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Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance is usually one of the last things we think of when taking a trip abroad. We first ask ourselves the questions do we need it, do we want to pay the extra cost in having it, many of us would also probably say we are so healthy we don't need it, we're only going for a few days and nothing will happen in that time. So here we are going to try and answer some of your questions and outline what protection it can give you on your trip abroad.

Unfortunately things can go wrong on holiday. You could fall ill or have an accident; you could have money, valuables, or luggage stolen; your visit might be cancelled or cut short through injury or illness; your family may need to fly out to be with you if there is a serious incident. Costs - particularly medical treatment costs - can easily run into thousands of pounds.

There are many occasions where people have insurance, yet the insurance companies don't pay out, two that come to mind was a person who rode a quad bike and it turned over. The insurance company would not pay up as they said he had taken part in hazardous sports. Another person did not get paid because they had completed on their application form that they had had less than three doctors appointments within the last six months. They had seen a doctor once on a routine matter, but had also had a cholesterol test done with a nurse and called back in to pick up the test results. The insurance company viewed this as three appointments and therefore did not pay out with the excuse that their failure to disclose the three appointments invalidated the insurance.

Q. Is Travel Insurance important

A:  Well now that's a question and not one we can give a YES or NO answer to, as at the end of the day it has to be your own personal choice. You need to provide answers to a number of questions you ask yourself, including if something should happen to me can I afford to sort it out whether it be personal injury, or medical expenses, loss of money, passport and other documents, legal expenses etc and if you feel in your current circumstances you would not be able to cope with these costly expenditures then it is probably wise to have some form of insurance cover even if only minimal.

Q. Is there a legal requirement to have it

A: As far as we can see there is no legal responsibility to have Travel Insurance, but most travel agents, government agencies, airlines etc recommend that you do have cover, and in some instances it can be a condition of your travel. However there is no legal requirement or obligation to have your tour operators insurance, so do shop around. There are many different policies on the market at very different prices, so hunt around and find the one that best suits your needs.

Q. What does it cover

A: Again this is not something we can detail here as each company has different policies, covering a multitude of different items and at different prices. Depending on how much you are prepared to pay, depends on what the policy will cover and up to what values. You can also get one trip policies to annual ones, as well as policies for just Europe, or worldwide and yet different ones for winter/extreme sports activities, as well as individual, couple or family policies. It seems endless when you're looking. 

As a guide your policy should cover you though, for the following:

  • The whole time that you are away, whether that is a day or a year. 
  • Any activities and sports you might do. Some activities, such as jet skiing, are excluded from many policies. Many insurers will extend cover, if requested, otherwise shop around for a specialist policy.
  • The medical and health cover is very important. It should be for a minimum of £1 million for Europe and £2 million world-wide. It must include cover for emergency medical treatment, hospitalisation and repatriation. 
  • Personal liability - for injury or damage to others and their property. 
  • Cancellation - if you have to cancel or abandon your trip. Cancellation cover should start as soon as you book your trip. If you book your trip prior to getting any travel insurance then that trip will not be covered, but if your cover is an annual policy then future trips will be.
  • 24 hour emergency service and assistance, if things go wrong the assistance company will help you to sort everything out. The assistance company will provide you with help and advice and make any necessary arrangements, such as repatriation in the case of a serious accident or illness. They may also pay bills, or guarantee payment of bills, that are incurred during the emergency.
  • Possessions cover, including money and documents to specified limits. Policies will generally limit claims for single items – the limit can vary from as low as £250 up to £1000 or more. There is likely to be a similar limit on the total paid to replace valuables, such as cameras or jewellery. 

The list above is some of the more common items covered by the different policies. Your policy may also cover

  • Personal accident - money paid on death or permanent disability. 
  • Legal expenses - to help you pursue compensation for damages following personal injury.
  • Missed departure, travel delay, cancellation, curtailment or abandonment of your holiday.
  • Catastrophe, Hijack, Mugging  and other such holiday experiences you wouldn't expect to encounter.

Remember to check the conditions and exclusions. If you are in any doubt, contact the insurer to find out exactly what cover you have.

  • Most policies will not cover drink-related incidents.

  • Most policies do not cover drug related incidents.

  • You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you. See also our article on Photographic Insurance.

