Got a holiday planned but STILL yet to get travel insurance? For less than a tenner, you can properly relax on holiday knowing that you’re fully covered – here’s how.
Nobody likes thinking about worst-case scenarios when getting excited about their holidays.
But, if you can spare a minute between daydreaming about the sun, sea and sangria after the last months of revision and exam stress, we’d seriously advise spending a small bit of cash on a travel insurance policy to cover yourself in case something goes wrong.
The good news is that if you do your research and you’re smart about which policy you choose, it doesn’t have to cost much more than two pints of beer. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s in this guide?
- Do you need travel insurance?
- What will travel insurance cover?
- What won’t it cover?
- How to make a travel insurance claim
- Which type of policy to go for
- Where to buy student travel insurance
Do you need travel insurance?
The short answer is: YES, you should always take out a travel insurance policy.
Most holidays go swimmingly, but if something does go wrong while you’re out of the UK, you can end up with a serious bill that could’ve been avoided with one small payment before you set off. It’s a no-brainer.
The US and Australia have notoriously expensive healthcare, so if you’re unlucky enough to fall out of a hammock and break your neck while chilling in Surfer’s Paradise, you’ll be in a serious pickle without a policy that fully covers you.
Without travel insurance, even the most minor of accidents can end up costing you a small fortune. We can also guarantee that if you get something nicked while you’re away, you’ll be kicking yourself for not having the foresight to get insurance before you left.
So, for that extra peace of mind while you’re meant to be relaxing, it’s well worth investing a little bit of cash into travel insurance.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
While the UK’s still in the European Union, you can keep using your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This will give you basic healthcare at a reduced cost when visiting any countries within the European Economic Area.
These cards are free – you just need to submit an online application. Make sure you only apply via this official website, as the internet is full of scam sites trying to charge for EHIC applications.
Though the card is really handy, having one in your wallet isn’t a substitute for health insurance – the EHIC won’t cover you for anything other than basic medical treatment.
As such, if you need to rearrange your travel plans as the result of an accident and don’t have travel insurance, you’ll be on your own when it comes to covering the cost.
What does travel insurance cover?
Travel insurance policies can cover you for all sorts of things – each one is different, so make sure you always read the fine print and know exactly what your policy includes before agreeing to anything.
If you’re planning on getting involved in some sports or adventure activities while you’re away, you’ll need a policy that explicitly states that you’re covered if you have an accident as a result.
It might cost a few more quid, but there’s no point in buying a cheaper insurance policy that won’t pay out – plus, travel insurance is usually pretty cheap anyway, so the difference should be negligible.
What to include in your travel insurance policy
Here are the main things we’d recommend including in your travel insurance policy:
- Medical cover of at least £2 million – This might sound like a lot, but when you consider that an overnight stay in a US hospital could cost around $4,000 or £3,250* (we love you, NHS), you’ll understand that this sort of coverage is pretty crucial. Imagine how the costs could stack up if you fell ill with something serious?
- Personal liability cover of £1 million – This is basically the amount you’ll be covered for if you cause injury to someone else, or damage someone else’s property. So, if you plan on letting loose on a quad bike when holidaying in Turkey, this will save you from having to fork out for damages when you accidentally crash into the side of some poor person’s garden shed.
- Around £3,000 in cancellation cover – If your flight is cancelled or you miss a connection due to delays, this will have you covered. If the airline your flight is booked with goes bust, this will be instantly refundable provided you paid by credit card. So make sure you use a credit rather than debit card when booking your flights
- £1,500 in case of loss of baggage – If you’re convinced that your Primarni clothes probably aren’t worth this much, then you could go for a policy that offers a bit less. But definitely get covered for lost baggage – it happens a lot more often you’d think, and even if your baggage turns up later, you can usually claim for the new clothes you had to buy in the meantime.
- £250 in case of loss of cash – It’s hard to find a policy that will dish out much more than this amount when it comes to loss of cash, mostly because carrying large wads around with you isn’t too smart. Grab yourself a decent credit card or debit card that doesn’t impose charges on international withdrawals, so you can dip in as many times as you need to.
* Conversion correct as of May 2020.
Any policies offering less than this aren’t really advised, and bear in mind that shelling out one or two extra quid on your policy could save you thousands if the worst-case scenario comes to fruition.
Also, don’t forget to check the excess. Your excess is the amount that you agree to pay upfront in the case of an emergency, which will then be topped up by your provider.
For example, you may be covered for £1,000 of lost baggage, but have an excess of £100. This means that you’d have to pay the first £100 towards the cost, with your insurer paying the rest.
The lower the excess, the more you’ll pay for the policy itself, and vice versa – you can save a bit on your policy if you agree to pay more in excess.
However, as travel insurance tends to be pretty cheap either way, and the amounts you may end up claiming for are so large, it’s worth seeing how much difference the excess actually makes to the cost of your policy.
What doesn’t travel insurance cover?
There are a few details worth knowing about travel insurance before you commit to a policy.
Although insurers are there to reassure you that you’ll be financially covered if something goes wrong, don’t see this as a green light to do whatever you want on holiday and lose all sense of responsibility!
