Everyone loves a holiday and the chance to get away from the hum drum of daily life. But not being fully prepared for your travels could cause unnecessary stress, anxiety and costs. We’ll take you through good planning for your travels, handy advice on things like insurance, budgeting and tips on what you should look out for.
If you’re planning a holiday and the unexpected happens, travel insurance cover could protect you from hefty costs and medical bills. No one wants to be thinking of accidents or incidents while they’re on holiday, but if the worst does happen, the right policy can be indispensable.
Why is travel insurance important?
Imagine if you, or one of your family members, were injured or became ill during your holiday. Emergency medical treatment in another country can be very expensive. And depending where you go, public hospitals could be very basic indeed.
According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), 1 in 5 Brits has needed some kind of medical treatment while abroad. Yet as many as 10 million holidaymakers travel without the right travel insurance, or even no travel insurance at all.
The average cost of a medical claim of £1,300 has risen by 40% in recent years. But it’s not uncommon for medical treatment to run into thousands. Treatment in a USA hospital for a stomach bug alone could set you back £100,000.
If you’re faced with a medical emergency, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot pay for treatment or fly you home. However, a standard travel insurance policy can cover your medical costs while abroad, and even arrange repatriation flights if it’s medically necessary.
But is travel insurance a legal requirement?
No, you’re not legally required to have travel insurance. Some tour operators will insist you have a policy in place before they confirm your travel, especially to countries like the USA where there’s no public health service.
For peace of mind, you should ensure you and your loved ones are properly covered on holiday. Accidents can happen and they’re more difficult to deal with away from home. It’s not worth leaving it to chance when the costs could be so high.
Do I need travel insurance for Europe?
Yes – even when travelling in Europe insurance is a wise idea. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is also a good addition to your travel documentation. As the Foreign and Commonwealth Office explains, the EHIC ‘is not an alternative to travel insurance’ and recommends having both an EHIC and separate travel insurance when visiting Europe.
The EHIC will only cover emergency medical care in the local equivalent of an NHS hospital. It won’t cover treatment if you’re taken to a private hospital.
UK residents can use their EHIC during the Brexit negotiations, until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 31 January 2020. The UK Government has proposed a scheme similar to the EHIC in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, and consequently the EHIC no longer being usable. However, the implementation of that scheme is subject to EU countries agreeing to that proposal.
Whatever your circumstances, it should be possible to find the right level of cover that’s tailored to suit your needs. Examples include:
If you’re pregnant or have a pre-existing medical condition, ensure you check whether your condition is covered. You may need to add extra cover or opt for a special insurance policy that will cater to your specific needs.
The right policy can also cover theft, loss or damage to your baggage and personal possessions.
Your baggage can go astray when you’re travelling. In 2017, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), 86,000 people received £17 million of support following their baggage being delayed and money lost while travelling. And if you lose your passport, cards and phone, then it’s a relief to have an insurance provider on hand to provide 24-hour assistance.
Check to see if your insurance provider includes baggage protection in their standard travel insurance policy. If not, ask if you can get extra cover added. Alternatively, you could consider separate baggage insurance cover.
In 2017, £145 million was paid out on 174,000 claims for cancelled holidays, says the ABI. Cancellations and delays will only be covered for valid reasons specified in your policy. If an airline offers compensation, most travel insurance providers won’t pay out. And those that do will only usually cover the difference on top of the airline’s compensation. Another reason to check the small print carefully.
Standard travel insurance can differ between providers, so always read their terms and conditions carefully before committing to a policy to ensure you have the level of cover you want.
If you’re planning a more adventurous holiday, you may need to add extra cover to your policy, or even look for a specialist insurance provider who covers more extreme activities.
Also, be aware that if you’re travelling to a country that the FCO advises against, your travel insurance policy may be invalid. Check their relevant country travel advice pages for updates on your chosen destination.
Check your policy details carefully if you’re intending to do any sports activities while away. Sports cover can vary greatly between insurance providers, so you’ll need to make a note of what’s included and excluded in their standard policies. This is especially important for winter sports and water sports. Again, you may need extra cover or specialist insurance if your chosen activity isn’t covered.
Britons spend more than double the cost of an average single trip travel insurance policy on magazines and sweets at the airport.
Source: Association of British Insurers
One in three claims on travel insurance is for medical treatment.
Source: Money Advice Service
- If you’re over 65 or have a medical condition, you might need specialist insurance. If you have a medical condition you have to tell your insurer if asked or risk invalidating your insurance policy. When you buy insurance, you must answer all questions about your circumstances and health honestly. You have to include everything, even if you think it’s not important, for example taking regular tablets for high blood pressure or angina. If you don’t your policy won’t be valid.
