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Travel Insurance FAQs

Kasey Cassells
Written by Kasey Cassells, Senior content editor

Edited by Chris Wheal, Finance Writer, 29 April 2022

What does travel insurance cover if you want to get away on holiday this year? What makes the best holiday insurance cover and where can you find it? Read our complete guide…
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Guide to Travel insurance FAQs
Guide to Travel insurance FAQs

We've rounded up everything you need to know in this handy guide.

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Do I need travel insurance?

Unlike car insurance, travel insurance isn't a legal requirement. But travel insurance is 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.

Travel insurance will usually pay out:

  • If your holiday is delayed, cancelled or disrupted or you have to end it early (curtail) for a raft of different reasons. 

  • If your baggage or any personal items are damaged, lost or stolen. 

  • Any liabilities you face because you accidentally hurt or injure somebody or damaged their property.

  • Medical treatment, emergency ambulances or other transport, repatriation home or visits to you by family members, revised travel arrangements.

  • If you need to sue somebody else, such as for a failure of service, or for injuring you.

If you intend to take part in any more dangerous activities, you may need to make sure they are covered or pay extra. This can be as simple as riding a motorcycle or a horse, right up to bungee jumping and white-water rafting. 

The more dangerous, the more you will need to pay. Winter sports - skiing and snowboarding – for example, will have one premium for skiers who stick to the resort’s slopes and a higher premium for those who venture off-piste. 

Travel insurance is relatively cheap for most fit and healthy people. Those with pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart and lung problems, cancer, strokes and high blood pressure, can get travel insurance but may pay a higher premium. 

Some conditions, such as dementia, can limit the number of insurers who will offer cover and significantly increase the premium. If you struggle to get cover, you can contact the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), which has access to specialist brokers, or you can telephone 0800 138 7777.

Do you need travel insurance? The short answer is yes.

How has Covid-19 affected travel insurance?

Travel insurers have learned to cope with coronavirus and, for fully vaccinated travellers at least, most providers have reintroduced full insurance cover for all Covid risks. 

If you are fully vaccinated and still have to cancel or curtail your planned holiday because you get Covid or have to isolate or cannot travel, you will be covered. And if you do need medical cover abroad because Covid hits you badly, that too will be insured but most travel insurance providers (38 of the 40 on our panel). 

There may be a 48-hour exclusion period, so buy your travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday, if not before. This is because a few unscrupulous travellers who were uninsured, got Covid, bought a policy and made an immediate claim.

To make it simple, our comparison tool has a Covid section for each policy so you can easily compare the cover available and decide which policy works for you.

What different types of travel insurance are there?

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 are travelling for business or a trip is a mix of work and holiday, you may need a business travel policy. And if you are sticking a rucksack on your back and heading into the unknown for a few months, check out the backpacker policies.

Man sitting at a pool watching sunset

Travel insurers also vary their premiums depending on where in the world you are going. Insurers' experience of the costs of claims in each country influences the price. This could be due to high medical costs in places like the US, or because of high risks of fraud and bumped up claims.

In general Europe is relatively cheap, the rest of the world, excluding certain high-cost countries come in a second bracket and the rest of the word, including North America, Mexico, Thailand and a few other countries, make up the most expensive category. 

How much travel insurance do I need ?

It’s important when comparing travel insurance quotes to choose a policy with high enough cover levels to meet your needs.

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.

But check what is covered on your home contents insurance in the ‘all risks’ sections. If your phone and camera and jewellery are covered there, don’t worry about doubling up with high levels of travel insurance cover. You won’t be paid out twice but the two insurers will share the costs.

When should I buy travel insurance?

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.

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, you 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.

Do I need travel insurance if I have a GHIC card?

The UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) gives you access to state-provided healthcare if you're injured or taken ill while aborad. It replaces the old European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which ended for Brits once we left the EU.

A GHIC card doesn’t replace travel insurance. The government website warns: “Your EHIC or GHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. It may not cover all health costs and never covers repatriation costs. Make sure you have travel insurance as well as your card.”

Some travel insurance policies require you to carry your GHIC card when you travel.

The government says there are currently delays processing applications for a GHIC card, so apply early if you are thinking of travelling.

Will I have to pay some costs if I make a claim on my travel insurance?

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. 

For example, if you make a claim worth £500 and your excess was £200, you would receive £300 as a payout from your insurer. 

Some policies have a single excess and others may have an excess for each section within the policy. Some very cheap policies don’t just have separate excess amounts for medical expenses and baggage, for example, but for different medical treatments. Dentistry and broken bones could each have an excess. 

There may also be costs that are not covered. For example, on a motoring holiday if you were injured in a road accident your travel insurance would cover repairs and repatriation for you, while your breakdown and recovery policy would cover the vehicle. But if you were ill, your travel insurer would repatriate you but you might find you had to leave the vehicle and get it later or pay for it to be transported home.

What is curtailment cover as part of a travel insurance policy?

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.

How can I get travel insurance if I have a pre-existing medical condition?

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. 

These days, more and more of us have some medical history we need to declare and insurers are more comfortable quoting. Eight out of ten people with a pre-existing medical condition will get a competitive quote on our comparison tool but may pay a slightly higher premium. 

Some conditions, such as dementia, can limit the number of insurers who will offer cover and significantly increase the premium. If you struggle to get cover, you can contact the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), which has access to specialist brokers. The telephone number is 0800 138 7777.

Do I need insurance for travel in the UK?

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.

It might be important if you need to be brought home, have to reorganise your travel, or if you accidentally cause any damage while away.

Where can I buy travel insurance?

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:

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Search for travel insurance policies with Uswitch and theIdol.com*

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