Travel insurance crash course

Forking out for travel insurance can seem a cost too far, which is why a quarter of British holidaymakers still take the risk of jetting off without it.

But for the price of a round of drinks at the airport, you could get cover that would save your skin if a disaster happened miles from home.

If you’re still not sure it’s worth it, here are your travel insurance questions answered.

Do I need travel insurance?

Well, that depends. Would you be happy to cough up £2,040, which is the average cost for overseas medical treatment? No? Thought not.

Medical cover is the most important reason for getting insurance for your holiday, but most policies will also cover you if your baggage gets lost or stolen or your trip gets cancelled.

Aren’t I insured already?

Before you take out travel insurance, it is wise to check whether you already have access to cover. For example, many packaged bank accounts – they’re the ones you pay a fee for - include travel insurance. Phone up to find out if this benefit is included and how much it covers you for.

Your home contents policy may also protect your belongings even when you’re away which could bring down your travel insurance costs. Don’t automatically assume you’re covered though and remember you’ll need extra medical insurance anyway.

But I’ve already got an EHIC card…

Well, that’s a great start. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is free, so don’t fall for online scams asking you to pay. It gives you the same level of state-provided care as someone who lives in the country you’re visiting, but you may need to pay part of your bills if that’s how it works in that country.

You’ll need extra travel insurance as well as your EHIC, especially as the card won’t cover the cost of getting you back home if you’re taken ill, which can add up to many thousands in a medical emergency.

The EHIC rules are likely to change when we leave the EU, but until then, carrying the card will give you a basic level of help.

How much is travel insurance?

As with all insurance, policy costs vary hugely. According to the Association of British Insurers, the cost of the average annual travel insurance policy, which will cover you for trips you take all year, is £37, compared to the average medical claim of £1,300. A policy for an individual trip will cost a bit less.

To find competitive cover, your best bet is to go to a price comparison site like TravelSuperMarket.com or comparethemarket.com and search for different options.

Don’t simply choose the cheapest insurance before finding out what is – and isn’t – included. If you’re not sure what to look for, the Money Advice Service has this easy-to-understand guide.

What does excess mean in travel insurance?

The excess is the amount that you, the policyholder, pay towards any claim. So, if you put in a claim for £400 and the policy excess is £100, the insurer would only pay out £300. For some travel insurance claims, excesses are applied per section, and you might find you have to claim from different sections thereby paying multiple excesses. Other policies charge just one excess per claim, which can work out much cheaper. 

Will the insurer definitely pay out?

According to the Association of British Insurers, nine in ten travel claims are successful.

But insurers also impose conditions which can easily scupper a genuine claim. Increase your chance of success by knowing which hoops you have to jump through. Some policies will ask you to get a police report within a certain time frame. Others will make you check a medical procedure is covered before, not after, it is carried out.

Anything else?

Top of the tips is to take out travel insurance today. Don’t wait until your departure date. If you have a holiday booked and anything goes wrong between now and the time your plane takes off, you won�t be eligible for help unless your policy is already in place.