If you're asking yourself 'Do I need travel insurance?' the answer is probably 'yes'.
However, travel insurance is a tricky subject at the moment. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic many travel insurers have stopped selling travel policies. If you do manage to find a new travel insurance policy, it's likely that the insurer will not cover you for coronavirus-related cancellation or disruption for your trip.
This isn't the case for travel insurance policies taken out before the pandemic. You will still be covered for cancellation if you bought a policy early in March before the worldwide outbreak.
If you're planning to book a trip for the summer and you're looking for travel insurance, your options are now limited.
Although some holiday companies are enabling people to book trips to destinations, such as Spain and Italy, the UK government is still advising against travel overseas.
At present, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against all but essential travel. Many insurers are not currently issuing policies until the government changes its guidance.
The UK government has also introduced a 14 day quarantine for travellers arriving in the UK from overseas, and that includes UK nationals returning home. The rule remains under review.
Passengers arriving in the UK by plane, ferry or train will be asked to provide an address where they will self-isolate for 14 days. They face a £100 for failing to fill in a form with these details.
Another option, which the government is exploring is the creation of ''international travel corridors'' between the UK and countries with low infection rates and strong healthcare systems.
This might mean travellers between these destinations and the UK don't need to isolate for 14 days when they arrive. This could provide a lifeline for holiday companies and package holiday travellers.
However, even when package holiday trips begin again, it will be unlikely that travel insurers will offer cover for COVID-19 cancellation or disruption. That's because insurers know about the risks and are unwilling to underwrite them.
So travel insurance to Europe is a good idea if holidays open up there in the future. You should ensure you're covered for medical emergencies even if you can't buy cancellation cover. Your policy is unlikely to include COVID-19 cover.
If you bought insurance before COVID-19 hit, then you will be covered for cancellation of your trip.
If you bought an annual policy, you're unlikely to be covered for booking new trips, but you will have cover for trips that you had already booked before the coronavirus.
If you bought travel insurance straight after you booked your holiday, then you should be covered for cancelled trips in the next month. After that, you will have to wait to see whether the government allows travel to restart.
Your right to cancel and receive a refund depends when you're travelling. Holiday companies and airlines are offering vouchers or refunds to people who are close to their departure date, but not to those who have trips booked for later in the year.
If you don't want to travel, it's still better not to cancel the trip yourself, but to wait until your travel company or airline cancels. Otherwise you will not be eligible for a refund, as you have shown “disinclination to travel” and are therefore not entitled to your money back. You're also unlikely to get any money back from your insurer.
Although you don't need medical insurance to travel in the UK, as you're covered by the NHS, you may need cover for a cancelled trip due to illness or injury. Again, any policy you take out now will not cover coronavirus-related claims.
If you're thinking of taking a staycation this year, travel insurance is still an important consideration. Travel insurance will cover you if you have to cancel or cut short your holiday in the UK because of illness.
While travel insurance is not a legal requirement like car insurance is for drivers, a good travel insurance policy can help to protect your holiday, your belongings and yourself should anything go wrong.
Some home insurance policies have limited cover for valuables away from the home, but they are insufficient for overseas travel, and will not include any medical protection if you're taken ill while abroad. For this reason you can't rely just on your general insurance policy for travelling abroad.
While you may get travel insurance cover with your packaged bank account or even your flight booking, it's important to check what is covered — these basic policies may not be enough to cover you in the event of an emergency, particularly if costly medical treatment is required.
A good insurance policy can also cover your baggage and reimburse you if you need to cancel your trip for a specified reason. Check with your bank the details and extent of the cover provided. It may cover you and a spouse, but not an unmarried partner or other family members.
Some holiday companies give you the option to buy travel insurance at the same time as you book your holiday or your flight. While this may be convenient, it's best to shop around to see whether the policy you're being offered is good value.
You need to check that there is sufficient cover for medical expenses, valuables, cancellation and curtailment. You may be able to find a comparable policy that is cheaper.
Here's a useful checklist for making sure that your travel insurance covers you. Check that:
there’s a 24-hour emergency helpline;
you're covered for lost or stolen items;
your policy covers serious injuries, hospitalisation and sudden illness;
you're covered if you need to cancel your trip or cut it short;
you're covered if you're going to be doing anything risky, such as skiing or extreme sports;
your policy covers the full cost of your holiday or if you need to cut a trip short due to illness or other circumstances;
your policy covers the cost of getting home.
Other types of travel insurance might include personal accident cover (including disability and death), cover for pregnancy, legal expenses or financial protection if your travel agency goes out of business. You may also want to opt for cover if anything should happen to your home while you are away.
You can travel abroad without travel insurance, but you will not have the peace of mind of knowing you are protected should anything go wrong. For example, it's worth considering not just the cost of your holiday or the loss of your belongings, but the potential cost should the worst happen while you're away.
While UK residents don't have to worry about the cost of emergency medical treatment at home, hospital bills abroad can quickly run into thousands of pounds, leaving you with a huge bill in your time of need.
Even fairly minor ailments can prove costly, with the average medical claim reaching £1,360 in and 3,000 British travellers needing help every week last year, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
Five and six-figure medical bills are not uncommon on holiday, and the ABI has reported just a few examples:
A £125,000 claim for surgery following a jet-ski accident in Turkey
A £32,000 claim for pneumonia caught on a school trip in the USA
A £60,000 claim to treat injuries after a road accident in El Salvador
Wherever you're going, and whatever type of holiday you have planned, it's important to ensure that you have adequate medical insurance cover. However, at the moment many cruise companies have suspended operations as a result of COVID-19. If and when services resume, it's a good idea to have medical cover when going on a cruise.
As well as travel insurance, you should have a European Health Insurance Card or EHIC. As a UK resident you're entitled to state healthcare when visiting an EU country if you have an EHIC. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also part of this scheme.
Your card will be valid until the end of 2020, or when we leave the European Union under Brexit. It's important to remember that your EHIC doesn’t replace travel insurance, it just complements it.
The EHIC will not cover all medical costs, including emergency repatriation to the UK — this is one reason medical claims are so costly, with an air ambulance from Spain to the UK costing an estimated £25,000 (ABI figures).
Visit, www.ehic.co.uk, get a form from your post office or call EHIC to apply for an EHIC card. You can't use the EHIC card to go abroad for medical treatment, but you're covered for routine and necessary visits to the doctor or hospital for certain pre-existing conditions, or if you're pregnant.
You may be asked to contribute to the cost of your healthcare, but in some cases you can be reimbursed for those costs.