Things can go wrong on holiday. You could fall ill or have an accident, you could have money or luggage stolen, or your visit might be cancelled or cut short because of injury or illness. You can cover these risks and many more by buying travel insurance.
The costs of medical care abroad can be high; a medical evacuation to the UK, for example, will cost you thousands of pounds, so getting proper insurance is vital.
A number of websites help you compare travel insurance. Bear in mind that a cheaper policy may have less cover. If you make several trips each year, consider taking out annual multi-trip insurance.
You should ensure your policy covers:
Check the small print of your insurance policy very carefully to see if any exclusions might apply. Exclusions are situations or conditions that, if they exist, will allow your insurer to refuse your claim. They're always set out in your policy.
If your trip involves particular sports or activities that are considered a risk, check that your insurer offers extra cover; you may need to call a specialist insurer. Some policies exclude some activities. If requested, many insurers will extend cover; otherwise you should find a specialist policy.
If you're in any doubt, contact your insurer to find out exactly what cover you have. Bear in mind that most policies won't cover you:
If travelling to Europe, make sure you complete aas well. An EHIC gives the holder rights to healthcare that may become necessary during a temporary visit to the European Economic Area countries or Switzerland.
Always book through an agent that's with the Association of British Travel Agents, Air Travel Organisers' Licence or other relevant financial protection organisation. Decent travel agents and tour operators will give you security by holding:
Your policy should pay out if you need to cancel or cut short a trip (this is often referred to as 'curtailment'). You might need to curtail your trip because, for example, you fall ill. It should cover pre-paid expenses, such as excursions, and any extra costs incurred in getting home.
Check your policy documents to see what would be covered, such as accident, illness and unknown future events like having to attend jury service.
Cover can also be provided if you're needed at home because of a fire, storm or flooding.
Some policies also cover cancellation that could happen if you're made redundant or if a strike or bad weather affects the departure of a flight or ship.
You should get a policy with enough cover to refund the full cost of your holiday.
Travel insurance can cover stolen, lost or damaged possessions. You can normally set the limit of the cover, but the limit should be adequate and realistic for your own circumstances. The higher the limit of the cover, the more expensive the policy will be.
Policies will generally limit claims for single items – the limit can vary from around £250 up to £1,000 or more. There is likely to be a similar limit on the total paid to replace valuables, such as cameras or jewellery. Check that these limits are sufficient.
You shouldn't rely on compensation from the airline if it loses your luggage. By law, airlines need only pay a specified minimum value per kilo of lost luggage – this will probably be inadequate to cover the full value of your belongings.
Most insurance policies will require you to take care of your belongings at all times. If you don't, the policy might not pay your claim.
Any losses should be reported to the local police within 24 hours, and your insurer will need proof of notification when you make your claim.
Many holiday insurance policies have a provision for emergency repatriation. This means returning you to the country that you live in. Insurance companies require that you adhere strictly to their terms and conditions, so it's important that you've read and understood the terms before starting the process of emergency repatriation.
If you're relying on them to reimburse you for emergency flights, contact your insurance company directly before making travel arrangements, as they usually have specific procedures and/or providers that you should use.
You may also want to check if your policy covers you for legal expenses to help you claim compensation or damages following an injury while you're abroad. This could be particularly useful if there isn't a system of getting free legal advice in the country you're travelling to.
Some travel insurance policies cover you if your airline goes out of business before you travel or while you're abroad. If you have no other form of financial protection, you might want to ensure you buy a policy that includes this cover.
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Make sure you take a copy of your policy and the 24-hour emergency phone number, if there is one, and that you know what to do in the event of a problem. Some insurance companies insist that you call their assistance company as soon as possible after a problem arises.
If anything does happen, keep as much paperwork as possible - tickets, receipts, medical bills, police reports, etc. This will help prove that what you're claiming for actually happened.