Best covid travel insurance 2021

·11-min read
 (Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

Planning your next getaway? The UK government’s recent change to the travel rules for Brits returning to England is a reminder of Covid-19’s lingering shadow. So it’s important we take whatever steps possible 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 cost of falling ill while we’re away.

This is where travel insurance with cover for Covid-19-related risks comes in. In August 2021, we analysed the market to find what we think are the top five policies available.

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

 (Coverwise)
(Coverwise)

1. Coverwise - 5/5 stars

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 - 5/5 stars

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 - 4/5 stars

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)

 (Coverwise)
(Coverwise)

4. Coverwise - 4/5 stars

Plan: Select Gold

Medical cover: £20 million

Cancellation cover: £3,000

Reason for selection

Provides generous medical cover and hospital benefit.

Pros

  • High level of medical cover

  • £2,000 hospital benefit

Cons

  • Lower amount of cancellation and curtailment cover relative to competitors

5. Insure For - 5/5 stars

Plan: Premier

Medical cover: £10 million

Cancellation cover: £5,000

Reasons for selection

Offers market leading levels of hospital benefit and generous cancellation and curtailment cover.

Pros

  • Generous level of hospital benefit

  • High level of cover for cancellation and curtailment

Cons

  • Lower level of medical cover

Methodology

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

  • Cover for Covid-19-related risks: We looked at whether policies offer some form of cancellation cover in addition to medical and curtailment cover, to protect against Covid-related risks.

  • 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 cancellation cover, in addition to medical and curtailment cover for Covid-19-related risks.

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. (More on this under ‘What is the traffic light system?’ below)

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.

Check if your travel insurance policy includes Covid-19 cover

Most insurance policies now include cover for risks linked to Covid-19 should you need medical treatment for the virus or need to cut your holiday short due to a Covid-19-related issue.

Many also include cover which allows you to make a cancellation claim should the virus prevent you from taking your holiday.

The specific circumstances for which you can claim vary between travel insurers. Check the details of a policy carefully before buying to avoid any potential for misunderstanding. If necessary, check with the provider direct.

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.

Travellers need to follow specific requirements depending on the category of their holiday destination and their vaccination status:

All travellers returning to the UK from green-listed destinations, along with travellers who are fully NHS-vaccinated returning from destinations on the amber list need to:

  • take a test at their holiday destination within 72 hours of their return flight

  • take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before, or on day two of their arrival back in the UK.

Neither groups will be required to quarantine on their return to the UK, unless a positive result is produced by one of these tests.

Travellers not fully NHS vaccinated and are returning from an amber-listed country must:

  • take a test at their holiday destination within 72 hours of their return flight

  • quarantine at home or at another location for a period of 10 days on returning to the UK

  • take a PCR test on day two and day eight of their return.

Travellers also have the option to Test to Release on day five to end self-isolation early.

Travellers returning to the UK from red-listed countries need to follow tighter restrictions, including:

  • taking a test at their holiday destination within 72 hours of their return flight

  • staying in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days on their return to the UK

  • taking a PCR test on day two and day eight of their arrival.

What protection does travel insurance provide?

Travel insurance policies typically cover the following as standard:

  • Medical expenses: Pays for hospital treatment or medical bills if you fall ill or have an accident.

  • Personal liability: Meets the cost of claims made against you, if you’re found responsible for causing injury, death or damage while you’re away

  • Cancellation, curtailment and missed departures: Covers you against a holiday being cut short, or you end up not going away.

  • Baggage and personal belongings: Covers claims for loss or theft of belongings. If items are stolen, these should be reported to the local police and an incident number obtained. Your policy may also stipulate that you should use a hotel safe if one is available.

There are various other reasons why you might need to claim on your travel insurance, including:

  • Gadgets Claim for the loss, theft or damage done to devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops.

  • End supplier failure Reimbursement in the event your hotel, travel company, or airline goes into administration.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

FAQs

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

It depends on the provider but, yes, it is possible. Cover for Covid-19-related risks 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 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.

What if the country I am due to visit has moved from the green list to amber or red?

Typically, travel insurance policies relate to the FCDO’s advice on travel rather than the traffic light system. If your holiday destination has moved from the green to the amber or red list, check whether the FCDO’s advice regarding travelling there has changed too.

Most insurers will not cover you for cancellation if the FCDO changes its advice on travel to your holiday destination.

Exceptions include travel insurers CoverForYou, Cedar Tree and Outbacker, but check for limitations and exclusions on policies.

How do I get the NHS Covid pass?

As well as allowing entry to some events and venues in the UK, the NHS Covid pass (or ‘vaccination passport’) is required for travel to certain destinations overseas. To get one for travel abroad, you must be aged 16 or over, and have received one of the following:

  • two doses of the Moderna, AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine

  • one dose of the Janssen vaccine

  • proof of natural immunity shown by a positive PCR test result for COVID-19, lasting for 180 days after the date of the positive test and following completion of the self-isolation period.

Your vaccinations must have taken place in England.

You will typically receive your NHS Covid Pass within 24 hours of having your vaccination but it can take up to five days for your records to be updated.

You can access your NHS Covid pass via the NHS app or website, or request that you are sent a Covid Pass letter on the NHS website.

More information can be found on the gov.uk website.

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.

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.

Read More

Heading off to an amber list country? Don’t forget your travel insurance

When does annual travel insurance make sense?

How to buy travel insurance for trips in 2021

Travel insurance for a one-off trip

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