Travel insurance guide

Travel insurance: a must-read guide

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Everything you need to know about travel insurance, to help you find the right cover for your next holiday

Looking for travel insurance?

Planning a trip isn’t always straightforward, but with our comprehensive guide to travel insurance you can skip the headache and find out exactly what you need from your insurer.

What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance covers you against any cost or losses if something should go wrong when you’re on holiday. Whether you’re travelling abroad or in the UK, travel insurance helps you if your holiday plans are disrupted or your accommodation gets cancelled, and is essential in the event that you injure yourself or if your possessions are stolen, lost, or damaged while travelling.

What types of travel insurance are there?

When you buy travel insurance you’ll choose one of three options:

  • Single trip: this covers you for a single trip to the destination(s), for as long as you’re away.
  • Annual multi-trip: this covers you for a full year, allowing you to take multiple holidays without re-purchasing insurance – as long as you go to the destination(s) declared.
  • Backpacking: this will cover you for an extended period across multiple destinations.

See what type of policies people pick for their travel insurance

23% of people choose annual travel insurance, 76% choose single trip, and under 2% chose backpacker insurance. That’s according to MoneySuperMarket data from January to May 2018 and based on a sample size of 774,739 people.

What does travel insurance cover?

The details of travel insurance can differ between insurers, and you should always check the policy wording before you buy your policy to be certain of what you’re covered for. In general, most travel insurance covers:

  • Possessions – if items such as your luggage, important documents, or cash up to a certain amount are lost or stolen, some policies may help you replace them.
  • Medical treatment – insurers generally include cover for emergency medical treatment, however if you haven’t declared any pre-existing medical conditions you may have then it’s likely that treatment for that condition won’t be covered.
  • Holiday disruptions – travel insurance policies often include reimbursement for disruptions to your travel or living arrangements, such as involuntary abandonment or missed departures, delayed flights, cancelled flights or accommodation, or a curtailed trip.
  • Legal costs – If you have to pay legal fees for an incident that wasn’t your fault, or if you have to pay personal liability if an incident was your fault, your insurer may also pick up the cost.

There are also some common things that most travel insurance policies won’t cover, so be sure to check the policy documents. In these cases, it’s often possible to buy extra cover for an additional price.

Typical things that may not be covered by travel insurance include:

  • Adventurous activities – winter sports, or other potentially hazardous activities like climbing, shark cage diving, and white water rafting may not be automatically insured, but you may be able to take out extra cover.
  • Expensive items - gadgets, designer clothes, or sports and music equipment are often excluded from standard travel policies. If you’re taking your laptop, fancy sunglasses, or a guitar with you, check if you’ll need additional cover as some insurers will have a maximum price limit for individual items that you can claim for.
  • Labour-induced injuries - if you injure yourself working a temporary job while you’re backpacking, for example, you may not be covered by your policy.

How much does travel insurance cost?

The cost of travel insurance varies according to a number of factors, such as where you’re going, how long you’re away for and any extra cover that you need. The price of travel insurance starts from £4.79 – that’s how much an 18-year-old going to France for three days would pay for a single trip policy.

Annual multi-trip travel insurance is more expensive, since it covers you for a whole year. This type of policy would cost £10.69 for an 18-year-old taking trips to Europe, with the cost of worldwide cover rising to £19.45.

If you’re planning to take multiple holidays, annual travel insurance may prove the more economic option. On average, this type of policy is cheaper if you’re under 25 and go on more than two holidays to the same region – or if you’re over 25, it’s cheaper if you’re planning three or more trips.

Find out who annual travel insurance is cheaper for

For under 25s, the average price of travel insurance for a single trip is £9.54 and the average cost of an annual multi-trip policy is £20.19. For over 25s, the average price of a single trip policy is £16.93 and the average cost of an annual multi-trip policy is £50.05. According to MoneySuperMarket data for January to May 2018.


What affects the price of travel insurance?

