Why do I need travel insurance?

6 minute read

Three people laying on the sand

Travelling can provide plenty of opportunities to experience the world and explore the unknown. However, not every unexpected event you encounter on holiday is a welcome one. And that’s why you need travel insurance.

From illness and injury to lost luggage, there are many reasons you may need to call on travel insurance whilst abroad. In this article, we’ll explore these circumstances in more detail.

Do I need travel insurance?

Whilst travel insurance isn’t a legal requirement, it should still be seen as a travel essential.

Organisations such as Citizens Advice, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and HM Government all stress the importance of having the appropriate cover in place before you take a trip. And yet, people still ask, why do I need travel insurance?

You will need travel insurance if you want to:

  • Protect yourself, your belongings and your holiday against financial losses in certain unexpected situations
  • Access financial support for expenses that may otherwise be overwhelming, such as medical bills or trip cancellations
  • Benefit from the support of 24/7 emergency helplines where needed
  • Enter, or progress certain visa applications for, a selection of countries


What does travel insurance typically cover?

When researching and comparing travel insurance policies, it’s important to explore the types and levels of cover they each offer as well as the price of the insurance product itself.

As every holiday can be as unique as the person booking it, it’s always worth delving into the detail of a policy to make sure it’s fitting for the trip you’re taking. Here, we look at some of the more common reasons you may need to call on travel insurance.


Medical emergencies

Unfortunately, whilst you’re on holiday, unexpected injuries and illnesses can occur. In fact, the Association of British Insurers reported that out of the £377m of claims paid to travellers in 2019, £197m of this was to cover the cost of emergency medical treatment.

If you are hurt or unwell on holiday, travel insurance can provide vital funds towards medical treatment. You should also check to see whether your policy includes repatriation (returning you to your own country). Without it, you’d be left to cover the costs of these services from your own pocket. And, when seeking medical treatment abroad, the costs involved can be incredibly high.

Below are some example medical costs, according to the HM Government’s latest figures.


Example situation

Estimated costs

You have broken your leg in Spain and require hospital treatment and flights


You have a traffic accident in Greece and need surgery followed by flights home


You have a stomach bug in the USA and need hospital treatment and new return flights to the UK




Cancellation or delays

No matter how much planning and preparation you put into a holiday, there are certain circumstances that can prevent you from travelling or cut your trip short such as sudden illness or even a natural disaster.

With the right level of travel insurance cover, however, you can get payments towards any losses this may lead to such as cancelled flights, unused accommodation and other prepaid expenses such as unused tours or activities.


Lost baggage and belongings

If your baggage or belongings are lost, stolen or damaged during a holiday, travel insurance may be able to offer financial support.

Most policies will provide cover for personal belongings. This could include items such as valuables, prescription glasses, mobility aids and travel documents, but you’ll need to read your policy details to check exactly what your provider will cover. This safeguard means you should be able to get a payment towards replacing these items without bearing the full financial burden yourself. However, the item value must exceed your policy excess (the amount you agree to pay against a claim on your policy) in order for this to apply.

Some insurers will also reimburse you for emergency purchases of essential items in the event of baggage delay, ensuring that travellers can continue their journeys with minimal disruption.

When picking out a policy, it’s worth checking the items you’re planning to take and working out their combined worth to make sure you have enough cover to replace them if needed.


Personal liability and legal expenses

Any accidental damages or injuries you cause other individuals, or their property, on holiday can result in substantial financial liabilities. Because of this, many travel insurance policies include personal liability coverage/legal expenses cover.

For example, if you accidentally knocked over a heavy item in a hotel and it damaged someone’s foot or the marble floor, the hotel or guest involved could sue you for the damages. Having travel insurance in place could safeguard you against legal expenses and compensation costs, should you be held accountable.


