Quite simply, leaving the country without travel insurance is like leaving the house without an essential item such as shoes or a coat. Quite simply, travelling without insurance is like having no protection when you need it the most. And quite simply, travel insurance is the single most important purchase you can make away from home.
Many holiday makers are happy to take the risk and jet off without giving travel insurance a second thought. But if you’ve ever found yourself in an adverse situation in a foreign country, you would think twice before leaving home without it. For those who believe themselves to be fit and healthy enough to take the risk, there really is so much more to an insurance policy than just hospital bills and overseas treatment; travel insurance can cover you for anything from redundancy and cancelled flights to theft and lost property.
If you’re planning one or several trips abroad this year, make sure you don’t forget to organise your travel insurance. Read on to find out how you should go about selecting the best travel insurance policy for you and your family or travel group.
What is Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance is an essential part of your travel, whether you are travelling for work or for pleasure, for a short weekend break or for an extended three month break. It’s an essential cover which will protect you should you become redundant at work and need to cancel your holiday, or if your airline liquidates leaving you with no way of getting to your destination, if there are long delays with your flight and you require compensation, or if your luggage has been lost in transit.
Your policy should also cover you for any medical costs you incur whilst abroad and it can even protect you for personal liability should a claim be filed against you.
The Importance of Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is essential and it is strongly advised – whether travelling for short or long term – to ensure that a good, reliable policy is in place before you travel anywhere in the world. An insurance policy can help to protect you as well as the dependents you are travelling with so consider getting group or family insurance too.
Stats from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) reveal that almost 4,000 Britons were hospitalised abroad in the year from April 2009 to March 2010. And in a document published on the Gov.uk website in March 2013, the price of an emergency air ambulance from the USA’s East Coast estimates at £35-45,000 (or £12-16,000 from the Canary Islands), and a scheduled flight and doctor escort in Australia estimates at £15-20,000. The British Embassy will not pay for these services, so for a true sense of security, a comprehensive policy is paramount.
With the risk of mounting bills in the case of a medical emergency, the importance of travel insurance should never be underestimated.
What should you expect from your policy?
Insurance policies will vary from company to company so make sure you shop around to find the right one for your travel needs. Most travel insurers will consider your circumstances for varying policies, including long term travel vs. short term travel, gap year travel or business travel, and even policies designed for multiple trips across the year.
Always speak to your insurer to find out the details of your policy. Most policies should cover:
- Medical cover if you fall ill abroad
- 24 hour emergency service and assistance
- Theft or lost possessions
- Lost baggage with airlines
- Personal liability cover for both property damage or injury to another person
- Trip cancellation and abandonment
Your policy may also include the following:
- Cover for personal accidents and injuries
- Cover for any legal expenses incurred
- Cover if your airline faces financial trouble during or before your holiday
Holiday Cancellation and Curtailment
Some insurance policies may cover you for cancelling your holiday or cutting it short. Always check the terms and conditions of your policy carefully but here are some typical circumstances in which you may be covered:
- Accidents and injuries
- Sudden illness or terminal illness diagnosis
- Job loss, strikes or redundancy (making it unfeasible to pay for your holiday)
- Dangerous weather conditions which put your trip at risk
- Family bereavement before or during your trip
- Jury service or witness summons in a court of law
- Pregnancy (unknown at the time your trip was booked)
Understanding Policy Exclusions
Basic insurance cover may not include everything that you need. If you need cover for long term travel or you are partaking in extreme sports such as skiing or snowboarding, you may need to look at specialist cover or bespoke policies designed for you.
Please bear in mind, there are also some things that are completely excluded from travel insurance policies. These are:
- Drink or drug related accidents
- Acts of terrorism
- Mistreatment of your own possessions
Getting your travel insurance sorted before you travel is important. Many travellers forget to do this or they end up purchasing last minute policies without really researching the terms and conditions. Read on for a guide on how to select the best insurance plan for your needs.
How to Look for a Good Travel Insurance Plan
Buying travel insurance is easy with the convenience of the internet, giving you a simple and straightforward platform to compare and contrast. But if in doubt, the best way of ensuring your policy covers for everything you need it to, is to speak to an advisor.
Many insurance providers these days can help you create a policy that is bespoke to you. For instance, if you are a keen snowboarder with multiple trips every year, you may be suited for a higher level multi-trip plan.
Be sure to shop around for the most competitive prices but always remember that generally, cheaper policies will include less cover so it’s always a good idea to read the small print with vigilance.
