Travel insurance uk

The aim of travel insurance is to cover the cost of the unforeseen, such as illness and injury or theft of your personal possessions while you are on holiday. It’s also designed to cover you if you have to cancel your trip, or need to return early due to an emergency. But before you buy, here are 16 things you should know.

Insurance is about covering the unpredictable
«Why should I get travel insurance, I might not use it?» you may ask. But the whole point is to cover you for the unforeseen – ie, unpredictable events that may occur either before or during your holiday. You need to accept that, and as it’s impossible to predict the future, all you can do is to give it your best shot. To sum up…

Insurance is about making unpredictable events predictable in case the unpredictable happens.

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Buy as soon as you’ve booked to cover cancellation and pre-trip illness
If you’ve booked a holiday and think it’s no biggie to leave insurance on the ‘things to do’ list, you’re taking an unnecessary risk.

Thinking you don’t need to arrange cover yet as your holiday’s not for another six months is a big mistake. In fact, it’s even more of a reason to arrange travel insurance, as anything can happen before your trip. Why? It’s because travel insurance won’t just cover you while you’re away, it’ll also cover you for cancellation or anything else that might go wrong BEFORE you make your trip.

travel insurance
Never assume all policies are the same
While choosing a travel insurance policy isn’t rocket science, don’t think you can buy cover without first giving it considerable thought. Policies vary greatly and each have their own inclusions and exclusions.

Before you decide what you are going to buy ask yourself the following questions: Will I be bringing expensive personal belongings? Will I be carrying a relatively large amount of foreign currency? Am I taking part in winter sports? This will help you decide what cover’s right for you.

In our best buys below we give you two choices. Annual policies, which meet our minimum criteria for various things, including cancellation and medical care, and our top pick policies, which not only meet our minimum criteria but also have a good record on claims, strong customer feedback and a history of paying out in extraordinary situations.

What’s typically covered under a travel insurance policy?

What is typically left out of travel insurance cover?

Does it matter which country I’m going to?

What is an excess and how does it work?

Does it matter what type of holiday I am going on?

What should I check in my policy before I buy?

If I get taken to private hospital, will I be covered?

Going away twice or more this year? Annual cover is cheaper
If you know you’re going to travel at least twice in a 12-month period, consider an annual policy instead of single trip cover. This is because annual cover often works out cheaper than buying two single trip policies. But always do the calculations.

Of course, this varies depending on where you’re travelling and for how long, but if you get an annual policy you also have the added comfort of knowing if you have a third trip within that 12-month period, you already have the cover in force.

How many days can I travel for on my annual policy?

Going to Europe? Don’t forget your FREE EHIC
travel insurance
The free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to treatment in state-run hospitals in EU countries, plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. You’ll be treated at the same cost a local. So if they pay nowt, you pay nowt. It’s not a substitute for insurance, which covers far more.

The card is free so if a copycat site pretending to the the real thing advertises a fee (often about £25), run a mile. For full info and how to get it for free from the legitimate NHS site, read the Free EHIC guide.

Do I need an EHIC if I have travel insurance?

Holidaying in the UK? Is travel insurance worth it? (The answer’s not always clear-cut)
Standard travel insurance covers you in the UK but the cover here is not as powerful as when overseas, though it can still prove useful, so you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons. The problem is not all trips are covered, eg, most insurers only cover you if you’ve booked accommodation.

But there can be other restrictions. For instance, Holidaysafe* only covers holidays at least three days long, and LV* if you’re more than 25 miles from home or your journey involves a sea crossing. So the message is to check policies carefully as they can vary.

In addition, you normally aren’t covered for hospital treatment but that’s not such an issue given you should be able to use the NHS. That said, you’ll need to declare all pre-existing conditions as insurers want to know how likely you are to have to be driven or airlifted home in a medical emergency.
But if none of that is a worry, travel insurance in the UK offers all the usual protections you’d get abroad, such as loss, theft and cancellation.

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Check if you’re already covered
You may already have travel insurance without knowing. Many bank accounts which charge a monthly fee have extra benefits such as travel insurance. If you think you get insurance as a sweetener with your bank account, check the terms to see if it is appropriate for your trip.

Do NOT confuse this with a benefit offered with credit cards called travel accident insurance, which only covers accidents on a train, plane or in a hire car paid for on the card. Never think this means you’re completely covered.

This insurance should also not be confused with Section 75 legal protection – which covers you if you buy anything that costs between £100 and £30,000 using a credit card (not a debit card). See our Section 75 Protection guide for more on this.

For accounts that may offer travel insurance (and other perks), see our Best Premier Current Accounts guide.