- Adventure sports, winter sports and any ‘dangerous activities’ are often not covered as part of a standard travel insurance policy and you might need extra cover.
- With most policies, you aren’t covered for travel to countries or regions that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommends avoiding –
view the latest list on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website
- Coverage for strikes, civil unrest, earthquakes, acts of terrorism and epidemics such as SARS varies.
Because travel insurance policies vary, we’ve prepared some guides to help you find the specific information – and cover – you need.
Travel insurance for over 65s and medical conditions
Travel insurance – choose the right policy and cover
Travel insurance – what does a good policy look like?
The last one is unashamedly true. We absolutely want you to know we’ve had to deal with thousands of emergencies and evacuations over the years. We want you to know that without travel insurance, an emergency evacuation can cost in excess of USD$100,000.
In most cases your travels with go without a hitch. You’ll not have to experience the nightmare of being seriously ill or injured in a foreign country. But if you do, the last thing you want is not having the support or financial means by which to get treated and flown home.
For that alone, travel insurance is worth every cent.
It can however be a little confusing, so let’s try and demystify travel insurance. There are times when certain terms will have various restrictions, limits and exclusions, which only the description of coverage (policy wording) can fully explain.
The 5 key parts of travel insurance
Travel insurance is ultimately a legal contract created by lawyers and you should spend the time to read the fine print and description of coverage (policy wording) thoroughly and ask questions if you don't understand what you're covered for.
Here we outline simply what each major part actually does:
1. Medical Emergencies & Evacuation
As mentioned above, if there is one reason to buy travel insurance, this is it. Hospital costs in the USA can approach $10,000 per day, while emergency transport home for treatment (medical evacuation) can easily exceed $100,000. Definitely take the time to read this part in detail, especially the areas of cover for emergency evacuation, limits on medical expenses and cover for emergency dental work. Also make careful note of the general exclusions, which are outlined in the description of coverage (policy wording).
2. Trip Cancellation
This covers you for costs if you suddenly find you can't go on your trip for some unforeseen reason such as illness, an accident or a death of a close relative. The important thing to remember here is that for this section to be useful, you have to buy travel insurance when you start booking tickets and not the week before you leave.
Not all travel insurance plans cover cancellation, and only some cover your non-refundable, pre-booked costs if your trip is interrupted after you've left home, so please read the description of coverage (policy wording) relevant to you carefully.3. Baggage & Personal Belongings
While loss of your personal belongings is often the main reason most people buy travel insurance, it is arguably the least important: your things can be replaced but your health often can't. World Nomads expects you to take 'reasonable care' of your belongings which means a claim may be denied if you leave your camera in a shared room in a hostel or in your car overnight (unsupervised in a public place) and it's stolen.
If you are taking your laptop, camera and other valuables with you, some of our travel insurance plans allow you to specify these items to cover their higher value. Check your policy benefits and description of coverage (policy wording) carefully for the limits on this cover and exclusions, particularly for cash, high value items and sporting equipment.4. Personal Liability
First off, this is not insurance for liability while you are driving your car. If you are involved in an accident or accidentally cause damage and are held accountable for it, insurance can cover your liability and legal expenses. Once again not all World Nomads insurers offer this type of cover so please read the description of coverage (policy wording) relevant to you.
Travel insurance usually ends the minute you arrive home, so if you have bought a policy for 12 months and come home after 4, you aren't entitled to a refund on the 'unused' portion. For some of our policies, you can resume your trip on the same policy; you just won't be covered for the time you're at home. Read the description of coverage (policy wording) and look at the clauses for period of cover and the terms "medical evacuation", "trip interruption" or "curtailment" for details on when you may be covered for expenses if you have to return home early (and always read the exclusions to cover carefully).
All travel insurance policies have specific benefits and exclusions so it's common sense, imperative, and absolutely necessary to take the time to read the policy wording carefully. These vary depending depending on which country you are from, so please take the time and always contact us if you are unsure about anything.
In 2017, there was a travel insurance claim every minute – but what was being claimed for?
- 510,000 individuals and families claimed on travel insurance in 2017
- £385 million was paid out by travel insurers in 2017
- The majority of claims were made for medical expenses, totalling £210 million
- The average medical expense claim was £1,300
- 159,000 Brits required medical treatment in 2017
- While 174,000 Brits claimed for cancelled holidays, 15,000 more than in 2016
- The total payout for cancelled holidays was £145 million
- £17 million was paid out to 86,000 people for lost baggage and money whilst travelling