How to get the best travel insurance at a cheaper price


It’s not the most exciting or glamorous part of your trip abroad, but getting the best travel insurance for you is an essential part of planning a holiday.

Travel insurance is one of the most important things you need to protect yourself – yet it’s often overlooked by tourists, especially if they aren’t venturing far from home.

Price matters but don’t just go for the bargain basement cheapest policy. You should ensure your travel insurance policy covers everything you need, from medical care to cancelled flights – as you don’t want to be stuck with a big bill if your trip doesn’t go quite as planned. 

Don’t know where to start? This is Money explains the ins and outs, covering everything from finding the best travel insurance policy for you, to comparing prices, and what to look out for in the small print. 

> Quick link: Compare travel insurance with our partner Compare the Market 

Priority: Travel insurance is an essential part of your holiday, and experts advise that you should take out a policy that fits your travel plans as soon as you’ve booked your trip

What is travel insurance?

In a nutshell, travel insurance is an all-purpose emergency cover for if something goes wrong while you are on holiday. 

When you are taking a trip abroad, there are a number of things that may be completely out of your control – from lost luggage to emergency medical care and cancelled flights to natural disasters. 

Once you’ve made your travel plans, the next thing you need to do is get your insurance sorted through a reputable provider. 

The travel insurance you need can vary depending on your personal situation, where you are headed to, and if you plan on getting involved with any extreme sports or potentially risky excursions.

There are plenty of specialist policies covering specific activities, but most travellers will choose one of the following:

  • Single trip, which covers you for a single holiday, no matter the length
  • Annual multi-trip, which covers you for a full year across multiple holidays or agreed destinations, meaning you wont need to re-buy insurance
  • Backpacking, which will cover you for an extended period to multiple destinations

Airport chaos: What if my flightis cancelled

Holidaymakers are currently suffering a raft of cancelled flights causing chaos at Britain’s airports.

Major airlines including easyJet and BA cancelled flights over the start of the half-term weekend, with staff shortages reported to be triggering problems.

EasyJet announced it would cancel at least 200 flights over half-term, while BA cancelled another 140 yesterday.

If your flight is cancelled, it is your airline’s responsibility to reimburse you, and provide emergency accomodation if needed. 

Flight compensation for delayed or cancelled flights was introduced under EU law, since Brexit the rules remain the same and have been written into UK law.

> Read more: The Civil Aviation Authority guide to flight compensation 

Why do I need travel insurance to go abroad?

It’s not much fun to think about the worst case scenarios when planning your dream holiday, but it is important to be prepared for them.

Having the right kind of travel insurance can protect your finances in case of cancellations and can save you thousands of pounds if you find yourself in need of medical care.

It can also help you recoup the costs if any of your possessions are stolen, with some policies even covering accidental loss of luggage or damage to your tech items while you’re abroad. 

According to the Association of British Insurers, the average insurance claim made by Britons abroad in 2018 amounted to £214.

In total, £145 million was paid out to Brits for 167,000 cancellation claims, while 79,000 Brits claimed for lost baggage or money.

Weight off your mind: Travel insurance can cover you for anything from lost luggage to cancelled flights and emergency medical cover, so you can relax knowing you are protected

Weight off your mind: Travel insurance can cover you for anything from lost luggage to cancelled flights and emergency medical cover, so you can relax knowing you are protected 

The ABI also said the average medical claim on travel insurance was £1,368, with one couple in America requiring almost £600,000 in support from their travel insurer. 

You should also aim to take out your insurance as soon as you’ve booked your trip so that your holiday is covered from the get-go.

Alex Hasty, director at comparison site CompareTheMarket.com says: ‘It’s important to book insurance as soon as you book your trip, so you are covered immediately for unforeseen events that could force you to cancel. 

‘Many people leave taking out insurance until the last minute, meaning that risks such as an advance flight cancellation could go uninsured.’

How to compare travel insurance

The quickest and easiest way to save money on travel insurance and compare the best policies is to use a comparison site.

While results will broadly be the same across most comparison sites, they may slightly differ, so it is worth checking a couple. 

Also check insurers such as Direct Line and Aviva that do not appear on comparison sites and if you have previous serious medical issues consider a specialist insurer or broker.

This is Money has partnered with Compare the Market to help you find great travel insurance. You can compare prices, cover, features and special elements via the link below.