Declare anything that you think might affect the cover. Be honest - tell your insurer about current or past medical conditions. This should include the condition of those to be insured and others, such as close relatives, whose state of health may prevent you from travelling or may cause you to curtail your trip. If you don't declare you may invalidate your policy. Go over the top with this, put even the smallest insignificant information down so that they cannot wriggle out afterwards because you had not told them, in relation to Dr's appointments include all the times you went to a surgery even if to get a repeat prescription or to have a nurse take blood for a blood test.

The items listed above are not an exhaustive list and you should check each insurers policy details to see what it is that they cover, and make sure it covers everything you need.

The Eifel Tower, Paris, France

by Alex^^





The Statue of Liberty - New York USA

by featherboa





Sydney Opera House, Australia

by Barry Pate





A panoramic view of the Niagara Falls from the Skylon Tower

by MontanNito





Grand Canal - Venice

by soylentgreen23

Q. What about the small print - do I have to wait until I have paid for the cover before I can see what is covered or not

A.  When dealing over the telephone or buying from a local shop it will be difficult to get access to the small print and be able to check out in detail what you are covered for and therefore to know whether it is suitable for your needs. For this reason most outlets/insurers will offer a cooling off period (usually 7 to 14 days) and issue a refund, as long as you haven't started your trip or made a claim. So it is important to read the small print/policy booklet as soon as you get it. You will be given an outline of the cover and major points covered and of course if you've done your research beforehand you will know what questions you need to ask to make sure you get the cover that is right for you. Remember also to point out anything that might affect the policy, like known medical conditions.

However if you are searching on the internet, most of the sites we visited did have links which took you off to the full policy small print document, usually in a PDF file that you could read online or download and read offline, these can be anything from 6 to 20+ pages in length. In most cases you could get access to this before going through the quote and purchasing stages, but remember if you do have to go further through the purchasing operation before you get to the relevant section you will not be charged until you give your credit card details, so you can back out at any time.

It is important that you read the small print/policy booklet before you make your trip so that you know what you are covered for, but also so that you know what phone numbers and other documents you may need if you need to make a claim whilst on your trip.

Q. What does it cost

A: Market surveys show that many people don't take insurance. People believe that their credit card accident cover, home insurance, or private health cover is sufficient. However, it is unlikely that these will give adequate cover. The cost of travel insurance varies widely, so shop around to find a good price and the right product. Bear in mind that a cheaper policy may have less cover. If you make several trips each year, consider taking out annual multi-trip insurance to save time, money and effort, these are often only about twice the cost of an individual trip.

Also remember that many of the items within your policy will have upper limits on what will be paid out, as well as excess values. For example your policy may cover you for any cash you are travelling with, typically up to a limit of £500, but it may also state that you have to pay the first £35 (excess).

Remember all policies are different from different insurers, and each will list what is covered and what is not. When trying to do a price comparison on similarities this can be a real headache, but whichever policy you go for read the small print and make sure it covers all the items you require and at the price you feel is competitive for you.

Q. Do I need Health Insurance

A. Health insurance is very often one of the last items on a traveller’s checklist, yet it is perhaps the most important of all.  In Britain, having FREE medical care, we tend to forget that in other countries we may have to pay thousands of pounds in medical costs if we fall ill or have an accident. This is true even in EU countries with which the United Kingdom has mutual health care agreements because, even in such cases, the arrangements may not cover all the expenses you can incur. And the cost of bringing a person back to the UK, in the event of illness or death, is never covered even under the reciprocal arrangements.

Fewer than 60 countries worldwide have any sort of health care agreement with the UK. The vast majority do not – including Turkey; Cyprus; Canada, Mexico, the United States; most of the islands in the Caribbean; all the South American nations; every country in the Middle East and Africa; all of Asia, including India, Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong and certain republics of the former Soviet Union; and the whole Pacific region, except for Australia and New Zealand.

To secure even basic medical care in these countries, you may want to take out comprehensive medical insurance. And it is important that the cover you have is adequate for your potential needs.

We are not able to go into great detail here so to get more help and advice on Health cover when travelling it is worth visiting the Department of Health website . There is a lot of information on this site and well worth a read before taking your trip abroad.

