Do I need travel insurance?

6 min Read Published: 23 May 2024

Do I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance is an essential addition to any trip abroad as it can help cover the cost of unexpected events that may occur whilst you are away. You may worry about your bag or valuables being stolen or not arriving at your destination, but have you ever considered what happens if you require medical treatment abroad? One of the main benefits of travel insurance is the emergency medical cover as medical treatment when abroad is usually expensive and can amount to thousands of pounds.

In this article, we look at when you need travel insurance, what travel insurance covers and the best way to buy travel insurance.

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What does travel insurance cover?

Travel insurance is designed to cover unexpected costs that you may incur when you are abroad. It can cover medical costs if you require medical treatment when away but depending on the policy you choose, it can also help to recuperate costs for lost or stolen belongings and delayed flights.

Most standard travel insurance policies will cover emergency medical costs, repatriation to the UK, trip cancellations or cutting your trip short. There is usually the option to enhance your travel insurance with additional cover for winter sports, cruise cover and baggage cover although some policies may include baggage cover as standard.

One thing to remember with travel insurance, however, is that it is designed to cover irrecoverable costs, which means costs that cannot be reimbursed elsewhere. For example, if you are unable to travel you will need to contact your tour operator or credit or debit card company first to see if they can help move or refund your holiday prior to making a travel insurance claim.

When making a travel insurance claim you may be asked for proof that you have tried to recover costs from other avenues first.

The main types of travel insurance you can buy are single trip, annual multi-trip and long stay travel insurance. Single trip travel insurance covers one trip away at a time and this is usually limited to a set amount of days. Annual multi-trip travel insurance will insure you for multiple trips for a period of 12 months and is often more cost-effective than multiple single trip policies. Another travel insurance policy type is long stay travel insurance, which is designed to cover longer trips e.g. backpacking or trips over 90 days. For more information on the different types of travel insurance, read our article,' What are the different types of travel insurance?'

Should I get travel insurance?

Travel insurance is not a legal requirement if you are travelling abroad but despite this, it is highly encouraged that travellers take out a policy to cover unexpected incidents that could occur whilst away. One of the main reasons you should take out a travel insurance policy is to help with the cost of medical bills should you or a family member fall ill or have an accident whilst you are away. The NHS does not exist for UK citizens when abroad, so if you require any treatment you will be expected to cover the costs yourself. Treatment abroad can amount to thousands of pounds depending on the destination you are travelling to. Below are some examples of emergency medical costs abroad:

Destination Accident  Cost (including flights back to the UK) 
Spain Broken leg requiring hospital treatment £15,000
Greece Quad bike accident that requires surgery £30,000
USA Stomach bug requiring hospital treatment £100,000


When do you need travel insurance?

Having established that travel insurance is essential to your holiday plans you may be wondering if you still need travel insurance when travelling around Europe or countries within the UK. Particularly as you may be familiar with a UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or UK General Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which can give you access to healthcare in some European countries.

Do I need travel insurance for Europe?

If you are travelling to Europe, it is still recommended that you get a travel insurance policy, even if you have an existing EHIC or GHIC as they only give access to medically necessary state-provided healthcare. Having a GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance, however, so it is recommended that you have both to ensure you are fully covered. If you need to get a new card you can apply for one through the NHS website.

Do I need travel insurance for a staycation?

If you have booked a holiday in the UK, travel insurance is still a good idea so that you can get cover for unexpected cancellations or your valuables in the event that they get lost or stolen. Some travel insurance providers such as LV= will also cover you if a business you have booked to stay with goes bust. For more information on travel insurance for staycations read our article, 'Do you need travel insurance for a ‘staycation’ and how to get the best deal'.

Things to consider before buying travel insurance

Before purchasing a travel insurance policy for your trip you will need to check that the travel policy offers the right amount of cover. Below we have listed some things to consider before purchasing a travel insurance policy.

  • Travel destination - Where you are travelling will affect the type of insurance policy you have as most insurers offer policies that cover different parts of the world. E.g. European cover or Worldwide cover including the USA. This is because healthcare costs vary around the world and certain destinations may make your travel insurance more expensive. So before purchasing a policy ensure the destinations you are travelling to are covered, particularly if you have an annual multi-trip policy and are visiting more than one location.
  • How long you are travelling for - How long you are going to be away will affect the type of policy you buy. Some insurers also have individual trip limits so you may need a long stay policy if you are going to be away for a long period of time.
  • Your age - Your age will affect the cost of your travel insurance policy and whether you can even get travel insurance. Some travel insurance providers enforce upper age limits on their policies but others may offer specialist policies for those over 65.
  • Emergency Medical cover - One of the key things to consider when comparing travel insurance policies is the amount of emergency medical cover on offer. If you are travelling to a particular destination that is known for expensive medical care (such as the USA) it may be advisable to choose a policy with generous medical cover. We gave some examples of medical treatment claims costs earlier in the article.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions - It is imperative that you declare any pre-existing medical conditions as not doing so could invalidate your policy in the event of a claim. Our article, 'Best travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions' shares a number of specialist pre-existing condition insurers if you are struggling to find a provider that covers your medical condition.
  • Holiday type - Are you taking part in any adventurous activities or winter sports whilst you are away? You may need to add specialist cover to your policy to ensure you are covered. This may also apply if you are going on a cruise.
  • Covid-19 - Does your travel insurance provider offer cover for coronavirus-related claims? Find out some of the best travel insurance providers that cover covid-19.
  • Policy documents - Always ensure you thoroughly read the policy documents before purchasing a policy so that you are familiar with any exclusions on the policy. For example, some insurers may not cover natural disasters such as earthquakes or any industrial action that was known before travel.

How to buy travel insurance

One of the easiest ways to purchase a travel insurance policy is via a comparison site such as Quotezone* or MoneySuperMarket*. Comparison sites allow you to compare multiple travel insurance policies to find the best one for your trip. Some travel insurance comparison sites also allow you to compare providers that cover pre-existing medical conditions and will only show providers that will cover the condition you have declared. One thing to consider, however, is that not all providers are shown on a comparison site so you may be able to get a better deal elsewhere. Direct Line is a good example of a major travel insurance provider that does not appear on comparison websites.

You may also be able to get travel insurance from your holiday provider or travel agent. Sometimes your bank or credit card provider can also offer travel insurance and you may have access to it already if you pay a fee for your current account, often referred to as a 'packaged account'. If you do have access to travel insurance via a packaged bank account be sure to read the policy documents carefully and check that the insurance covers you for the trip you are going on. Our article, 'Best packaged bank accounts' provides more information on how packaged bank accounts work and the insurance available.

For more information on travel insurance and to compare some of the best providers, read our article, 'The best travel insurance providers in the UK'.



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