> Travel insurance: Check policies with Compare the Market

 

What does travel insurance cover? 

The big question you should ask when taking out travel insurance is what exactly you want the policy to cover. 

While every policy is different, there are some eventualities that you should ensure you are covered for. 

One of the most important parts of your policy should be your medical coverage. If you fall ill, injure yourself or have any pre-existing medical conditions your insurance should cover all of the above.

Ideally, you should aim for at least £5million emergency medical cover worldwide, to ensure you don’t need to worry about any healthcare bills.

Experts suggest you should aim for an insurance policy that offers up to £5m in medical cover

You should also ensure your insurance covers lost or stolen possessions, such as luggage, money or documents. Ideally this means taking out a policy that allows for at least £1,500 in personal possession and money coverage.

You should also aim to cover as many types of cancellations as you can, because there is nothing worse than not being able to go on your holiday and not being able to get your money back. 

This could include issues with airlines or hotels, or could be illness related, such as contracting Covid.

Aim for a policy that has at least £2,000 coverage for cancellations, or the total cost of the holiday.

Hasty added: ‘When you take out travel insurance, think ahead to your trip and consider what you’ll need to pack. 

‘If you had to replace the contents of your suitcase, costs could spiral when you factor in your tech, clothes, jewellery, and toiletries. 

‘Make sure your policy has enough baggage cover to reimburse you for everything in your luggage.’

How much does travel insurance cost?  

The cost of travel insurance varies depending on your own circumstances, what you want covered and what you have planned. Just remember that while price matters, cheapest isn’t always best.

Hasty says: ‘The type and cost of your insurance policy will depend on a number of factors, including your age, medical history and what you plan to do on your trip. 

‘For example, if you’re going skiing or mountain climbing you’ll probably need to pay a little more than someone taking a city break.’

Prices: The cost of your travel insurance can start from as little as £10, depending on your trip

Prices: The cost of your travel insurance can start from as little as £10, depending on your trip

Essentially, if your insurer thinks that you are more likely to make a claim, you will pay more for your insurance.

You should expect to pay between 4 per cent and 12 per cent of the total cost of your holiday for your insurance, with some single-trip policies covering you from as little as £10.  

You should be as honest with your travel insurance provider, even if it makes your insurance more expensive. It could save you much more in the long run.  

Hasty says: ‘It’s important to declare all pre-existing medical conditions to the provider when you take out travel insurance. Failure to do so may invalidate your insurance policy. 

‘The provider will decide whether to offer you cover and on what basis, making sure that you have adequate protection.’ 

> Check how much travel insurance would cost you with our Compare the Market 

What about excess?

The next thing to consider when taking out travel insurance is the excess. This is the sum that you pay out of your own pocket before you can make a claim. 

While most providers can offer millions of pounds in protection in case of a medical emergency, you still want to ensure you are able to pay the excess in the meantime. 

Most insurers will make travellers pay a fixed amount in excess, often varying between £50 per claim to £300 per claim, depending on what they are claiming for. 

Travel insurance may also have different excess amounts for different types of claims. 

Upfront cost: Excess is usually the only thing you would need to pay if you make a claim and is often between £50 and £300, depending on your specific policy

Upfront cost: Excess is usually the only thing you would need to pay if you make a claim and is often between £50 and £300, depending on your specific policy

Hasty says: ‘When you buy travel insurance, the excess is one area where it’s worth reading the small print. 

‘Make sure you check the details before you buy. Most importantly, check how the excess will be charged.’ 

It might be:

  • Per person: no matter how many claims, you only pay the excess once
  • Per incident: if you claim for your handbag stolen and for a flight delay, you’d pay the excess on each claim
  • Per policy section: if your handbag was stolen with your phone and £200 in it, you’d claim under the cash section and the personal belongings section of your policy – and pay the excess twice

He adds: ‘How your excess is charged can make a huge difference to the amount your policy will pay out. 

‘For example, if you were travelling with a partner and you both had your luggage stolen and missed your flight, you could end up paying four separate excess amounts between you.’ 

Do I need specialist travel insurance?  

If you are planning a trip that includes a little more than sunbathing, you may want to consider a specialist travel insurance policy.

Examples include policies for those headed to the mountains for climbing or skiing, or those who are planning to travel on Interrail across Europe.

