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Top tips for buying travel insurance in 2023

Caitlin Dunn explains how to choose the right travel insurance policy for your overseas trip.

Posted on 25 January 2023

While we are firmly in the middle of a cold British winter, many of us are thinking ahead to our summer holidays.

Although it is exciting to start planning your summer getaway, we must not forget about the considerably less exciting part of going away – arranging your travel insurance policy.

Here are some top tips when buying travel insurance to ensure you are fully protected during your holiday.

We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to ensure that you have taken out a travel insurance policy which will provide you with comprehensive insurance cover. Although it is unlikely that you will need to make a claim on your insurance policy, the fact that there are inclusive travel insurance policies on the market for less than £10 means there is no excuse not to purchase a policy before you travel.

A travel insurance policy provides vital financial protection in the event something goes wrong when travelling abroad. A claim can be made on your travel insurance policy for a wide range of things, including for damaged/stolen items or money, and covering you for personal liability in a circumstance where you are liable to pay damages due to bodily injury or property damage of a third party due to your actions. 

This can be important where someone is seriously injured or property is significantly damaged, as your liability may be very expensive.

As personal injury lawyers, we often encounter individuals who have relied on their travel insurer to provide essential funding for medical treatment when they are seriously or fatally injured and to repatriate them to the UK when they cannot return on commercial flights.

In this scenario you can be faced with extraordinarily high medical bills due to extended hospital stays or urgent surgery. Not all countries will provide state medical care, particularly for non-nationals, and medical bills can put you in debt. It is important that the insurer steps in here to fund this treatment, and ensure you return home safely.

It is important to be sure that the policy you choose will protect you from personal liability for the many possible eventualities when travelling, including for the activities that you plan to do. Reading the detailed terms and conditions of a travel insurance policy is not enjoyable, but this could end up saving you a significant amount of money and will give you peace of mind. 

The cheapest travel insurance policy may not be the best, or be suitable for your circumstances, so the following issues are most important to check when considering which policy to go for: 

Activities on the holiday

A standard policy should cover you for activities which would be deemed “low risk”. This would usually include activities that are unlikely to result in an accident, however the definition of a “low risk” activity will differ between providers, so you should check the definition in each policy.
Common activities that would be considered “high risk” include winter sports, water sports, or any other adrenaline-filled activity. If you are intending on doing any type of “high risk” activity during your holiday, even just once, you must opt for a policy that protects you for “high risk” activities.

Duration of time outside of the country

A standard insurance policy for a holiday will cover you for up to 31 days, which might not be suitable if you are travelling for an extended period of time, or have booked an open ended trip.
Although some single-trip policies can cover you for up to three months, this is less common than the standard 31 days. We would recommend checking the length of cover for the standard policy or make enquiries with long-stay travel insurance providers.
If you have purchased an annual travel insurance policy, you will need to check that you are covered for the specific length of time needed for the current trip. 

Place of travel

When purchasing a policy you will need to inform the travel insurer of the region, if not the specific country, that you are travelling to. If while on your trip you travel to another country than the one specified on your policy and need to make a claim on your travel insurance for an event occurring in that country, then your insurer can refuse cover.

This might occur during a layover, or if you decide to travel to another country for a day trip. It may even occur when travelling to another region of your travel destination, and you may need to travel through a different country (for example, travelling from north to south of Croatia, and have to travel through Bosnia and Herzegovina). Even if you are in another destination for a short while, you should make sure that destination is covered by your policy just in case something happens.

Consider the limits of the policy

If you are looking at cheaper insurance policies, it is worth considering whether their cover limits will actually cover you for the amount you might need.
A good insurance policy would provide cover for medical expenses for at least £1 million in Europe, and at least £2 million for the rest of the world. We would expect a cover limit of at least £1 million for personal liability.
For damaged or stolen possessions, the amount of cover should reflect the value of the items and cash that you intend on taking with you on your trip. Not all insurance policies will provide cover for smart phones or other gadgets, so this is important to check that your specific items will be covered.

Limits to making a claim

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing to make a claim on your travel insurance policy, you must be alive to the requirements that your travel insurer may have in order to even consider your claim.

If you have lost or had stolen possessions or cash, you will need to obtain an official police report from the local police department. It is also likely that a claim would be refused under your travel insurance policy for lost items if you simply forget them at a local restaurant, or left them unattended by the side of the swimming pool.

Many insurance providers will outline a period of time that the claim will need to be brought after your return from your trip. This is usually within 30 days of your return from the trip, but this is likely to be specific to each insurance provider, and you will need to read the terms and conditions carefully.

Finally, it is important to declare all pre-existing health conditions to your travel insurer, even if this is likely to increase the policy premium. If you have to make a claim for medical expenses under the policy, even if it is for an illness or injury unrelated to a pre-existing health condition, this is enough to void your insurance policy and you will not be covered.

When looking for a travel insurance policy we recommend using comparison websites to compare the cost of the policies, their cover limits and the cost of the excess. You should ensure that you can afford the excess if you need to make a claim, otherwise the cheap insurance premium may not be so advantageous if you couldn’t afford to make a claim on the policy. With other common pitfalls as set out above, you must delve further and read the policy wording. 

Although travel insurance allows you to make a claim for financial losses, if you have suffered an injury abroad you can also bring a personal injury claim to compensate you for your injuries and for future medical expenses. In cases of serious injury, instructing a personal injury lawyer can assist with opening a dialogue with your travel insurer or the insurer of the at-fault party, and make arrangements for your repatriation and medical treatment in the UK.  

We hope you are reading this blog to inform yourself of the pitfalls of travel insurance before you have found yourself in a position where your travel insurer is refusing to provide cover. If you have suffered an injury and require legal advice, then please get in touch with Leigh Day and we can offer to assist you on a “No Win No Fee” basis.

Caitlin Wood
Travel claims

Caitlin Wood

Caitlin is an associate in the personal injury department

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