How to buy travel insurance

Brightly-coloured beach umbrellas in Herceg Novi, Montenegro

It goes without saying, but thinking about how to buy travel insurance is one of the most boring things you can do—but do it you must. Don’t even consider booking a holiday without adequate protection. Seriously.

I’ve been in the unfortunate position of having to make claims and good travel insurance is almost-literally priceless. So, here are my tips for getting good cover. I’ve tried to make this as plain English and pain-free as possible.

How to buy travel insurance and protect yourself with adequate cover

Island-hopping on the Isles of Scilly

Have a EHIC? You still need travel insurance.

Carrying a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) means you “get state healthcare in other EEA countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes for free”.

Basically if you’re a card-holder and need medical assistance, you’re treated in the same way as a citizen of that EEA country. Show it to a doctor they’ll charge you whatever they’d charge a resident of their country. You must be carrying the card to qualify, so keep it on you at all times.

That’s great and all (and means your spending money can go towards cocktails as planned) however it doesn’t cover you for cancellations, repatriation or a host of other things you may need. So travel insurance is vital too.

Find out more about the EHIC from the UK government or the NHS. Who knows what’ll happen when Britain leaves the EU but ’til then, if you haven’t got one it’s worth having.

When do you need cover?

Don’t think you can buy travel insurance just to cover the actual dates you’ll be away on holiday: if you’ve booked a holiday, buy cover. Starting now.

If you’re only covered for your travel dates and the day before you go your flight is cancelled, or you get sick, or your hotel burns down you are not covered.

Imagine buying travel insurance then finding out it’s worthless when you really need it. Don’t be that person.

Wideroe plane at Tromso Airport, Norway

Quick guide to visiting Tromso, Norway

What type of travel insurance do you need?

Do you travel often? Go on holiday alone or as a couple? How long are your trips, usually? Do you jet all over the world or just within Europe?

How you answer these questions helps you decide whether it’s worth investing in annual multi-trip insurance—and to which part/s of the world.

Some policies cover trips of up to 31 days (longer if you buy backpacker-type insurance), but most cover holidays of 2-3 weeks. The price difference is usually minimal so I tend to go for the longer option, which is often part of ‘premium’ policies.

How much cover do you need?

There’s plenty of advice out there on how much cover to get i.e. at least £1million of medical cover is recommended. Rather than repeating it here, I’d advise you to check out these guides for all the detail you need, presented in an easy-to-understand way:

Consider upgrades

Taking your smartphone? An expensive camera? Your tablet or laptop? It might be worth adding gadget cover to your travel insurance, but at the very least check the ‘single article’ amount/s. If you’re only insured up to £200 per item and your £700 camera is stolen, you’ll get £200 back—tops.

Do you go skiing or take part in any other extreme sports? You’ll need to pay more to cover you for riskier activities like these.

Island boat tour, Capri, Italy

24 hours on the island of Capri, Italy

Recommended travel insurance providers

I just bought this year’s travel insurance from Coverwise—I tend to flit between them and TopDog Insurance, depending on whose price is best for that year.

I’ve had to make two claims in the past: first for a medical emergency (allergic reaction) that my travel partner had; secondly when my return flight from Seville was cancelled due to air traffic control strikes. I had no problems making my claims and both were processed very quickly.

Use a price comparison site like Travel Supermarket to find the best deal for you, taking cost and coverage into consideration.

A final tip…

Before you buy travel insurance, make sure your bank account doesn’t give you free cover. Many offer it as a ‘free’ perk (though it tends to be accounts that have a monthly fee).

I hope this advice has simplified how to buy travel insurance for you! If you take one lesson away from this post, remember: if you’ve got a vacation booked, buy travel insurance now. Happy, and safe, holidaying!

How to buy travel insurance: quick tips and plain English advice

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