If you’re an older traveller, or there is one in your group, consider a separate policy
travel insurance
Older travellers are considered higher risk. This means travel insurance is more expensive and more difficult to buy as you get older – especially if you are over 65, with the average annual cost standing at more than £80.

If you buy family or other types of group cover, also note the price is based on the oldest traveller or the person deemed to be the highest risk.

To help cut costs we’ve written a full Over-65s’ Travel Insurance guide with the tips, tricks and best buys.

Check if a couples or family policy is cheaper than individual policies
If you are travelling with your partner or your family, you have two options – you can either cover everyone under one policy, or each person takes their own. It’s often cheaper to get a combined policy but always check first.

For example, a couple both aged 40, can get an annual worldwide policy with winter sports cover for £83. But buying two individual, equivalent policies costs £46 each. The two can usually travel independently even if you’ve a joint policy.

If you are travelling with your family, a policy normally covers your immediate family only, so check exactly who is covered when buying. Even children going on a school trip may be covered automatically on a family policy (as long as they are with a responsible adult).

There are times when separate policies MAY save you money (so always check, to be safe), incl:

If just one of the travellers is going outside Europe, in particular to the US, or on a skiing trip (or even both), it could be better to have separate policies rather than the whole family buying extended cover when it’s not needed.
If one of the travellers is over 65.
If one of the travellers has a medical condition.
Some super-cheap policies (with less cover) don’t cover couples.
Always declare your medical conditions, or your claim may be rejected
The thought of having to declare medical conditions can be daunting but travelling without making your insurer aware of any issues can result in any claim you make being rejected. Make sure you give a full and frank run down of all the health problems you have, plus if you’re pregnant too.

For much more, including tips, tricks and how to find the cheapest deals, see our Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Travel Insurance guide.
If you’ve had even ONE drink, it can invalidate any claim
Many people aren’t aware that if they have an alcoholic drink on holiday, and lose something or have an accident, their insurance may not cover them – even if they were only a bit tipsy. Insurers all have different interpretations – ranging in T&Cs from ‘drinking too much’ to ‘approx four pints’ to ‘alcoholic abuse’.

In practice, what most say is that it’s all about if the drink has affected your decision-making ability. As we all have different tolerances, for some this could mean that just one drink could invalidate a claim.

It’s also been reported that some insurers have gone as far as testing blood samples for your alcohol level (although we wonder how this works in practice) but this varies from policy to policy.

Having a claim refused could hit hard, possibly excluding you from medical or possessions cover. As a general rule, use your common sense as it’s about safety as well as insurance. For example, if you’re skiing and have two or three glasses of wine at lunch before hitting the slopes again, you’re increasing the chance of an accident – which you also may not be covered for.

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Going skiing? Make sure you’ve got winter sports cover
travel insurance
Winter sports can be dangerous, so as soon as you’ve splashed out on your break, make sure you are insured on the slopes. As well as covering you for the basics you’d get under a standard travel policy, you’ll also be insured for activity-related injury and your winter sports equipment.

Is winter sports cover automatically included?

Is it worth getting a basic policy and hoping for the best?

Do I need extra cover if I want to go off-piste?

I am skiing twice this year. Should I get an annual policy with winter sports cover?

Can I claim for piste closure?

Is my equipment covered? What if it is rented?

What happens if I don’t wear my skiing helmet and have an accident?

Don’t overpay on your insurance. Costlier cover is rarely worth it
Insurance providers go all out to scare us into upping cover levels. Don’t be duped into upgrading for no reason. Platinum policies with £10m medical cover are bunkum.

«Why,» you ask? Well, you’re charged more but the chances of you making a claim that high are slim. According to the Association of British Insurers, the average cost of a medical travel insurance claim in 2017 was £1,300 – a far cry from £10m!

Insurance from a travel agent could cost seven times more
If you buy travel insurance from a travel agent or airline, be it for a single trip away or an annual policy, you are likely to massively overpay.

This table compares the price of a selection of holidays with our top picks versus the cheapest options from a selection of travel firms that meet our minimum criteria .
The price of our top picks vs the travel firms
SINGLE TRIP, ONE WEEK TO EUROPE ANNUAL WORLDWIDE
OUR TOP PICK (NO-FRILLS) TRAVEL FIRMS’ COVER (1) OUR TOP PICK (NO-FRILLS) TRAVEL FIRMS’ COVER (1)
Family (2) £9 – Leisure Guard Lite £9-£58 £37 – Holidaysafe Lite*
£57-£248
Individual, 18-35 £5 – Leisure Guard Lite*
£8-£26 £19 – Holidaysafe Lite*
£41-£109
Individual, 36-65 £6-£9 – Leisure Guard Lite*
£6-£52 £20-£33 – Holidaysafe Lite*
£41-£201
Note: (1) Prices from BA, Thomas Cook, Thomson & Monarch. Some offer higher cover levels than our top picks, but consider whether you need it. (2) Ages 35, 35, 12 & 8. Correct as of July 2017.
If you can avoid buying the agent or airline’s insurance and instead check our full best buys below for a cheaper price.

