It’s no surprise that British tourists love taking a trip across the pond – the USA is our most popular travel destination outside of Europe. They might speak the same language, but it’s as exotic a place as any, with its huge empty deserts, huge mountains and alligator-filled swamps. The US also has some of the world’s most iconic cities, from the Statue of Liberty in New York to the Hollywood sign in the hills above LA.
With so much to see and do, you’re sure to have a great time stateside. Just make sure you’ve got your travel insurance sorted before you leave, so you’re protected in case anything goes wrong.
Do I need travel insurance for the USA?
If you’re planning a holiday in America, you should always make sure you have travel insurance before you set off. That way, you’ll be protected against many common travel problems while on your trip. For instance, travel insurance can cover you against illness, accidents, lost baggage and theft while you’re on your American vacation.
Travel insurance also means you’ll be able to reclaim your costs if you have to cancel or cut short your trip in an emergency – so you can relax and enjoy your holiday.
What type of travel insurance do I need for the USA?
The USA isn’t covered by an ordinary worldwide travel insurance policy – you’ll need a specific policy that covers the US, Canada, and the Caribbean. However, there are many different types of insurance that might suit your holiday. When you find the best travel insurance deals through MoneySuperMarket, you’ll be able to tailor your insurance to your needs. Some categories to look out for:
- Single-trip insurance: If you only want to cover your trip to the States, select single-trip travel insurance, and type in the USA as your destination
- Annual multi-trip insurance: If you take two or more holidays a year, it might save money to buy an insurance policy for the entire year
- Backpackers’ insurance: If you’re visiting America as part of a backpacking holiday, you can find great deals on backpackers’ insurance, which can cover you for longer trips or if you’ll be visiting several different countries
What should my USA travel insurance include?
When you’re choosing a travel insurance deal for your American holiday, watch out for these important features your cover should include:
- Medical cover, which most insurers will offer for costs up to £5m.
- Cancellation cover, which pays out up to a certain amount if you need to cancel your holiday or cut it short due to an emergency.
- Repatriation, which covers the cost of bringing you back to the UK.
- Baggage cover, which insures you in case your luggage is lost during your trip or any of your possessions are stolen. If you’re taking any particularly expensive items – such as jewellery – on your holiday, make sure they’ll be included in your insurance.
- Gadget cover, which will help in case a possession such as a mobile phone or a GoPro is lost or stolen.
- Passport cover, which protects you against extra expenses if your passport is lost or stolen while you’re abroad.
You should also keep an eye on your policy’s excess – that’s the amount you’ll have to pay yourself towards any claim. A higher excess usually means your premium is cheaper – but make sure it’s an amount you’ll be able to pay.
The full details of your insurance will be in your policy document, so make sure you read it in full before you choose a travel insurance deal.
What won’t be covered in my American travel insurance?
There are some features that may not be included in your insurance for your trip to the USA. These are known as exclusions. Make sure know what you can and can’t claim for before you make your holiday plans.
- Some insurance policies might not cover you for accidents or injuries you sustain during activities like skiing and snowboarding, or even hiking or kicking around a football on the beach. MoneySuperMarket’s insurance comparison tool allows you to quickly find out what activities will and won’t be covered in any travel insurance policy. If you plan on enjoying any physical activities while on your American getaway, check that they’re included first
- If you have a pre-existing medical condition, or you’ve had one in the past for which you’ve received advice or treatment, you may be charged a higher premium. If this is the case, it may help to take out a special policy for pre-existing conditions
- You may not be covered for incidents related to civil unrest, war or terrorism
- If you suffer an accident or injury that can be linked to you drinking too much or using illegal drugs, insurers are likely to refuse your claim.
When should my USA travel insurance policy start from?
When you choose an insurance policy, make sure you’re covered from the day you book your trip, not the day you actually leave. That way, you’ll be covered in case you need to cancel your holiday before you set off.
Health and vaccinations
American hospitals and healthcare facilities are excellent – but the healthcare system in the USA is famously complicated and expensive. This makes travel insurance more crucial than ever – without it, you might not be able to get the help you need if something goes wrong, or you might be left with an enormous bill.
