What are you covered for if you want to get away on holiday this year? How will Covid-19 affect your holiday insurance and will you be covered if your holiday or flight is cancelled? What makes the best holiday insurance cover and where can you find it?
We've rounded up everything you need to know in this handy guide.
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Unlike car insurance, travel insurance isn't a legal requirement. But as it can help you recover costs it's a small price to pay for peace of mind if something should happen to ruin your holiday — or worse, if you rack up an expensive medical bill abroad. However, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, insurers have changed the cover they offer and the options are much more limited at the moment.
Currently the UK government is advising people not to travel outside the UK. This advice is under review, but until it changes you are unlikely to find a travel insurance policy to cover you for holiday delay, cancellation or medical costs if you decide to travel anyway. The advice at present is to stay home as much as you can, and not to leave the UK unless it is essential travel.
As the World Health Organisation has classed coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemic, most insurers will exclude it from any cover that they offer. In insurance terms it is a "known event".
However, this puts people in a difficult position if they have a holiday already booked for this summer, or they want to make travel plans for later in the year and need to buy travel insurance to cover them before they go and while they are away, or they have bought travel insurance cover but need to change the date because they have rebooked their holiday.
If you bought your insurance policy before the coronavirus outbreak, you may still be covered for disruption or cancellation of your holiday flight or package. If you have to cancel your holiday and you can't get a refund from the airline (which should be your first option), you may be able to claim on your travel insurance if you're in this situation.
If you bought your travel insurance when the coronavirus was already widespread, you will not be covered for cancellation if your trip doesn't go ahead because of COVID-19 restrictions or problems. What’s more, if you decide to travel against government advice, you will not be covered by a travel insurance policy.
At present, you would be covered for emergency medical costs under your travel insurance policy if government restrictions were lifted, and you were allowed to visit the country concerned.
For example, Spain has said that UK tourists may be allowed to visit this summer, but only once the UK has clarified its position on quarantine for anyone coming or returning to Britain.
The terms and conditions may have changed regarding cancellation and disruption, so check with the insurer before you buy the policy to see what exactly they are prepared to cover. If you're ill, suffer a bereavement or are injured and unable to travel, and the reason for the claim is not connected with COVID-19, then you should be covered for cancellation.
Now more than ever, it's important to be clear on exactly what the cover includes, and what is not covered – i.e. what the exclusions are. You can do this by looking through the policy documents or checking directly with the insurance company.
Different travel insurance policies will provide different levels of cover, so it's important to carefully check the policy first. A good travel insurance policy will help you in the case you are injured or fall ill while you are away, if your holiday is cancelled, if any of your luggage or belongings are lost or stolen.
The main two types of travel insurance are single trip cover and annual cover (also known as multi-trip cover). As the name suggests, single trip cover will provide protection for one trip, whereas annual policies can cover multiple trips in one year.
If you're going away several times in a year, you might find that annual travel cover offers better value, but it’s worth looking into both options. You can also get individual cover, or a policy that covers a couple, family or group travelling together.
If you have a pre-existing condition, you can still get a quote. These conditions could include cancer, stroke, serious heart, respiratory and terminal conditions.
Some insurers might not cover you if you already have a serious medical condition, or if you have a number of conditions. Others might only offer insurance at a much higher price. If you're unable to find suitable cover, the Money and Pension Service (MaPS) has also set up a directory of insurers willing to cover customers with pre-existing medical conditions.
You can contact the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) or you can telephone 0800 138 7777.
It’s important when comparing travel insurance quotes to choose a policy with enough cover.
Many policies offer medical cover in the region of millions of pounds - while this might sound more than you will ever need, consider the cost of a serious claim (for example if you are severely injured and need major surgery or to be airlifted for treatment). This is particularly the case if you are in the United States, where medical costs are high.
However, it can also be the case in European countries like Spain, where you might be treated in a private hospital, and where costs can easily rack up if you are in hospital for several days or are recovering from a serious accident or illness.
Also consider the amount of cancellation and baggage cover included in the policy. You can add up the cost of the booking and belongings you plan to bring with you, but it is better to overestimate than risk being under insured.
You should also check the policy for any single article limits and ensure these are generous enough to cover any expensive equipment you plan to take with you. Some of the more basic policies have single article limits of around £100 — possibly not enough to cover your expensive camera or designer sunglasses.
Ideally, travel insurance should be arranged as soon as you have booked your trip. That way, if your policy includes cancellation cover, you will be able to claim in some circumstances if you need to cancel your trip – although as discussed earlier, a cancellation due to COVID-19 will probably not be covered.
There are any number of things that could happen between you booking and jetting off, and some of those that may be covered include if you become too ill to travel, if there’s a natural disaster, or if a close family member dies.
In most cases, can buy your policy right up until the point you leave home for your trip. Just remember you will not be covered for anything that happens before you take out the policy.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives you access to state-provided healthcare if you're injured or taken ill while you’re in Europe, but it doesn’t cover everything.
It will end when the UK exits the EU.
An EHIC card doesn’t replace travel insurance (and vice versa — in fact, some travel insurance policies require you to carry your EHIC card when you travel in Europe).
An EHIC gives you the right to state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. You can use it up until 31 December 2020 and beyond for the full duration of the trip. Pensioners and students living in the EU, and EU nationals living in the UK will still be able to continue to use the EHIC after that point.
When you make a claim, there's usually an excess to pay. The excess is the amount you will have to pay towards a claim. While policies with high excess amounts may be cheaper upfront, you should consider how much you will be willing to pay in the event of a claim. An example: If you make a claim for stolen items worth £500 and your excess is £200, you would receive £300 as a payout from your insurer.
Curtailment cover can help reimburse you if you're forced to cut your trip short. Your policy will cover specific reasons for this, usually the same as those allowed as part of cancellation cover.
When comparing travel insurance quotes online, most providers assume you're not awaiting surgery or any form of medical investigation and are not travelling against medical advice. If any of these situations apply to you, or if you have an ongoing medical condition, online quotes may not be suitable for your needs.
You may wish to research a policy online and get an indicative quote, then get in touch with the insurer directly to discuss your medical needs with them — many insurers can offer tailored cover.
Travel insurance will cover you if you have to cancel or cut short your holiday in the UK because of illness. It does not, however, usually cover medical treatment in the UK as that is covered by the NHS if you are a UK citizen.
When booking your trip it is likely you will be offered travel cover as an add-on. However, you may find a better value policy by shopping around. You can compare policy features and search for the best price by comparing with Uswitch below:
Search for travel insurance policies with Uswitch and theIdol.com*