About Travel Insurance
Planning a holiday is one of the most exciting activities we can undertake, but we all have different ideas about our perfect trip. For some of us a beach holiday in Benidorm is paradise, while others would prefer a trek in Southeast Asia or a mountain climb in Scotland.
Whatever we choose, we should always be cautious about protecting ourselves if something goes wrong, and that’s why travel insurance is so important.
What will travel insurance cover?
Travel insurance is a premium taken out to cover the traveller in the eventuality of something bad occurring during the holiday. Typical occurrences covered by travel insurance include:
- Flight/holiday cancellation and curtailment
- Serious injury/illness
- Loss of baggage/contents
- Personal liability (injuring someone else)
- Emergency assistance
Should I always go for the cheapest policy?
Definitely not, unless it covers you for everything you plan to do on the holiday and all eventualities. Cheaper options can sometimes exclude important details and set high excess levels.
What won’t it cover?
These are not concrete examples and all insurers differ, but some reasons why an insurer might not pay out include:
- In certain circumstances it will not cover extreme sports or expeditions; don’t book a trek to the top of Mount Everest and expect standard insurance to pay out in the event of a disaster
- Loss of items or injury through negligence such as alcohol
- Ignoring FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) advice
- Full cost of valuables (see below)
- Failure to report crime within a certain time frame
Is travel insurance mandatory?
For the vast majority of countries travel insurance is not mandatory, although for the cost of a few pounds it makes sense to obtain it. There are many factors, such as flight cancellations, crime, bag thefts and political upheaval in a country that are out of the traveller’s control, but will cost them dearly if they are not insured.
Passport controls in some countries, such as Cuba, will ask for proof of insurance before allowing you to enter. When you apply for a visa for Russia, you could be asked to supply evidence of insurance. The simple rule of thumb is to check well before you reach the airport and put steps in place to cover yourself.
When should I take out travel insurance?
From the moment you book, not the start of the holiday. The cost will probably not be too different, and that extra cost will cover you if you have to cancel before the holiday begins. If you decide to undertake a more spontaneous extreme excursion or activity while on holiday, this could be booked a day or two before.
What affects my travel insurance costs?
There are a huge range of factors, such as:
- The destination itself
- Type of holiday – cruise, multi-trip, extreme adventure
- Your health (see below)
- Gadgets (see below)
- Length of travel
How will my health affect costs?
There’s no need to reveal every ailment and pain you suffer, but failure to disclose significant conditions such as heart conditions, cancer or diabetes would be folly simply because your cover could be invalidated in the event of a claim and you could face bills of thousands or tens of thousands of pounds. Even if you have been cured of a particular condition, you might still have to declare it.
Previous injuries, illnesses and conditions could be regarded as denoting a higher risk and the downside is that it might drive up your travel insurance costs. An insurer might even refuse to insure you altogether. Some countries such as the US and Canada have particularly expensive medical care, which could also affect the insurers’ decision.
Will travel insurance cover my gadgets?
It depends – some companies will cover laptops, smartphones, cameras and similar, but only up to a certain cost. Consider paying out an additional premium for individual items.
What should I do if I’m travelling to somewhere that becomes dangerous?
Check your policy documents for details of what your insurer will do in the event of trouble. Aim for a tour operator covered by ATOL (UK Civil Aviation Authority), ABTA or similar representative body.
If something happens a few days before you’re due to leave then your first port of call should be the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which regularly updates travellers on travel advice and the current political/economic/social states of countries that might be affected by unrest or freak, dangerous conditions such as earthquakes.
Travel Insurance FAQs
Which? recommends £2 million of medical cover for Europe and £5 million worldwide, £1,500 of cover for baggage and personal belongings, and £3,000 for cancellation or curtailment.
Don’t travel to Europe without an EHIC – European Health Insurance Card. It’s free and in effect gives you access to state–provided healthcare within EEA countries.
The more claims you’ve made in the past, the more expensive your cover is likely to be.
It is not mandatory to take out travel insurance through the airline or travel agent you’ve booked the holiday with. In fact, shopping around may save you money.
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