Some hospitals in the USA might ask for some ‘good faith’ money up front from foreign patients. You should refer this to your insurer, and only pay directly if your insurer tells you to.
In some parts of the United States, diseases spread by insects have been detected. Mosquitoes in parts of Texas and Florida might carry the Zika virus, and there have been outbreaks of dengue fever in Florida, Texas and Hawaii. Ticks and biting insects have been known to carry infections such as the West Nile virus and Lyme disease. The risk of transmission is low, but you should take precautions to avoid being bitten, such as using insect repellent.
You won’t need any special shots for America, but it’s important to make sure you’re up to date with all your ordinary vaccines before you set off.
The legal status of some medicines might be different in the United States. If you’re travelling with prescription medicines, it’s best to check in advance to make sure they’re not controlled. You should also bring a copy of your prescription with you.
Keep in mind that prescription medicines are likely to be much more expensive in America than at home, so you should make sure you leave with enough to keep you going throughout your stay.
USA fact file
Travelling to the United States: Key Information
US dollar – compare travel money
Plug socket types A and B – adapter needed
Emergency services phone number
See the National Travel Health Network for latest information
Embassy address and contact details
Telephone: +1 202-588-6500
FCDO travel advice
See UK gov website for latest information
Top travel tips for the USA
America is full of beautiful sights and exciting things to do. Use our travel tips to help you make the most out of your holiday across the pond:
- Get your ESTA: Before you can go to America, you’ll need an ESTA. It stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, and it allows British travellers to visit the States without a visa. There’s a quick online form to fill in, and you’ll need to pay a fee of $14. Once you have your ESTA, it’s valid for two years. Just make sure you get your ESTA in time – it needs to be sorted three days before you leave, so don’t forget
- The price is right: One strange quirk of shopping in America is that the prices you see for an item won’t include sales tax, which is a little like VAT. This means that when your purchases are rung up at the till, you might have to pay a little more than you expected. Sales tax varies from state to state – but in Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon, there’s no sales tax at all
- Hit the road: There’s nothing more American than the open road. While you can get by on public transport in some cities – New York in particular – even major urban centres like Los Angeles or Houston are basically impossible to navigate unless you rent a car. Plus, if you’re driving, you’ll get to explore America’s small towns and less-travelled roads at your leisure
- Parklife: You can’t visit America without seeing one of its magnificent national parks. From Yosemite or the Grand Canyon in the west to the Florida Everglades in the east, the US has 85 million acres of national parks – that’s nearly one and a half times bigger than the entire UK. Don’t think you need to be a serious trekker to enjoy some time in the wilderness – many national parks are easily accessible by car, and the trails are often surprisingly easy
- Tipping tips: Tipping is essential in America: employers can pay a minimum wage of only $2.13 per hour for who receive them, so your tip really does matter. You should tip a minimum of 15-20% for waiters, bar staff and taxi drivers. Hotel porters should be tipped about two dollars per bag, and you should also leave a few dollars per day for the housekeeping. Valet parking is common in much of the USA – and you’ll need to tip your valet too
- Taste the world: American food isn’t just burgers and fries. Try local delicacies like Carolina barbecue or the French-influenced Cajun food of Louisiana – but there’s more. Generations of immigrants from all over the world have left their mark on the way Americans eat. If you’re in South Texas, you’re never far from some great Vietnamese food, while Thai Town in Los Angeles offers some truly authentic Asian meals at very reasonable prices
- State laws: Every state in America has different laws that might affect you, so it’s important to know what is and isn’t allowed where you’re going. In some areas, it’s still ok to smoke in bars and restaurants – but if you cross the state line, it could be an offence to light up in a public park. Even fireworks are illegal in some states, so it’s definitely a bad idea to take some on a road trip. And drinking alcohol outdoors is illegal almost everywhere – unless you’re on the Las Vegas strip
Get the best price on travel insurance for the USA
Travel insurance for the USA is essential to keep your protected, but not all policies are the same. To find the cheapest American travel insurance that meets all your needs, it’s important to compare before you buy.
MoneySuperMarket’s comparison tool asks you a few simple questions about you and your holiday: where you are going, how long for and what you want your policy to cover, and in just a couple of minutes you can compare prices from a range of leading travel insurers.