Travelling for more than two months? You’ll need specialist ‘backpacker’ insurance
If you’re going away for more than 60 consecutive days then standard travel insurance is unlikely to cover you.

You’ll therefore need specialist backpacker insurance – sometimes called gap year or extended leave insurance. These policies can protect you for up to 18 months as standard in most cases, and can even be extended.

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Going on a cruise? You’re likely to need an add-on to your policy to be fully covered
Cruise ship holidays are growing in popularity but while most regular travel policies will cover you for loss or theft of goods and medical costs on a cruise, you may not be for other eventualities unless you upgrade your policy. These include:

Missed departure
Unused cruise excursions, eg, a day trip to a city port
Cruise itinerary change
Cabin confinement, eg, onboard virus
To get cover for these, you can usually select an add-on to get the right protection – which won’t break the bank. If you want to buy one, a quick way to get a quote is to use a comparison site such as MoneySupermarket*, Confused.com*, Gocompare* or Compare The Market*.

It’s also worth comparing with our top picks below (but make sure you add cruise cover to those). When choosing cover, simply click on the option to include a cruise in the cover.

backpacker
Best buys:
Annual travel insurance for under-65s
The big question to ask yourself is – are you going away at least twice in the next 12 months? If so, consider an annual policy, if not go for single trip.

Below we list the cheapest annual policies for all travellers aged under 65 and without medical conditions which meet our minimum criteria (see our Over-65s and Pre-Existing Conditions travel guides for more).

Find the best policy for you
Select your options to see the best deals for you

Age of the oldest traveller?
18-35
36-50
51-65
Over 65? Click here.
What do you want cover for?
Individual
Couples/Families
Include basic winter sports?
Yes
No
No-frills cover: The cheapest policies for an individual aged 18-35
We’ve analysed 18 insurers to find the cheapest that meet our minimum cover criteria.. Many won’t automatically include cover for gadgets (ie, laptop & mobiles), airline failure or cruises.

Holidaysafe Lite*
Excess: £150 | Age: 18-35

From: £19.10
From: £8.68
Coverwise Bronze*
Excess: £100 | Age: 18-35

From: £19.20
From: £8.73
Leisure Guard Lite*
Excess: £65 | Age: 18-35

From: £27.85
From: £11.50
For ‘better’ cover without paying through the nose
If you want more protection, eg, gadgets, delays, airline failure, missed departure and more, you’ll need to pay more. One option is to try the insurers above, which can offer enhanced level of cover. Then see if comparison sites can win. Try MoneySup* as it allows you to choose which features you want when you get your results.

Alternatively, CTM*, Confused.com* & Gocompare* work too but there’s more work to do when you get the results to check what’s suitable. Before paying for extra cover check if you’re covered elsewhere, eg, home insurance may already cover your gadgets.

Our top pick for high-end protection
This is our top pick policy which includes all the above AND has a history of paying out in extraordinary situations such as 2010’s volcanic ash disruption AND also has excellent feedback when paying out claims.

LV*
Excess: £50 | Age: 18-35

LV’s Premier policy is our top pick and been awarded the highest five-star rating from Defaqto. The policy covers trips of up to 90 days, and cruise cover is provided as standard on annual policies.

From: £115.15
From: £69.50
Not found the right policy for you? Go back and re-select from the options above.

Cover is possible via your bank
You may already have travel insurance if you pay a monthly fee for a bank account. If you believe you get insurance as a sweetener with your bank account, check the terms to see if it is appropriate for your trip.

For more bank accounts which offer travel insurance, see our Bank Accounts with Benefits guide.

Best buys:
Single travel insurance for under-65s
If you’re only going on holiday once in the next year, a single trip policy could be the cheapest option but do compare the single trip premium against an annual multi-trip policy as it could be cheaper or better to opt for an annual policy. Also, before committing to a worldwide policy, check where your destination is deemed to be, as some providers – Allianz, Insure and Go* and Coverwise* – class Egypt, Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia as Europe.

For those aged 44 and under, the premium ranges from £7 for an individual visiting Europe for seven days (£14 worldwide) and from £13 for a family in Europe (or £33 worldwide including USA, Australia, etc) via Leisure Guard (Lite)*. Also get a quote from Holidaysafe Lite* as there’s not much in it and can sometimes win.

If you’re over 44, this is when Leisure Guard (Lite)* and/or Holidaysafe Lite* are the winners. You should get quotations from both where prices for going solo start from £7 in Europe (£18 worldwide) and travelling with a family costs from £14 in Europe (or from £36 for a family on a worldwide policy).

