Travel Insurance Explained

Give yourself peace of mind in the run-up to your well deserved holiday by making sure that you buy travel insurance well in advance or, even better, as soon as your trip is booked. It can cover cancellations and delays, and protect you if things go wrong.

There are a few types of travel insurance, each one designed to suit different trips and different budgets.

Single trip or annual trip cover?

There are two broad types of travel insurance—single trip and annual. Single trip cover is the best choice if you are only making one or two trips a year. Any more than this and you should consider annual trip insurance. This will cover you for a whole year, and is more cost-effective than taking out single trip insurance for each journey.

The Foreign Office recommends an insurance policy that covers:

  • emergency medical expenses
  • 24-hour emergency service and assistance
  • personal liability cover
  • lost and stolen possessions cover
  • cancellation and curtailment cover
  • extra cover for any non-standard activities you plan to take, such as skiing or scuba diving

Single trip and annual trip policies cover you for a maximum number of days on any one trip. For stays longer than 30 days you should consider long-stay travel insurance. There are also backpacking and gap year insurance policies that are tailored to these unique styles of travelling.

European or worldwide cover?

It depends on where you’re travelling, of course. Hughes defines geographical areas in the following ways:

Europe is all the countries west of the Ural Mountains, and Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, the Azores, Mediterranean islands, the Balearics, Madeira, and the Canary Islands.

Worldwide is anywhere in the world, including Europe.

If you are injured or fall ill while in the European Economic Area (EEA), you can receive treatment on the same basis as the citizens of the country you are in using a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). However, the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. Health care is not free in most countries, so you will still have medical expenses that insurance can cover. Also, travel insurance covers you for more than just your health. It covers your possessions, travel arrangements, and accommodation, too.

Individual, couple, or family cover?

Most travel insurance policies give you the option to include other people, so long as they reside at the same address—your partner, if they are travelling with you, or a whole family. Combined family cover is often more cost-effective than insuring each family member individually.

Pre-existing medical conditions

It may be more difficult or expensive to arrange travel insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Nevertheless, be clear and honest about your health when filling out your insurance forms. This will ensure that your cover is adequate for your needs. You may find your cover invalidated if you are not honest. Remember that you may also be asked about people who are travelling with you, and those on whom your trip depends.

Making a claim

Depending on your circumstances, you may have to make a claim while you are travelling or, if it isn’t urgent, when you get home.

Making a claim while travelling

Take your insurance policy number and emergency contact details with you. You will need both if you need to have a problem dealt with straight away.

Making a claim when you get home

Check the following things before you submit your claim:

  • you are claiming within the time limits
  • you’re covered for what you’re claiming for
  • that the excess you must pay is less than what you are claiming for.

When you receive the forms, fill them out carefully, and keep a copy for yourself. Ensure that you collect all the documents that you need to support your claim, and make sure you keep copies of these for yourself too. Remember that you may have another form of cover that protects your losses­—home contents insurance, for instance. You may need to let us know.

Lost, stolen or damaged items

If you are making a claim for lost, stolen, or damaged items, we may ask you to prove that you took reasonable care of them. Make sure that you have reported your loss to the local police (if this isn’t possible let your hotel manager or transport provider know) and get a report.

Medical emergencies and personal injury

You may have to pay your medical bill up front and claim back these expenses when you get home. Always keep receipts for your treatment and medication.

Cancelled or shortened trips

If you cancel or shorten your trip, you may be able to claim for the costs of unused accommodation and travel expenses. You will need a good reason for cancelling your trip and you may be asked to provide proof. Reasons may include:

  • unexpected death, illness or injury
  • fire, burglary or unexpected damage at home
  • you're made redundant
  • you're pregnant and are advised not travel after you took out the insurance
  • you're called for jury service or as a witness in court.
Back to help centre