Travel insurance can pay for lost luggage and other valuables, as well as accidents, emergency medical bills or other problems that may occur when you are travelling.
If you travel overseas without travel insurance, you run the risk of losing out should something go wrong.
Medical expenses and bills incurred by people whilst they are overseas account for a significant proportion of all claims made on travel insurance policies. Other common claims are for lost or stolen baggage, cancellation of flights, lost or stolen money and travel delays.
In many countries healthcare can be extremely expensive. Most travel insurance policies will cover medical bills for up to £1 million, and often more, as well as pay for an emergency air ambulance to bring you home for treatment in the UK should this be necessary.
Travel insurance can also cover you against other mishaps while you are abroad, from theft to flight delays.
Most policies have a standard excess charge which means that you agree to pay the first part of any claim, for example the first £50. If you agree to pay a higher excess sum you may be able to get a cheaper policy.
You may be offered travel insurance by a travel agent where you book a holiday. You might find that when booking flights, the airline has automatically added travel insurance for you. Whenever you book air tickets using the internet, watch out for so called ‘default options’ which may automatically include you purchasing travel insurance alongside your ticket(s), unless you ‘un-tick’ a box online.
Do not feel pressurised into taking out travel insurance from your travel agent or airline - you do not have to take the insurance offered by them, you can opt out of it and use your own if you already have it, or buy a policy separately. Other policies may well be more suitable for you.
If you do decide to take the insurance offered by a travel firm or airline, make sure that you find out what is covered and what is not by reading the key policy information.
Also check whether your employer may offer travel insurance as part of your employment benefits package. You may also have some kind of ‘free’ travel insurance through your bank account or credit card. Do make sure that you check what this policy covers as it may only cover certain things and then only up to a certain amount.
What may not be covered
Make sure that you read the policy summary to see what is and what is not covered by a specific travel insurance policy - there will be some areas that are excluded from cover.
For example, some policies do not cover scheduled airline failures, civil unrest, terrorist attacks or widespread disruption to flights caused by closure of airspace or airports due to unexpected events, such as the volcanic ash disruption witnessed in Spring 2010.
You won't usually be covered for medical conditions you already have, or may have to pay extra to get them covered. If you do not disclose those medical conditions, any claims that you make may then be rejected because you did not inform the insurance company about them.
If relevant, you should also check whether your policy covers having to cancel your holiday when a relative or friend falls ill. Always ask if you are in any doubt. Travelling against a doctor's advice may also invalidate your insurance cover.
You will pay a premium for your travel insurance policy that depends on various factors, such as age, any pre-existing medical conditions, where you may be travelling to, how many days per year you are likely to be out of the country for, and whether you will be partaking in certain activities whilst overseas (one example would be a skiing holiday or other winter sports).