Best pandemic travel insurance

·8-min read
 (Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

Aching to go on holiday this summer? While we’re still not sure when international travel restrictions will be lifted, and which rules will apply to which countries, it does seem likely that this summer will see a longed-for return of trips abroad.

But while the shadow of Covid-19 still lingers, it is important that we take whatever steps we can to protect the money we spend on our holidays in case we have to cancel or cut short our stay overseas. And, of course, we want the best protection against the risk of falling ill while we’re away.

This is where travel insurance with Covid-19 cover comes in. In March 2021, we gathered data from 33 travel insurance companies across 89 different policies and assessed them according to the level of Covid-10 protection provided. Below you can see the top five policies in our selection.

All the policies we reviewed have full medical cover including repatriation costs.

 (Coverwise)
(Coverwise)

1. Coverwise

Plan: Select Platinum

Medical cover: £20 million

Cancellation cover: £6,000

Reason for selection

Coverwise’s Select Platinum plan provides the top medical cover we found with no excess payment due if a claim is made.

Pros

  • Offers market leading levels of cover

  • No excess levied on claims

Cons

  • Higher hospital benefit is available elsewhere but at £2,000 this plan is still generous

 (Southdowns)
(Southdowns)

2. Southdowns

Plan: Select Platinum

Medical cover: £20 million

Cancellation cover: £6,000

Reason for selection

This plan also ranked highly for medical cover with no excess levied on claims

Pros

  • Offers market leading levels of cover

  • No excess levied on claims

Cons

  • Higher hospital benefit is available elsewhere but at £2,000 this plan is still generous

 (CoverForYou)
(CoverForYou)

3. CoverForYou

Plan: Premier

Medical cover: £15 million

Cancellation cover: £6,000

Reason for selection

The policy ranks highly for cancellation and curtailment cover

Pros

  • High levels of cancellation and curtailment cover (£6,000 each)

  • Relatively high level of medical cover at £15 million

Cons

  • Excess payable on medical and cancellation claims (£50)

 (OK to Travel)
(OK to Travel)

4. OK to Travel

Plan: Premier Plus

Medical cover: £10 million

Cancellation cover: £5,000

Reason for selection

Provides generous cover with no excess required

Pros

  • No excess levied payable on successful claims

  • High level of cover for curtailment and cancellation (£5,000 each)

Cons

  • Lower amount of medical cover (£10 million) and hospital benefit (£1,000) relative to competitors

 (Big Blue)
(Big Blue)

5. Big Blue

Plan: Premier

Medical cover: £10 million

Cancellation cover: £5,000

Reasons for selection

The policy offers high levels of cancellation and curtailment cover and hospital benefit

Pros

  • High level of cover for curtailment and cancellation (£5,000 each)

  • £2,000 hospital benefit

Cons

  • Medical and cancellation excess (£99) payable on claims

Methodology

Using data from our travel insurance partner CYTI, we assessed policies on the following:

  • Enhanced Covid-19 cover: We looked at whether policies offer some form of cancellation cover if you can no longer go on holiday for a reason associated with coronavirus.

  • Cancellation cover: We looked at the cancellation cover provided to identify the most generous limits.

  • Cancellation excess: The lower the excess, the higher we rated the policy. No -excess policies scored best. An excess is the amount deducted from any successful claim.

  • Curtailment cover: Here we favoured policies which provide a higher level of cover to those who need to cut their holiday short.

  • Medical cover: The policies which performed best were those with a higher level of pay-out for medical costs.

  • Medical excess: Again, we favoured policies charging a low or zero excess.

  • Hospital benefit: Policies scored highly if they offered higher levels of this cover than other contracts.

To arrive at our top-5 ranking, we combined the scores for each company, giving added weight to policies providing enhanced Covid-19 cover.

Holidays 2021: What you need to do

Buy insurance when you book

One of the most important features of travel insurance is cancellation cover. Getting insured straight away means cancellation protection is in place from the get-go.

There are many reasons why you might need to cancel your trip, regardless of Covid-19, including illness, bereavement, divorce and redundancy. But the issues associated with the pandemic have made it even more important to have a policy that includes Covid-19 risks as reasons why it will pay out if you need to cancel.

