What does travel insurance really cover?

Travel insurance, what is really covered?

This blog is general information only. It isn’t advice, and isn’t an insight into the views of TSB or any of our Partners


Are you going on holiday in the next 12 months? Before getting too distracted by daydreams of exotic beaches, vibrant cultures and exciting adventures, remember to consider travel insurance. This is so that, should something unexpected happen, you can rest assured you’ll be covered. If you don’t, you could find yourself seriously out of pocket. Here’s what you need to be aware of when choosing a travel insurance policy.

Travel insurance, what is really covered?

What are the key things to look for?

Every travel insurance policy is different, so it’s worth doing your research and reading the small print.

Some of the key things you should consider having on your policy include:

  • medical expenses and repatriation (more on this below);
  • baggage cover (make sure this covers all your belongings: you may need separate insurance for jewellery and gadget cover for things such as laptops and smartphones);
  • personal liability cover (in case you accidentally hurt someone or damage their property);
  • cancellation in advance of departure;
  • missed departures or delays. 

You might also want to be covered for lost or stolen cash and passports and dental emergencies. Also, make sure you know your claim limits and any excesses payable.

If you’re planning on doing any sports or unusual activities, you’ll need this specified in your policy too, but it’ll likely incur an additional excess. A full list of what is and isn’t covered will be listed in your policy.

What’s covered by medical expenses and repatriation?

Although no one wants to think about sustaining an illness or injury while on holiday, it’s important to be prepared. With costs including ambulance fees and emergency treatment, overseas medical expenses can soon add up - yet each policy will have different limits.

If you need to be brought back home due to an accident or illness, you’ll do so under repatriation cover. This is a standard addition to travel insurance policies but the amount you’re covered for can vary dramatically. Although the lower policy limits may initially appear quite generous, this may not be enough should you need to use it.

The Foreign Office shows how expensive medical costs can be with figures such as, “£100,000: a stomach bug or infection treated in a hospital in the USA with return flights”, and the Money Advice Service recommends choosing a policy that offers £1 million cover for emergency medical assistance in Europe, and £2 million for the USA and the rest of the world. The upshot: don’t buy a policy based on price alone. If you don’t have enough cover, you’ll end up footing the shortfall yourself, and this could prove very pricey indeed.

Where are you heading?

Make sure your policy covers your destination. Some policies may exclude specific destinations due to high local medical costs – a ‘European’ policy may not cover all
the countries in Europe, for example. 

Also, if you decide to head somewhere that’s against the advice of the Foreign Office, you might find your policy is voided.

Are you covered for the full duration of your trip?

The cost of your holiday starts the moment you start paying for things like flights and hotels. By having a valid policy from that point onward, you’re covered in case you can’t make your holiday for some reason.

If you’re taking out a single trip policy, you’ll have specified your dates. However, if you have an annual travel insurance policy, it’s likely to specify you’re only covered for individual trips of a certain length. If you’re going away for longer, call the insurance company and see if you’re able to extend this.

Are pregnant ladies covered by travel insurance?

Generally, yes. However, you’re likely to only be covered for emergencies and complications occurring while overseas, and not if you’ve already had complications during the pregnancy. The NHS recommends you make sure your insurance provider covers you for any eventuality such as pregnancy-related medical care, premature birth and the cost of changing the date of your return trip if you go into labour.

As the likelihood of going into labour is higher after 37 weeks (32 weeks if you’re carrying twins) speak to your insurer to be sure you’re covered after this time. In addition, some airlines won’t let you fly without a doctor’s certificate or if you’re late into the pregnancy. This varies depending on the carrier, so always check in advance.

Going on a European holiday?

If you’re holidaying in an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein or Switzerland, make sure you apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It’s valid for up to five years and entitles you to treatment in public hospitals for the same cost as residents of that country. You should carry your EHIC with you at all times, but it’s definitely not an alternative to travel insurance

Also check your policy: are you covered for non-emergency treatment in private hospitals? If you’re not, and something happens and you end up in one, you could find yourself footing a hefty bill.

One more for the road?

While going on holiday can be a great excuse to let your hair down and have some fun, are you aware that getting drunk may invalidate your insurance? Each policy will be different, but some won’t cover you for accidents, theft, lost or damaged items if you’re deemed to have drunk too much. 
It’s advisable to be covered by travel insurance every time you go on holiday. But, as each policy offers different features, claim limits and excesses, you’ll want to make sure you take out the best one for you. Always read the small print and don’t simply snap up the cheapest option: shop around - if you’re under 65 years old with no pre-existing medical conditions, a good place to start is with price comparison sites. Remember, a slightly more expensive policy may offer far better benefits, which could cost you a lot less in the long run. It’ll also give you greater peace of mind, so you can relax and enjoy your trip, worry-free.

Everything we publish on Straightforward Money is provided as general information only. It isn’t advice, and isn’t an insight into the views of TSB or any of our Partners.

Please think about getting independent financial advice if you want help with your personal situation.

We try really hard to make sure everything’s accurate when we publish it.  But the information can sometimes become out of date.  For example we might link out to sites that we like or think might be helpful, but that link may have been replaced by the other site.

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