For travellers with even the tiniest sense of wanderlust, any chance to hit the road or take to the skies can trigger excitement and anticipation.

Whether it’s for work or pleasure, travel provides opportunities for exploring new places, meeting new people, taking in new experiences and creating new memories.

From the moment a trip is booked, our imagination can run wild with thoughts of all the adventures ahead. Understandably, we’re less likely to think about the possibility of a dream trip turning into a nightmare. However, this is the unfortunate – and potentially expensive – reality that an increasing number of travellers are facing.

The latest data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) shows that travel insurers dealt with 362,000 claims in 2022, resulting in total claims payouts of £352 million. And while the average emergency medical treatment claim totalled £1,750, some individual costs ran far higher based on the location and the level of intervention required.

ABTA, the UK’s largest travel trade association, recently warned of a substantial rise in potential medical costs, underlining the importance and value of travel insurance. It highlighted that an air ambulance transfer from the European Union to the United Kingdom cost between €25,000 and €30,000 in 2023 – significantly up on the €15,000 – €20,000 it would have cost in 2019. And over the same period, the cost of worldwide transfers more than doubled, reaching up to €85,000.

In light of these figures, here we look at some of the common questions around travel insurance, including potential pitfalls that might leave policyholders exposed if their travel doesn’t go according to plan.

Is it mandatory to have travel insurance?

For the majority of major holiday destinations, travel insurance is highly recommended rather than legally required. However, there are certain countries where local law stipulates that you must have medical insurance in place, sometimes as part of a visa application.

Isn’t an EHIC or GHIC card the same as being insured?

In short, no. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) that replaced it only provide access to essential state healthcare in countries within the European Union plus Switzerland. They do not cover the costs of private medical healthcare or repatriation if you need to be flown home. As such, the NHS and government advise that you also have private travel and medical insurance for the duration of your trip.

What does travel insurance actually cover?

The simple answer is that it depends – the precise nature and extent of cover will depend on the specifics of the policy. Generally speaking, cover will include all or part of the cost of any emergency medical treatment you need while abroad as well as associated expenses. Policies can also provide compensation if you have to cancel or cut a holiday short, or if you are hit by lengthy delays. You might also have cover for the loss or damage to baggage and personal belongings. Higher risk activities, such as winter sports, will typically require additional cover.

When is it best to get cover in place?

It is advisable to act sooner rather than later. This allows you to protect yourself more fully against the risks of things going wrong, such as not being able to travel through illness. Leaving it to the last minute is likely to reduce the scope of cover for cancellations, and could leave you panic buying a policy that isn’t best suited to your personal situation or your destination of choice. Research has found that a surprising one in three people left themselves exposed to this risk by purchasing insurance on the day of travel.

Am I covered by my employer?

This will depend on your employer. In some cases, companies will co-ordinate insurance for employees who are required to travel for business, while others might provide individuals with insurance that applies to both business and leisure travel as part of a more comprehensive benefits package. This underlines the importance of seeking clarity on the conditions of any available cover before you travel, particularly if you are planning to blur the lines between business and pleasure by extending a work-based trip to include a few days of vacation.

Does a pre-existing condition prevent me from getting cover?

Pre-existing conditions might make getting travel insurance more complex but they don’t necessarily mean you can’t get insured and an experienced broker can provide guidance in this area. It is essential, however, that any pre-existing conditions are divulged as not doing so could invalidate a potential claim.

In summary, securing an appropriate level of travel cover should be seen as a fundamental part of the process for booking a trip. Safe in the knowledge that you have valuable protection in place if misfortune strikes, you can be free to focus on the excitement of the voyage ahead.


The information contained within this communication does not constitute financial advice and is provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether express or implied is given in relation to such information. Vintage Health or any of its associated representatives shall not be liable for any technical, editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions within the content of this communication.