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Coronavirus travel insurance: everything you need to know

Written by Travel Adventures

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Do I really have to think about this?

Of course you don’t. Unless, that is, you are worried about losing money if your holiday is cancelled, or if you have an accident while you are travelling, or if you are robbed, or your baggage is lost. Or… perhaps… if you catch Covid-19 at some point in the future.

Can I buy any old policy – preferably the cheapest I can find?

Yes. Of course you can. But it may not give you the cover you expect and it may not be that cheap any more. Insurers have been inundated with claims since the pandemic broke out, and roughly half of all travel insurance companies have currently withdrawn from the market – some may not come back. Those that are still selling policies have in most cases added exclusion clauses that remove cover for claims for cancellation or disruption to travel plans caused by Covid-19 – and often by epidemics or pandemics in general. It also seems likely that prices will rise significantly. Industry insiders think that overall premiums will go up by 10 to 20 per cent, possibly more.

What should I looked for in a travel insurance policy now?

This is the key problem. Insurers are obviously jumpy about how exposed they are to claims both for cancellations because of Covid-19 and for medical treatment as a result of catching it while you are abroad. So all have put restrictions and exclusions into their policies. You need to check exactly what those are and make sure you understand the limitations of the cover. A useful guide to finding a decent policy at a decent price is available on the Consumers’ Association website. Key things to think about when it comes to travel insurance in general are the levels of cover for cancellation, medical treatment and the value of your baggage and possessions, which is often on the low side. And be careful about exclusions for certain activities. Diving, some trekking, horse-riding and many other outdoor activities are not covered on some policies and may require an extra premium.

What’s the best travel insurance right now?

I have done a lot of research on policies over the years and I always buy mine from PJ Hayman, which has some of the most sensible and comprehensive policies on the market. So you could try them. Which? also surveys and recommends travel insurance policies. Several of its top buys are not currently being sold because of the pandemic, but a few are, including those issued by Staysure and also Insure and Go’s Silver standard policy. Note though, like all policies currently on sale, both these currently have restrictions on claims relating to Covid-19. And be aware that the situation is changing fast, so double-check the latest cover before you buy.

What about refunds if an operator or airline collapses?

A few travel insurance policies offer cover for what is called ‘supplier failure’ and will reimburse you if you lose money in these circumstances (sometimes you have to pay an extra premium for this). But your best protection is to buy holidays from an Atol-bonded tour operator and to book your travel arrangements using a credit card, which will make the card issuer liable under the Consumer Credit Act if you lose money when the company you have paid goes bust.

Anything else I need to worry about?

Yes. Insurers have become very jumpy about pre-existing medical conditions in recent years because they add to the risk of expensive medical claims and cancellations. It is absolutely critical that you declare any conditions you may have when you buy a policy, otherwise – if you do need treatment while you are travelling – you may find your claim is refused. Oh, and if you do book a trip, make sure that you buy your insurance at the same time, well in advance of travel. Then if something does happen you will already have your cover in place.

Aren’t I covered by the EHIC scheme in Europe?

Well, yes you are. Until December 31 2020, if you are a British citizen and fall ill and need emergency medical treatment while in an EU country, you are entitled to treatment under the local health service (which is usually free or very low cost). But that arrangement, which is a reciprocal one, under the current agreement will only continue if it is included in a Brexit deal that is signed before the end of the year. If it isn’t, then getting cover for Covid-19 while travelling in Europe is likely to become more expensive, and possibly – for some older travellers or those with a health condition – harder to find.

Like this? Now read:

Travel quarantine: what do the new guidelines mean for the UK?

When can I travel to Europe? The latest advice

When will flights resume for the UK?

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