brits do just that every year.


Life changing inventions aside (everyone needs post-it notes!) it’s not hard to see why so many of us make the journey ‘across the pond’ every year. America is vast and enjoys some of the most varied landscapes in the world – mountain ranges, deserts and towering manmade skyscrapers. But there’s absolutely one thing you must make sure you do before you even get there, and that’s buy your travel insurance.


Do I need travel insurance for the USA?

You should always consider travel and medical insurance if you’re travelling to the States as medical care is all managed on a private basis in the USA and it can get pretty pricey if you should need any treatment as a tourist. Always make sure that your travel insurance includes emergency care and flights home too – it’s better to be safe than sorry after all. 

Golden gate bridge
Mount rushmore

What’s usually covered in USA travel insurance?

Most standard insurance policies, including travel insurance for the USA will include cover for: cancellations (in case you can’t make your holiday), medical help, lost luggage, delays and any emergency evacuations back to the UK. Policies will differ depending on which insurer is offering them so it’s always important to make sure you read the small print and are getting the most appropriate cover for you. Pay particular where cancellations are concerned as different insurers will cover different reasons.

It’s particularly important to consider what activities you’ll be doing on your trip and ensure your insurance policy covers you for them. The USA is huge so you could be skiing one day and sightseeing the next. If you are intending to ski or snowboard, make sure you’re covered for it. You may need to bolt on some winter sports protection as most standard insurance policies won’t offer protection for this type of activity. The same goes for if you’re participating in any other high-risk activities like diving, mountain climbing or kayaking.

It’s also worth thinking about whether your policy covers you for natural disaster or catastrophic events. As melodramatic as it sounds, we’ve all seen those tornadoes raging through the States on the news.

Finally tot up what you’re intending to take with you, all your clothes and gadgets like tablets and smartphones add up. The last thing you’ll want to use your spending money for is replacing what you already owned if it goes missing or is stolen. 

Who’s ESTA when she’s at home?

ESTA isn’t someone’s great aunt. It stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (you can see why it’s been abbreviated). ESTA is not a visa, it’s a system that decides whether or not you’re allowed to travel to the USA in the first place.

You’ll need to be authorised by ESTA before you travel. You can submit your ESTA form at any time before your trip (even right up to the very last minute) but it’s recommended you apply at least 72 hours beforehand.

You can only apply for your ESTA online at the official website and in most cases your application will be approved (or not) in a few seconds.

So, what about a visa?

If you have a British citizen passport, you won’t need a visa. That’s because the US has a Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) which will let you in for up to 90 days. But you must make sure you’re approved for travel through the ESTA. You'll also need to make sure you have a biometric passport otherwise they might not let you in. Read more here.

Yellowstone national park

What else should I think about if I’m going to the States?

Here’s a few more travel facts to help you on your way:

Currency: The US dollar ($). Cash machines are widely available and credit and debit cards are predominantly used.

Vaccines: You should always make time to see your doctor at least one month before you travel. You shouldn’t need any other jabs as long as you’re up to date with the usual routine vaccinations you get in the UK. You might be advised to get a Tetanus jab or booster, which is usually free on the NHS.

Language: English (although you might find they spell things a little differently).

Tipping: You’ll be expected to tip. The only time you don’t have to tip is if you thought the service was diabolical. Here’s what you can expect to shell out in tips:

- airport and hotel porters – $2 per bag or $5 minimum per trolley

- bar staff – between 15-20% per round or a minimum of $1 per drink

- hotel maid service – between $2 and $4 per night

- waiting staff at restaurants – 15-20% unless a tip has already been added to the bill

- taxi drivers – between 10-15%

- parking attendants – a minimum of $2

Once you’ve picked yourself up off the floor after discovering you’re going to need a while separate budget for tips, you’ll probably want to find the right USA travel insurance  for you and your holiday at the best price. Which is where we can help – let us do the hard work for you (no tip required).

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