What is travel insurance and where can you get the best deals?
Travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic have made many of us more keen to travel than ever but it’s still not possible to go to many countries unless you have an exemption. When you are able to travel abroad again or if you’re holidaying in the UK, it’s important to take out travel insurance in case something goes wrong.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance covers the cost of unforeseen events when you travel overseas or in the UK, such as having to cancel your trip, losing your baggage or other possessions, missing your flight or becoming legally liable for injury to others or damage to property.
It also covers the cost of any medical treatment you need if you become ill or get injured while you are away – although this would be covered by the NHS in the UK and at least partially if you still have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) and you’re travelling to the EU – and if you need to be brought back to the UK or closer to home.
You can take it out for yourself, for you and your partner, for your family or for a group you’re travelling with.
How does travel insurance work?
You either pay a travel insurer to cover you for a single trip or for the whole year, during which you can make multiple trips. You can also take out a ‘backpacking’ policy for a longer trip of up to 18 months. Policies cover just Europe, the whole world, or the world excluding the USA, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
If something goes wrong when you are away you’ll need to contact your insurer to make a claim. There may be deadlines involved. For example, if your possessions are stolen you’ll need to report it to the police within 24 hours and get a written report from them.
If you need medical treatment abroad you’ll need to contact your insurer before you have it to make sure it will be covered.
You can pay more to add winter or extreme sports, cruise or business cover and for extra gadget cover, as there will usually be a limit to what’s covered as standard.
Travel insurance pros and cons
- Having travel insurance means you won’t be out of pocket if something goes wrong when you’re travelling and you’ll be able to pay for potentially expensive medical treatment if you’re ill or injured abroad.
- You can claim for the cost of your trip if you have to cancel it before you go for reasons such as you become ill, you experienced a bereavement or the country you were planning to go to has become unsafe, or you have to cut your trip short.
- By taking out an annual multi-trip policy you can save money if you’re planning to go on several trips during the year.
- It gets more expensive the older you get as you’re more likely to fall ill.
- Pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or cancer, are not covered as standard. You need to declare them to your insurer and pay extra for them to be covered. Your claim may be refused if you haven’t declared any pre-existing medical conditions.
- You’ll usually need to pay for part of your claim yourself – known as the excess. This keeps the cost of your policy down.
- You won’t be covered if you travel to a country against the advice of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), including because of coronavirus.
Which travel insurance comparison site can save you the most?
We gathered travel insurance quotes from the four biggest price comparison sites – Compare the Market, Confused.com, Go Compare and MoneySuperMarket – for three different scenarios to give you an idea of how much you might pay and how quotes differ.
The quotes below are the lowest offered by each comparison site for worldwide annual travel insurance for a 30-year-old, 50-year-old and 70-year-old with no pre-existing medical conditions. Policies have at least £2,000 of baggage cover and £4,000 of cancellation cover. The cheapest quote for each scenario is shown in bold.
Some comparison sites offer rewards when you take out certain types of insurance with them. Compare the Market is the only one of the four we looked at to give you rewards for taking out travel insurance. Details are included below.
Travel insurance comparison site costs compared:
|Comparison site||30-year-old||50-year-old||70-year-old||Comparison site rewards|
|Compare the Market||£45.25 (Admiral), excess £75||£56.13 (Admiral), excess £75||£125.62 (Admiral), excess £75||2 for 1 cinema tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; discounts on takeaway food and eating out|
|Confused.com||£47.14 (Admiral), excess £75||£58.48 (Admiral), excess £75||£130.88 (Admiral), excess £75||None|
|GoCompare||£44.98 (Admiral), excess £75||£55.80 (Admiral), excess £75||£124.88 (Admiral), excess £75||None|
|MoneySuperMarket||£46.46 (Admiral), excess £75||£57.63 (Admiral), excess £75||£115.21 (Leisure Guard), excess £50||None|
Notes: Quotes gathered on 10 June 2021 for a policy starting on 1 July 2021.
As you can see, most of the cheapest quotes come from the same insurer but costs vary slightly between the different comparison sites. For this reason, it’s a good idea to use two or three comparison sites when you’re comparing quotes.
Quotes can change regularly so the comparison site that gives you the cheapest quote on one day won’t necessarily be cheapest the next. They will also vary according to your circumstances.
Before you take a policy out make sure it meets your needs and don’t choose one based on whether you’ll get rewards from the comparison site alone.
Travel insurance FAQs:
How can you get the best travel insurance quotes?
You should shop around and use two or three comparison sites to find the best price for your needs but make sure you’re comparing like for like. Consider taking out annual travel insurance if you’ll be taking several trips in one year as this could save you money. Think about whether you really need add-ons before you include them.
Which comparison site works with the most travel insurance providers?
Confused.com works with the most travel insurers at 45. Compare the Market and GoCompare work with 39 and MoneySuperMarket works with 35. A comparison site working with more providers doesn’t necessarily mean it will give you a cheaper quote however.
How much does travel insurance cost?
Travel insurance is generally affordable although it can be expensive if you have pre-existing medical conditions you need to cover. In our scenarios above you can get worldwide annual travel insurance for as little as £44.98 if you’re aged 30 although this rises to £130.88 if you’re 70.
According to GoCompare, the average cost of a single-trip policy if you don’t have pre-existing medical conditions was just £21.30 in 2020.
What does travel insurance cover?
It covers the cost of cancellation and delays, getting medical treatment and being repatriated if you’re ill or injured, the theft or loss of your baggage or possessions and personal liability if you cause injury to others or damage to property. You can pay to add cover for extras such as winter sports.
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes – it’s not usually compulsory but even if you’re travelling in the UK or are going to the EU and have an EHIC or GHIC card you could end up seriously out of pocket if something goes wrong when you’re away or you need to cancel your trip.
When should I take out travel insurance?
You should take it out as soon as you book your trip so you are covered straight away if you need to cancel it.
How does Covid-19 affect my travel insurance?
You won’t be covered if you travel to a country you are advised not to by the FCDO, which currently includes red and amber-list countries for coronavirus. Rules on international travel vary in different parts of the UK so check what applies where you live.
You should be covered if you become ill with Covid-19 while you are away and need medical treatment or repatriation. Some insurers are offering enhanced Covid-19 cover, which means you would be covered if you have to cancel your trip because you fall ill with Covid-19, but check what’s covered before you take a policy out.