Beginners Guide To Travel Insurance: Everything You Need To Know To Choose The Right Plan

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Taking out a travel insurance policy before you go on a trip is essential, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Travel insurance will cover you in a number of situations, from medical emergencies to trip cancellation, so you’ll need to consider a policy as part of your trip cost.

Navigating the world of insurance policies while planning a trip abroad can seem daunting, but obtaining travel insurance should not be complicated. In this guide to travel insurance, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about how to take out travel insurance, how to choose the right travel insurance plan and travel insurance provider, and how to make a claim should you need to.

We’ll also give some travel tips for beginners wondering how to start planning travelling and help you compare travel insurance plans to make sure you can go on holiday feeling safe and relaxed. Read on for a comprehensive travel insurance guide!

What do I need to know about travel insurance?

First things first: what is travel insurance? No need to buy an “Insurance for Dummies” book – we’re here to explain!

Travel insurance covers your expenses if you face unexpected problems while on holiday. Policies vary and may cover a range of expenses, from travel medical care to lost luggage and trip cancellation coverage – and more. 

So, what is travel insurance for, how do you choose the right insurance cover, and how does travel insurance work for medical emergencies? Read on to find out what to look for in travel insurance and how to find an insurance company.

Medical travel insurance

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, it’s especially important to ensure your medical travel insurance will cover you in case of any emergencies. You may think your medical condition, especially if it’s rare, is not covered, but rest assured: practically every condition will be. 

Different insurance providers will have different criteria for what counts as a pre-existing condition. Most insurers will consider the following as pre-existing:

  • Conditions you are waiting for an operation or treatment on
  • Conditions you are awaiting test results for
  • Conditions you have seen a doctor about within the past year
  • Serious conditions such as cancer, heart problems, or respiratory conditions

Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be wondering: how much travel insurance do I need? Talk to the insurance company ahead of time, as they will have specialists who can go through your medical condition, including any medicine you take, medical equipment or devices you use, and any special arrangements you may need while on holiday. They’ll then discuss your health insurance options and advise you on the right travel insurance plan to take out. 

If you are over 65, you will need to declare all your medical conditions as standard – if you’re not sure what counts as a pre-existing condition, or whether it’ll fall under medical insurance coverage, simply ask your provider.

Be honest with the insurance provider when answering questions about your medical condition, and always let them know of previous medical concerns as some insurers will not provide coverage if you failed to mention past conditions.

Travel insurance - beginners guide

Travel insurance coverage varies, as we said, so make sure your insurance policy covers the following:

  • All medical bills and medical expenses
  • Any pre-existing medical condition
  • Emergency medical evacuation via air ambulance
  • Bringing your car or personal items home
  • Repatriation or bringing a body home

In addition, speak to your provider about the costs of annual cover compared to single-trip cover. It might be more cost-effective to take out an annual plan, especially if you’re planning to travel multiple times within the year as you will be covered for all of it. With annual  cover, if your condition stays stable or improves, the cost may stay the same year on year or go down. There is no one-size-fits-all, so take your time discussing your options with your provider and choose what is right for you.

You’ll also need to check the process for making a medical claim, as some companies may need you to call them first if your claim isn’t considered an emergency, such as a sprained ankle.

Trip interruption coverage

Running into problems while on a holiday is difficult enough without having to cover the costs of having to cancel or delay your trip. This is where trip cancellation insurance comes in.

Before you purchase travel insurance, check that it will cover disruptions to your travel plans, such as flight delay or cancellation, missed departure, or problems with your accommodation. Cancellation coverage will only be available if something outside of your control forces you to cancel a trip or causes you to miss your plane, boat or train.

Luggage loss or theft

Having your belongings, travel credit cards, or valuable items stolen can certainly put a damper on your holiday. Thankfully, most travel insurance policies will cover you in this situation. Baggage cover can be included within a wider policy or be purchased as an extra, and will usually include lost or stolen bags or purses, money and credit / debit card theft, and lost or stolen documents such as passports or medical information.

A good policy should cover the cost of your belongings up to £1,500. There will usually be separate limits for different articles and valuables, and you will need to report losses or thefts within the time period stated in your contract. If your airline is responsible for the loss of your luggage, they will need to provide a written report for you to pass on to your insurance provider when you make a claim. 

Personal liability 

If you accidentally damage someone’s property or cause someone to get injured while on your holiday, you may be liable to pay them damages. Including personal liability cover as part of your travel insurance package will ensure you do not have to pay out of your own pocket – thankfully, good insurance coverage should include personal liability cover for £2 million or more. 

Please bear in mind that damages claims made by members of your family or people you employ will not be covered by your policy. If this is a concern for you, speak to your insurance provider.

Comprehensive travel insurance should keep you covered in all the above situations. Remember to check if your insurance covers the countries you plan to visit and if you need additional insurance to cover higher-risk activities, such as skiing – you may need to pay extra to cover these.

If you already have travel insurance as part of a bank account package, check that the policy covers your pre-existing medical condition(s) and the countries you plan to visit. You may have travel accident insurance, but this will not cover your medical condition as it is for accidents only.

