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Travel insurance

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Why do you need travel insurance?
Travel nightmares don’t just happen to other people. You could easily find yourself in a spot of bother whilst on holiday too. Just ask the thousands of people who claim for lost baggage, stolen cameras, broken bones and flight cancellations every year. They would tell you that making sure you have the right travel insurance policy before you set off is worth every penny.

Without travel insurance you would be responsible for all costs should the worst happen, including medical expenses and the cost of replacing valuable items. Do you really want to take that risk?

Did you know?
The most common travel insurance claim is for medical bills. Pre-existing and reoccurring health problems and adventures that go wrong are just some of the reasons why.

What type of traveller are you?
Whether you’re taking a gap year, going on a number of business excursions or a one-off winter ski adventure, can help you find the travel insurance policy that’s right for you. Read more about the different types of travel insurance available in our travel insurance guide and find a great deal by using

Our preferred provider
Our travel insurance comparison service is provided by**, who search over 25 travel insurance providers to help you to find the right policy to meet your travel needs. All travel insurance quotations include cover for medical expenses, cancellation and personal baggage

Travel insurance explained

To help you decide which type of travel insurance is right for you, we've compiled a short guide that explains what it is, why it’s so important and how you can save money but still find the right cover for your needs.

What is travel insurance and why do I need it?
Travel insurance protects you against medical expenses and other losses incurred while travelling. Illness and accidents can happen at any time, no matter how far you are from home and no matter how inconvenient it may be. A medical emergency abroad can be extremely expensive, and should you require hospitalisation or need to be returned home by air ambulance or with a medical escort, then the cost could run into many thousands of pounds. Without travel insurance, you’d be fully responsible for the costs incurred – there is no financial help available from the Foreign Office or British Embassy.

Travel insurance can also protect you against a range of other risks, ranging from lost or delayed baggage, to cancellation and curtailment of your trip. Although it won’t make such events any less stressful and upsetting, it can give you peace of mind by helping to ease the financial worries associated with them.

What policies are available?
There are a number of different types of travel insurance policy available, including:

Single trip travel insurance
Single trip travel insurance covers a single holiday or trip. Cover is limited to the duration of the trip and policies normally specify a maximum length of stay.

Annual / multi-trip travel insurance
Annual travel insurance, also known as multi-trip travel insurance, provides cover for a 12 month period and is a cost-effective option if you plan to make more than one trip during the policy period. Most policies have a maximum length of stay per trip (normally 30 - 45 days), although this will vary between policies and providers.

Long stay travel insurance
As the name suggests, long stay travel insurance policies are designed to cover extended trips that exceed the maximum number of days permitted under single trip and annual policies. Usually these are trips that last for more than 30 days.

Backpacker's insurance / gap year insurance
Similar to long stay travel insurance, backpacker's and gap year insurance policies provide cover for extended trips and are designed to cover the particular risks associated with this type of travel. Policies may include cover for a range of activities as standard and normally it is possible to add on additional cover too, such as for winter sports or adventurous pursuits.

When you take out a travel insurance policy you will normally have the option of insuring an individual, a couple (two people travelling together) or a family. Some travel insurance companies also offer specialist policies for groups, such as for schools and clubs etc.

If you do want to insure all family members, then combined family cover will normally work out cheaper than insuring all family members individually. This is because many providers offer discounts for families and some will offer a standard family policy with the same policy terms no matter how many children you have – so if you do have a larger family then this can be a very cost effective option.

If you are aged over 65 or have pre-existing medical conditions then finding travel insurance may be more challenging.

[Skip to travel insurance for the over 65s and pre-existing medical conditions]

In the next part of our guide we look at travel insurance cover options to help you get the right level of cover for your needs.

Travel insurance cover options

Travel insurance policies provide cover for a number of different risks, although cover does of course vary significantly not just between providers, but also between policies. As a consequence it's important to check exactly what level of cover you are getting from a policy before you buy. Always check cover limits and amounts, the excess (the sum you are required to contribute in the event of a claim) and the policy exclusions. All policies include cover for emergency medical expenses as standard, and depending on the policy this may include cover for dental treatment and repatriation. Other cover options include:

Provides cover for cancellation of the planned trip. As an example, covered reasons for cancellation may include: natural disasters; bereavement; jury service; and sickness or injury. Typical exclusions are: airlines or tour operators ceasing to trade; a change in your financial circumstances; a disinclination to travel; self-inflicted injuries; and contractual obligations.

