Whether you’re travelling abroad for work or play, it’s an excellent idea to pack travel insurance, along with the rest of your going-away belongings.
Unexpected events and emergencies can ruin a trip. Having travel cover in place acts like a financial safety net should anything go wrong while you’re away.
Sadly, a combination of the pandemic coupled with the UK government’s current traffic light system of ‘red’, ‘amber’ and ‘green’ list destinations, means arranging travel cover has never been more confusing.
If you’re heading overseas to an amber-listed country, here’s the latest state of play in terms of travel obligations, plus the essentials that you need to know when taking out travel insurance.
Note: the following applies to travellers returning to London and other English locations. If you are returning to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, check with the relevant authorities for any differences in requirements.
Amber list travellers
Last month, the government altered its rules for ‘double-jabbed’, fully NHS-vaccinated UK travellers who return from destinations on its amber list.
The regulations now fall into line for those travellers returning from so-called green list countries. On arrival back in the UK, neither set of travellers is now required to quarantine.
At the time of writing, countries currently featuring on the amber list include the popular holiday destinations of Spain (including the Balearic and Canary Islands), Italy and Cyprus. France is also on the amber list, having temporarily been moved to an ‘amber plus’ category, where returning travellers were required to self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status.
If you decide to travel to one of the 120-plus countries and territories that make up the amber list, taking out travel cover can protect you in the event something goes wrong on your trip.
That includes Covid-related incidents although, as you might expect, the exact level of protection depends on the policy you take out and from which insurer.
Before looking at the nitty-gritty of buying insurance, here’s a reminder of the rules for travellers returning from amber list countries.
Heed the rules
UK travellers should follow the government’s traffic light system when heading overseas.
The colour code relates to a country’s perceived level of risk in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. Note that the government currently advises against travel to red list countries.
By way of contrast, travellers who are fully NHS-vaccinated and are currently returning to England from amber list countries must:
· take a Covid-19 pre-departure test up to 72 hours before leaving the overseas country
· take a Covid-19 test on or before day two after arrival in England (arrival day is day 0). Tests must be booked and paid-for before travel.
Unless the day two test is positive, there is no need to quarantine.
On arrival in England from an amber list country, travellers who are not fully vaccinated must:
· quarantine at home or another location for 10 days
· take a Covid-19 test on or before day two and another one on or after day eight. These must be paid for before travel.
Also permitted by the rules is a ‘Test to Release’ scheme that provides returning travellers with the option of paying for a private COVID-19 test on day 5. If that result is negative and the result of a day 2 test was negative or inconclusive, the need to quarantine is lifted.
What does travel insurance cover?
A comprehensive travel insurance policy should cover you for everything from emergency medical costs incurred abroad, to stolen items, lost luggage, or for a trip that gets cancelled.
If possible, take out cover at the same time as you make a travel booking. Cancellation cover is a key component of travel insurance and, having a policy in place early, provides financial peace of mind should an unforeseen event scupper your plans before you even leave the country (such as bereavement or illness).
Policies differ from one insurer to another, but standard travel products should at least cover you for:
· Medical expenses if you fall ill or get injured while you’re away, plus repatriation costs
· Lost or stolen possessions for example, money, personal items, or luggage
· Cancellation costs where an event beyond your control forces you to cancel a trip
· Personal liability if you accidentally injure someone, or their property, while you’re away
Before taking out a policy, it’s important to check the details and understand what is and, more pertinently, isn’t included. Exceptions and limitations on the circumstances in which you can claim will vary from one provider to another.
Where relevant, ask your airline, tour operator, or accommodation provider about refunds before claiming on your policy. Insurers will expect you to have done so.
Stop and go
Also bear in mind that most policies will most likely be rendered invalid if you have travelled against government advice.
At the time of writing, CoverFor You, Cedar Tree, Outbacker and Battleface are among a handful of insurers to offer limited travel cover to red list destinations.
Bear in mind that insurers will not cover for cancellation if there is no advice against travel to your destination, but because you simply decide not to go after making a booking.
Policies are priced on how likely an insurer thinks you are to make a claim. Factors taken into account include age, destination, duration of stay, activities likely to be undertaken, along with the level of cover required and any pre-existing medical conditions.
It’s vital to provide honest answers to all the questions posed by an insurer prior to taking out a policy. Otherwise, you risk a future claim being rejected.
What about Covid?
Many travel insurers include a level of cover against Covid-related risks as part of their policies.
This includes cover for medical expenses and the costs of travel should you go down with the virus while you’re away and need to return home early.
Several insurers provide a more extensive layer of Covid-19 protection that allows you to make cancellation claims in connection with the virus.
For example, where either you, or one of your travelling companions, falls ill with Covid prior to departure, or is required to enter quarantine before the departure date.
Again, when it comes to Covid-related claims, it’s vital you check the specific details relating to your policy before signing-up, and definitely make sure you do so before heading off on your travels.
What to watch out for when buying cover
Look beyond simply the cost of premiums even though it’s tempting to choose the cheapest policy. If a cheap policy comes up short when making a claim, that won’t be much by way of compensation at a time when it is most needed.
When comparing policies, consider other factors such as the ‘excess’. This is the amount the customer agrees to pay towards a claim. A higher excess can result in lower premiums, but ask yourself what is a sensible amount that you could afford in this regard. Establish also whether different items on your policy are limited to different excess amounts, and whether every person listed on the policy needs to pay the excess each time a claim is made.
This can make a big dent in what you receive in a pay-out, but the premiums might be lower as a result. Most policies have an ‘excess waiver’ option whereby, for the payment of an additional sum (perhaps around a third of the original premium) you can remove the excess requirement completely.
For lost possessions, check whether your policy allows you to claim for several items, such as baggage that’s gone missing as well as cash that’s been lost. Also establish whether there’s a single item limit. This is the amount you can claim for an individual item, no matter how much the overall claim limit is.
When it comes to personal liability cover, the Money Advice Service recommends looking for policies offering cover of a minimum of £2 million.
Standard policies should cover the essentials as outlined above. But you may also wish to bolt on cover for added extras.
For example, end supplier failure or scheduled airline failure provides financial protection in the event a travel company or airline goes bust. This is useful where you’re not travelling as part of an ATOL-protected package holiday.
Meanwhile, missed departure cover kicks in if you miss a flight, train, or ferry through no fault of your own. Delay cover provides financial compensation if your journey is delayed for a stipulated amount of time, say, 12 hours.
Ignoring government travel advice is one way of having a travel insurance claim turned down. There are others, including, where claims arise from incidents involving alcohol or drugs, not taking reasonable care of your possessions, and not following an insurer’s claims procedure.
You’re also likely to have to take out extra cover for certain sports and activities such as winter sports (including skiing and snowboarding) as well as rock-climbing or quad biking.
Finding the right policy
It’s worth shopping around for travel insurance so that you track down a competitively-priced policy that’s best suited to your particular needs, as well as ensuring you’re adequately covered while abroad.
One way to do this is through a comparison service that allows you to enter your details and then see a number of policies side-by-side.