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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

Travel insurance… it’s enough to put anyone to sleep. What is it? Do you need it? While we’d like to think our holiday will go exactly as planned, sometimes things do always work out like that. Here’s what you really need to know about travel insurance.

This is by far the least fun part about planning a trip. It’s tedious; there are so many clauses, types and plans to consider, but if you get anything right, it should be this. The right coverage is crucial in case things go belly up. The right policy will offer you cheap coverage that will pay out if all goes wrong. Going with the wrong policy could see you paying out more than you bargained for and exclusions could mean no money back at all.

How to choose a policy?

There are a few things to consider when looking at travel insurance:

  • Where are you going? (Travelling to a developing country or a war zone? You might not be able to find coverage for that.)
  • When are you travelling?
  • How often do you travel? (You might only need a one-off policy but if you travel often, an annual policy might be better value.)
  • What are you planning to do while you’re away? (Adventure sports on your list or a climb up Mount Everest? You might need additional coverage for those.)

What’s covered, what’s not?

Most travel insurance policies will cover emergency medical expenses, personal liability in case you are sued for damaging property or causing injury, lost or stolen luggage and bags, the costs of cancelling, delaying or cutting your trip short for any reason.

NOTE: Adventure sports, winter sports and any “dangerous activities” may need extra coverage. Something to keep in mind when planning your ski trip this winter. This also include bungee jumping, sky diving, scuba diving deeper than 30m, hiking above 2,000m altitude, white water rafting, shark cage diving, etc.

Also, you might not be covered for trips to any countries that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise to avoid.

You also might not be covered for strikes, civil unrest or volcanic ash clouds.

Accidents happen.

Shop around (get at least 3 quotes)

This is the boring bit: comparing policies from different providers but it’s worth shopping around for the right policy and also one that fits your budget. The cheapest deal isn’t always the best. What’s most important is that your insurance suits your trip. Comprehensive plans should provide at least £2m for medical expenses, £1m for personal liability, £3,000 for trip cancellation, £1,500 for baggage and £250 for cash.

Don’t forget to enquire about the excess– the portion of any insurance claim which you must pay yourself. For example, it doesn’t make sense if your excess is £200 and you make a claim to cover the cost of a stolen £250 camera. You’ll only get £50 back for that. Better get a policy with an excess of only £50 or £100.

Be sure you’re not paying twice for the same thing. Some bank accounts, typically added value accounts, which require a monthly fee, may already include travel insurance. Check which level of coverage you’re paying for and whether the policy only covers flights in Europe or travel further afield.

You will always get a better rate buying insurance online rather than over the phone. A two-week trip in Europe shouldn’t cost more than £10 for an individual and £20 for a family. Two weeks in the US should set you back around £30 for an individual and £50 for a family, while an annual multi-trip policy for worldwide travel will probably cost around £45 for an individual and £70 for a family. These are just estimates to give you an idea of what to expect.

Can I travel without insurance?

Of course, you can always travel uninsured like a lot of people do. As long as you’re travelling within the EU and have a European Health Insurance Card (which are available online at you will get discounted or free medical treatment at public health centres across the EU plus in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

It does not cover private treatment or being rescued from the ski slopes. It won’t cover you being flown home for medical treatment or take care of your luggage, the cost of cancelling your holiday or any personal liability.

Img: m-louis, badswan / Flickr cc.

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