Assistance in emergencies

Navigating emergencies in an unfamiliar environment can be daunting, especially if you’re not familiar with the local language or customs. A comprehensive travel insurance policy should include assistance services, such as 24/7 medical emergency cover, providing access to multilingual support and guidance in times of crisis. This alone can make the cost of travel insurance worthwhile in the right circumstances.


What additional travel insurance cover might I need for my holiday?

Depending on your insurance provider or policy, you may need to seek additional levels of cover to ensure you’re protected for certain holiday types or activities. These include:


Sports and high-risk activities

Some standard insurance policies may not cover certain high-risk activities, such as scuba diving or skiing, or sporting equipment like golf clubs. So, if you like to venture off the beaten track whilst abroad or indulge in a tee off or two, it’s always worth checking to see if you require additional cover.


Cruise ship with lots of people on board

Cruise holidays

Cruise holidays can require additional cover or a specialist policy. When you’re out at sea, getting you to a hospital if you’re taken ill can be a trickier (and more expensive) task. Equally, if you miss a port stop, it can be more problematic to get you back on track than when you travel together on land. As such, your policy needs to reflect these challenges.


Will my destination impact my need for travel insurance?

Wherever you’re travelling to, you can benefit from insurance. However, your destination may dictate the level of financial cover you’ll need (and therefore the cost of your policy). For example, if you're travelling to a country like America, the healthcare you’d need to access is more expensive. There are also countries where the risk of tropical diseases or other threats is greater. In these cases, the risk is reflected in the level of travel insurance.


Why do I need travel insurance when holidaying in the UK?

Travel insurance can still be very worthwhile when holidaying in the UK. Whilst you won’t need the medical cover, as you’ll have access to the NHS, it can really pay to have protection for things like lost belongings, accidental damage and trip cancellations that are out of your control.


Why do I need travel insurance in Europe?

If you want the opportunity to access support during the various unexpected events we’ve outlined in this article, you need to have travel insurance when travelling in Europe.

Even if you own a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or the new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), both of which we’ll explore below, you still need travel insurance.


Do I need travel insurance when working abroad?

Yes, you should get travel insurance when working abroad. It can safeguard your possessions, including essential work equipment.

Many insurance providers offer customised solutions for professionals overseas. However, standard travel insurance may not encompass all the needs of those working abroad. Depending on your work specifics, a tailored policy for professional liability might be better.


What is an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)/Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)?

The EHIC is a free card that was introduced in 2004. It provides those visiting an EU country with access to necessary, state-provided, healthcare under the same conditions and costs as people insured in that country.

However, following the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union, the EHIC is no longer issued to UK residents. If you have a EHIC that’s currently in date, you can still use it to get access to some healthcare in EU countries until it expires. If you don't have an EHIC or it has expired, you can apply on the NHS website for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) .


Does the EHIC/GHIC card replace travel insurance?

No, that’s a travel insurance myth and it’s not true. Whilst you can use a GHIC to get healthcare in EU countries at a reduced cost or sometimes for free, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises having travel insurance, alongside a GHIC or EHIC when travelling to Europe to ensure you’re fully covered.

The level and type of coverage provided by EHIC or GHIC also varies from country to country and might not include all the free health services you'd receive on the NHS in the UK. Also, neither the EHIC nor the GHIC covers the cost of bringing you back to the UK after a medical emergency.

According to the ABI, a holidaymaker was once left with a £16,000 bill after needing medical treatment in France despite the GHIC covering 80% of the total cost. Thankfully, the traveller had travel insurance and so the costs were covered.


How do I pick the right travel insurance policy for me?

When picking out a travel insurance policy, do so with your needs and preferences in mind. Factors such as the extent of coverage, duration of travel, destinations, pre-existing medical conditions, and specific activities planned during the trip should all be taken into consideration.

With the right policy in place, travel insurance can provide a safety net that enables you to explore the world with confidence. To discover further travelling advice, try exploring the rest of Age Co’s Useful Articles. You can also learn more about Age Co Travel Insurance here.


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