Some standard travel insurance doesn’t cover extreme sports, such as skiing, and you will need to get additional specialist insurance

Hasty says: ‘It’s important to declare details about your trip to your insurer, allowing them to decide whether to offer you cover and on what basis. 

‘You should declare whether you’re travelling to multiple countries, undertaking an unusual activity such as skiing, or planning to travel with particularly expensive luggage.’

Unfortunately, standard travel insurance rarely covers large-scale excursions or winter sports, so be sure to check the terms and conditions if you are planning an exciting trip.  

Hasty added: ‘Standard travel insurance can cover low-risk activities, such as camping or fishing, but typically doesn’t cover more extreme or adventurous sports – like skiing or scuba diving – or the cost of lost, stolen, or damaged sports equipment. 

‘To get the right protection, you’ll need a specialist sports travel insurance policy.

The definition of high and low-risk activities may differ between insurers, too.  

‘Be aware that every travel insurance provider has their own classification of what they consider low and high-risk sports and adventure activities,’ Hasty added.

‘It’s essential when comparing policies that you read each one carefully to ensure your chosen sport is covered. Many providers divide sporting activities into risk groups and may cover more adventurous sports at a higher cost.’

Covid cover: Most providers offer medical cover if you contract coronavirus when you are abroad as standard, but may not pay out if you cancel due to a positive test

Covid cover: Most providers offer medical cover if you contract coronavirus when you are abroad as standard, but may not pay out if you cancel due to a positive test

Do I need travel insurance for Covid-19?

Covid-19 is still a concern for many Britons planning their upcoming summer holidays, even though travel disruption due to the virus is now less common. 

So do you still need specific Covid insurance coverage? That depends.

Hasty says that you need not worry too much about getting specific coverage for contracting Covid-19, as most providers offer it as part of their policy now. 

However, not all cover the costs if you need to cancel your trip due to either contracting Covid before you travel, or because of changes in Covid restrictions. 

He says: ‘All insurance providers on Compare the Market offer emergency medical treatment and repatriation for Covid-19 claims. 

‘Some providers also offer cover for disruption related to Covid-19, including cancellations and additional transport or accommodation expenses. 

‘It’s a good idea to contact your insurer to double-check the level of cover provided by your policy.’

Most insurance policies cover a range of flight or holiday cancellations, but the rules can vary so check the fine print

Most insurance policies cover a range of flight or holiday cancellations, but the rules can vary so check the fine print

What if my trip is cancelled? 

One big concern for travellers is the cancellation of flights. Check your policy to see what type of coverage you can get if your flights are cancelled or delayed. 

Hasty says that your airline has a duty to refund some of your money if it is forced to cancel your flight, or if you are severely delayed – but it may not cover the full amount. 

It’s also important to check what cover you have if you need to cancel your holiday for other reasons. 

Hasty says: ‘Travel disruption is always frustrating, but particularly after two years of Covid-19 restrictions. 

‘If your flight is cancelled or delayed by more than three hours, your airline should compensate you. To see what your airline expects you to do to make a claim, check their website or telephone them. 

‘Your travel insurance policy may cover you if your flight is cancelled and the airline doesn’t rebook you on an alternative flight within 24 hours. 

‘Your insurance may also cover the cost of car hire, connecting flights, and accommodation in the event your flight is cancelled. 

‘These costs can add up, so it’s a good idea to read your policy documents or contact your insurer to find out more.

Car checks: If you're taking your own car abroad, you should ensure your insurance covers your trip - including the length of the journey, the country and any accidents that could occur

Car checks: If you’re taking your own car abroad, you should ensure your insurance covers your trip – including the length of the journey, the country and any accidents that could occur

Do I need specific travel insurance if I’m taking my car?

One thing that travellers may forget to insure when going abroad is their car. 

Hasty says: ‘If you are planning to take your car on holiday, it is a good idea to make sure your car insurance covers you for driving abroad. 

‘The easiest way to do this is by checking your policy documents or contact your insurance provider directly. 

‘All UK car insurance policies should offer third-party cover to drive in the EU, including Ireland. However, the same might not apply when driving in other countries.’

He adds that even if your current insurance policy covers driving abroad, there could still be limitations that could void your insurance if you don’t know about them. 

He concluded: ‘Even if your policy does mention cover when driving abroad, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the details. Many policies will only offer the most basic form of cover.