Beginners guide to travel insurance

How to get travel insurance

If you’re wondering how to purchase travel insurance and the different types of policies available to you, then just continue reading! Our guide has plenty more advice and tips on what you need to know about travel insurance.

Insurance companies will determine the cost of your travel insurance policy by assessing how likely it is that you will make a claim. Some of the factors might include your destination, the length of your trip, your age and health, as well as the activities you have planned during your trip. The safer your trip is estimated to be, the cheaper your policy will be – for example, travel insurance for Cancun, Mexico, will usually be cheaper than for the USA, as the cost of medical treatment in the States is significantly higher. 

There are many different types of travel insurance available, so do your research to find out which type of policy best matches your needs and situation. 

First, what is trip insurance? Single-trip policies will cover you for one trip only, and will often only cover you for a limited amount of time, such as a 1 week holiday insurance policy. Check the time limit before you purchase a policy, as it might be more cost-effective for you to take out an annual insurance instead. Annual policies, also known as multi-trip travel insurance, or annual multi-trip travel insurance, will cover you for multiple trips during a 12-month period. This is a great option if you make several trips abroad each year or typically go for longer periods of time.

Family travel insurance can be a cheaper option than taking out individual policies for each member of your family and can sometimes even include extra cover not available for individuals. Family policies will usually cover two adults and their children, but some options for single-parent families also exist – speak to your insurance provider to find out what’s available to you.

When researching which policy to take out, pay attention to the excess, which is the amount you’ll have to pay if you make an insurance claim. Cheaper insurance policies often come with a much higher excess, so make sure you can afford to pay that amount in the event of a claim. On family or multi-person policies, check whether the excess quoted is per person or covers the entire policy. Finally, check the individual excess amount for each item on your policy, as they will most likely be different.

Tips for buying travel insurance

Travel insurance cost can vary greatly depending on the provider. While Allianz travel insurance is one of the most popular options on the market, as are Coverwise and Good to Go travel insurance, it doesn’t mean these are your only options. Read on for our best travel insurance tips to find the right cover.

The best way to get travel insurance that will work for you, especially with a pre-existing medical condition, is to compare providers and quotes before you commit. You could start by comparing quotes from a few of the following insurance companies:

  • All Clear 
  • Get Going
  • Freespirit
  • Holidayrisk.com
  • Insureandgo
  • Medicaltravelcompared.co.uk
  • Staysure (over 50’s)

Compare the cost of policies, as well as the coverage you’ll get, and try to find out any extras you may need to pay for. Excess will usually be in the region of £150, but you may be able to ask for a higher excess to lower the overall insurance costs. And as mentioned earlier, find out whether it’s cheaper for you to take out annual insurance or a single-trip policy.

If you find shopping around to be too difficult or exhausting, you can use a comparison website or ask an insurance broker to search for policies on your behalf. Brokers will contact several insurance companies to help find the best deal for you, and can also provide you support if you need to make a claim.

Whether you go at it alone or get support from a broker, always double-check your travel insurance documents when you get them to ensure the medical condition(s) you have is listed correctly, as insurance companies sometimes add in a similar medical condition. It’s ultimately down to you to check your paperwork is correct and go back to them to make any amendments needed.

What does travel insurance not cover?

When you define travel insurance plans with your provider, you may find a few areas that most travel insurance policies do not cover, or may only be added to your insurance policy at an extra cost. These usually include:

  • Potentially dangerous activities such as winter sports or adventure sports, rock climbing, bungee jumping, and more.
  • Travel to countries or regions deemed unsafe by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – check your destination on the GOV.UK website before booking. Events of civil unrest or terrorism will be excluded from most insurance coverage.
  • Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, or volcanic eruptions.
  • Luxury items such as watches and jewellery, as well as expensive electronics like laptops or cameras, as these can often exceed the price limit for most policies.

If you have an existing travel medical insurance policy, you may be able to add the above as bolt-ons to your package. Speak to your provider for more information.

Summary On Beginners Guide To Travel Insurance

Choosing the right travel insurance plan is an essential part of planning for a trip – but we know how overwhelming it can get!

Travel insurance should cover any unexpected expenses you might encounter abroad – from health issues to luggage loss or theft, and even trip cancellation. Medical travel insurance is especially important to consider for those of us living with chronic or underlying health conditions, so speak to your doctor and insurance provider to find the right coverage for you.

When it comes to cancellation, most travel insurance plans will cover expenses that fall outside of your control. This means that you’ll be reimbursed if your plans get cancelled, but not if you decide not to go on your holiday after all – so don’t take out insurance before fully committing to a trip.

It’s a good idea to shop around in order to get the best travel insurance deal. Consider whether single-trip or annual cover is right for you, and pay attention to the excess you’ll have to pay in case you make a claim – cheaper policies often mean a sky-high excess.

How do you get travel insurance? Do you have a trick to compare quotes? Tell us in the comments below!

FAQ on Beginners Guide To Travel Insurance

​​Is travel insurance necessary for international travel?