The Taj Mahal, Agra India

by ironmanixs





The Sphinx and Pyramid of Giza 

by Sam and Ian





Uluru (Ayres Rock) at Sunset, Australia

by ernieski

Q.  What Health Insurance do I need for travelling within Europe

A. Even if you are just travelling to Europe, travel insurance is worth considering. A recent survey showed that 20% of people travelling to Europe do not take out insurance but things can happen. Make sure you are fully covered, even for short breaks to Europe. Few EEA countries pay the full cost of medical treatment even under reciprocal health service arrangements. Eligible travellers from the UK are entitled to reduced-cost or sometimes free medical treatment that becomes necessary while in the European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland on production of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Q. What is the European Health Insurance Card

A. As at the 1st January 2006 the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) replaced the old E111, the E111 is no longer valid. An EHIC is normally valid for 3 to 5 years and covers medical treatment that becomes necessary during a trip because of illness or an accident. It gives the traveller access to state-provided medical treatment only, and will be treated the same as an 'insured' person living in the country being visited. It may not cover everything you would expect to get free from the NHS, you may have to pay a contribution towards costs. It also covers any treatment needed for a chronic disease or pre-existing illness. The quickest way to get the EHIC is to apply online , however you can also apply for one by phone on 0845 606 2030 or by post by picking up a EHIC application form and pre-paid envelope from the Post Office.

The following table is a list of Countries the EHIC is valid (as at May 2008);

Austria Estonia Iceland Luxembourg Romania
Belgium Finland Ireland Malta Slovakia
Bulgaria France Italy Netherlands Slovenia
Cyprus (south only) Germany Latvia Norway Spain
Czech Republic Greece Liechtenstein Poland Sweden
Denmark Hungary Lithuania Portugal Switzerland

For more detailed information on requirements and restrictions visit the Department of Health website .

Q.  What Health Insurance do I need for travelling to the rest of the world

A. Before you travel consider arranging travel insurance with health cover that is adequate for your destination. The level of medical cover should be at least £2million for the rest of the world.  You may have to pay thousands of pounds in medical costs if you fall ill or have an accident outside this country. Most people are aware that medical care in the USA is expensive, but many other countries also have expensive medical services.

The UK has reciprocal/mutual health agreements with certain countries for the provision of urgently needed medical treatment either at reduced cost or, in some cases, free. The countries and the services available are listed on the Department of Health website under 'Reciprocal Health Care Agreements'.  Only urgently needed treatment will be provided and you will be treated on the same terms as residents of the country in question. The range of medical services may be more restricted than under the NHS, and if charges are involved, the British Government cannot refund these. These arrangements don’t cover all the expenses you can incur. The costs of relatives flying out to stay with you, in the case of a serious incident, and the costs of bringing you back to the UK, in the event of illness or death, are never covered under the arrangements.

In order to obtain treatment, you will normally have to produce your passport or some proof of UK residence, such as a driving licence or medical card. Requirements vary from country to country and are shown in the Reciprocal Agreements: Country-By-Country Checklist on the Department of Health website , under Health Advice for Travellers see the section Getting Medical Treatment around the world and use the link to the country by country guide.. So who is covered, well in general, you and your dependants are entitled to emergency medical treatment on the terms shown if you are a UK national and live in the UK (including Northern Ireland). Even if you are not a UK national, you may still be entitled to treatment in some of the listed countries if you normally live in the UK.

Typical Inpatient medical costs. For simple conditions not requiring admission to hospital – such as upset stomach, ear infection, infected insect bites, sunburn, dehydration – the cost of each visit to the Doctor can be £35 in Mediterranean countries or £200 to £400 in the USA.

Repatriation Costs. The following gives you some idea of the sort of costs, as at May 2008, involved for typical repatriation to the UK, if your medical condition warrants it. The cost of flights back to the UK will depend on the class of travel required which will be dictated by your medical condition i.e. whether the passenger can travel seated or requires extra seats or transfer on a stretcher. It will also depend on the exact location and destination in the UK. There will also be additional costs such as hotel accommodation for the travel companions or medical escorts, medication, road ambulances and so on. As an example an Air ambulance from the East Coast of USA would cost between £35-45,000; Air Ambulance from the Canaries £12-16,000 and a Scheduled flight, stretcher and doctor escort to bring you back from Australia would be somewhere around £15-20,000 (figures from the Department of Health at May 2008).

Q. If I already have an existing medical condition can I still get cover

A. Many insurance policies, as you first see them, do not cover any current or past medical conditions including such common conditions as asthma or diabetes. Many policies will start with the following health warning, "This policy does not insure any injury, loss or damage as a result of a Pre-Existing Medical Condition suffered by You, unless disclosed and accepted by Us and shown as covered on Your Policy Schedule". 