What to Expect from a Good Provider
Here are some things you may expect from a trusted travel insurance provider:
- Instant policy delivery – how quickly can they put your policy in place?
- Secure online sign-up – can you purchase your policy quickly and safely online?
- Range of policies – can they provide a policy to suit your trip and the activities involved?
- Option to extend – is your policy fixed or do you have the option to extend if necessary?
- 24 hours medical assistance – are you covered for 24 hour emergency assistance?
- Sports cover – can your provider cover for extreme sports such as skiing and snowboarding?
Different Types of Cover Explained
Everyone’s needs are different when it comes to travelling abroad. Here are some different policy types which may be suitable for you and your next trip.
- Short stay insurance
Short term travel insurance typically covers for up to a month’s travel, with some providers offering anything up to 45 days. This sort of policy is ideal for short holidays abroad, business travel, weekend breaks, or for visiting family overseas.
- Long stay insurance
For single trips, long stay insurance is for anything over a month’s stay and can cover up to 18 months typically. This type of insurance is ideal for gap year travel, backpackers, career breaks, voluntary or charity work abroad, or for anyone looking to study in a foreign country.
- Annual multi-trip insurance
Multi-trip cover is suitable for single travellers or for families. If you travel several times a year or own a holiday home in another part of the world that you visit regularly, the most cost-effective and hassle-free way of insuring yourself is through an annual multi-trip package.
- Winter sports insurance
Adrenaline junkies and extreme sports enthusiasts should always be vigilant when choosing the right insurance cover for their travels. Sports and activities will put you at higher risk of injury when abroad – not only that, but you may also need protection if someone puts a personal liability claim against you (if you injure someone else during a skiing collision for instance). Speak to your insurance provider about which sports and activities are covered and always ask about personal liability cover.
Some things to bear in mind for extreme / winter sports:
- Always wear protective gear such as helmets, elbow or wrist pads when required
- Check whether off-piste runs are included in your policy
- Check that snow parks are covered for sports activities
- Family travel insurance
When selecting travel insurance, you not only have to think of yourself but you also need to ensure that you have the right cover for any dependents travelling with you at the time. Family travel insurance is usually available for all types of trips including short stay, long stay and multi-trip.
- Over 60s travel insurance
Finding travel insurance at an affordable price isn’t always easy once you’re over the golden age of 60. To ensure you get a good travel insurance policy that works for you, ensure you strip out any extras such as extreme sports or winter sports cover, and always talk to your provider about choosing the best cover for your situation.
Documents and Visas
When booking a holiday or business trip, always check your passport and visa deadlines to make sure you’re not faced with any complications when abroad. Some visas can be purchased on arrival at your destination’s airport but others may need to be applied for a few weeks in advance so make sure you do your research before you travel.
If you’re planning on driving in a foreign country, don’t forget to pack your driving licence and always double-check that your driving documents are up to date.
Make sure you ask your insurance provider whether your policy will cover the costs incurred from replacing lost documents (such as your passport) whilst away. In any event, losing your passport or having it stolen is extremely frustrating and will be time-consuming to sort out, so you should do everything you can to maximise security for your personal belongings, particularly your travel documents.
Wherever possible, use the safes provided in your hotel or self-catering apartment and notify your bank if you intend on using debit and credit cards abroad.
Financial Protection for Your Trip
When booking your travel and accommodation, always book with a reputable company to protect yourself from the unfortunate events of company bankruptcy or liquidation. If your airline or hotel goes bust before or during your holiday, your travel insurance should be able to cover you for any money lost. But to ensure that your insurance company can definitely help you in this situation, always book with a trusted company which holds the right licenses such as an Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL) for airlines, or the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (ABTOT) for travel companies.
For any consumers who have booked a package holiday in the UK, they will automatically be protected by the Package Travel Regulations.
Health and Safety
It goes without saying that safety is paramount when travelling abroad. It will give you peace of mind to have an insurance policy in place to protect you and your family / travel group once you’re out there – but all travellers should do everything they can to minimise risks of getting ill.
Tropical countries in Africa and South America, or some parts of South East Asia may pose risks of disease and illness for tourists. To be on the safe side, always research the necessary vaccinations before you travel.
Free vaccinations on the NHS include:
- Polio and Tetanus (combined)
- Hepatitis A
Paid vaccinations from the NHS include:
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Tick-borne Encephalitis
- Meningococcal Meningitis
- Yellow Fever
If you are insure, consult your local GP in advance so you have enough time to plan, book and organise essential vaccinations. And as ever, always take care when travelling, ensuring you pack a first aid kit which includes basic medical supplies.