While not strictly speaking necessary, it’s a good idea to take out travel insurance before international travel, particularly for those living with medical conditions. And it’s not just for abroad! Even when travelling within the UK, you may want to be covered for things like lost bags or credit cards, emergency medical expenses, delays and cancellations, and personal liability.

When should you start your travel insurance?

You may be wondering: is it better to buy travel insurance early or late? For most people, but especially those with disabilities or medical conditions, it is essential to get travel insurance before or as soon as you book your holiday. Do not delay taking out a policy as it may cause you to not be protected in case of emergencies, including cancelling or amending your trip if you need medical treatment at home.

How much does travel insurance typically cost?

Travel insurance costs can range from £5 to thousands of pounds, depending on a host of factors such as your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the destination of your trip, and more. Excess usually ranges from £50 to £250 per policy item. Make sure to shop around for quotes to find the most cost-effective policy for your needs.

Does travel insurance get more expensive closer to the trip?

While you may be able to purchase travel insurance right before your holiday or even after you’ve already arrived at your destination, you’ll find that costs can skyrocket. The process of getting approved for a policy is also likely to be much more difficult, as travel insurance providers will need to take extra precautions to avoid fraud.

What are the 3 things travel insurance covers?

A comprehensive travel insurance policy should cover medical expenses and emergency medical treatments, trip interruption or cancellation, and luggage loss or theft. It should also cover personal liability in case you are sued for causing property damage or injury to another person. For anything else, like adventure sports or luxury items, you may be able to add additional coverage as bolt-ons to your plan.

What is not covered by travel insurance?

Typical travel insurance plans will often exclude a number of items, even as add-ons.These include natural disasters, terrorism, and pandemics. Exclusions will usually be found in the small print of your policy, so make sure to read everything thoroughly. Please note that many insurance providers to this day do not provide cover if you fall ill with COVID-19, as it has become a “known risk”.

What are the two basic types of travel insurance?

Travel insurance will often be one of two types: single-trip cover or annual cover. Find out which option is the most cost-effective for you before you commit!

What is the oldest age for travel insurance?

Some insurers will offer cover only up to a certain age – usually 75, 80 or 85 -, but others may be able to provide cover with no maximum age limit. Check with your provider, as policies may unfortunately become more expensive the older you are.

Does travel insurance ask for medical records?

When purchasing travel insurance, you need to declare all pre-existing medical conditions. Your insurance provider could request access to your medical records if they deem it necessary, which is rare, and will require your written consent to do so. This is so they can verify that your medical history matches what you declared.

Can travel insurance be denied?

Your travel insurance claim may be rejected for a number of reasons, such as failing to declare a pre-existing medical condition or leaving your bags and valuables unattended. Make sure you check the small print in your policy before agreeing to it, as your insurance company may refuse to pay for some or all of your claim. 

If your claim gets rejected but you believe you should be covered, make a complaint to the insurance company in writing. All insurers should adhere to the rules of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and are responsible for dealing with complaints accordingly.

Does travel insurance cover 100%?

Comprehensive travel insurance policies will usually cover all medical expenses you may encounter while abroad, and most will cover the full cost of cancelling your holiday. However, you may need to add things such as gadget cover or adventure sports cover depending on your holiday plans and the items you’ll be taking with you.

Does travel insurance cover me cancelling?

Most travel insurance policies will include cancellation cover, meaning that your insurer will pay you a lump sum if your holiday gets cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. However, you will not be covered by your insurance company if you cancel your trip simply because you’ve changed your mind – so make sure you’re 100% set on your destination before taking out a policy.

Does travel insurance cover all flights?

Travel insurance can provide cover for flight cancellations and delays, or for missed flights due to circumstances beyond your control. However, if you are taking connecting flights, check whether your policy covers all flights on your journey as some companies will only cover the cost of the initial flight. Depending on the circumstances, you may also be entitled to financial compensation from your airline.

Does travel insurance cover flight delays?

Flight delays will usually be covered by your airline , provided your flight arrival (not take-off) is delayed by two hours due to a reason that would be considered the airline’s responsibility.    You should receive refreshments or a meal. If the delay is 3 hours or longer, you will need to write to the airline afterwards to claim financial compensation of between £110 to £520.

Does travel insurance count as health insurance?

Travel insurance and health insurance are different and should not be used interchangeably. Travel insurance will cover you in case you suffer a medical emergency while travelling abroad, but it will not pay for ongoing treatment for pre-existing conditions. Health insurance, on the other hand, will cover regular check-ups, consultations, and ongoing care in your home country – meaning it will not cover you for accidents or emergencies abroad.

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2 thoughts on “Beginners Guide To Travel Insurance: Everything You Need To Know To Choose The Right Plan”

  1. To date I’ve not found a more helpful travel insurance guide for beginners than this one! This was so easy to digest and I feel so much more confident and informed as a result. Thank you!

    1. We’re so pleased you loved our travel insurance guide! We tried to make it as beginner friendly as possible as we completely understand that it can be overwhelming and a lot to take in for newbies to travel insurance.

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