Over 80 and heading abroad? Don’t forget your travel insurance

·5-min read
 (Shutterstock / Sopotnicki)
(Shutterstock / Sopotnicki)

Being an octogenarian doesn’t mean you need to give up on the delights of foreign travel. Just make sure you’ve got your travel insurance sorted first to enjoy a stress-free time abroad. Our guide explains how cover can differ for older travellers and what to look out for when buying a policy.

Do I need travel insurance?

Essentially, yes. If you head abroad without insurance you are taking a big risk. Whatever age you are, the right travel insurance policy will cover a range of unwanted scenarios such as illness or injury, loss of belongings, flight cancellations, and holiday disruptions. Without travel cover in place, you’ll likely have to pay your own way out of a crisis which can be expensive. So, a fit-for-purpose travel insurance policy buys extra buy peace of mind.

What does travel insurance cover?

Policies vary, but typically cover the following:

  • Medical expenses in an emergency. This could include hospital stays, an operation, medication and, even, repatriation.

  • Loss, damage or theft of luggage, valuables or money.

  • Travel delays and disruptions, including needing to be flown home early because of illness or the death of a close relative.

Because you never know when you might need travel insurance, providers usually have 24-hour helpline to offer assistance. Always check availability around such support when you take out a policy.

Can I get over-80s travel insurance?

Some providers limit cover to those aged up to 79. But if you’re aged 80 plus, don’t be put off because travel insurance is still available. You might find it is slightly more expensive and you should check that the terms of the policy cover your specific needs. Pick the right one and an over-80s travel insurance policy may even offer cover for travellers aged up to 100.

What sort of policy should I opt for?

It depends how much you’re looking to travel, the location, and what you plan to do. If it’s a one-off trip after which you plan to hang up your beach towel or hiking boots for good, then a single trip policy will offer the most cost-effective option. But if you’re looking to travel more than once in a 12-month period, then multi-trip annual travel insurance is often the way forward. Make sure your policy tallies with the locations you’re planning to visit. Customers typically choose policies covering worldwide, Europe, or UK-only.

Can I get over-80s travel insurance if I have a medical condition?

As we get older, so the chances of having a health condition increase. If you are looking to travel with a pre-existing medical condition it’s important to be upfront about it with your insurer. Even though it might be more expensive, failure to declare a known condition risks invalidating your policy.

The good news is that there are providers who specialise in travel insurance for older travellers with medical conditions. The Government’s Money Advice Service website has a directory of more than 30 providers that will tell you what conditions they cover and whether you’ll need medical screening first. Alternatively, for more advice call the British Insurance Brokers’ Association on 0370 950 1790.

Will I need to be medically screened to get over-80s travel insurance?

It varies depending on the insurer. Some providers use a medical screening company for those with pre-existing conditions, where you’ll be asked about your condition and any medication you take. Because all medical screening companies operate slightly differently, you might be asked different questions by each and this can reflect in the quote you’re offered.It means that a top tip when shopping around for travel insurance is to get quotes from insurers that use different medical screening companies.

How long will it take to get travel insurance?

If you are fit and healthy with no pre-existing medical conditions, you can buy travel insurance instantly online. If your situation is more complex, it may need to be analysed by the insurer’s underwriters before it’s approved. While this length of time can differ, you should still be given some quick, top-line quotes so you can make a decision as to whether it’s the best policy for you.

Can I travel during the coronavirus pandemic?

Check the current advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) before deciding whether to travel. For example, non-essential travel wasn’t permitted before 17 May 2021 and you would not be covered by your travel insurance policy.

It’s also worth noting that different rules can apply from the four home nations, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As always, check your policy. If in doubt, check directly with the provider, and finally check with the FCDO to see what current advice is being issued.

Do I still need travel insurance if I’ve got an EHIC/GHIC card?

The smart answer is ‘yes’. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare on a visit to countries in the European Economic Area or Switzerland, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is free – in some locations you may need to contribute towards the cost of your treatment.

Since Brexit, the UK government has introduced the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) as a replacement for an EHIC, but existing EHICs are still valid until expiry. The free GHIC offers the same cover as the EHIC did in EU countries, but this doesn’t include private medical healthcare, loss of your possessions, or being repatriated to the UK. It’s not valid on cruises, either.

How can I find the cheapest over-80s travel insurance?

The golden rule is to shop around and get a selection of quotes before making your decision. This might take a little time, but it’s research worth doing if it provides you with the most cost-effective insurance and peace of mind that it covers all your needs.

Be mindful that you are looking for the best cover, not merely the cheapest. Insurance for far-flung trips is likely to be more expensive. For example, travel to the USA, Canada and the Caribbean can bump up the premium because medical care in those destinations can cost more than in Europe. The key thing is your policy covers you for all eventualities.

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