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What does travel insurance cover?

A typical travel insurance policy should cover you for medical treatment, trip cancellation and losing your luggage while you’re away. But not every policy will cover every eventuality. We look at what’s likely to be included in your policy – and what isn’t.

A typical travel insurance policy should cover you for medical treatment, trip cancellation and losing your luggage while you’re away. But not every policy will cover every eventuality. We look at what’s likely to be included in your policy – and what isn’t.

Written by
Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
Last Updated
2 FEBRUARY 2024
6 min read
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What to look for in travel insurance

Travel insurance can vary significantly. While a standard travel insurance policy usually covers most things you’ll need protection against, there are things you should look out for, including any cover limits that may apply.

As a starting point, look for a policy that covers: 

  • Medical expenses — if you’re injured or fall ill while you’re away, this could pay towards healthcare
  • The cost of repatriation, or getting you home — if you’re injured, become unwell or have a fatal accident
  • Lost or stolen passports, travel documents or money
  • Lost, damaged or delayed baggage
  • Travel or accommodation cancellations, delayed flights, missed departures or cutting your trip short for reasons outside your control
  • Personal liability if you cause an accident or injure someone.

What does travel insurance cover for medical expenses?

A standard travel insurance should provide some level of medical cover. Most policies will include cover for:

  • Emergency medical expenses, including hospital charges and ambulance fees
  • Returning you home, or repatriation costs, if you can’t use your original ticket
  • Reasonable accommodation and travel expenses for a friend or family member to stay with you or travel back with you to the UK
  • A 24-hour helpline for support and advice.

Medical cover varies among insurance providers, so always check exactly what each policy offers. The cost of medical treatment abroad can be incredibly expensive, particularly in countries like the USA. Because of this, having the right level of medical cover and claiming on travel insurance due to illness can save you thousands of pounds.

Will travel insurance cover coronavirus?

Many travel policies offer cover if you can’t travel because of coronavirus. When you get a travel insurance quote with us, it’s easy to compare levels of COVID-19 cover. Just click on the ‘more details’ buttons on your quote results page.

Can travel insurance cover me for a medical condition I already have?

If you have a pre-existing medical conditiondiabetes, for example – you must state this when you apply for travel insurance. Depending on the condition, you might need to pay more for your insurance or you may need to find a specialist insurance company to cover you.

Does all travel insurance cover repatriation?

Most travel insurance policies cover repatriation – bringing you back home if you fall ill or have a serious accident. Check how much cover is included as repatriation can be very expensive – you might need to be taken home in an air ambulance, for example. 
Travel insurance might also cover what’s called ‘repatriation of remains’; that is, bringing your body back if you die abroad. Check to see if your policy includes this. 

Does travel insurance always cover cancellation?

Travel insurance usually includes holiday cancellation cover in case your trip is cancelled for reasons beyond your control – illness or the death of a close family member, for example.

Travel insurance won’t cover you if you simply decide you don’t want to go on holiday, or if you cancel because of a pre-existing medical condition you didn’t declare.

Does travel insurance cover the death of a parent or other family member?

Usually, yes. Cancelling a trip because of close family bereavement is often covered by travel insurance. But the definition of a ‘close family member’ can vary among providers.

Does travel insurance cover my baggage and belongings?

Travel insurance will cover your lost or stolen baggage up to a certain limit. There’s usually a maximum amount you can claim for a single item and a maximum amount you can claim in total. Check your policy wording for full details.

You might also want to think about travel gadget insurance if you’re taking valuable tech with you. Or consider leaving those pricey accessories at home.

Your belongings typically won’t be covered if they’re left unattended or stored insecurely. And that does include leaving stuff on your lounger while you cool off in the pool…

Will travel insurance cover my passport?

Most policies will cover the costs of replacing a lost or stolen passport.

What types of travel insurance are there?

There are several types of travel insurance policy available. Each are designed to cover a different type of trip or traveller:

What does travel insurance not cover?

There are several things that a standard travel insurance policy won’t cover. Here are some of the things you may need to take out extra cover for with policy add-ons, or even specialist cover:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • High-risk sports and adventure activities
  • Travel to high-risk destinations against FCDO advice
  • Changing your mind about travelling
  • Incidents related to alcohol or drug abuse.

Will travel insurance cover me for sports and other activities?

A standard policy should cover you for low-risk activities on holiday. However, what’s defined as ‘low risk’ varies among insurance providers so, again, it’s a matter of checking your policy carefully.

If you’re planning a skiing holiday or enjoying water sports or high-adrenaline activities while you’re away, you’ll need to ensure you have appropriate cover. Check with your insurance provider if you’re not sure.

There’s also the option of specialist insurance for sports like golf, which could be worth considering if you’re taking your own clubs and equipment.

Will travel insurance cover me if I have an accident when I’ve been drinking?

Most travel insurance policies won’t pay out if you’re negligent while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and have an accident or have property stolen.

Are airline strikes covered by travel insurance?

If your flight is delayed or cancelled because of an airline strike, then you should apply to the airline for compensation, rather than trying to claim on your travel insurance.

Your travel insurance should cover you for other costs, like accommodation and car rental bills, if they occur as a direct result of the event. The tricky bit is timing, because your chances of making a successful claim may depend on whether you bought your tickets before the strike became public knowledge.

Read more on flight cancellation insurance.

What legal cover can I get from my travel insurance?

Your travel insurance could provide cover if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property and they decide to sue you. The right policy could also help you pursue compensation if you’re injured in an accident.

What happens at the time is important, though, even with decent cover. Your policy may be invalidated if you admit an accident was your fault or offer to pay someone money before talking to your insurance provider.

Customers with pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, your travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. Whatever happens, don’t lie to an insurance provider, because this could mean your claim is rejected. When you declare any medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show you quotes from insurance providers who will cover them, with no exclusions.

If your condition is more serious, MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone. You can call them on 0800 138 7777.

Frequently asked questions

Will travel insurance cover me if my jewellery is stolen?

Yes, a standard travel insurance policy should provide some level of personal belongings cover, including valuables like jewellery.

However, you’ll need to check that it’s within the single-item cover limit of your travel insurance. This is the maximum amount the policy will pay out for a single item. If it’s not, you may be able to increase the level of cover.

Alternatively, you could take out specialist insurance. There may also be requirements about where the jewellery is kept while you’re away.

Will my home insurance cover valuables when I’m on holiday?

If you have personal possessions cover, it may cover valuables that you take away with you, but there could be limitations – for example, where you’re going or for how long.

I’m planning to live or work abroad. Will travel insurance cover me?

That depends how long you’re planning to be away. Long-stay travel insurance is available for trips lasting up to 18 months. But if you’re planning to relocate on a permanent basis, you need to think about other insurance options, such as international health insurance.

Visit the GOV.UK website which offers UK nationals advice on living and working abroad.

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Kate Hughes - Insurance and finance expert

As an award-winning journalist, author and broadcast commentator, Kate has been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years. She’s the former Money Editor for The Independent. Her work has appeared across the UK broadsheets as well as a number of international titles. Kate brings her financial expertise to inform her readers on ways to save money. She’s also written a book. ‘Going Zero: One Family’s Journey to Zero Waste and a Greener Lifestyle’ is available now.

Learn more about Kate

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