Travel insurance and coronavirus
When buying travel insurance, check whether the policy provides cancellation cover that includes coronavirus risks, including if you fall ill or need to isolate before you travel. You should also have cover in case you fall ill (including with Covid) while you are away. Read the policy documents and check levels of cover with the insurer if you are not sure what protection is provided.
Whether you’re planning an Inter-railing adventure, a gap year or a weekend jaunt to a European capital, student travel insurance is essential. It could cover you financially in a medical emergency, if you lost your bags, or if you unexpectedly needed to cancel your trip.
Here we detail why student travel insurance is a must-buy before any trip, what it should cover you for, how to find the right student travel insurance policy for you, and what to pay attention to in a policy.
Why do I need student travel insurance?
If you’re young and healthy and on a budget, it can be tempting to skip buying travel insurance to keep your costs down. But, if something were to go wrong while you’re away, this decision could cost you dear.
In its guidance on travel insurance, the UK government website talks about the cost of medical emergencies abroad. It gives the example of a potential cost of £100,000 for the treatment of a stomach bug or infection in a hospital in the USA, with return flights.
It also gives the potential cost of £25,000 for medical treatment after a moped accident in Greece, with surgery and repatriation to the UK. In these cases, travel insurance would be vital.
And, while you may not think you’ve taken much away with you, if your phone and other electrical devices were lost or stolen, think carefully about whether you could afford to replace them. If not, this is where travel insurance can help.
What does student travel insurance cover?
A comprehensive student travel insurance policy should cover the following at a minimum:
Depending on the type of trip you’ve booked, you may also want to look out for extra cover tailored to your break. For example, if you’re planning on taking part in extreme sports, or other sporting activities, it’s worth checking what is covered as standard.
Winter sports usually need additional cover, as do other activities such as hang-gliding, horse-rising and some contact sports such as rugby.
If your activity is excluded, talk to your insurer about adding extra cover on.
If you’ve put your trip together yourself rather than booking an ATOL-protected package holiday, it may also be worth looking for a policy that covers ‘end supplier failure’ or ‘scheduled airline failure’, so you’re protected financially should one of the companies you booked with go into administration.
What type of student travel insurance is available?
When you take a student travel insurance policy out, you’ll be given a number of choices to help ensure the policy adequately covers your trips.
For example, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to take out an annual multi-trip policy or single-trip travel insurance. Annual travel insurance is designed to cover you for all of your holidays within a 12-month period, so if you know you will go away twice or more in a year, it’s worth considering as it may save you money when compared with buying several single-trip policies.
However, if you are going away for an extended period of time, such as on a backpacking holiday or a gap year, standard policies won’t usually be the best option as many have limits on the number of days away they will cover both on a single trip and in total over a year.
So, in such a case, you’ll need to take out a specialist backpacker travel insurance policy or a gap year policy, both of which are designed for longer trips.
If you’re studying abroad, you may be able to take out specialist cover for this too, to cover extra elements such as cancelled course fees.
Another decision you’ll be asked to make when taking a policy out is the geographical area you’d like it to cover.
This is usually split into European cover and worldwide cover. Check carefully that the destinations you are travelling to are included in your insurer’s definition of European or worldwide: destinations such as Turkey are included under European policies with certain companies but not others.
Be aware that there are usually two categories for worldwide travel insurance too – those that cover trips to the USA, Canada and the Caribbean, and those that don’t.
If you buy an annual policy that covers Europe but later in the year plan a trip further afield, ask your insurer to extend the coverage - they’ll charge an extra premium for doing this.
What should I look out for on a student travel insurance policy?
Once you’ve decided on the policy type you need, look carefully at the financial limits on your policy to ensure you’re adequately covered for your trip.
Look at both the overall amount you can claim for lost possessions and the limit for any one individual item. If you have pricey gadgets that won’t be covered by this, you may be able to add gadget cover or buy it separately.
The ‘excess’ on a policy is another important element to pay attention to. This is the amount that will be deducted from the value of any claim you make, and is typically set at £50.
It may reduce the price of a policy if you agree to a higher excess amount, but think realistically what you could afford to see knocked off your claim payment as this may work out to be a false economy.
And read the terms and conditions of your policy carefully, looking out for any exclusions regarding claims. Reasons your insurer may not pay out include:
some types of work on gap year policies, such as manual labour.
It’s also worth checking whether coming back home to the UK will end your policy or whether you’re allowed to come back and go away again a certain number of times during the life of the policy.
If you are unsure about any of the above exclusions, or others you notice, talk to your insurer.
When should I take out student travel insurance?
As with any travel insurance policy, the best time to buy student travel insurance is as soon as you’ve booked your trip. This is because comprehensive travel insurance policies will protect you financially for cancellation should you have to call a trip off unexpectedly due to a situation such as family illness or death, divorce or redundancy.
What is a GHIC - and will I need one?
European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) are being replaced by GHICs (UK Global Health Insurance Cards) following a Brexit deal. These give you the right to access state healthcare for free or at a reduced price in Europe.
If you already have an EHIC, this will be valid until it expires but if you need to renew it, you will have to apply for the new, free GHIC card through the NHS.
The main difference between the cards is that GHICs only cover you in EU countries, whereas EHICs extended to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland too. After 31 December 2020, EHICs no longer cover treatment in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland either.
Some travel insurers will waive the excess on medical claims if you use your EHIC/GHIC, while others may insist you have one. However, an EHIC/GHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance as it won’t cover certain medical costs such as rescue from a ski slope or medical repatriation to the UK, or any of the other important elements of travel insurance, such as cancellation or lost possessions.
How do I find cheap student travel insurance?
It’s not wise to buy travel insurance based purely on it being the cheapest available as basic policies may not give you the cover you need.
However, you don’t want to pay over the odds for a policy. So, a good way to feel confident that you’ve taken out the best policy for you at a competitive price, is to use a comparison service to look at a number of policies from different companies side-by-side.