Here are a few things that travel insurance companies typically won’t cover you for:
- Most policies won’t cover you if you’ve been drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs. If you’re planning to party a lot while you’re away, you’ll need to take extra care. If you injure yourself whilst drunk, medical staff will have to disclose this in your hospital records, and this could prevent you from being able to make a claim for medical costs.
- Existing health conditions can seriously affect whether or not your insurance provider will pay out, so if you do have any, make sure that you declare them when you’re buying your insurance. Honesty goes a long way in this game!
- If your items are stolen from an unattended vehicle, you leave your bag on the beach or in the overhead compartment on a train, you probably won’t be covered.
- If you wait around and don’t report your situation quickly enough (usually within 24 hours) it may void the claim, so stop your sunbathing routine for two minutes and make that call.
- If you contract a tropical disease that you should’ve been vaccinated for before arriving, this could prevent you from being able to claim.
- If you have an accident as a result of not taking a relevant safety precaution, like wearing your seatbelt or a helmet, this could also void your claim. Break your neck falling out of a hammock, however, and you’ll probably be covered.
- If you’ve chosen to travel to an area that British Foreign Office advises against, your insurance policy won’t be valid. If this is your situation, check out this specialist insurance company (although, as you might expect, policies will be a lot more expensive for these regions).
It’s also worth noting that driving abroad isn’t normally covered by travel insurance (although sometimes it can be, so it’s worth checking out).
If you do plan to drive when on holiday, you might be able to get covered through your car insurance provider. Try checking with them first.
How to make a travel insurance claim
As it’s normally a requirement that you file your claim within 24 hours, most insurance companies offer a hotline that runs 24/7.
So, if you need to report something, call them as soon as possible. Make sure that you keep the telephone number handy, just in case you do need it.
Before you call them, think carefully about the situation and write down the specifics so you can provide any details they ask for.
Providing a travel insurer with evidence
If you’re reporting a theft, you’ll have to provide them with the details of what happened, as well as a crime reference number from the local police department. So, make sure you report it to the authorities beforehand.
Another thing insurers might ask for is photographic evidence that you owned the stolen item(s). Therefore, it’s a good idea to lay out everything of value on your bed before you leave and take a photo of it all. You can then send this to the insurers as proof of ownership when filing your claim.
If you’re sick, some insurers will arrange to pay the hospital directly if you need treatment, but do clarify the procedure before paying for your policy.
And, if you pay for something that you expect to be refunded by the insurance company at a later date (like example emergency accommodation if your flight is cancelled), make sure you keep all receipts so you can prove exactly how much everything came to.
Which type of travel insurance policy to go for
When you’re choosing a policy, you’ll first be faced with two main options – single trip or multi-trip/ annual cover.
As you might’ve guessed, single cover will insure you for just one trip (normally up to around 31 days), whereas annual will cover every holiday you take over the next year.
Price-wise, if you plan to go abroad more than once in the year, it’ll probably be worth taking out annual cover – it’s often around the same price as two single-trip policies anyway.
If you’re planning a longer trip such as a backpacking holiday or a gap year, you’ll need to take an annual policy. There are often special policies specifically for trips such as these, so keep your eyes peeled.
Where to buy travel insurance
As much as we’d love to tell you which travel insurance policies are the best, it really does depend on what kind of trip you’re going on.
Prices will vary depending on whether you need gadget cover or you’re going skiing, for example, so your best bet is heading across to a comparison site to scout out the best deals.
There are loads out there, but some good places to start are Money Supermarket, Compare the Market and Go Compare.
Comparison sites will even allow you to filter results by certain requirements you have. For example, if you want medical cover of at least £2 million, you can make sure you’re only seeing policies which will provide that.
What is the Defaqto Rating?
You’ll notice that each policy is displayed next to a Defaqto star rating, ranging from one to five.
This rating basically indicates how comprehensive the cover is – a five-star policy will cover a lot more than one with just one star.
However, bear in mind that you might not need those extra add ons, especially if you’re just heading off on a quick weekend break.
The Defaqto rating is a useful indication of how extensive policies are, but not necessarily whether it’s the right one for you.
Best student travel insurance
If you’d rather cut out the middle man and go with a name you know you can trust, these are the best places to find student travel insurance:
As one of the biggest names in student travel, it makes sense that STA Travel offer some great deals for students.
They offer several different levels of policy, with cover starting at just 37p per day for single trip, and as little as 22p per day for annual plans.
STA also automatically includes cancellation cover in the event that you need to resit your exams instead of going away.
You can also get coverage for studying abroad, working holidays (like farming and ski seasons), and volunteering.
Endsleigh is the biggest name in student insurance, specialising in providing affordable policies for young people – plus, they’re the only insurance provider recommended by the NUS.
As well as car, contents and gadgets insurance, Endsleigh offer specialised cover for gap years and studying abroad. So, if you’re planning an extended trip, they’re a good option to check out.
The best perk? You’ll get up to 20% off the cost of your policy discount with TOTUM.