Curtailment cover normally pays the additional costs that you may incur as a result of cutting a trip short, for example due to the illness or death of a close relative.

Travel delay / delayed departure
Travel delay or delayed departure can be caused by many factors, including: bad weather; lost or stolen travel documents; breakdown or delay en route; and mechanical failure of an aircraft or ship. Policies usually have a maximum daily reimbursement amount and there's normally a minimum period of delay before a claim can be made - this is typically 12 hours but it can vary.

Missed departure
Missed departure can be caused by many of the same factors as travel delay however you will usually need to demonstrate that you did everything in your power to make the departure and you may be required to provide supporting evidence with your claim.

Some policies will cover abandonment of a trip where it becomes necessary for you to cancel the outward journey as a result of an extended delay (typically 12 - 24 hours). You will normally be required to have checked in by the recommended time and will need to provide a written statement from the appropriate transport company or authority confirming the reason for the delay and its duration.

Personal belongings and baggage
Provides cover for loss and theft of your personal belongings and baggage - some policies may also include cover for damage and delay, too. All policies have a ‘single item’ claim limit (normally £100-£300) as well as a ‘total valuables’ limit, which includes items such as jewellery, watches, photographic and electronic equipment.

Personal cash
Cover for personal cash up to certain value (usually limited to £50 - £250 depending on the policy).

Travel documents
Provides cover for vital documents such as passports and travel tickets.

Personal liability
Provides cover up to a set limit if you are found to be legally liable for accidental injury to a third party or loss of, or damage to, their possessions. This cover is particularly useful if you are planning to hire equipment during your trip – but always check the small print for exclusions.

Legal expenses
Cover up to a set limit towards legal costs incurred as a result of illness or injury caused to you by a third party during your trip.

In the next part of our guide we look at additional cover options, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) plus recommendations from the Foreign Office to help you get an adequate level of insurance for

Additional travel insurance cover options

Most travel insurance providers will allow you to add extra cover to standard policies so that you are adequately insured. Options include:

Wintersports cover
Typically this includes cover for participation in recreational winter sports, for example skiing and snowboarding. Most policies also cover loss, damage and theft of equipment, plus piste closure and piste rescue. You will be required to undertake the activities safely and to avoid exposing yourself to unnecessary hazard.

Adventurous or hazardous pursuits
Standard policies will not normally cover you for activities that are considered ‘adventurous’ or ‘hazardous’, such as horse riding, jet skiing, diving, bungee jumping or white water rafting. If you do plan to participate in such activities then adding cover for adventurous or hazardous pursuits will ensure you are adequately insured. You should always check the policy terms and conditions, or speak to your insurer, to clarify exactly which activities are covered.

With golfing holidays growing in popularity, many travel insurance providers now offer cover for loss, theft and damage to golf clubs and equipment. Policies may also include cover for the hire of equipment should yours be delayed, non-refundable green–fees if your trip is cancelled or cut short and personal liability cover when using a golf buggy.

If you are getting married abroad then you may wish to add on cover for your wedding rings, gifts and outfits etc.

Business equipment
Provides cover for equipment and other business assets.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and travel insurance
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can be used to cover any necessary medical treatment resulting from accident or illness while you are travelling within the European Economic Area (EEA). The EHIC entitles the holder to state–provided medical treatment within the country they are visiting, although it is not a substitute for travel insurance because it does not include cover for repatriation to the UK, the use of a private ambulance or medical facility and other incidentals. As cover is limited to medical treatment only, you will still need a travel insurance policy to protect you against other losses, such as lost or delayed baggage or cancellation and curtailment of your trip.

Some travel insurance providers may stipulate in their policy terms and conditions that you must carry the EHIC when travelling in Europe, as this will allow them to reclaim some of their costs. It will also cover you for pre-existing medical conditions that may be excluded by your insurer.

Find out more about the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)†

Foreign Office recommendations
If you are planning taking a holiday or business trip, the Foreign Office recommends that you choose a travel insurance policy that provides:

Emergency medical expenses
24 hour emergency service and assistance
Personal liability cover in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
Lost and stolen possessions cover
Cancellation and curtailment cover
Extra cover for activities that are commonly excluded from standard policies, such as jet skiing.
Visit the Foreign Office† to find out more

In the next part of our guide we look at Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance, travel insurance for the over 65s and pre-existing medical conditions.

Specialist travel insurance cover

In this, the final part of our guide we take a look at travel insurance for the over 65s and other specialist travel insurance policies.