What you’ll pay for travel insurance is affected by a number of individual things, such as:

  • Your age – the average single-trip policy costs £9.18 for under 25s – but it’s 62% more expensive if you’re in your 60s. For travellers in their 80s, the average cost soars to £36.60.
  • Your activities – if you’re planning on any adventurous activities like skiing, scuba diving, or hiking, you may need to pay extra to get covered.
  • Your level of cover – any additions you require on top of your standard level of protection, such as gadget or equipment insurance, will raise your premiums.
  • Your destination – local factors, such as the price of medical treatment and repatriation, can make your policy more expensive
  • Your holiday duration – the longer you’re away, the more you’re likely to pay
  • Your medical conditions – if you have a pre-existing medical condition, it may raise your premium. However, don’t be tempted to hide this to drop down costs, as failure to declare a pre-existing condition could invalidate your insurance

See how close people buy travel insurance policies to their policy start date.

34.05% of travel insurance policies are bought one or fewer days before the policy start date, according to 774,739 quotes run on between January and May 2018.

When should I buy travel insurance?

Travel insurance is something you should take out as soon as you’ve booked your holiday. This is because it’s possible you might have to cancel your trip after booking but before you’ve actually left. For example:

  • You may become ill or injured and therefore can’t go on the trip.
  • You might have been made redundant, and this wasn’t made clear to you when you booked the holiday.
  • You could be forced to cancel due to bereavement.

If this should happen for any of the above reasons, your insurer could possibly cover some or all of the holiday costs for you.

Find out what the most expensive countries are to get travel insurance for

The most popular countries visited is according to data from MoneySuperMarket and shows the destinations declared for single trip travel insurance, between January and May 2018.

How does the excess work?

Your travel insurance policy will come with a specified excess amount. This is how much you’ll see deducted from any claims that are paid out. The amount of your travel insurance excess varies by policy and insurer – and can also vary by claim. For example, you may have £0 excess for some claims such as hospital benefit or passport cover, but it could rise to the specified amount for personal possessions or missed departure claims.

Do I need an EHIC card?

As it stands, the EHIC card will only work for UK citizens up until Thursday, 31 October - though this is by no means politically certain at present.

If you are concerned about whether your EHIC card will work after the UK leaves the EU, be aware that a standard travel insurance policy will cover you for any medical costs included in your policy.

If you’re travelling in Europe before Thursday, 31 October, you should carry a European Health Insurance Card with you. The EHIC entitles EU citizens to free or reduced medical treatment in EU member countries. However, the EHIC is not a replacement for the medical cover that you get with travel insurance: it won’t cover you for private medical treatment, or for costs such as mountain rescue from ski resorts or repatriation.

What does worldwide cover mean?

When you book a single trip policy, you’ll need to declare your destination(s). But when you book an annual multi-trip policy, you’ll have to categorise your cover based on the area. You’ll need to choose either:

  • European cover: This means most of mainland Europe, however some insurers also include countries like Morocco and Egypt
  • Worldwide (excluding The USA, Canada, and the Caribbean): This means everywhere in the world except the USA, Canada, and the Caribbean.
  • Worldwide: Without any exclusions, this generally means most countries in the world and will include the USA, Canada, and the Caribbean.

Staycation insurance

Travelling doesn’t necessarily mean going abroad; if you book a holiday within the UK you should still consider travel insurance. This is because staycation travel insurance offers cover in case of:

  • Lost, damaged, or stolen valuables – a travel policy can include accidental damage to your belongings, which may not be included if you have personal possessions insurance or any extra cover from your contents insurance.
  • Cancelled or delayed transport – you may be able to find cover for transport such as trains, coaches, hire cars, and flights if your arrangements are cancelled, or if you need to end your trip early. However you should confirm this is included on the terms of your policy, as some insurers might not provide cover for internal flights
  • Cancelled accommodation – it’s possible to get coverage for cancelled or unavailable accommodation on a domestic holiday. However, some insurers could add conditions, such as the accommodation must be a certain distance away from your home, or getting there must involve a sea crossing. You may even have to stay in the accommodation for a certain period of time, or have pre-booked it.

Cover for pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a pre-existing medical conditions, you should expect to pay more for your policy and you might face higher excesses. If you’re unsure whether an illness is classed as a pre-existing medical condition, it’s always best to declare everything to make sure that you’re fully covered. Failure to declare a condition could invalidate your policy, so it’s essential you check this with your insurer.

