When we’re all trying to spend less, travel insurance might seem like a luxury you can do without. But it’s not something I’d recommend. Make sure your travel policy gives you the right cover.
How to choose the right travel insurance policy
Travel insurance will cover you if:
- You fall ill while you’re on holiday and you need treatment.
- You need to be flown back to the UK.
- Your holiday is cancelled or delayed (and you cannot get a refund from the travel company).
- Your bags and/or money are stolen.
- You have to cancel your holiday due to accident or illness..
That’s the good news about travel insurance. The bad news is that the policies vary widely and some insurers seem keen on cramming as much restrictive small print into the policy as they possibly can. What you buy may be worth the paper it’s written on, but possibly only just.
SAVVY TIP: Some countries have an arrangement to supply free or reduced-price emergency treatment to travellers through an EHIC. However, it doesn’t cover all treatment or medicines and you have to have the right documentation. After the Brexit vote, once we leave the EU, EHIC cards won’t be valid unless we decide to join the European Economic Area. However, we could set up a separate agreement with other countries, but they wouldn’t be covered by an EHIC. You can find out what your EHIC covers in my article called Using your EHIC or European Health Insurance Card – what does it give you?
Choosing a travel insurance policy
It’s tempting to shop around for the cheapest deal, but there is no point in buying a travel insurance policy that’s £5 cheaper than the rest if it won’t pay out when you need it.
Key points to look out for include:
1. How much medical cover the policy provides.
If you’re travelling to the United States you should go for a policy that includes at least £5 million of medical cover, whereas £2 million should be enough for Europe.
2. How the excess policy works.
Some insurers impose a separate excess on each part of the policy (medical, lost luggage, lost valuables etc) with no upper limit. The more sensible ones will impose a cap.
SAVVY TIP: If you’re going on a family holiday and you travel with one or two large suitcases, you may be treated as making two separate claims if you and another family member have items stolen from the same suitcase. That could mean two separate excesses.
3. Which activities are covered.
If you want to participate in sports or trips (such as horse riding or hot-air ballooning) you may not be insured. Some policies will cover you if the activity was arranged in advance in the UK, others will cover specific activities (such as pony trekking, but not jumping etc).
4. The level of proof needed.
When you make a claim, some insurers insist that you provide receipts for everything you claim, others don’t. Some insist you provide a police crime number within 24 hours or that you report it to the police even if the goods were lost rather than stolen.
5. The extent of delayed departure cover.
Some policies look reasonably generous at first sight, offering several hundred pounds worth of cover if your flight is delayed. Look more closely and you’ll realise you’ll have to live in the airport for several weeks to qualify!
6. How pre-existing conditions are treated.
If you suffer from a medical condition (or have done in the past) you must tell the insurer. Some companies won’t cover you if you have a pre-existing condition, but others will.
SAVVY TIP: Several insurance companies offer cover to travellers with a serious pre-existing medical condition (such as cancer), including:
Buying travel insurance
Price comparison sites such as uSwitch.com, Moneysupermarket.com or Go Compare are worth trying, but I’d strongly recommend you read the policy document before you sign up so you know what you’ll be covered for.
Don’t just shop around for the cheapest policy and ring at least one broker to see if they can get you a better deal (try the British Insurance Brokers’ Association website for names of brokers who specialise in travel insurance).
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