Travellers tend to fall into two groups: the sensible planner who organises everything down to a tee or the happy-go-lucky adventurer who crosses bridges as he gets to them. It’s easy to guess who usually buys travel insurance and who doesn’t. Many people see it as a waste of money that could be well-spent on sangria but having a good travel insurance policy can save you from disaster and doesn’t have to cut into your holiday budget too much. However, this all depends on what you’re doing, where and for how long.
What do you need to cover?
The very basic cover you want to purchase is medical, cancellation and baggage. But check how much you are covered for and make sure the amount works with your travelling habits. The lowest amount of cover you’ll generally want and is usually included in basic cover is £2 million medical cover, a cancellation fee of up to £2000 and baggage cover of up to £750. Be aware, if you tend to travel with expensive equipment such as laptops and cameras, you’ll want a higher coverage. Likewise, a cancellation fee should correlate with the price of your holiday including any paid excursions while you’re there and this cancellation policy won’t cover you if you voluntarily opt out of your holiday but it will cover you for unforeseen circumstances such as a new medical issue or a death in the family.
If your holiday isn’t the typical beach/sight-seeing affair and you’re planning on taking part in any extreme sports, you’ll need to get special cover for this. Usually, you’ll need a higher medical coverage as well as medical evacuation and repatriation coverage. If you have an accident whilst skiing for example, you’ll want to make sure you have cover for a medical mountain evacuation, hospital treatment and a way to get home if you can’t fly on a commercial flight.
European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) – what is it and why should you get one?
If you’re an EU citizen, it’s worth getting an EHIC card as they’re completely free! The EHIC replaced the old E111 card and entitles you to medical care within Europe. Generally, when you’re a holder of an EHIC, you’ll receive the same medical care as any citizen of the European country you’re visiting. This often results in free or discounted medical care but as a general rule, if a resident of the country gets a free treatment so will you but if they have to pay for a particular treatment the same applies to you too, even if that treatment would be free at home. Some countries do require you to pay upfront for medical care then reclaim the money back later. Moreover, not all European countries abide by the EHIC rules as they should, so check how the country you’re visiting usually deals with this before you go. Despite a couple of problems, it is well worth getting your free card and keeping it on you at all times, as even if you have trouble with an insurance policy, you’ll have your EHIC for back-up. If you don’t have it on you at the time of an emergency, it may mean you’re not entitled to claim the free treatment so make sure you don’t leave it at the hotel! Keeping it in your purse or wallet is always a good idea.
How to find the right policy for you –
Most people think that a travel insurance policy is valid for one person on one particular trip. Nowadays, multi-person/multi-trip cover is becoming more and more popular and can often bring the costs and stress-levels of finding an insurance policy down to a minimum. Policies can range in the people they cover from singles and couples to families (even extended family). It’s worth deciding who needs cover and then buying your insurance policy en masse to save money. Likewise, people tend to buy single trip policies despite the fact that a lot of people can travel multiple times in one year. Annual policies will cover any trips taken by the number of people covered in the policy. So, a family of four can get covered for any trips they take within one year, and some policies even cover independent travel within that family. As long as the people covered have a similar travel style, in that one doesn’t take cabin baggage while the other takes 2 suitcases brimming with expensive items, it should be fairly easy to find an annual policy that will cover multiple people for all their needs.
Tips & Tricks –
∙ For an easy comparison on policies, use a price comparison website and enter all the things you expect from a policy.
∙ Keep in mind that an EHIC card will only cover you for state hospitals and medical centres while separate medical insurance will cover you at the nearest available medical centre (some countries’ state hospitals are few and far between).
∙ When covering a whole family, sometimes it’s cheaper to exclude over 65’s and insure them separately as insurers hike up the prices over this age-barrier.
∙ Check the small print; exclusions and excess can cost you. You don’t want to have to pay the first £500 on a baggage policy that will only pay out up to £750.
∙ Double-check which countries are included in your policy – for instance some ‘European’ policies won’t include Spain but will include parts of northern Africa.
∙ For travellers who don’t rely on package holidays, it might be worth checking out ‘Independent Traveller’ policies – if your flight cancellation has a knock on effect with your separately booked hotel, you’ll still be covered.
∙ Always, always, always take travel documents with you. Even better, make copies so you can leave one safely at home while you have a copy of all the important policy and contact information with you in case the worst does happen.