The world of travel insurance really is a minefield with a huge number of companies trying to get your business. Fortunately it’s not something that you need dwell on too long as there are plenty policies out there offering adequate cover at reasonable prices. Do be aware that the cheapest policy you find isn’t necessarily the best one for you as it may not provide sufficient cover for your trip and may include a large excess should you need to make a claim when you get home. The UK Consumers’ Association Which? recommends that your travel insurance policy should include a minimum medical cover in Europe of £1 million, £1500 for baggage cover and £3000 for cancellation cover.
Some Basic Truths about Travel Insurance
- The older you are the more you pay.
- Pre-existing medical conditions mean higher premiums.
- The more people insured by the policy the higher the premium.
- The further you travel the more you pay.
- The longer you go for the more you pay.
- If you go to the USA or Canada the premium rises.
- Risky activities such as skiing raise the premium.
Before we begin looking at how to go about finding the best deals on travel insurance let’s make sure you’ve already got yourself a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This card is essential for every UK citizen visiting Europe.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
All UK citizens travelling in the EU should carry a European Health Insurance Card which replaces the old E111 form. The card is free and is valid for up to five years. It basically entitles you to the same state health care as the people of the country where you are visiting. The card is only valid if you have it with you when attending a hospital or doctor’s surgery abroad. Every member of your party must have their own card including children. Double check well before travelling to make sure that your EHIC has not expired.
What does the EHIC cover?
- Medical treatment due to illness or an accident.
- Reduced-cost or free medical treatment from state healthcare providers.
- It allows you to be treated on the same basis as a resident of the country you are visiting.
- Treatment of a chronic or pre-existing medical condition that becomes necessary during your visit.
- Routine maternity care.
- Provision of oxygen, dialysis and routine medical care.
You can order the European Health Insurance Card online at Ehic.org.uk.
Please note that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) card in no way replaces the need for private travel insurance as it doesn’t cover any of the following:
- Private medical treatment which is necessary in some countries.
- Repatriation to the UK in the event of a medical emergency.
- Flight/holiday delays and cancellations.
- Baggage delays.
- Property loss or theft.
Therefore, you should always take out an “adequate” travel insurance policy when going abroad. Please note the word “adequate” here. Some people are taken in by the publicity of the insurance companies and take out policies covering far more than they require and pay accordingly. Read the policy details carefully and take out a policy which seems appropriate to your journey. And when completing the travel insurance application form always tell the truth because what you may think is a little white lie now might come back to bite you later!
Choosing the Best Type of Travel Insurance Policy
(1) Single Trip or Annual Insurance?
Single trip policies rarely represent good value and are real money spinners for the insurance companies. Some companies charge more for a week in the sun than for a whole year’s cover with a different company! If you plan on travelling abroad more than once in the next 12 months then you’ll almost certainly be better off getting an annual policy. If, however, you are only planning a single trip abroad do take a good look around as there are some very cheap deals to be had if you look in the right place.
Be warned that an annual policy does not mean that you can spend 12 months abroad and be covered by it. Check the policy carefully to find out exactly how long you are covered for on any one trip. You’ll need to inform your insurance company about any extended periods of consecutive travel that you’re planning and get them to arrange cover accordingly.
Check out the price comparison sites and other insurance websites listed below.
(2) European or Worldwide Cover?
If you’re planning a trip outside Europe during the next year then it may well prove cost effective to buy a worldwide policy now. However, you must check the policy details carefully as worldwide often doesn’t include the USA and Canada so you’ll have to pay an excess on top of your worldwide policy to ensure that you are covered. In addition, you must check carefully which areas of “Europe” are covered by your policy. Egypt is in North Africa but for the purpose of travel insurance it lies on the Mediterranean Sea so most insurance companies include it in their European travel insurance policies. Good to know considering recent events!
Finding the Best Deals on Travel Insurance
(1) Price Comparison Sites
A good starting point when searching for the best deal on travel insurance is to try the price comparison websites. The big players in this market are:
However, do be aware that many well known insurance companies don’t always appear on these price comparison sites so it’s well worth taking a look at their individual websites to see how they compare.
(2) Insurance Websites
Such is the competitive nature of the insurance market that there are a huge number of companies offering very good deals online. As well as specialist insurance companies such as Staysure, Directline and the Post Office.
(3) Insurance Bundles
Check with your current home insurance company or your car insurance company to ask if they’ll offer you loyalty discounts on travel insurance. Their telephone sales teams often have leeway to make such offers so it’s usually a good idea to give them a call if their website doesn’t clearly make such offers. Some home insurance policies actually cover your personal possessions when you’re away from home. Check whether this applies to you and make sure that you don’t end up insuring your belongings twice. This can help bring down your travel insurance premium.
