Don’t forget to pack worldwide travel insurance when heading beyond Europe

·8-min read
 (Vakkaru Maldives)
(Vakkaru Maldives)

Whether you’re planning a sightseeing break in New York or a beach holiday in the Maldives, if you’re travelling beyond Europe, worldwide travel insurance should be an essential element of your trip.

Having a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place will offer you the peace of mind that you’re financially protected should something unexpected go wrong during, or in the run-up, to your trip.

Here’s what you need to know when buying worldwide travel insurance.

What is worldwide travel insurance?

When you’re taking out travel insurance, you’ll be asked where you’re travelling to and whether you’d like a UK, worldwide or European policy.

If you’re travelling outside of Europe, you’re likely to need a worldwide policy, although always check an insurer’s definition of Europe. Some countries, such as Egypt, might be included under a European policy.

Generally speaking, there are two types of worldwide travel insurance:

  • Policies that include cover for travel to the USA, Canada and the Caribbean.

  • Policies that exclude travel to the USA, Canada and the Caribbean.

As with European policies, always check the geographical cover of a worldwide policy as some insurers might have different exclusions. As an example, under its “Region 3” worldwide travel insurance, the provider Staysure excludes travel to: Bermuda; Canada; the islands of the Caribbean; China; Hong Kong; Mexico; Thailand; and the USA.

Policies that do cover travel to the USA, Canada and the Caribbean are likely to be more expensive due to the cost of healthcare in these destinations.

Worldwide travel insurance can be taken out as a single-trip policy or an annual policy, depending on your travel plans over the next 12 months. If you’re going on an extended trip, you could also take out a worldwide backpacker policy.

You can buy worldwide travel insurance policies to cover individual travellers, couples, or for an entire family.

Do I really need worldwide travel insurance?

No one likes to imagine things going wrong while they are away but, unfortunately, they can. It’s not a legal requirement to take out travel insurance, but having a comprehensive policy in place will remove the financial worry in the event of an accident, stolen belongings, or an unexpected cancellation.

Medical expenses could run into thousands while overseas, so it’s essential that you take out a worldwide policy with adequate medical protection. On its page about foreign travel insurance, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) estimates a potential cost of £100,000 for a stomach bug or infection being treated in the USA with return flights.

What does worldwide travel insurance cover?

While individual travel insurance policies will vary, a comprehensive worldwide policy should cover you for:

  • Medical expenses – if you fall ill, have a medical emergency, or an accident while you’re away.

  • Repatriation – to get you back to the UK.

  • Cancellation, curtailment and missed departure.

  • Travel delays – your insurer is likely to stipulate a certain length of time after which this will apply.

  • Personal belongings, baggage and money – if they are lost, stolen or destroyed.

  • Personal liability – to cover you if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property.

You should pay attention to the financial limits in each area of a policy, making sure they are adequate for your needs. For worldwide medical expenses, it’s wise to look for cover of at least £5 million.

If you are not travelling as part of an ATOL-protected package holiday, consider looking for a policy that includes end supplier failure cover too. This will protect you financially should one of your travel companies cease to trade. Alternatively, scheduled airline failure covers the collapse of airlines. Both may be offered as an extra that you could add on to a policy.

What about cover for Covid-19?

Many travel insurance providers now offer some level of cover for disruption and emergencies as a result of Covid-19. However, policies vary so read carefully any terms and conditions or dedicated website pages about the cover on offer.

Look at wording around:

  • Medical cover for the duration you’ll be away – relating specifically to Covid-19.

  • Cancellation. For example, if you catch Covid-19 before a trip (or someone in your family does) or you’re asked to isolate before you’re due to travel

  • Curtailment, if you catch Covid-19 or test positive for it during a trip

  • Being unable to travel due to local, regional or local lockdowns. Be aware that this is unlikely to be covered as it’s a ‘known risk’.

  • A change in FCDO advice. Again, as this is a known risk, it is unlikely to be covered.

  • Any exclusions regarding Covid-19. As an example, if you buy a policy after testing positive for Covid-19 in the run-up to a trip, you’re unlikely to be covered.

To find out more about travel insurance and Covid-19, read this article.

What won’t worldwide travel insurance cover?

When taking out worldwide travel insurance, you should pay attention to any exclusions a policy has so you don’t have any nasty surprises should you need to make a claim.

Some common travel insurance exclusions include:

  • Travelling against the advice of the FCDO. If you travel to a destination to which the FCDO is advising against all but essential trave, your policy is likely to be void unless you’ve taken a specialist policy out.

  • Not looking after your possessions. A claim may be turned down if you are found not to have taken reasonable care of your possessions, such as leaving cash by your bed in a hotel room, rather than putting it in the room’s safe.

  • Accidents while under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription drugs.

  • Accidents as a result of an activity not included on your policy, such as winter or adventure sports.

  • Undeclared pre-existing medical conditions. If you are found to have withheld medical information, a claim could be turned down. Some insurers may class Covid-19 as a pre-existing medical condition, too, if you were hospitalised with it or still suffer symptoms.

  • Disinclination to travel. Your insurer won’t pay for cancellation if you simply change your mind about a trip.

Some insurers may also exclude claims due to natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, and future pandemics and epidemics as declared by the World Health Organisation.

Will worldwide travel insurance cover me for trips in the UK?

Some annual worldwide travel insurance policies will also cover trips within the UK, but always check the terms and conditions of your individual policy. Your insurance provider may offer a definition of what it classes as a ‘staycation’ in order to be protected. This may include having to be away for a certain number of nights on your break, staying in paid-for accommodation, or staying a certain distance from home.

When should I buy worldwide travel insurance?

The best time to buy any travel insurance policy is as soon as you’ve booked a trip. This means that you’ll be covered for unexpected cancellation in the run up to a trip as well as for events while you’re away. Always read terms and conditions around cancellation cover before buying a policy to ensure you’re comfortable with them.

How much does worldwide travel insurance cost?

Insurers work out travel insurance premiums based on a number of factors. These include:

  • Where you are travelling. The cost of healthcare is higher in certain destinations, so policies that include travel to the USA, as an example, will typically cost more.

  • Your age. Insurers, generally, see older travellers as more likely to make a medical claim so premiums are likely to be higher if you are over the age of 65.

  • How long you’re going to be away. The longer you need a policy to last, the more it will probably cost.

  • Choice of activities. Certain past-times and sports, such as skiing, come with a higher chance of injury. You may need to pay more for this cover.

  • Any pre-existing medical conditions you have. Before receiving a quote you’ll be asked a number of medical screening questions. It’s important to be honest when answering these, even if it pushes the price of your insurance up, or you may not be covered in the event of a claim.

Is cheap worldwide travel insurance a good idea?

With travel insurance, the cheapest policy will rarely be the best policy for you and choosing a policy on price alone could prove to be a false economy should you need to claim.

Instead, shop around and look at a number of policies from different companies side-by-side to find a policy that meets your travelling needs at the most competitive price.

When comparing policies, look carefully at the financial limits for each level of cover as well as the excess level. The excess is the amount you’ll need to pay towards a claim, so think carefully about whether you could afford to pay this should you need to.

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