Understanding Travel Insurance – A Guide for Travellers

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Your phone, your keys, your passport… Your travel insurance. This often-overlooked documentation should be one of the most important parts of any trip, whether you’re embarking on an Aussie adventure or simply taking a continental sojourn. Looking to book? We’ve got a snazzy new insurance provider coming very soon – watch this space. For now, check out our guide to travel insurance and ensure you’re getting the best cover to suit you:


  • Why travel insurance is essential
  • Types of travel insurance coverage
  • Choosing the right travel insurance
  • How to make a travel insurance claim
  • Frequently asked questions about travel insurance
  • Glossary of travel insurance terms
  • Contact us about travel insurance

Why travel insurance is essential 

No matter where you go in the world, travel insurance is an absolute must. Indeed, in some destinations – such as Dubai or the Seychelles – having valid travel insurance is actually a legal requirement! Even when the cover isn’t mandatory, we recommend all our customers take out an appropriate policy as soon as they book any travel. Not only will it protect you against unexpected events, such as trip cancellations, medical emergencies, lost luggage, and flight delays, but it will also give you peace of mind during your travels.


Types of travel insurance coverage 

  • Medical insurance: Covers you for any medical or dental emergencies overseas. 
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance: Reimbursement for pre-paid, non-refundable expenses due to cancelled or interrupted trips. 
  • Baggage insurance: Compensation for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage. 
  • Flight insurance: Coverage for flight accidents and related issues. 

Choosing the right travel insurance 

Choosing the right travel insurance is paramount to ensure you are covered for certain activities, destinations, medical conditions and the correct duration. You will need to assess the following:

Coverage needs

As mentioned above, certain activities – such as quad biking, skiing or skydiving – may require specific insurance. There are also different policies available dependant on where you’re travelling – i.e. UK, Europe, USA, or rest of the world. Most policies are good for 1-30 days, but anything more than that, it may be worth considering an annual policy, particularly if you travel regularly.

If you’re travelling to Europe, from a medical standpoint it’s also worth considering the coverage and limitations of the government-issued EHIC/GHIC cards, and what further travel insurance you may need to support these.

Policy review and comparison

Standard coverage varies from one insurer to another, so it’s important to read all your policy documentation before buying your travel insurance, and always compare multiple options and costs. When doing so, be sure to compare policy excesses and the amount of cover offered for each item – particularly looking at repatriation costs and cover for lost luggage and trip cancellation. Does the policy you’re looking at have all the add-ons you need, such as ski or snowboarding cover? Is it more economical to book a joint or family policy, as opposed to solo?

Read the fine print

As mentioned above, reading all your policy documentation – including the fine print – prior to committing is essential. This will give you an understanding of any exclusions, limitations or conditions that may apply to your policy, for example, the fact that preexisting medical conditions may not be covered.

How to make a travel insurance claim 

In the unlikely even you need to make a travel insurance claim, it’s crucial that when you’re in-destination you keep hold of any and all documentation and receipts, as well make a note of dates and times of any relevant incidences. Once you have all your documentation together, you will need to file a claim by first contacting your insurer. Some companies have an online portal where you can do this, while others will require speaking to a customer service centre first.

After raising the request, you will then most likely need to submit any necessary documentation to support your claim. This is when the information you have gathered comes into play! From here your case will be reviewed, and your insurance monies paid out in accordance with your policy.

Remember, it’s crucial to report any incidents as soon as possible after they occur. Restrictions on the time you have to file a claim vary from insurer to insurer; it often varies from a few days to a few weeks, so do check your policy documentation thoroughly when you receive it.

Frequently asked questions about travel insurance

What does travel insurance cover?

Travel insurance typically covers unexpected events such as trip cancellations, medical emergencies abroad, lost or stolen luggage, and flight delays. Coverage details vary by policy, so it's important to read the terms and conditions carefully. 

Is travel insurance mandatory for travelling abroad from the UK?

While travel insurance is not always mandatory, as mentioned above some countries do require visitors to have valid medical insurance coverage. Regardless of legal requirements, having travel insurance is highly recommended for financial protection against unforeseen events. 

Can I purchase travel insurance after I've started my trip?

Most travel insurance providers require you to purchase a policy before your trip begins. However, some companies offer policies that can be purchased while you are already traveling, albeit with certain limitations and conditions. 

That said, it is in your interests to get travel insurance as soon as possible, ideal prior to travel, in case of any cancellations or issues that may prevent your trip from going ahead.

