It is essential to take out travel insurance for the entire duration of your trip. You should investigate your policy thoroughly and determine exactly what it does and does not cover. You should also remember to take a copy of your insurance policy and your insurance companies contact details with you.
A good introduction for those looking to buy travel insurance can be found on the Travel Insurance Guide. The site covers all the basics and has useful tips and advice on what your policy should include and how to choose the right one.
Medical and Healthcare cover
Although travel insurance covers other things arguably the most important is medical cover. Especially outside of the EU you could find that without travel insurance you will be unable to receive medical attention should an emergency arise. Even within the EU you could find yourself liable to foot the bill for some medical expenses. The government recommends taking out a policy with £1 million of healthcare cover within the EU or £2 million when traveling outside the EU.
Some policies include 24 hour emergency service which means that in the case of a medical emergency an assistance company will make all arrangements for you including repatriation as well as giving on the spot help and advice.
Also note that many policies will exclude cover for injuries incurred whilst doing some sports and activities for example jet-skiing and bungee jumping. In most cases insurers will be happy to extend policies for a small increase in premium so if you want to take part in these high-adrenalin activities you need to arrange this before hand with your insurance company.
The next most important thing to check on your insurance cover is how much protection they give you in the event of your possessions being lost stolen or damaged. Possessions cover normally has an upper limit on the total claim as well as an upper limit per item so if you are taking anything expensive with you make sure that in the event of it being stolen you will be able to claim it on your insurance policy.
Your policy will often include insurance on your money and documents within certain boundaries so it is worth reading your policy carefully to determine what things are covered and what is not.
Another common mistake whilst traveling is to rely on airline compensation schemes for lost luggage. Airlines are only required to reimburse a small amount of money per kilo of luggage lost. In almost all cases this is unlikely to cover the cost of replacing what is in your luggage especially if you are carrying expensive or designer clothes.
Finally remember that any theft needs to be reported to the police within 24 hours and the insurance company will ask you to provide proof of this before it pays out on any stolen possessions.
Personal Liability Cover
Your policy will include a section on personal liability cover. This covers costs incurred by you if you injure someone or damage their property and you are subsequently sued. Although you may think that you would never do something like damage someone's property you should be aware that this cover will protect you should another person sue you for damage that you incurred accidentally or if you are wrongfully accused of causing injury or damage.
Some policies will provide you with a level of cover if you need to cancel any of or your entire trip. You should arrange for this part of the cover to start on the date that you book your holiday.
Personal Accident Cover
This is hopefully an area of your policy which you will never have to take advantage of. However, in the unlikely event of death or permanent disability whilst traveling abroad your insurance company will pay out a certain amount of money.
Some policies will give you support with legal expenses to pursue compensation for damages and loss of earnings after a personal injury.
Declare anything which you may think affects the policy for example health conditions. You may think this will raise the premium but if you do not declare everything relevant you could find that you are no longer covered by the insurance.
If you are booking through an agent choose one which is registered with ATOL (Air Travel Organiser's Licensing) or ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents).
If you are traveling in Europe make sure you apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which allows you access to medical treatment at reduced cost or sometimes free.
Always purchase cover from a well known and recognized insurer. In the event of emergency your policy could be the only financial protection you have, ensure you are with a company who will honour valid claims quickly and in full.
Ensure you keep a copy of your insurance policy and any contact numbers when you go abroad. If you are within the EU, make sure your EHIC is still valid and keep it with you at all times.
You may have some degree of travel cover from other sources such as credit-cards or private healthcare insurance. These are rarely enough to give you fully comprehensive cover abroad so be sure to read the policies in question carefully before deciding not to purchase additional travel insurance.
Be aware that your insurance is unlikely to cover you in the case of alcohol or drug related injury or damage.
- Essential Travel Insurance - backpacking insurance that takes every step of the journey with you, from Australia to Zanzibar. We've got you covered!
- JS Insurance offers great premiums on comprehensive cover from 4-12 months. Gap year's and backpacker policies for those under 35 years old.
- Endsleigh Travel Insurance offers affordable cover for backpackers and gap year students.
- Information on the EHIC.
- STAtravel, a student insurer part of the "know before you go" government partner list and endorsed by many universities.
- Columbus Direct specialises in insurance for the independent traveler including backpacking and students, a member of the "know before you go" government partner list.
- CityBond offers annual, long stay and young persons travel insurance, also a member of the government's "know before you go" partner list.
- Down Under, cheap travel insurance for gap year students, backpackers and travellers under 55 years. 10% off online.
- Globelink Travel Insurance offers secure travel insurance for residents of UK and all EU countries, a member of the "know before you go" government partner list.
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office, government site offering travel advice.
24/7 travel insurance – gap year and backpacking travel insurance available up to 18 months for those aged 55 and younger. Over 100 activities included FREE!