- Does the policy provide sufficient cover for any medical
eventuality and repatriation? The Foreign and Commonwealth
Office recommends that the level of cover should be L1,000,000
for Europe and L2,000,000 for the rest of the world.
- Does the policy provide a 24 hour emergency service and
- Does the policy cover a full refund of your costs if the
trip is cancelled or cut short for any reason?
- When does the cancellation cover start?
- Does the policy cover all the activities and sports that
you might do? Many policies do not cover extreme sports such
as bungee jumping and ski diving.
- Does the policy cover personal liability, in the event that
you accidentally cause injury or damage to others and their
property and they sue you?
- Does the policy offer reimbursement of legal expenses incurred
if a damage claim needs to be made?
- Does the limit for stolen, lost or damaged possessions sufficiently
cover what the items are worth?
- How many children are covered under a family policy?
- If you are travelling regularly during the year, would it
be cheaper to take out an annual policy rather than single
trip cover each time?
While travelling within the European Economic Area (including
EC countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), you are
entitled to reciprocal state-provided health services by taking
with you a form called E111, available from all Post Offices.
You must get the form stamped at the Post Office before you
Remember, the level of treatment you will receive is based on
what the state provides its own residents, which may not always
be what you could expect here in the UK. In other non-EEA countries,
of course, even this minimum may not apply.
There are, however, more limited reciprocal medical treatment
agreements with some non-EEA countries.
Meanwhile, an E111 form will not provide for immediate repatriation
in the event of serious injury. Yet the cost of an air ambulance
from Spain to the UK alone can be as much as L9,000.
If you require ongoing treatment for an existing condition within
the EEA, you should obtain form E112 from the Department of
The cover will require medical authorisation. Remember to check
any exclusion in each country you are visiting.
Travel insurance is not only about health, it covers issues
such as liability to third parties, theft, loss of personal
possessions, flight cancellation and so on.
If in doubt, travel insurance is a must.
The question is of what type and where to buy it from?
Which policy to buy?
Before you buy, here are a few more things to consider:
- Pre-existing medical conditions: if you have one, you must
inform your insurer before taking out the policy or you may
not be covered when you travel abroad. When looking for cover,
a simple tip is to contact the support organisation related
to your medical condition: they will know who can offer insurance.
- How long you will be travelling abroad. Most annual travel
insurance policies won't cover you for more than 31 days at
a time, so if you are planning to stay away for longer, you
may need a specific policy that allows you to do that. There
are several types of 'backpacker' policy available, but be
aware that they cost more.
- Winter sports: increasing numbers of people want to ski
for a couple of weeks. Not only is it important to have a
certain amount of ski cover, but if you intend to take part
in certain 'intensive' winter sports (off-piste skiing or
tobogganing, for example), make sure that too is covered.
Also, if you are a regular skier, protection against theft
of ski from roof racks, insurance against lack of snow or
ski lifts being closed and so on, also matter. Specialist
insurance may be necessary.
- Many policies don't cover 'extreme sports', such as microlighting,
mountaineering or parachuting, so always check. Travelling
separately. If you and your partner make different overseas
trips, you will want protection for this. Not all policies
offer this, so ask.
- Cover for older people is sometimes harder to obtain. Most
of the main insurers don't offer annual policies to older
travellers as they tend to travel more often. And, because
they're perceived to be in greater risk of needing medical
help when travelling abroad, they are thought to be more likely
to make claims. Some set the cut-off age as low as 65, while
with others it's 75. And that includes some of the insurers
which focus on the over 50s market.
While Age Concern and Help the Aged set no age limit on annual
policies, RIAS (Retirement Insurance Advisory Service), Insure
and Go have an age limit of 75. An exception among the mainstream
insurers is Nationwide, which will cover travellers through
both its single trip and annual policies up to the age of 99.
- People with HIV may be surprised to learn that they too
may not be able to obtain cover. Organisations like the Terrence
Higgins Trust can help find a broker offering specialist policies.
- Family definitions also matter. Some annual policies, such
as the one offered will cover a family of two adults and two
children up to the age of 18 years. A few extend this to age
19, or even older if still in higher education. Others simply
cover adults under the age of 65 plus any number of children
or grandchildren under 18 in full-time education living at
the same address. Mind you, by that age your children may
not want to go on holiday with you anyway.
- In many cases, travel insurance duplicates cover you may
already have available under the terms of your home contents
policy. Some insurers offer a discount of up to 10-15 per
cent for excluding certain items (camcorders, portable computers)
from their travel cover. Make sure you ask.