Travel Insurance: Everything you need to know, how to not get scammed and how to save money!

Travel Insurance: Everything you need to know, how to not get scammed and how to save money!

Travelling the UK, Europe or even the world can be one of life’s greatest joys, but it also comes with its risks. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a month-long adventure, having reliable travel insurance is potentially crucial. I’ve seen firsthand the importance of being properly insured while abroad but equally we see endless people taking risks by either not being suitably covered or buying insurance last minute. This guide will help you navigate the complexities of travel insurance, provide essential advice and highlight common pitfalls to avoid.

Why You Need Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is designed to cover unexpected events that can occur while you’re away from home (or even before you leave). These can range from medical emergencies to trip cancellations, lost luggage, and even emergency repatriation (getting you home). Without insurance, you could face significant out-of-pocket expenses, long delays or be left stranded seeking help, ruining your trip and financial stability.

For instance, let’s say you’re quad biking in Greece and you fall off. You try to get up, but you realise your leg is broken, you’re rushed to hospital and require urgent surgery, 2 days later you’re to fly back to the UK… who is paying for that? The cost has racked up to £30,000…

What Does Travel Insurance Typically Cover?

  1. Medical Expenses: Covers the cost of medical treatment if you fall ill or get injured while traveling.
  2. Emergency Repatriation: Covers the cost of returning you to the UK in case of a medical emergency or possibly due to a countrywide emergency (e.g. Volcano)
  3. Trip Cancellation and Curtailment: Reimburses you for pre-paid expenses if you need to cancel or cut short your trip due to unforeseen circumstances.
  4. Lost, Stolen, or Damaged Baggage: Compensates for personal belongings that are lost, stolen, or damaged during your trip.
  5. Personal Liability: This covers legal costs if you accidentally cause injury to someone else or damage their property.

Types of Travel Insurance You Can Buy

Travel insurance comes in various forms, mainly differing by policy length, who is covered, and the geographic area of coverage. Here’s a breakdown of the options available:

  1. Single-Trip Travel Insurance: This policy covers you from the time you purchase it until the end of the specific trip you’re insured for.
  2. Annual Multi-Trip Travel Insurance: This policy covers all trips taken within the specified period, typically one year.

You can also choose travel insurance based on who needs coverage:

  1. Family Travel Insurance: Typically covers parents and their children living at home.
  2. Couples’ Travel Insurance: Covers both named policyholders.
  3. Individual Travel Insurance: Covers only the person named on the policy.

Additionally, you’ll need to decide where you want the travel insurance to cover:

  1. European Travel Insurance: Covers trips within Europe. Be sure to check each insurer’s definition of ‘Europe’ as it can vary though.
  2. Worldwide Travel Insurance: Provides global coverage, often with an option to include or exclude North America / Mexico / Canada. Due to high medical costs in the USA, policies that include North America may come with higher premiums.
  3. Double-check other country limits: for instance, some insurance companies don’t fully cover Spain (and the Balearic/Canary Islands), and others will exclude Egypt, Morocco, Turkey or Tunisia.
  4. Winter Sports Cover: If you’re skiing etc then there are added risks (e.g. helicopter off a mountain isn’t cheap or the mountain closed due to bad weather).
  5. Public Liability Cover: Often this relates to Winter Sports Cover where it covers you if you were to do something silly and end up severely hurting someone else
  6. Cruise Cover: Again there are additional risks (e.g. missing the boat etc) so this is often an add on

Extra things you SHOULD do/consider:

While travel insurance provides crucial last-resort protection, it’s likely wise to combine it with other strategies to minimise the risk of losing money on your trip.

  1. Make sure you’re buying from an ABTA-approved or ATOL-approved travel company: This ensures that if your travel company goes out of business, you are entitled to a refund, including hotel costs. If you are already abroad, your transport home will be covered. ABTA and ATOL provides a straightforward process, allowing you to either continue your holiday as planned or get your money back.
  2. Choose Flexible Booking Options: Opt for flights and accommodations that are easily cancellable or flexible. Look for deals with no or low deposits, or those that offer refunds or free rebooking if your plans change.
  3. Pay with Credit Cards: Using a credit card offers robust protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. For purchases over £100, the card issuer is jointly liable with the seller. Note, however, that this protection may not apply to bookings made through travel agents; it generally covers direct payments to the travel provider.
  4. Debit Card Protection: Debit cards provide some level of protection through ‘chargeback’ rules. While not a legal requirement and sometimes contested by firms, chargeback can help recover your money if services are not delivered, such as in the event of flight cancellations or closed accommodations. Some Debit Card companies offer additional cover.
  5. Coverage Limitations: Both credit and debit card protections only apply if the service was not provided (e.g., a cancelled flight or closed hotel). These protections do not cover you if you decide not to travel.
  6. Package Holidays for Added Security: Booking package holidays can offer greater protection. If an airline or accommodation provider cancels, you’re entitled to a refund. However, if your trip is still scheduled but you can’t travel due to a new travel warning from the Foreign Office, your rights may be limited.
  7. Provider Cancellations: Most package holiday providers will likely cancel trips to countries with travel restrictions, ensuring you get a refund or the opportunity to rebook.
  8. Get a FREE EHIC/GHIC Card: to cover you and your family for state-run A&E cover (in some selected countries) Apply here – You will pay the same as locals and if that’s free for locals you pay nothing as well but remember this should NOT be relied on as your only cover as there are lots of exclusions and it doesn’t cover things like Repatriation back to the UK.
  9. Check the Foreign Office view of the country: This can drastically change things, if the Government site advises against travel (even after previously saying it was ok) you will likely need to rethink your plans, if you do still wish to proceed you will need to check with your insurance company (they might not cover you), it’s worth checking the view of the Government before booking, 1-2 weeks before travel and then just before travel. Check here

