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What does travel insurance cover?

Posted on August 17, 2021 by Jack Morris
an image of mountains from the view of a plane window

At its core, travel insurance is there to pick you back up if something unexpected goes wrong when you’re away.

That doesn’t mean everything is covered, though. And not every travel insurance policy is created equal.

To make it easier for you to know what to look out for, we’ve put together a handy guide for what travel insurance usually covers, what travel insurance sometimes covers, and what travel insurance doesn’t cover.

What does travel insurance usually cover?

These are the things that most travel insurance policies should cover you for.

Medical expenses

When you’re outside the UK, you need to pay for medical bills if you’re injured or fall ill on holiday.

A travel insurance policy is there to help cover your medical bills if you need them.

Look out for the limits of a travel insurance policy as this will let you know up to how much your travel insurance will cover medical expenses.

Repatriation (when you fall ill or get injured abroad)

If you fall ill or are injured when you’re abroad, sometimes you might need to be sent home (repatriated).

The insurance provider may have a medical officer to consult with the medical professionals treating you to make a decision on whether this would be necessary.

If needed, private jets might be used along with a crew of health professionals to escort you to a UK hospital for further treatment.

Repatriation can also help get you and your other covered travel companions back home if you’ve been treated abroad and missed your flights home.

Personal liability

This is to cover damages you might need to pay if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property.

There may be policy limits, such as exclusions for injuring/damaging the property of members of your family.

Baggage and personal items

If your baggage or personal items are lost, damaged, or stolen, your travel insurance should be able to help cover the costs to replace or repair them up to your cover limits.

If you’re claiming for lost or stolen items it’s important to make sure you’ve raised this with the appropriate authorities as soon as you find out as you’ll need proof of a police report as part of your claim.

Cancellation or cutting your trip short

Travel insurance should cover you for cancelling or cutting your trip short (curtailing).

Your reason for cancelling/curtailing will need to fit the eligibility criteria of your policy, which might differ between providers.

Missed departure

If you miss your departure because your public transport is cancelled due to reasons out of your control, your travel insurance should be able to cover the costs for additional arrangements (including travel and accommodation).

Sports

There are certain sports that your travel insurance should provide you with cover for – as long as you aren’t doing them professionally or competitively.

The accepted sports will be listed in your policy documents, and may differ between insurers.

Safety limits will apply to some sports – such as making sure you’re wearing a helmet, or not skiing off-piste.

More dangerous sports, such as winter sports, might not be covered as standard so it’s worth thinking about the activities you’re planning on doing while you’re away and checking that you’re covered for them.

Pregnancy

Most travel insurance policies will cover you for unforeseen pregnancy or childbirth emergencies as long as you’re not planning on travelling during a certain timeframe of your due date.

Most policies will have a pregnancy/childbirth section, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with scenarios that can be covered as these will differ between policies.

You don’t need to declare pregnancy on your travel insurance but will need to declare any conditions that have been caused by your pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.

What can travel insurance cover sometimes?

These are things that some travel insurance policies will provide cover for, possibly as an add-on.

Pre-existing medical conditions

Medical history is different for everyone, so pre-existing medical conditions aren’t covered by travel insurance as standard.

If you live with any medical conditions, you should look for a policy that can cover them.

You need to declare all of the medical conditions you live with when you take out travel insurance. You may not be covered if you forget to include any conditions that affect you.

COVID-19

COVID-19 has brought new challenges to travel and not every insurer has caught up with their policies.

You should make sure you’re protected by your travel insurance for Covid-related reasons, both before you travel and while you’re away.

Look out for medical expenses, cancellations (including if you’re notified by track and trace to isolate), cutting your trip short, and any extras if you need to self-isolate abroad.

Advice against ‘all but essential travel’ by the Foreign Office (FCDO)

The FCDO provides two levels of advice against travel: against ‘all but essential travel’, and against ‘all travel’.

This advice is based on many different factors including COVID-19, natural disasters, and terrorism.

If the FCDO advises against ‘all but essential travel’ to your destination, you might still be able to travel if you need to.

Your travel insurance may provide you cover but will usually exclude cover for the reason for the FCDO’s advice (for example, a hurricane).

Winter sports

This may be covered in certain kinds of policies as standard, but is often an additional add-on.

It’s really important to protect specific things that might go wrong if you take part in winter sports.

Whether you have an accident while taking part, or there are activity-specific problems such as lost/damaged equipment or weather disruptions.

