Do I need travel insurance for Europe?

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If you’re planning a trip overseas, travel insurance is a must — no matter how near or far your destination.

A good travel insurance policy will offer peace of mind that, should you need medical treatment during your holiday, lose your baggage, or have to cancel altogether, you’ll be covered financially.

Is travel insurance necessary for European destinations?

You will need travel insurance for European trips if you want to be fully covered.

A Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or GHIC offers a basic level of medical cover if  you’re travelling within the European Union (EU) as a British Citizen – but it doesn’t provide the full benefits of a travel insurance policy, such as cancellation, curtailment and lost baggage cover.

The GHIC card was launched in 2021 following the UK’s Brexit deal, and it allows access to the same medical treatment that locals receive in EU countries.

Further, GHIC cards don’t cover you within countries that are in the European Economic Area (EEA), but outside the EU — namely  Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland.

Europe-only travel insurance

Europe-only travel insurance policies cover you when you travel abroad in Europe.

Exactly which countries are included varies depending on your provider. Typically, you’ll be covered for every European Union (EU) country, but some policies may also extend to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Turkey.

Occasionally, Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia may be included in a Europe-only policy.

Be sure to double-check that all of the countries you’re travelling to are included in the policy to avoid any surprises.

You can take out Europe-only cover for a single trip — usually lasting up to 30 days — or opt for an annual multi-trip policy.

If you plan to go away more than twice in 12 months, a multi-trip policy will typically offer the best value for money.

Worldwide travel insurance

Worldwide travel insurance policies cover you both within and beyond Europe.

These policies tend to be more expensive than their Europe-only counterparts, but you can bring down the premium if you choose an option that excludes the US, Canada and the Caribbean. This is due to the high medical and liability costs prevalent in these regions.

You can purchase worldwide travel insurance for a single trip, or a multi-trip policy that covers you for several trips throughout a 12-month period.

If you’ve already purchased a Europe-only policy but decide to travel elsewhere, your insurer may allow you to ‘upgrade’ to a worldwide policy for an additional fee. However, you may need to take out a new policy from scratch.

It may be best to purchase a worldwide policy if you know you’ll be travelling a few times over the course of a year, but aren’t certain what your destinations will be.

Wherever you’re travelling, check that the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office hasn’t advised against the visit. This may invalidate your travel insurance policy.

What Europe-only travel insurance covers

Exactly what’s included in a Europe-only travel insurance policy varies between providers, but you can expect the following essentials as standard:

  • Medical expenses — covers the cost of any medical treatment you require should you fall ill or be injured during your holiday. Make sure your policy covers repatriation (taking you back to the UK.) Since medical treatment in Europe can be costly, look out for a policy with at least £2 million of medical expense cover

  • Cancellation or curtailment — this allows you to make a claim if you have to cancel your trip or cut it short because of unforeseen circumstances. Generally, a policy should offer about £3,000 in cancellation cover

  • Baggage and personal possessions — this covers the value of your baggage and any other valuable items in the event they are lost or stolen

  • Personal liability — if you accidentally damage someone’s property or injure them, you’ll be financially protected. Look for a policy that provides £1 million worth of personal liability cover.

Extra cover to consider

Along with these essentials, you may need to add additional cover to your policy, such as:

  • Winter sports cover — If you are planning to ski and snowboard while in Europe a standard travel insurance policy is unlikely to cover you, since medical treatment for ski accidents tends to be costly.

Some providers allow you to add ‘winter sports’ cover to a standard policy, which allows you to make a claim if you’re involved in a ski-related accident. Alternatively, you could opt for a specialist ‘ski insurance’ policy

  • End supplier and airline failure — If you have bought a package holiday without ATOL protection, you may wish to consider a policy that includes ‘end supplier failure,’ which pays out if the company you booked with goes bust before the trip

‘Airline failure cover’ could also be a good option if the flights you have booked are expensive. This allows you to make a claim if your chosen airline fails before you travel.

  • Covid cover — With coronavirus continuing to impact travel plans, it’s worth checking whether your policy allows you to claim for covid-related medical fees, or if your trip has to be cut short or cancelled due to covid.

When to buy cover

It’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday.

This way, you’ll be covered if you need to cancel unexpectedly in the run-up to your trip.

Finding the best deal

To find the right level of cover for your needs at the best possible price, it’s worth shopping around to compare quotes.

You may be able to cut costs by opting for a lower level of cover, and a higher excess (the amount you pay towards any claims you make). However, this could work out more expensive if you need to make a claim.

If you’re travelling with a partner or family, choosing a couples or family policy that covers all of you could work out cheaper than individual policies.

As you compare insurance, be honest about your circumstances and declare any pre-existing medical conditions.

It may be tempting to withhold information to bring down the price of your policy, but doing so could render it invalid. This means any claim you make will be rejected.