By combining flexible bookings and credit card payments with comprehensive travel insurance, you can significantly reduce the financial risks associated with travel disruptions.

Top 10 Pieces of Advice When Buying Travel Insurance

  1. Assess Your Needs: Consider the nature of your trip, your health, who is going, and the activities you plan to undertake. Different trips have different risks.
  2. Compare Policies: Use comparison websites to compare different travel insurance policies based on coverage and cost.
  3. Check Medical Coverage: Ensure the policy provides sufficient coverage for medical expenses, especially if travelling to countries with high healthcare costs.
  4. Look for High Cancellation Cover: Make sure the policy covers the full cost of your trip if you need to cancel.
  5. Understand the Excess: Know the amount you will need to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance kicks in. Lower excess typically means higher premiums.
  6. Review Exclusions: Read the fine print to understand what is not covered, such as pre-existing medical conditions, certain activities, or destinations. Whilst doing this also compare the reviews of those having to actually use the insurance (there is little to no point reading reviews of people who have purchased and not needed it)
  7. Check Policy Limits: Ensure the policy limits are adequate for your needs, including coverage for baggage, personal belongings, and medical expenses.
  8. Emergency Assistance: Choose a policy that offers 24/7 emergency assistance.
  9. Multi-Trip Policies: If you travel frequently, consider an annual multi-trip policy instead of single-trip insurance.
  10. Declare All Pre-Existing Conditions: Failure to do so can void your policy when you need it most.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

  1. Not Declaring Pre-Existing Conditions: Always declare any medical conditions to avoid your claims being rejected.
  2. Overlooking Small Print: Policies often contain exclusions and conditions that could affect your coverage. Read the terms carefully.
  3. Assuming All Activities Are Covered: Adventure sports or risky activities might require additional coverage.
  4. Ignoring Trip Length Limits: Some policies have maximum trip lengths. Ensure your entire trip is covered.
  5. Buying the Cheapest Policy: The cheapest option might not offer the best coverage. Balance cost with the level of protection.
  6. Late Purchase: Buy insurance as soon as you book your trip to cover cancellations or other issues that might arise before departure.
  7. Relying on EHIC/GHIC Alone: While these cards provide some medical coverage in Europe, they do not replace travel insurance.
  8. Not Having a Copy of Your Policy: Always have a copy of your policy and emergency contact numbers with you (both digitally, physically printed and saved digitally with a trusted family member or friend who is likely to take a phone call at 4am for you).
  9. Ignoring the Claims Process: Understand how to make a claim and what documentation you’ll need.
  10. Assuming You’re Covered for Everything: Be clear about what your policy covers and what it doesn’t, including the geographical areas.
  11. Assuming that your all singing all dancing insurance policy will protect you completely, remember you will likely have to prove the travel agent and/or flight company won’t refund you first or your card issuer (if on Credit Card) will be able to claim a refund, so don’t assume, always check the small print.

Understanding ABTA and ATOL Protection

When planning a trip, ensuring your travel arrangements are protected is essential. Two key protections available to UK travellers are ABTA and ATOL. Here’s what you need to know about both and how they work together to safeguard your travel plans.

What Does ABTA Protected Mean?
ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) protection ensures that if your travel company goes out of business, you are entitled to a refund, including hotel costs. If you are already abroad, your transport home will be covered. ABTA provides a straightforward process, allowing you to either continue your holiday as planned or get your money back.

Additional Protection Offered by ABTA:

  1. Code of Conduct: ABTA has a strict Code of Conduct that governs various aspects of the travel industry:
    1. Accurate Advertising: Ensuring all promotional materials are truthful and not misleading.
    2. Fair Trading Terms: Guaranteeing fair terms in travel agreements.
    3. Booking Changes: Managing changes to bookings in a fair manner.
    4. Handling Complaints: Providing guidance on how to handle customer complaints effectively.
    5. Right Paperwork: Ensuring travellers receive all necessary documentation.
  2. Booking Cancellations and Changes:
    1. Post-Full Payment Cancellations: An ABTA member cannot cancel your booking after full payment unless due to circumstances beyond their control. If this happens, they must offer you a full refund or alternative travel arrangements.
    2. Significant Changes: If your travel arrangements significantly change, ABTA members must offer you the choice of accepting the changes or getting your money back.
  3. Enforcement of Standards: All ABTA members must adhere to this Code of Conduct. Breaches can result in sanctions from ABTA, ensuring a high service standard and industry accountability.