(4) Insurance Cover from Credit Card Bookings
Be very careful when assuming that you’re covered for travel insurance when booking your trip with a credit card. Some degree of cover is usually included such as injury sustained in the form of transport booked with the card. However, the overall cover is likely to be limited. Check very carefully with your credit company before relying on their cover for your trip as it is unlikely to be sufficiently comprehensive.
(5) “Free” Travel Insurance with Current Bank Accounts
A number of High Street Banks include travel insurance as a reward for opening a premium current account with them. The cover provided by these policies is usually satisfactory but so it should be because the customer is paying a monthly charge for the privilege. To know whether you’re getting good value from your bank you’ll need to compare the cost of these premium account offers with the cost of free banking plus a private travel insurance policy. Check the small print of your “free” travel insurance to make sure know exactly what you’re covered for.
(6) Cashback Websites
Quidco.com is the UK’s top website for cashback which pays the customer 100% of the cashback they earn. With regard to travel insurance they claim that the following savings can be made by going through their website:
|Person||Product||Spend (£)||Save (£)|
|Single person aged 23||Single trip travel insurance||20||10|
|Family with two children||Annual travel insurance||80||20|
|Retired person||Annual travel insurance||70||10|
If you want to look for alternative cashback deals take a look at Topcashback.co.uk which is the other major player in the UK cashback website market.
Specialist Travel Insurance Policies
Insurance companies do not like to take risks and they hate to pay out money. So if you’re young with no health problems and are planning a short trip which doesn’t involve any dangerous activities then there’s a cheap deal waiting for you. If, however, the insurance provider gets a hint that some risk may be involved the premiums start to rise.
(1) Over 65s
As soon as you hit 65 years of age the statistics tell the insurance companies that their risk for insuring you has increased. So irrespective of your state of health you’ll find that travel insurance premiums go up. Advice on finding the best deal is the same as what is written above, however, it’s also worthwhile shopping around to find companies that specialise in offering policies specially geared towards this age group. Staysure are particularly worth checking out as they specialise in the over 50s market.
(2) Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
If you have a particular medical condition you must mention it in the application form when taking out travel insurance. If you don’t and they find out then they’ll refuse to compensate you should treatment abroad be required which could cost you dearly. Unfortunately, you’re likely to come up against some expensive policies and things get even worse if you have a particular condition and you’re over 65.
The number one piece of advice is to ensure that you have a current European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and make sure you carry it with you at all times. This will provide state medical care in the majority of mainstream European countries including treatment of a chronic or pre-existing medical condition that becomes necessary during your visit. To clarify precisely what it does and what it doesn’t cover please visit the NHS Website.
The EHIC card alone does not provide sufficient cover for people with known medical conditions as you won’t be covered for any private treatment and no provision is made in the event that repatriation to the UK is required. Therefore, you must be sure to take out some form of additional private travel insurance policy to supplement the EHIC.
An economical option is to take out an annual policy with EHIC Plus which acts as a top-up policy for EHIC holders. This policy pays for any extras not covered by the standard EHIC such as private ambulances, repatriation to the UK, basic cover for holiday cancellation and baggage loss. They will provide cover as long as you are not terminally ill and can pass their online medical screening test. They do not impose any upper age limit on their policy for either single trips or annual policies. You can find out full details on their website at http://www.ehicplus.com.
Annual policies with insurance companies tend to be very expensive if you have a known medical condition because the insurer has to factor in that you might visit countries with relatively high costs of receiving medical attention. A way around this is to simply look at single trip cover. As well as the websites referred to earlier you should seek out specialist providers who cater for people with known medical conditions. Moneysupermarket.com allows you to search for such providers whilst the following travel insurance providers are well versed in dealing with such enquiries.
(3) Skiing and Other Dangerous Activities
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) may cover you for injury in some resorts where a state medical service is on hand but will not usually cover you for any private clinics or mountain rescue. By all means take a few risks on the slopes but never take any risks where your insurance policy is concerned.
The vast majority of skiers and snowboarders heading for the slopes do take out some form of holiday insurance but many fail to cover themselves adequately in the event of serious injury. Medical costs resulting from a serious accident whilst skiing in Europe could add up to in excess of £25,000. This is the estimated cost of providing an air ambulance, hospital treatment and medical repatriation to the UK. Travel insurance companies will not cover accidents which occur when skiers are found to have been intoxicated so make sure that “Après-ski” is indeed an evening affair.
Use the recommended websites referred to earlier to find a good deal on travel insurance but make sure that you declare on your application form that you are going skiing or taking part in any other activities that the insurance company might consider dangerous.