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Where’s your travel insurance?

Arriba arriba. It’s holiday season amigo so let’s get loco down in Acapulco. Dig out the sunscreen, bring forth the puncture repair kit for the Lilo and get down the tanning shop to get your “base” colour (two shades lighter than the Cuprinol man should suffice)! Whoa, easy there – shouldn’t you sort your travel insurance first?

Don’t you remember my Uncle George? He went on a package holiday to the Costa Del Brahma in ‘76 without taking out insurance. What a disastrous decision! The day after having a close call with an inflatable banana, he lost four fingers in a tragic Pedalo accident. This mistake ended up costing him his career as an Oboist at the Royal Philharmonic (because he wasn’t insured he couldn’t afford human transplant fingers, he had to instead settle for tools from a Swiss army penknife as replacement digits). How different things could have been. Now Uncle George works at the local pub, where he opens bottles of lager with what would have been his index finger. If only he had taken out some travel insurance…


Travel insurance might seem like a fairly simple thing; but (as is often the case with financial products) can be a good deal more complicated than meets the eye. It is a type of insurance that covers an umbrella of different risks, namely:

  • Cancellation of your holiday due to accident or sickness
  • Loss or theft of possessions
  • Medical costs

Repatriation costs i.e. the amount it would cost to transport you back to the UK if you are ill.
Third party liability (which covers for any legal action taken if you injure another person or cause any damage to another person’s property).

Not all of the above are included as standard in all policies, so read the small print to see what you are actually covered for. My Uncle George has a Magnifying Glass where his little finger used to be, specifically so that he can scan travel insurance policies.

As you might expect, there are more things to think about than just this; take a look at these tips to make sure your trip doesn’t turn into a holiday nightmare!

You don’t only need travel insurance if you are going abroad. Although you won’t need the level of cover that you would need in other countries, there is still the risk that you might have to cancel your trip. Ask about the cancellation policy where you are due to stay, if your money is non-refundable (or a proportion of it isn’t) then it is advisable to have some cover. As well as this it’s still possible that you may lose possessions on holiday in the UK, or that you might cause injury to others. However, check your Buildings and Contents Insurance first as you may have some cover already.

You might already have Travel Insurance! If you have a current account (usually the more “premium” types mind) or credit card or buildings insurance, you may have free travel insurance as part of the deal. My uncle would be getting his little finger Magnifying Glass out here though – check the small print to make sure the policy covers you adequately for your trip.

“I don’t need travel insurance”, you confidently say as you produce your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Wrong! This might not cover the full cost of your treatment and won’t cover you for other things such as loss of possessions of personal liability. Don’t get me wrong, an EHIC is good to have, but it doesn’t cover costs like getting you back to the UK. And of course it doesn’t cover you for destinations further afield.

Single or Multi trip cover? You can buy Travel Insurance that will cover you for one trip or for several trips during a year. If you plan to make more than one trip away in a year, it will probably be more cost effective to buy a multi trip or annual policy.

Buy your Travel Insurance as close to booking your holiday as you can. This doesn’t mean buying the policy your Travel Agent offers you, as this can quite often be more expensive than shopping around. The sooner you purchase the policy, the sooner you have some cover if you have to cancel.

Make sure you tell your insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions you have. Most insurers won’t cover you (or put exclusions on your policy) if you have a pre-existing medical condition such as Cancer. If you can’t get insurance because of this, a good port of call would be to contact a related charity who should be able to put you in touch with a specialist travel insurer.

Make sure you tell your insurer if you are going to partake in any extreme sports or hazardous activity while you are away – otherwise you may not be covered! Probably the most common example of where you might need special insurance is Skiing. However, there are a range of other hazardous activities that you may not be covered for as standard, so it is always best to inform the insurer of anything you are doing that might be hazardous. Even if you have cover for particular hazardous activities you should always read the small print to see if there are any limitations. My uncle, wise to the need for travel insurance, forgot to state that he was going Kangaroo wrangling on his holiday to Australia. Consequently he broke his neck after he fell headfirst into a doe Kangaroo’s pouch and the animal bolted. His insurance didn’t pay out.

Is having an excess excessive? Unless you are unfortunate enough to be in a Kangaroo wrangling accident, or suffer a Pedalo-related amputation, chances are that if you need to claim (for instance if your camera was stolen) it would be for a relatively small amount. There will normally be an excess to pay; but, for a slightly higher premium, you might be able to pay no excess in the event that you need to claim.

Single item allowance.On your policy there will be a limit on the amount that you can claim for the loss of a single item. For instance, if this limit is £500, but you have a Snowboard that is worth considerably more, you would only get £500. Make sure you cover yourself for the correct amount for any expensive items you take away with you. My uncle lost his Kangaroo wrangling lasso in the pouch of the same beast that broke his neck. He had a single item allowance of £250 but his lasso, rumoured to have been used by the real-life Mick Dundee, was worth far more. He lost thousands whilst the Kangaroo sold the lasso on eBay and made a small fortune. He was last seen in a nightclub in Rio de Janeiro, where he has started a new dance craze…

Struth! I hope this has given you some food for thought before you compare & buy Travel Insurance. My uncle finally managed to correctly cover himself for his summer holiday last year to Kenya. Unfortunately for him, a Honey Badger charged him and he lost a foot. He insisted on being awake and un-anaesthetised during the amputation, so happy was he that this time he was finally covered!

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