International travel insurance


With the huge rise in travel for both business purposes and for holidays we are reaching the stage where a very high proportion of UK people are travelling overseas at least on an annual basis but more often, much more frequently. Recent statistics show that many of them are travelling without adequate travel insurance.

There are many reasons given for this such as ; insurance is expensive, I am young and nothing will happen to me, I feel well so surely nothing will happen during the two weeks I will be away. Unfortunately for many people who adopt that position, the worst does happen and they can find themselves paying the price for the rest of their lives.

At we know that people often just do not understand the risks that they are taking by not insuring themselves against the many risks and difficulties that might arise while they are overseas.

To highlight this issue the UK government through its foreign and commonwealth office have gathered some statistics to highlight the importance of taking out insurance and we have listed some of them here to help focus the mind.

Travel insurance statistics for UK travellers

These figures were mainly compiled during 2012 but will not have hanged very much between then and now.

  • 24 percent of holidaymakers travelling overseas are uninsured.
  • 48 percent of 15 to 24 year olds holidaying abroad are uninsured.
  • 16 percent of consumers mistakenly believe that travel insurance is unnecessary.
  • Men are 8 percent less likely to take out insurance than women.
  • 82 percent of young people admit to indulging in more adventurous behaviour when on holiday, without having adequate insurance cover.
  • 50 percent of these young people who have travel insurance do not check to see if adventurous activities are covered.
  • In 2012, about 3,800 British people were hospitalised while overseas. This equates to about 10 people on every single day of the year and this does not take account of the other more minor problems that arise.
  • 48 percent of people do not realise that without travel insurance they will be liable for their own medical bills, which can be very substantial.
  • 78 percent of people would not be able to pay £10,000 towards hospital treatment while overseas.

These are just a few statistics to highlight the problem and make people aware that should something go seriously wrong while you are overseas then the financial implications of not having good quality travel insurance can be life changing.

Obtaining travel insurance

Travel insurance policies and premiums can vary greatly and although we all want to keep our costs low it is of vital importance when purchasing any type of insurance policy that you choose  the level of cover that suits your needs. Extras can be added on but a basic policy should always include at least the following:

  • Holiday cancellation Clause - this is in case you have to cancel your holiday. It is generally recommended that cover for this should be about £3,000 or the total cost of your holiday and always pay attention to the small print to ensure you have adequate cover.
  • Flight Delays – check that you policy covers you for flight delays lasting more than 12 hours.
  • Baggage and belongings – you should expect your policy to pay out up to £1,500 if your luggage or personal possessions are lost, damaged or stolen.
  • Personal liability insurance– This is to cover a situation where you accidentally injure someone or you damage their property and they make a claim against you. It is therefore a good idea to have personal liability insurance cover for this for a value of up to £1m.
  • Emergency assistance - many insurance companies offer a 24-hour emergency helpline which can be a lifesaver if you are in a different time zone.
  • Medical cover – this is a key consideration as you do not want to end up with a big medical bill should you be unexpectedly taken ill or have an accident while on holiday. Most experts recommend having a minimum of £2m of medical cover which should include repatriation in case you need to be flown back to the UK.
  • Repatriation – This should be included in any travel insurance policy that you purchase. The cost to hire of a Lear jet in an emergency situation is not something you will want to face so make sure that repatriation is included in any travel insurance policy you purchase.

Pregnancy should not prevent you going on holiday but you should carefully check the terms and conditions of your policy to ensure you have cover. Note that most policies will only cover you up to your 24th week.

Existing medical conditions

Standard travel insurance policies are unlikely to cover existing medical conditions so these need to be disclosed and accepted by your insurer. This will normally result in your paying a higher premium for your cover but you should always declare any health issues when you apply for insurance because failure to disclose any relevant details could invalidate the policy.

European Health Insurance Card

If you will be travelling in Europe you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles you to medical treatment in EU state run hospitals. This can be useful in an emergency but it is not a substitute for your own travel insurance policy as standards will vary from country to country and treatment is not always free as it is here in the UK. Also remember that the EHIC usually only covers you for treatment within state run hospitals and in some EU countries the standard of their state hospitals is very poor. Were you to need to be repatriated you will also have to pay any repatriation costs yourself as the card will not cover you for repatriation.

Travel Insurance for older travellers

Once you reach the age of 65 you may find it difficult to arrange travel insurance at standard costs and some insurers may refuse cover altogether. Unfortunately, because of the higher risks with older people having medical issues you can sometimes find that premiums can easily double.

There are a number of specialist insurers who cater for older holidaymakers and their policies often include cover for a number of common pre-existing medical conditions with more generous policy limits for medical claims. It is always worth researching the market.

Other things to consider

  • Single country or worldwide cover - Most insurers will cover either Europe or worldwide and you should always check that you are insured to travel to your chosen destination. Europe only policies are generally cheaper than worldwide policies however if you are travelling to America or Canada on a worldwide policy it is essential that you make sure that those destinations are included in your policy, otherwise you will need to take out specialist travel insurance for them.
  • Annual or single trip travel insurance –If you only intend travelling once in a year then buying travel insurance every time you go on holiday will probably be cheapest. However if you intend making two or more trips each year then it is likely that an annual multi trip travel insurance policy which will usually cover you for any number of trips within a year might be best.
  • Family Travel Insurance – If you intend travelling with family members then it is often cheaper to buy a family policy rather than individual ones. Some insurers will grant free cover for younger children.
  • Adventure travel insurance - Adventure travel is for people who indulge in the likes of bungee jumping and white water rafting. The premiums are usually higher than for standard cover to reflect the greater risk of claims.

Useful Travel Tips

Here are a few useful tips to consider before travelling.

  • Be responsible - Take good care of your belongings while you are on holiday as being negligent could cause your insurer to turn down a claim for theft. Should an item be stolen many insurers will ask for a police report as proof.
  • Plan your travel money in advance – arranging local currency in advance will usually be cheaper as the bureau de change at airports will generally be more expensive.
  • Passport and visas - Before travelling always make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months and find out if the destinations you are travelling to require a visa. Visas can take a few weeks to arrange so it is important to apply as early as possible.
  • Driving overseas - If you intend to drive whilst overseas you can use your UK licence for driving if you are in a European Community/EEA member state. However all countries are different so it's always worth checking age and other restrictions before you go to avoid any disruptions to your plans. An International Driving Permit (IDP) translates your driving licence into several other languages and some countries will insist on this document before allowing you to drive.