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The Importance of Travel Insurance

Travel law partner Clare Campbell gives 6 top tips for picking travel insurance

Posted on 14 May 2015

It might not be the most exciting part of the holiday planning process, but securing insurance should be just as important as checking that your passport is in date. It could, after all, prove to be essential to protecting your financial and physical health.   

In some cases, even suffering a relatively minor injury on holiday can cost thousands of pounds, with the price of medical treatment abroad varying significantly depending on which country you are travelling to. Be particularly prepared for a hefty bill if you are outside of the European Union!

But despite its importance, a recent survey published by ABTA in 2012 found that more than a quarter of tourists fail to put a policy in place before embarking on their travels. Common excuses included:
  • Alternative cover – others were under the impression that the European Health Insurance Card (ECHI) provided sufficient cover;
  • Cost – some people believe that travel insurance is too expensive;
  • Backup – a number of holidaymakers thought that the UK government will step in to help.

And, with increasing numbers of holidaymakers opting out of taking out a policy, the potential Costa Del Sol sun seeker, Alp cyclist or Swiss skier’s health and finances as a result of an accident could be impacted significantly.  

Top Tips

1.    Always take out adequate travel insurance

When looking for travel insurance don’t always default to the cheapest policy. Make sure that your cover is inclusive of any holiday activities you might be planning such as backpacking or skiing.

2.    Ready your policy carefully – INCLUDING THE SMALL PRINT

Remember, your travel insurance is a contract between you and the insurer. You are expected to have read all of the terms and conditions and the small print and be aware, an insurer is unlikely to accept a claim that you make simply because it involved something you didn’t know your travel insurance excluded.

Pay particular attention to the most important part - the exclusions section – to understand what you are not covered for under the policy. Some people don’t realise until it is too late that their travel insurance won’t cover them for certain activities or geographical areas or pre-existing medical conditions.

3.    Take your policy documents away with you

Taking your policy documents on holiday with you will ensure that you have the specifics of what you’re covered for and who to contact if things do go wrong to hand.

4.    Apply for a European Health Insurance Card

If you are travelling in Europe do remember to apply for your EHIC well in advance. Many insurance policies expect that you will use this card to reduce your hospital bills, and the insurer may not fully cover your costs if you don’t!

5.    Pay close attention to the excess

It is important to consider the amount of insurance excess payable when choosing your policy, especially if you are taking out insurance on behalf of a group. 

Do your homework and shop around for the best policy for you. Many excesses are from £50.00 to £150.00 and you should consider that if you are forced to cancel a holiday whether this excess is payable per person, per incident or both. Alternatively, if your bag is lost, damaged or stolen, is the excess payable per item, per bag or per claim? 

6.    Know what to do if your insurer won’t pay out

If your travel insurers refuse to pay out for a claim under the policy and this refusal has been upheld after you have complained remember that you do have options! 

The Financial Ombudsman Service is a free and independent service set up to help consumers who want to complain about a financial institution, including the insurance industry.  The ombudsman will review the facts of your claim in an objective manner and rule on whether or not the decision was reasonable. If you are not happy with the decision then you can ask for a formal, final decision by the ombudsman and thereafter, the Courts. 

Finally, remember to enjoy your holiday knowing you are properly protected if something goes wrong!