Check before you buy your insurance that it provides cover for the destination you have in mind, and also look at what it says about possible changes in the cover provided if the Covid status of the destination changes before you travel.

Follow government advice

Your travel insurance won’t be valid if you travel against official guidelines. It’s vital to check the government website for the latest information.

If your holiday or flight is cancelled by your tour operator or airline, you should be offered a refund or alternative arrangements. Your policy will not pay out if you are able to get your money back by another method.

What about requirements at your destination - and coming back to the UK?

It is likely that some destinations may require visitors to have evidence of vaccination or a recent negative test - or there may be testing on arrival.

If you fall ill while abroad, you should be covered by the medical expenses section of your insurance. Should you have to delay your return to the UK because you are ill or because you need to quarantine while away, your policy may cover your out-of-pocket expenses. Check your policy for details.

Bear in mind that, depending on where you have travelled to and from and the restrictions in force at the time, you may be required to take Covid-19 tests or even enter quarantine on your return to the UK. This could be at your home or in a government-sanctioned quarantine hotel.

You would be responsible for the costs of tests and your accommodation, if applicable, so it is important to factor these into your calculations - especially if you are travelling with your family or in another group.

What is the traffic light system?

International travel for leisure purposes has been allowed since 17 May 2021 with a so-called ‘traffic light’ system in operation by the UK government categorising countries/territories as ‘red’, ‘amber’, or ‘green’ depending on their perceived Covid-19 risk. The list is reviewed every three weeks with countries moved from one category to another should their status alter during that period.

What protection does travel insurance provide?

There are many other reasons why you might need to claim on your travel insurance...

Loss of baggage and possessions: You can claim for loss or theft of your belongings. If items are stolen, you should report it to the local police and obtain an incident number. Your policy may also stipulate that you should use a hotel safe if one is available.

Personal accident: Your policy will make a payment to you or to your estate if you are permanently disabled or killed in an accident while on holiday. Note, however, that some policies specify that they will not pay out if such an incident occurs if you are intoxicated through alcohol or drugs.

Personal liability: If you’re found responsible for causing injury, death or damage while away, you may be covered for the cost of claims made against you.

Legal expenses: If you become embroiled in a legal dispute while you are away, your policy may contribute towards your legal costs, and you may be given access to expert legal advice.

Scheduled airline failure insurance (SAFI): You will be reimbursed the cost of your flight if the airline should go bust.

FAQs

Can I buy travel insurance including enhanced Covid-19 cover with a pre-existing condition?

It depends on the provider but, yes, it is possible. Enhanced Covid-19 cover might include cancelling a trip because someone on the policy tested positive for coronavirus prior to travel, or for medical costs should coronavirus be contracted while away. Premiums tend to be more expensive for pre-existing conditions and the more severe the condition, the dearer the cover becomes. Check specific policy details before you buy.

Can I buy travel insurance including Covid-19 cover for travel within the UK?

Yes, a range of insurers provide this sort of enhanced cover for domestic travel. Again, the aim is that it pays out on cancelled trips should anyone named on the policy contract Covid-19 before going away.

What if I contract coronavirus overseas?

Assuming you’ve got the requisite cover, contact your provider immediately and inform them. Your policy should meet the expenses of any medical support that’s required. It may also pay out on any additional costs incurred, say, through having to quarantine abroad, or paying extra accommodation expenses for fellow travellers also named on the policy. To avoid nasty surprises, check your policy details before travelling.

How do I make a travel insurance claim?

When you head off on your travels, remember to pack your travel insurance policy number as well as relevant emergency contact information. Should a crisis arise, keep receipts for anything relevant you paid for, so that your paperwork is in good shape for when you make a claim. Where applicable, get your insurer to agree to medical treatment before it’s carried out. Report lost or stolen items to the police within 24 hours of them going missing.

What if my airline goes out of business?

Airline failure is rarely covered under most standard travel insurance policies, so check your policy details. However, if your booking came with ATOL protection you are guaranteed a refund and you would also be found an alternative flight home.

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