‘Don’t assume that because you have a fully comprehensive policy in the UK, you’ll automatically have the same once you cross the Channel. 

‘You might also find policies have a limit on the number of days they’ll cover you while driving abroad. This could be a continuous limit, for example 14 days in a row, or it could be a total yearly allowance. 

‘It’s worth discussing the specifics of your journey with your insurance provider, to tailor cover to your travel dates.’

I have a GHIC, do I still need travel insurance?

A GHIC is a vital travel card for those visiting most EU countries, offering an extra layer of medical protection if something goes wrong

A GHIC is a vital travel card for those visiting most EU countries, offering an extra layer of medical protection if something goes wrong

The Global Health Insurance Card gives UK citizens access to state supplied healthcare in case of emergencies when visiting any EU country, and it does not cost anything to apply. 

However, unlike the old European Health Insurance Card, the new card will no longer give Britons access to state healthcare in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. 

The cards cover a range of medical conditions and emergency care for travellers outside of their country of residence, so individuals can travel safely, knowing they’ll receive the same treatment as the citizens of the country they are visiting. 

This means that if medical care is free of charge for national citizens, it should be free of charge for you too. 

The new GHIC will still provide cover for existing illnesses, routine maternity care, and other emergencies – but ongoing treatments, such as chemotherapy, need to be arranged before you travel to ensure they are available at your destination.    

But a GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. The GHIC only provides treatment in state hospitals, as opposed to private medical healthcare, and doesn’t cover repatriation costs to the UK, or mountain rescue. 

So it is still vital that travellers purchase travel insurance for their holiday, to ensure they are covered for all emergencies.  

EHIC and GHIC: Do you need one?

There are two types of cover available to UK citizens when travelling abroad: 

1. A UK Global Health Insurance Card (UK GHIC)

2. A UK European Health Insurance Card (UK EHIC), if you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. If you still have an EHIC that’s in date, it is valid. If not, you’ll need to apply for a GHIC via the Government website. 

You can use your card to access medically necessary state-provided healthcare when you’re visiting an EU country or Switzerland. 

For most people, the UK UK GHIC replaces the existing EHIC for new applications and for EHICs that have expired.

You may be eligible for a UK GHIC if you meet one of the following criteria:

1. You’re legally living in the UK and you do not have healthcare cover provided by an EU country or Switzerland 

2. You’re living in the EU or Switzerland with a registered S1, E121, E106 or E109 form issued by the UK 

3. You’re living in the EU or Switzerland with an A1 document which is issued by the UK 

4. You’re a family member or dependent of an entitled individual already listed 

While a GHIC is useful for UK citizens who are eligible, you should still seek your own travel insurance to ensure you are fully protected. 

What are common travel insurance exclusions?

While it’s important to pay attention to what is covered on your travel insurance, you should also check to see what isn’t to ensure there are no surprises on your trip. 

Most insurance policies don't cover costs due to natural disasters or terrorist attacks, but can be an added extra for an additional cost

Most insurance policies don’t cover costs due to natural disasters or terrorist attacks, but can be an added extra for an additional cost

While most insurers cover Covid medical costs, not many provide cover if you need to cancel or self-isolate due to testing positive, as it’s now considered a ‘known risk’ when travelling. 

Similarly, natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, flooding, and earthquakes will be excluded from claims, as well as acts of terrorism or civil unrest.

If any of these exclusions worry you, you can look for specialist cover to give you peace of mind – though it will likely come at an extra cost.

You could also inadvertently void your travel insurance through your actions. For example, if you ignore Government travel advice most standard travel insurance policies will be invalid.

Accidents relating to alcohol or non-prescription drugs could also void your insurance, as well as not taking reasonable care of your possessions, or not following your insurer’s claims procedure. 

Those with serious pre-existing health conditions may also struggle to get travel insurance through traditional routes or find quotes are prohibitively expensive. It is worth speaking to a specialist broker who can help people in this position. 

How to find travel insurance 

The simplest way to look for travel insurance is to use a comparison site.

Results will similar across most comparison sites but some may have special deals, so it could be worth using more than one. 

If you have previous serious medical issues consider a specialist insurer or broker.

This is Money has partnered with Compare the Market to help you find great travel insurance. You can compare prices and cover at the link below.

> Travel insurance: Check policies with Compare the Market

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