Other types of medical exclusions include: being aware of any medical condition or set of circumstances, which could reasonably be expected to give rise to a claim; any person, including those not travelling who have during the twelve months (this period could differ on some policies)  prior to taking out the insurance suffered from any chronic and/or recurring illness of a serious nature which has necessitated consultation or treatment; is now suffering from or has ever suffered from a heart or cancer related condition  or are taking medication or have had medication prescribed for an existing condition, is suffering from any previously diagnosed psychiatric disorder, anxiety or depression; or is receiving, or on a waiting list for, in-patient treatment in a hospital or nursing home; or is expected to give birth before, or within eight weeks of the date of arrival home; or is travelling against the advice of a Medical Practitioner or for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment abroad; or has been given a terminal prognosis. This list is not exhaustive.

This doesn't mean however that you can't get cover, you will just need to shop around more, as there are specialist policies about, for example if you have a heart condition try looking at the British Heart Foundation website, go to 'Living with a Heart condition' and look for the heading 'Recovery' and then 'Insurance', here they have a list of companies that might be able to help you. Most of the companies we have looked at on the Internet you will need to call a telephone number they give to speak with someone who can confirm whether you can have cover or not. In most cases you will get cover, but not for any pre-existing  medical condition and as long as they have been notified this should not invalidate your policy.  It does mean though that you need to see a copy of their policy details and make sure you read it thoroughly, and make sure you understand what you have paid for and are covered for. It will be most inconvenient at the time of a claim to come across problems, the last thing you need when not well. You should also remember that anything a sales person tells you when selling you a policy is not going to be part of the policy, so make sure that major points are confirmed in writing or added to the policy schedule.

Existing Medical Conditions and Medication advice

It is always a good idea to keep a written record on your person of any medical condition affecting you, such as angina pectoris, diabetes and haemophilia, and the proper names – not just the trade names – of any medication you are taking.   If you want to take any sort of medicine with you – either prescribed or bought from a pharmacist – find out if there are any restrictions on taking it in and out of the UK or the country you are visiting. Ask the relevant Embassy or High Commission or visit the Home Office Drugs Branch website , under licensing. Always carry medicines in a correctly labelled container, as issued by the pharmacist. Otherwise take a letter from your doctor or a personal health record card giving details of the drugs prescribed in case you need it to get you through Customs. Remember, some medicines available over the counter in the UK may be controlled in other countries, and vice versa. It is always advisable to carry your medication with you in your hand luggage, not only because you may need it, but also if there is a problem at either end of the travel chain, you have it at hand and can answer any questions the authorities may have.

Remember any variation on your policy that you haven't told them about prior to taking out the insurance will make it void. 

Q.  Where can I get further help and advice on what Travel Insurance I should have

A:  We have already mentioned the Department of Health site, but you can also get advice on Travel Insurance and other travelling issues on the UK foreign office site , in their Travelling & Living Overseas section.

Q. Where can I get cover

A: The quick answer is 'from a multitude of places' including the post office, local supermarket, travel companies, and on the internet ..... When getting quotes from websites make sure that the policy will cover all your needs. A lot of times if you already have a medical condition the quote you get from their online instant quote systems will not cover you for these pre-conditions, and they will give you a phone number to call to check you will be covered. Do a comprehensive search sometimes the ones which say 'cheapest online quotes' are not necessarily always so.

Some examples of where to look out for include; Travel Companies, don't take this as the only option when you go into a travel agent, their own policy may not be the cheapest, so shop around. Direct from insurance companies, banks and building societies, supermarkets (check out what they have online, some may be cheaper via this route) or try your local post office as well as from the Post Office website , or of course specialist insurance brokers such as C H Facilities a specialist company for people with medical conditions such as those related to heart conditions. 

Remember any variation on your policy that you haven't told them about prior to taking out the insurance will make it void. 

Q. Can you tell me what other internet based companies I could use

A:  There are too many companies to list them all. We have put together a list of some online insurance resources and it is made up of some we have researched and ones that were identified when we put 'travel insurance' in the search engine. The list is not in any particular order and we are not endorsing any of them. It just gives you easy access to some of the sites we found. There are many, including many of the tour operators, who you book holidays with. You can spend days searching if you want – our advice is to put a limit on how many quotes you will get before you make your decision. Ultimately after the first 4 or 5 they will be coming out at around the same sorts of figures, so it is then down to which one you feel covers your needs best.

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