Travel insurance for the over 65s
If you are aged over 65 then finding a suitable travel insurance policy can be challenging. This is because travel insurance providers view the over 65 age group as a greater risk, both in terms of their likelihood of falling ill or having an accident abroad and of making a claim.

As a result travel insurance providers may:

Impose an age limit and refuse to offer cover to those aged over 65
Offer cover but at a higher premium
Only offer single trip cover rather than annual multi-trip policies
Where cover is available, the provider may:

Ask about pre-existing medical conditions and deal with applications on a case-by-case basis
Refer the applicant for medical screening
Impose special terms, exclusions or excesses
If you are aged over 65 then don't be tempted to travel abroad without adequate cover. Competitive policies are available from specialist and non-specialist providers – with you can compare policies from a number of different providers.

Travel insurance and pre-existing medical conditions
A pre-existing medical condition is a health condition or medical problem that was diagnosed or treated before an insurance policy was taken out.

When you do take out a travel insurance policy you must declare any pre-existing conditions – if you don't and you do need to make a claim, then it may be rejected if the pre-existing condition is considered to be relevant to it.

If you do have a pre-existing condition then insurers may:

Offer cover on standard terms, depending on the condition and its severity
Choose to exclude medical cover for some or all pre-existing conditions
Offer cover but at a higher premium
Impose special terms, exclusions or excesses
Refuse to offer cover entirely
If you do have a pre-existing medical condition then you should shop around in order to find suitable cover at a competitive price. Policies are available from both specialist and non-specialist providers - with you can compare policies from a number of different providers however if you do decide to buy then you will be required to supply further information relating to your pre-existing conditions before the policy will be accepted.

Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI)
In the current economic climate the threat of airlines and holiday companies going bust is a very real concern. In fact, during 2008 there were several high profile casualties, including XL and Zoom.

Most travel insurance policies won't pay out if your trip is affected by an airline going out of business, however there are a few that do include Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI). If you are concerned about not having this cover then it is possible to purchase a standalone SAFI policy from ‘Protectmyholiday‚ to complement your travel insurance policy.

Before buying SAFI bear in mind that if you book a package holiday through an ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) registered travel agent then you will have ATOL protection. If you do book your travel tickets independently then use a credit card if possible as you'll be protected by the Consumer Credit Act 1974 in the event that the airline goes bust (providing the purchase was for an amount between £100 and £30,000). If you use your debit card then you may not be covered, unless you can prove that the purchase was made using your overdraft facility. If you pay by cash or by cheque then you won't be protected and are unlikely to receive a refund.

In the final part of our guide we explain how you can save money but still find the right cover for your needs.

Our top tips for buying travel insurance

Travel insurance is one of those essential parts of a holiday or business trip that's often overlooked until the very last minute, but by shopping around for a policy you can find the right cover for your needs - and save money too.

Tip 1 – Shop around online for a better deal
Rather than simply accepting the travel insurance policy offered to you by your travel agent when you make your booking, shop around and compare policies online to find comparable or better cover at a more competitive price.

Using a comparison site such as will enable you to compare policies from multiple travel insurance providers in one place.

Tip 2 – An annual multi-trip policy may work out cheaper
If you travel abroad more than twice a year then an annual multi-trip policy will normally be the most cost effective option. A single trip policy will work out cheaper if you do only plan on making one, perhaps two, trips in a 12 month period.

Tip 3 – European cover is cheaper
If you do buy an annual policy and you don't intend to venture outside of Europe, then limiting your cover to European travel only will be cheaper. You can always extend your cover if you do head further afield.

Tip 4 – Combine cover for families and couples
Combining cover for couples or families will generally work out cheaper than insuring each individual separately.

Tip 5 – Check personal belongings cover limits
Most of us take valuables such as jewellery, a camera or camcorder, mobile phone and other handheld and electronic gadgets with us when we travel. As such, having the right level of cover for personal belongings is crucial.

For personal belongings, all policies have a ‘single item’ claim limit. For example, if your policy has a single item claim limit of £200 and you suffer the theft of a watch worth £300 then the maximum you can claim will be £200.

Policies also have a total valuables limit, too. For example, if the policy has a total valuables limit of £400 and you suffer the theft of valuables worth £600 then the maximum you can claim will be £400.

If you do have items of high value then they may be covered under your home insurance policy, providing you have one. Check your policy terms and conditions before you travel. Alternatively, you can also purchase standalone gadget insurance for handheld gadgets such as iPods, laptops, cameras and camcorders.
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