Finding travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions doesn’t need to be stressful or expensive: it’s one of the options when you compare policies with MoneySuperMarket.

Do I need special business travel insurance?

If you’re travelling for business, you may find that your employer already has cover in place. However, if you need to purchase your own travel insurance – whether that’s because you’re self-employed or there is no existing cover – it’s possible to get this as an add-on to some policies. You’ll know if this is possible, because the policy wording will mention this.

Business travel insurance is important if you’re going to be away for work, because it may offer extra cover for additional items or circumstances that include:

  • Company money, in case your company cash is lost or stolen
  • Business materials and equipment, which could include company computers, phones, and other gadgets that get lost or damaged.
  • Alternate travel if your meeting is disrupted or there are changes in personnel.
  • Courier cover in case items or documents need to be sent to your destination and become damaged, lost, or stolen when in transit.

UK passport holders can visit 186 destinations without a visa

According to the 2018 Henley Passport Index, holders of a British passport can visit 186 destinations visa-free

Be careful of exclusions

It’s important to know what exclusions might apply to your travel insurance policy, so you can avoid invalidating your insurance. These vary by insurer, but you could see exclusions such as:

  • Unattended belongings – if you’ve left your possessions unattended and without proper protection.
  • Undeclared medical conditions – if you become ill as a result of a pre-existing medical condition that you haven’t declared when taking the policy out.
  • Risky activities – if you’re planning on doing anything risky or extreme, such as skiing or white water rafting, and you haven’t told your insurer.
  • Reckless behaviour – if you injure yourself or lose something while behaving recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Travel recommendations – if the government has advised against travelling to particular locations, possibly due to high risk of terror attacks or natural disasters.
  • Change of heart – if you want to change your plans or come home because you decided you no longer want to travel or did not enjoy the holiday, you can’t claim on your insurance.

Tips for buying travel insurance

When you’re comparing travel insurance quotes, it’s important to make sure the policies on offer provide enough protection for your travel needs. You should consider the minimum amount of cover you’ll need for factors like:

  • Medical treatment – the recommended minimum amount of cover for medical treatment is £5million.
  • Single item limit – check what the single item and valuables limit is on your policy. This is the maximum your insurer will pay out and you may find that your mobile phone or camera exceed this.
  • Legal fees – you may need legal fee cover if an incident wasn’t your fault, or personal liability cover if it was. You should look for a minimum of £1m in cover for this.
  • Cash – check the cash limit; £250 is a good amount. Don’t carry more than this amount of cash on you because the excess amount won’t be insured.
  • Cancellations – check what the maximum amount insured for cancellations is, and make sure this covers the whole cost of your trip.

See what the minimum level of cover you need for any travel insurance policy is

Advice from MoneySuperMarket's spokesperson Tom Flack on the minimum level of cover your travel insurance policy should include

How to make a claim

If a situation arises while you’re travelling that means you need to make a claim, there are some factors worth considering to make sure the process goes smoothly. Having your policy to-hand, or backed up online, so you can access it at any time will help when you contact your insurers.

How to make a claim:

  1. Contact the authorities, if relevant. If you’ve been the victim of a crime, you need to report this to the police first and get a police report. Some insurers may not cover you if you fail to do so within 24 hours.
  2. Contact your insurer ASAP. Your insurer may have an emergency contact number that you can call from anywhere, at any time, if you need to make a claim. They might also have a number for medical emergencies, which you could have to call before going to the hospital to receive treatment.
  3. Support your claim. Insurers are likely to require evidence to support your claim. This might include a medical note or form from a hospital or GP, a police report with a reference number, or receipts to show proof of ownership.

The process of making a claim can vary according to who you’re insured by, so it’s advisable that you check this before you travel.

Compare travel insurance

One of the best ways to find an affordable policy is to shop around and compare travel insurance quotes. When you do this on MoneySuperMarket, you can compare factors such as the level of cover provided or the maximum excess you’ll have to pay when you claim.

All you need to do is put in a few details, like whether you’ll need cover annually or just for a single trip, where you’re travelling, when you need the cover to start, who you’re going with, and any special cover you might require. Within minutes you’ll be able to look through quotes from a list of different providers, so you can find your ideal coverage at the best price.


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