Does travel insurance cover pre-existing medical conditions?

Coverage for pre-existing medical conditions varies between insurers. Some policies may cover pre-existing conditions if they are declared and accepted by the insurer at the time of purchase, while others may exclude them. As always, check your policy wording carefully and, if in doubt, chat to your provider for clarification.<

How do I make a claim on my travel insurance?

To make a claim, you'll need to contact your insurance provider as soon as possible after the incident – before your return home if possible. Follow their claims process, which typically involves submitting a claim form along with any required documentation, such as medical reports, police reports, or receipts for incurred expenses.

Will travel insurance cover trip cancellations due to COVID-19?

Coverage for trip cancellations due to COVID-19 or ‘pandemic’ varies by policy and provider. Some insurers offer coverage for COVID-19 related cancellations, while others may exclude pandemics from their coverage. It's essential to check the specific terms of your policy.

Can I cancel my travel insurance policy if I change my mind?

Many insurance policies include a cooling-off period, typically around 14 days after purchase, during which you can cancel the policy for a full refund. You will not be able to cancel if your trip has already started or you’ve made a claim.

How much does travel insurance cost?

The cost of travel insurance depends on various factors, including the destination, duration of the trip, age and number of travellers, as well as the level of coverage selected. It's best to compare quotes from different providers to find the best price for your needs. You may also want to consider an annual policy if you travel regularly.

Does travel insurance cover natural disasters?

Many travel insurance policies provide coverage for trip cancellations, interruptions, and additional expenses incurred due to natural disasters, such as hurricanes or earthquakes. Coverage details and exclusions vary, so review your policy carefully. 

What should I do if I lose my luggage or it's stolen while travelling?

Immediately report the loss to the airline, airport authorities, or local police, and obtain a written report. In the best scenarios, you should be reunited with any lost luggage within 24-48 hours. If not, your next step is to contact your travel insurance provider to report the incident and start the claims process, providing all required documentation. 

Glossary of travel insurance terms
  1. Annual multi-trip insurance: A policy covering an unlimited number of trips within a 12-month period. There are usually restrictions on the length of each trip, typically 30 days.
  2. Excess (deductible): The amount you must pay towards any claim. This can be applied per policy or per claim, depending on the insurer's terms. For example, if your excess is £100 and your claim is £300, you will receive £200 back.
  3. Exclusion(s): Specific conditions or circumstances that are not covered by the insurance policy. 
  4. Policy limit: The maximum an insurer will pay under a policy for a covered loss. 
  5. Pre-existing condition: Any medical condition or health issue that was known and existed before the start of the insurance policy. Coverage for such conditions varies by insurer. 
  6. Primary coverage: Insurance that pays claims directly and does not require you to first submit them to any other source of insurance you may have. 
  7. Secondary coverage: Insurance that only pays claims after any other available source of insurance or recovery has been exhausted. 
  8. Single trip insurance: A policy designed to cover one specific trip, with set departure and return dates. 
  9. Travel advisory: Official advice issued by government bodies (specifically the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)) regarding the safety of travel to specific destinations, which can affect the validity or coverage of your travel insurance. 
  10. Trip cancellation insurance: Coverage for expenses if you need to cancel your trip before departure for a covered reason, as defined in the policy. 
  11. Trip interruption insurance: Coverage for expenses if you need to cut your trip short due to an emergency or a covered reason, as defined in the policy. 
  12. Medical evacuation insurance (Medevac): Covers the costs of transporting you to a suitable medical facility in case of a medical emergency while traveling. 
  13. Repatriation: Coverage for returning you to your home country in case of death or a medical emergency. 
  14. Baggage and personal effects cover: Insurance for loss, theft, or damage to your personal belongings during your trip. 
  15. Civil unrest: Cover when there is unrest or instability in a country or region that can affect travel plans. Coverage for travel to areas with known/preexisting civil unrest is often limited or excluded. 
  16. Direct billing: Arrangements made between the insurer and service providers (such as hospitals) to pay bills directly, so you won’t need to be out of pocket or seek reimbursement later (excluding any excesses).

More information

As we’ve mentioned above, Flight Centre UK is in the process of setting up a new travel insurance provider to help support trips booked with our experts, so keep checking back here and on our social media for updates. In the meantime, should you need any further help or advice, or have concerns about what cover you need, chat with one of our experts on 0208 127 4273, or complete the form below.

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