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Your Essential Travel Insurance Guide

Travel is best enjoyed when it’s worry-free. We go abroad to explore, enjoy and unwind – so peace of mind is just as essential as your travel adaptor. Taking out travel insurance means you’ll have a safety net in the event of a dreaded travel nightmare, whether that’s missing a flight or having your wallet stolen. If you’re wondering how it works exactly, or what type of policy is best value for you, here’s the Flexicover team’s handy guide to travel insurance.

Any other questions? Feel free to give us a buzz on 0800 093 9495 – our experts are on hand to help.


1. Why Do I Need Travel Insurance?
2. How Much Does Travel Insurance Cost?
3. What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
4. Things To Consider When Buying Your Travel Insurance
5. Does It Matter Where I Travel?
6. When Should I Buy Travel Insurance?
7. Should I Choose A Single Trip Or A Multi-Trip Policy?
8. What Cover Level Should I Get?
9. What Does An Excess Mean?
10. I Have A Medical Condition, Can I Be Insured?
11. What Activities Are Included?
12. What Does A Policy Wording Contain?
13. What's The Process To Make A Claim?
14. Travel Insurance Guide - Infographic

Why Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Emergency Medical Treatment On average, Brits spend around £1,300 per person on a summer holiday. To make sure that goes towards having an enjoyable and stress-free time, travel insurance covers you in case things go wrong, like if you lose your baggage or fall seriously ill.

In the UK, travel insurance isn’t compulsory but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office strongly encourage it, saying that those who don’t take it out are “risking thousands of pounds of expenses should they experience any difficulties while overseas”. In some popular destinations like Cuba, travel insurance is compulsory. So make sure that you have bought in advance, and you won’t be allowed to enter the country without it.

How Much Does Travel Insurance Cost?

For a single trip holiday, prices start at £7.28. Of course, there are risk factors that add to the price, from the activities planned for the trip to the part of the world the holiday’s taking place. For instance, healthcare is extremely expensive in the States, so holidaying there adds a few pounds extra to your travel insurance. Age makes a difference, and existing health conditions are taken into account too. However much it costs, it’s a fraction of the price should anything unfortunate happen. Getting your free personalised quote is a really straightforward process, and usually only takes a few minutes on the phone or online.

What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

Travel insurance is wide-ranging, and covers common problems and rare occurrences. Here are the most essential areas of cover.

Emergency Medical Assistance
This includes ambulances, operations and hospital care. Pre-existing medical conditions are covered by insurance, so you’ll need to declare these when buying your policy. When you travel within the EU, the European Health Insurance Card might cover you for emergency care, but it’s not a replacement for travel insurance. It only entitles you to the same level of access as the local state-funded system. So in many countries, you might not get the same breadth of care as with the NHS, you might have to travel past private hospitals to find a state-funded one, and you might have to pay part of the cost then get reimbursed back in the UK. For example, in Ireland a simple GP visit costs around €50, and in France, up to 30 per cent of outpatient costs have to be paid by the individual. The EHIC won’t cover you for things like mountain rescue, if you fall ill before you go abroad, or repatriation - a cost that could run into thousands.

Emergency Assistance Helpline
Insurance policies generally come with a much-needed 24/7 helpline. They guide travellers through the often tricky situation of dealing with an emergency abroad, especially useful given the stress involved if you fall ill away from home. The assurance of an English-speaking expert at the end of the line, who can help communicate and organise, is often as great a help as the financial assistance insurance provides. That’s even the case in European countries – only one in three people in Portugal speak English, for example.

Also be aware that it’s pretty standard across the industry that if treatment looks like it will cost more than £500 you will need to call the emergency helpline so they can ensure you receive the right treatment at the right facility.

Baggage, Belongings and Money
Take the right level of insurance, and you’ll be covered if your money, passport, baggage or belongings are lost, stolen or damaged. Don’t forget to check the maximum pay-out for a single item, especially if packing your nicest things for the holiday.

Travel Delay and Abandonment
If there are problems during transit, higher levels of travel insurance cover alternative arrangements and expenses. Check the policy booklet for what’s covered.

Cancellation and Curtailment
If you need to cancel or cut your holiday short for an unforeseen reason – for example, a death of a close relative - you could claim back the cost.

Personal Liability
Your travel insurance can pick up the bill if you have to pay compensation for damage to a person or their property.

Holiday Activities
Whether you’re getting married, going skiing or taking pricey golf clubs abroad, there’s a range of optional extras to make sure your insurance cover is right for you.

Tip: When it comes to exactly what’s covered, maximum amounts, and situations that are and aren’t covered, these are found in the policy wording booklet – so check your policy carefully. These details will change depending on your level of cover.

Things To Consider When Buying Your Travel Insurance

With over 30 years in the business, Flexicover know the common issues customers face when it comes to travel insurance. To make sure you’re not caught out, remember these pointers.

  • Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the latest advice on travel to your destination. Their advice is the only opinion that matters – especially because if they advise against travel somewhere, your insurance won’t be valid.
  • The FCO’s advice also includes the risk of natural catastrophes. If there’s a chance of something happening, it’s worth checking if your travel insurance covers problems arising from such events (sometimes called ‘acts of God’ in policies)
  • It’s also good practice to check the WHO (World Health Organisation) website before you travel. The WHO provides reports on any particular health concerns occurring in a country.
  • Your policy needs to cover all the time that you are travelling, including the time that you’re in the UK (and should be in effect from the time that you leave your house to begin your travels).
  • Especially for cheaper travel insurance, check that the maximum payout for your cover level matches what you need. Basic insurance might only cover up to, say, £2,000 if the holiday gets cancelled. But if you've spent £5,000 per person on the holiday of a lifetime, think about changing your policy to make sure that you you won't be out of pocket. Similarly, if you take your prized £15,000 Rolex on holiday but your single item limit is £500 per item, it might be worth upgrading or leaving your Rolex safe at home.
  • Not all policies cover phones, laptops and gadgets so go through the policy again. If it’s not already covered, you might be able to add on optional gadget cover
  • If you’re off on a cruise double check that your policy covers such trips as standard or whether you need to buy specific cruise cover
  • Some destinations involve one or more connections. Make sure you know the situations in which missed connections are covered by insurance, and when they’re not
  • Medical considerations

    • When you’re getting a quote, it’s important to let the insurer know if you already have a medical condition. This can be anything from having mild asthma, to having a pacemaker, to chronic but managed issues like diabetes. If pre-existing medical conditions need attention while you’re abroad, you won’t be covered if you knew about it and didn’t declare it at the time you bought your policy.
    • If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you may need to check your holiday plans with a GP to make sure it won’t interfere with your health.
    • Some legally prescribed medicines are banned abroad. For example, pseudoephedrine, which is found in common brands like Vicks, Sudafed and others, is banned in Japan. And in Costa Rica, you can only bring in the amount of medicine you need for the length of the trip, and only if it has a doctor’s note. So if you’re taking medicine with you, check with the relevant embassy to make sure you can bring it with you.

    While You're On Holiday

    • Need to see a doctor pronto? Contact the medical helpline number that the travel insurer gives you before choosing your medical facility abroad. They’ll help guide you through the process. Please be aware that as a general rule you’re only covered for treatment at a private facility if specifically advised by the emergency medical team, so it’s always best practice to call first.
    • Go easy on the alcohol. Most insurers don’t cover you if unfortunate things happen when you’re heavily under the influence.
    • To make sure your valuables are covered when flying, keep them in your hand luggage, not in the hold. Then when you’ve checked into your hotel, keep them locked in the room safe.

    Does It Matter Where I Travel?

    It most certainly does. Travel insurers typically divide the world up into four regions based on the cost of insuring a person in these locations – for example, medical care in the USA is notoriously expensive, so insurance to this destination is a little pricier. The four areas are:

    • UK
    • Europe
    • Worldwide excluding USA, Canada & the Caribbean
    • Worldwide including USA, Canada & the Caribbean

    It’s worth checking where your country falls between these regions, especially as different insurers have different definitions. Some Caribbean islands, for example, may or may not fall under the USA. And Cuba isn’t covered at all by some policies.

    Once you know which region your holiday falls under, it doesn’t matter whereabouts in these four areas you travel. So insurance for a trip to France costs the same as a trip to Italy, and you can visit both France and Italy, and still be covered.

    European travel allows an extra assurance, as EU citizens can get a European Health Insurance Card. This allows free emergency cover while in the EU – but again, it complements rather than replaces your travel insurance policy.

    Tip: Here’s Flexicover’s list of countries and regions.

    When Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

    For your cover to be valid, you’ll need to buy insurance before your holiday, and it’s best practice to book your travel insurance policy as soon as you have booked your trip.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s wise to wait until just before your trip to buy insurance. Once you take out Single Trip Travel Insurance, you’re immediately covered for cancellation in case anything happens between then and the start of your holiday, for example, if there’s a death in the family or if you get sick.

    For Annual Multi-Trip Travel Insurance policies it’s slightly different, so while it might be tempting to start your policy from the first day of travel you won’t be covered for cancellation until that date so for added protection it’s often wise to start the policy from the date of purchase.

    Note that if an issue occurs and then you buy insurance, your cover won’t be valid. So whatever policy type you choose its best to purchase your cover as soon as you’ve booked your trip.

    Should I Choose A Single Trip Or A Multi-Trip Policy?

    Both single trip and annual multi trip policies provide the same breadth of cover, just at different prices and time lengths. A single trip will cover you for one specific holiday, while an annual multi trip policy covers you for as many holidays as you can take throughout the year – as long as you stick within the parameters of your policy when it comes to geography and how long you spend abroad.

