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  • 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 assistance company?
  • 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 leave.
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 Health.

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.
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