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Sun, sea, sand and Covid

beach huts

Sun, sea, sand and…a Covid PCR test. Travelling overseas will feel very different when it resumes, albeit in a limited way, from 17 May. But one thing has not changed – for anyone travelling overseas (in compliance with FCDO advice) travel insurance will remain essential to have.

The recent publication of the government’s eagerly anticipated ‘green list’ of countries with quarantine-free travel may not have exactly sparked a stampede in overseas holiday bookings, even with many people desperate for an overseas break. However, as and when more popular holiday destinations are added, we can expect that to change. This makes it vital to understand and follow travel requirements – both at home and abroad – as failure to do so may lead to that long dreamed of holiday becoming a major financial headache.

The travel environment has changed, but the core purpose of travel insurance – to cover the sometimes eye wateringly high costs of needing emergency overseas medical treatment abroad – has not. While the ability to travel was limited in 2020, we still saw some shockingly high medical bills as a result of emergency medical treatment needed overseas. In one case last year, the cost of one month’s private medical treatment in Spain following a fall and emergency medical repatriation back to the UK was £124,000. In another case, treating and returning a traveller who contracted Covid while in Cyprus cost £70,000. Both these medical bills were paid for by travel insurers, yet amazingly, pre-pandemic research by ABTA in 2019 revealed that a worrying 38% of people admitted to having travelled abroad without travel insurance at some point. That is not a risk worth taking, especially as travel insurance can cost less than a family holiday meal out.

Six to know before you go

If you are planning to travel overseas:

  1. Always make sure it is safe to travel. Always check current FCDO advice, especially as travelling against FCDO advice is likely to invalidate your travel insurance. Be aware of any quarantine requirements on your return to the UK – travel insurance will not cover costs associated with quarantining in Government provided accommodation.
  2. Buy travel insurance and make sure that it best meets your needs. The main reason for travel insurance is to cover the costs of emergency overseas medical treatment which, together with any repatriation required back to the UK, can easily run into tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds.
  3. Check and be aware of any COVID-19 exclusions in your travel insurance. All ABI travel insurers will continue to provide cover for emergency medical treatment needed overseas, including emergency medical treatment related to COVID-19. However, policies are unlikely to cover cancellation due to COVID-19, as it was a known risk when the policy was taken out
  4. Be aware of, and comply with, travel requirements for entering overseas countries. It is your responsibility to comply with any border restrictions in place at your destination country (i.e. negative COVID-19 test, vaccine). If you do not comply with these requirements, then you will need to return home at your own cost. 
  5. Have your EHIC, or get a GHIC, if travelling to Europe. If you hold a current European Health Insurance Card (the EHIC entitles you to access state-provided health care when visiting the EU) this remains valid until its expiry date. After then, or if you do not have an EHIC, you will need to apply in the same way (through NHS online) for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Neither the EHIC or the GHIC is a replacement for travel insurance as it will not cover you for all medical costs, or the cost of emergency repatriation back to the UK.
  6. Know your rights. Get as much information as you can, so that, in the event of any travel problems, you know what you are entitled to. For example, check the refund policy of any accommodation provider, what you are entitled to if booking a package holiday, and what the legal obligations of the airline are if your flight is disrupted or cancelled.

Overseas travel 2021-style is going to take more planning and effort for sure. Just make sure that travel insurance is part of that!

Last updated 12/05/2021