This only applies to non-professional, non-competitive winter sports.

Terrorism

Terrorism cover is often an optional extra with a travel insurance policy, but most insurers should offer it.

It can help add extra protection – especially if your destination is high-risk – and may be there to help if you need to cancel your holiday due to a terrorism incident.

Look out for whether this cover is based on FCDO advice, and how close to the terrorist event your destination has to be for your claim to be valid.

24-hour emergency support

When you’re away, it’s really important to know that someone is there to help if you need it – whenever it happens.

Your travel insurance provider may have a 24-hour emergency support helpline, which can be a real help if something goes wrong on your holiday.

No upper age limit

Everyone deserves to be insured to go away, but some travel insurers may have upper age limits on their policies. Some of these can be as low as 59!

If you’re over 60, look for an insurer that has no upper age limit to make sure you’re covered.

Always check your policy documents for any limitations on age. Even if the insurer has no upper age limit, they may still have inner age limits for things like activities.

Single items

If you want some extra cover for a single item when you’re away, some travel insurers will offer an additional extra to protect more expensive items.

Check with your insurer what their standard limits are for baggage and personal items, and make sure you’re clear on the extra protection you have with a single item add-on.

Gadget cover

Just like single items of higher value, many of us now have gadgets that we want to make sure are protected when we go away.

Gadget cover may come as standard in some cases, but it might also come as an optional extra for additional cover for your gadgets.

Check the definition of what is considered a gadget by your insurer as well as the limits on cover.

What does travel insurance not cover?

These are some of the standard things that most travel insurance policies won’t cover you for.

Alcohol/controlled substances

Travel insurance policies, like any form of insurance, don’t cover you for negligence.

One of these examples is if something unexpected were to happen while you were under the influence of excessive amounts of alcohol or controlled substances.

Extreme sports/activities

Some sports can be covered through add-ons (such as some winter sports) but there are others that are excluded.

You can usually find a list of the excluded sports and activities in the policy documents of your travel insurance.

These may differ between insurers but are excluded due to the risks involved, so you’d need to take out a specialist insurance policy for them.

Professional and competitive sports

Most travel insurance policies are designed to be used for holidays, which means professional sports and their related risks won’t usually be covered.

Expected childbirth/pregnancy

Travel insurance is unlikely to cover you for cancellation/cutting your trip short due to your pregnancy within a certain timeframe of your due date.

The specific timeframe can differ between insurers but is often within eight weeks (16 in the case of multiple pregnancies) of the expected due date.

You also often won’t be covered for any medical expenses abroad if you have a ‘normal’ yet unexpected childbirth abroad at any time. This is worth bearing in mind as the average cost for a ‘normal’ delivery in countries such as the USA is between $5,000 – $11,000.

Travel for medical procedures

Unless agreed in writing beforehand, your travel insurance won’t be able to cover you if you travel for the specific purpose of undergoing medical procedures/treatment or seeking medical advice.

Government travel bans

When the government impose a travel ban, it becomes illegal to travel unless specific criteria are met.

Since travel insurance tends to cover holidays, your travel insurance won’t be able to cover you because holidays are generally not exempt from government travel bans.

Advice against ‘all travel’ (FCDO)

The FCDO (Foreign Office) can offer two levels of advice against travel to a country: ‘against all but essential travel’, and ‘against all travel’.

This advice can be for a number of reasons, for example, COVID-19, natural disasters, or even terrorism.

When the FCDO advise against ‘all travel’ you usually won’t be able to take out travel insurance to that country because it’s similar to a government-imposed travel ban in that travel is not allowed to that country.

Travel providers often base their services around FCDO advice, so it’s unlikely that flights etc. will be available to countries where the FCDO advise against ‘all travel’ to.

You may be able to take out a specialist travel insurance policy to be covered when the FCDO advise against ‘all travel’.

Entry requirements

If the country you want to travel to isn’t allowing people in from the UK, you won’t be able to take out travel insurance to go there.

Ready to take out your travel insurance policy?

Now you know more about what travel insurance can cover, it’s important that you find the right travel insurance for you. So let’s find out more about the benefits of our single trip and annual policies here.

Jack Morris

by Jack Morris

Jack Morris is Staysure’s Junior Content Executive. He shares the latest travel news to keep you informed for your next holiday. Jack’s an avid fan of football, design, and continental Europe.