Travel insurance is designed to protect you from the cost of any unforeseen events when you are on vacation, or sooner if they force you to cancel your vacation. It is up to you if you purchase a policy. Cover varies greatly between deals, so reading the lowercase letter before buying is vital.
Benefit from coverage
A good travel insurance policy will ensure that any unexpected medical bills are paid and that you can go home in case of an emergency. Even routine surgery like an appendectomy costs around £7,500 in Europe, according to insurance company esure, rising to as much as £25,000 in some parts of America.
It may also meet the cost of new baggage in the event your baggage is lost or stolen, and compensate you if your flight is canceled, your travel is delayed, or you do not depart.
Whether you buy insurance or not, you should take your European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) with you when you travel to the continent.
This gives you access to free medical treatment in EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, but will only fund you up to the level of free treatment offered to local residents. You may find this is less comprehensive than the NHS, which leaves you with a large bill – and will not cover the cost of returning home. So it should not be relied exclusively on in case you get sick or have an accident abroad.
You can apply for an Ehic online at the NHS.uk website. It is completely free to get. Don’t be fooled by unofficial fake sites that may charge you for Ehic if you apply through them.
Getting travel insurance is now cheaper than ever, with some single-flight policies costing around five. But remember that the cheapest price is not necessarily the best, the cap may be inconvenient and the service a bit poor.
Start with price comparison sites, which give you a range of quotes to choose from with different levels of coverage for your situation. Make sure to check what each policy covers and that you are comparing like with like. A more expensive deal may have a smaller surplus, the amount you have to pay for any claim, or a higher payout, for example, if your baggage is lost.
Buy your insurance coverage directly from the insurance company and not from the tour operator or travel agent. This will be cheaper, and if something goes wrong, you will turn to the Financial Ombudsman Service to claim compensation.
If you are likely to take more than two trips per year, it is best to invest in annual multi-trip insurance rather than a single-trip insurance policy.
Annual policies will cover you no matter how many times you leave in a year, so you won’t risk forgetting to buy insurance. They usually cover trips of up to about 31 days, and if the trip is longer than that, you can talk to your insurance company and get specific coverage.
If you’re planning a break year or a career vacation that’s traveling the world, you may want to choose a backpacker policy. This covers trips that last for a year or 18 months.
The level of coverage you need depends on a variety of factors. For example, if you have a vacation home abroad that you visit four times a year, and you fly with cheap airlines, you may not see the need for cancellation coverage in the annual policy. In this case, you may opt for a cheaper policy with resettlement only, medical and personal liability coverage.
However, if you are heading on an expensive cruise that will cost thousands of pounds, you may be willing to pay a higher premium for greater coverage, as canceling the cruise could cost you a huge amount. The cheap policy may limit cancellation coverage to £500, but around £3,000 is generally recommended.
The amount of baggage cover you need depends on the value of the possessions you will be taking with you. There is often a £200 limit per item, so make sure your home insurance covers any expensive items outside the home.
Tell your insurance company about any valuables you are taking, such as a camera or jewelry, to determine if special measures are needed – eg, lock it in a safe, or pay an additional premium.
The minimum recommended medical protection for Europe is £1 million and £2 million for the US where hospital costs are higher. However, many quality policies automatically cover up to £5 million.
The excess amount, which is the amount you have to pay for any claim before coverage begins, varies depending on the policy. Some insurance companies do not charge any fees, although they are few and far between. Usually between £50 and £75.
Check for exceptions
Study the small print carefully, and make sure you are aware of any exceptions. Alcohol is one of the things to consider. If you are sick or have an accident after drinking, your insurance company has the right to refuse the claim.
Insurance companies will not provide coverage for any Department of State travel-restricted areas. Some policies do not cover terrorism and therefore you will not incur any medical costs if you are in an accident.
The majority of sports are accepted by default, such as standard water sports and horseback riding. However, check this carefully as some policies have strange exceptions – we recently found a policy that covers cricket but not football.
If you’re going skiing, double-check our “winter sports” coverage and what that means in practice. For example, you may not be able to file a claim if you do not wear a helmet or if your ski equipment is left unattended.
Other activities that have an additional element of risk associated with them, such as windsurfing, paragliding, skydiving, and bungee jumping will not be covered under the regular policy, but it is easy to find specialized cover.
Submit a claim
You will need to provide evidence of any accident.
Report all thefts or losses to the nearest police quickly and ask them for a written police report. Get a receipt from the airline or baggage handler of lost or damaged baggage
Get your papers for medical claims, and keep all receipts for all expenses
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to obtain a claim form. Complete and return with any appropriate evidence, including copies of receipts, photos, and any medical or police reports you have
If you send any original documents, always make sure they are by registered delivery, and keep photocopies
Keep all correspondence between you and the Company. Make accurate records of each phone call, the name of the person you spoke to and the time you spoke to them.