    If you rarely go on holiday, single trip insurance will be the best option for you. Your cover dates are fixed, and if you change your departure date, you’ll have to amend your insurance booking. If you do go on another trip, you’ll have to take out another insurance policy.

    For those who travel more than twice a year, annual multi trip insurance can work out to be more cost-effective. It’s also good for people who don’t want the hassle of taking out insurance for every holiday. And once a year, you can renew it, giving you continuous cover to make life even easier.

    Other Types Of Policies

    Annual Family: check that your policy allows each person, kids included, to travel independently and still be covered.

    Long Stay: These are valid up to a period of 12 months. These are normally used when you are staying at your holiday home, or visiting family abroad for a long period of time.

    Gap Year: Developed with backpackers and overseas students in mind, gap year travel insurance covers you for trips up to 18 months whether you’re heading to one location or you’ve got several places to explore. You’re protected for the standard things such as medical emergencies but also for specialist aspects including course fees and computer equipment.

    Comparison Table - Flexicover Travel Insurance

    Cover Duration Trip Duration (Up To) Trips/Destinations Age Range
    Annual Multi-Trip 1 Year 100 Days Unlimited up to age 85
    Gap Year 18 Months Up To 18 Months 1 16-45
    Long Stay 12 Months 3-12 Months 1 Up To 75

    What Cover Level Should I Choose?

    Usually insurance providers offer three or four levels of cover (at Flexicover, ours are Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum). They go from basic cover that takes care of key aspects, to more comprehensive cover with higher maximum amounts. As you might guess, the price varies between these levels.

    Insurance is about peace of mind, so the cover level you choose depends on what provides you with a worry-free holiday. It’s worth considering these factors:

    • The price difference between each level
    • Extra cover offered between each level
    • The value of your belongings
    • Crime rates in your destination
    • Airline reliability
    • Activities planned for the holiday
    • Your financial ability to handle unexpected costs

    What Does An ‘Excess’ Mean?

    The excess represents the contribution you make from your own pocket when making a claim. For example, if you need medical treatment worth £500 abroad, you might have to pay the ‘excess’ of, say, £100. The insurer will cover the other £400.

    Not all policies have an excess, but these policies are usually more expensive. It’s a personal decision whether you want to pay a lower premium with a higher excess if you make a claim, or if you want a policy without an excess so you’ll never pay more than your premium.

    I Have A Medical Condition, Can I Be Insured?

    Yes, you can! Companies try their best to insure all travellers. But the cost is likely to be higher, simply because people with pre-existing medical conditions have a higher risk associated with them when travelling.

    When buying your travel insurance, either online or over the phone, you’ll be asked to declare any conditions using a medical screening system. This is basically a list of questions, which will take a few minutes to run through. You’ll need to give all necessary details about your conditions and maybe about the medication you take so that a premium can be calculated. If you don’t let the insurer know about a problem at this stage, and you make a claim based on a pre-existing medical condition you were aware of, your insurance won’t be valid.

    Paying a slightly higher premium makes more sense than taking a risk, especially if there’s an elevated chance you’ll need medical help abroad.

    What Activities Are Included?

    When it comes to winter sports, most travel insurers offer specialised cover. The conditions might be slightly different between each policy, each provider and each cover level. Usual winter sports policies cover you for equipment and equipment hire, piste closures, avalanches and landslides.

    When it comes to other activities policies do often cover a huge range including scuba diving, football, swimming, hiking and snorkelling . If the activity you are planning to do is pretty usual, you could almost consider yourself covered for it, but take the time to check your policy wording just in case.

    If it’s not listed, just contact the insurer as some activities can still be covered. This might mean an extra charge, or restrictions to your activity or cover.

    What Does A Policy Wording Contain?

    This is the document that details the terms of your policy in depth. For example, you can access our policy wording here. You should always read through the policy details just so that you know what you’re covered for and what you’re not.

    What's The Process To Make A Claim?

    The first step in making a claim is contacting the claims team, a specialist partner of the travel insurer who’ll help you throughout the process. You’ll find their contact details in your policy wording and other correspondence about your insurance.

    The claims team will need to carry out an investigation before approving it, so you’ll be asked to fill out a form explaining the details of the case, and this might be followed up with more letters or phone calls. You’ll also be asked to send any paperwork you have. The length of this process varies depending on the specifics of the case.

    Things to bear in mind:

    • Check the timeframe for making a claim – you’ll have to lodge your claim within a certain number of days after returning
    • Keep all paperwork when you’re abroad, and then send what’s needed afterwards. This depends on what type of claim you’re making
    • Keep copies of the documents you send off, and keep track of any correspondences

    Anything Else?

    Just call us on 0800 093 9495 if you have any other questions about travel insurance, or if you want a personalised quote in just a few minutes. We’ll get it sorted, leaving you free to enjoy your holiday with real peace of mind.

    Travel Insurance Guide

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