Looking for winter sports cover?

For a wider selection of insurers (with or without winter sports).
Also check out a comparison site such as MoneySupermarket*, Compare The Market*, Confused.com* and Gocompare* as they can undercut prices at times.

Cashback sites may pay you for signing up
As an extra boon, members of specialist cashback websites can be paid when they sign up to some financial products. Do check that it’s exactly the same deal though, as terms can be different. And remember the cashback is never 100% guaranteed until it’s in your account.

Full help to take advantage of this and pros & cons in our Top Cashback Sites guide.

How to claim on your travel insurance
travel insurance
Claiming on your travel insurance shouldn’t be daunting and – if you understand the terms and excesses on your policy – you shouldn’t be in for any nasty shocks. Follow the five steps below in the event you need to claim.

Submit your claim as soon as possible
Contact your insurer as soon as you can. Some parts of your policy may have a short window to submit a claim and it may take a while to be processed.

If it’s a medical claim get an insurer to accept it first
If you need to make a medical claim – and it is not an emergency – get an insurer to accept the claim over the phone first. For example, thieves make off with medicine kept in a handbag that you need urgently. If the insurer accepts the claim over the phone, you’re less likely to be faced with a rejected claim later down the line. For obvious reasons, don’t delay treatment if it is an emergency.

If it’s a theft or loss claim notify the police
If something goes missing or is stolen when you are abroad you may need to get a crime reference number or the overseas equivalent to make a successful claim. Report the incident to the police as soon as you can – you often have to do it within 24 hours – to make sure your claim doesn’t hit the skids.

Keep your receipts
If you are claiming for lost luggage or delay, remember to keep receipts of essential items you have bought in the interim, such as food and drink. Many insurers allow you to add these expenses to a claim and may ask for receipts as proof.

Complain if you feel your claim was unfairly rejected
If your insurance company rejects your claim and you think it has done so wrongly, do not take it lying down. Complain to the free Financial Ombudsman. The ombudsman is an independent adjudicator that will make the final decision on a claim if you are locked in a dispute with your insurer. For more on how to make a complaint, read our Financial Rights guide.

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How to complain about your insurance provider
The insurance industry doesn’t have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include claims either not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in the small print. It’s always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then…

Get informed
Unzip the Travel insurance suitcase to read guides and tips
Don’t forget the suncream! Tick off our holiday checklist
The right travel insurance covers costly surprises while you’re away from home. A standard policy covers lost property, medical care, and delayed travel and may also include:

Emergency medical care< and service emergency clock the>
Personal liability to cover damage caused by you
Lost and stolen possessions cover for luggage, gadgets and passports
Cancellation protection covers delayed, postponed or cancelled flights
Curtailment cover, in case you need to cut your trip short
Compare travel insurance policies with us and you’ll find independent Defaqto star ratings to help you choose, so you’re not buying blindfolded.

What you’ll need for a travel insurance quote
Getting a travel insurance policy set up is often straightforward, but make sure you have the following to hand:

Personal and contact information
Details about pre-existing medical conditions
Whether you need single-trip or multi-trip insurance, or a backpacker/gap-year policy for long-stay trips over 30 days
If you need cover for winter sports, a cruise or a business trip
The start and end date
Your destination
Travel truths
7.3 million Brits had a staycation in the first quarter of 2016, choosing to holiday in England[2]
Brits made 65.7m trips overseas in 2015, 13 million of which were to Spain[3]
Put the Pina Colada down — being drunk can invalidate a claim
Once you’ve shopped around and found a favourite, you can buy then and there, or call the provider if you have any questions.

Should you choose the cheapest travel insurance?
If the policy is unbelievably cheap, double check it’s right for your holiday plans.

For instance, if you panic buy on the way to the airport, it may not compensate you if your airline cancels.

Need to know more about travel insurance?
Read our guides and top tips for safe and secure holidaying, home or away, in the Travel insurance suitcase.

You’ll find helpful info about abandonment, baggage, legal expenses, delayed or missed departure and how much compensation you can expect if a flight is cancelled. You can discover why you need insurance, how much cover is required, if adventure activities are included, and why you should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

And, you’ll be walked through optional add-ons and specialist cover, such as policies for over-65s, people with pre-existing medical conditions and scheduled airline failure insurance (Safi).

Read up about how long-stay travel insurance may affect your home insurance, and discover how you could benefit from travel insurance when holidaying in the UK or in a caravan.

We’ve also unearthed why doubling up on insurance could be a costly mistake, and how you can avoid claim rejections.

And finally, for sports holidays and cover, we’ve got the scoop on winter travel insurance, cover for skiing and other winter sports.