What Does ATOL Protected Mean?
ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) protection is a UK financial protection scheme run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It protects most air package holidays sold by UK-based travel businesses.

Key Benefits of ATOL Protection:

  1. Financial Protection: If your travel company goes out of business, ATOL ensures you receive a refund for your holiday. If you are already on holiday, ATOL will make sure you can complete your trip and return home.
  2. Package Holiday Protection: ATOL covers most air package holidays, including flights and accommodations, and some flight-only bookings.
  3. ATOL Certificate: When you book an ATOL-protected holiday, you will receive an ATOL Certificate as soon as you pay any money. This certificate outlines the coverage and protections for your booking.

Combining ABTA and ATOL Protections

  1. Comprehensive Coverage: Booking with a company that is both ABTA and ATOL-protected provides the most comprehensive coverage. ABTA covers land-based arrangements (like accommodations and transport), while ATOL covers air travel and package holidays.
  2. Financial Security: Both schemes offer refunds if your travel provider goes out of business. ABTA covers hotel costs and land arrangements, while ATOL covers flight-related costs.
  3. Repatriation: Both ABTA and ATOL ensure you are not stranded abroad. ABTA handles transport home for non-flight issues, while ATOL specifically covers flights.
  4. Booking Confidence: With both protections, you can book your holiday with greater confidence, knowing you are covered for a wide range of potential issues.

By understanding and utilising both ABTA and ATOL protections, you can ensure a safer, more secure travel experience. These protections, combined with flexible booking options, credit card payments, and comprehensive travel insurance, create a robust safety net for your travels.

Which companies are worth getting a quote from?

We only showcase companies with 4.5-5.0 star reviews on Trustpilot

NameDescription⭐️ Rating
Alpha Travel Insurance*Alpha Travel Insurance is a well-known and reputable brand that offers customers a wide range of policies to suit all budgets, at a sensible and affordable price. Alpha Travel Insurance is committed to delivering a range of quality insurance products that clearly stand out from other travel insurance policies on the market.⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Get Going Travel Insurance*Get Going Travel Insurance are specialists in travel insurance for customers with a range of pre-existing medical conditions – from asthma and high blood pressure to more serious or terminal conditions such as cancer, with a variety of policies that suit any budget.⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Coverwise*Coverwise – Low cost Travel Insurance offering great cover, easy and efficient online purchase, payment and policy issue, UK customer service centres, 24/7 medical assistance.⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
MoneySupermarket*They compare over 55 of the biggest insurance providers in the country and unlike some of their competitors, MoneySuperMarket is not owned by an insurance company, they're 100% independent, working only for our customers.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Staysure*Award-winning holiday insurance for your next break. With up to unlimited medical expenses, our policies are designed to protect you – just like a life-jacket.⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Insure&Go*Insure&Go believe travel insurance should be available to as many people as possible. That's why their policies have no upper age limit and they will consider all pre-exisiting medical conditions.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


Travel insurance is a vital component of your travel plans. By taking the time to understand what you need, comparing policies, and being aware of potential pitfalls, you can ensure a stress-free and enjoyable travel experience. Remember, the best travel insurance policy is one that provides comprehensive coverage tailored to your specific needs and travel plans. Safe travels!

What if something goes wrong? What should I do?

In theory, if you have evidence, it will be a simple process that shouldn’t be too stressful, but it’s important that you:

  • Contact your insurance company for advice/support ASAP and start the claim process ASAP, as some will have small windows to open the claim.
  • (Non Emergency Treatments only) Contact the insurance company for them to accept a claim before you get treatment, big caveat is that if it’s an emergency of course miss this step, by doing this you increase the likelihood of a smooth claim process.
  • Keep receipts of any payments you were forced to make, for instance the airline losses your suitcase, you arrive on holiday and need to buy essentials, keep all those receipts.
  • Notify Police / Authorities if a crime has been committed (e.g. stolen items) – You will likely need a crime reference (as proof for the insurance company to accept the claim)
  • Insurance claims can go wrong, this is why buying decent cover in the first place is well worth doing, ensure you keep as much evidence as possible and follow the steps your insurance provide asks for (as long as they’re reasonable).
  • Remember the insurance company response isn’t the final option – If your claim or part of your claim is declined, then you can fight it, you have rights as a consumer and there is the free & independent Financial Ombudsman who can look over your claim and cover and make a final decision.


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