If you’re travelling outside of the UK, whether for work or pleasure, you might be thinking about travel insurance. Why is it so important? Because, as with all types of insurance, it’s there for when things go wrong—and sometimes they do. Here’s a quick overview of UK travel insurance providers, for trips to Europe and the rest of the world, with information on COVID-19 cover.
First things first: What does travel insurance include?
The main things your UK travel insurance policy should cover include:
- Cancelling or cutting your trip short for reasons beyond your control
- Missed transport or delayed departure for reasons beyond your control
- Medical and other types of emergencies
- Personal injury and death
- Lost, stolen or damaged items, including but not limited to luggage, passports, and money
- Accidental damage or injury caused by you
Do I need UK travel insurance?
You’re not legally obliged to have travel insurance for most trips from the UK; however, some tour operators will make it a requirement ahead of travel, particularly in countries like the US where there is limited public healthcare. Having a travel insurance policy can give you peace of mind, but will also stop you from racking up huge bills, and avoid time lost on stressful admin if things do go wrong.
Finding the best UK travel insurance policy depends on a few factors, including your destination, age, how many trips you’re likely to make in a year, and the type of activities you’re planning to do. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the main travel insurance providers in the UK, as well as a few specialist policies.
It’s also worth noting that some UK banks offer travel insurance as part of their current account packages, so check if you’re already covered under that, or at least compare it with other providers to determine the best deal for your particular trip.
Note: Getting travel insurance is important, but we can’t make the decision for you. We can only provide information to hopefully make that decision a bit easier. Also, please note that we do not sell or provide insurance ourselves.
How is COVID-19 affecting travel insurance in the UK?
At the time of writing, much of the world is still in various degrees of lockdown due to the pandemic, and the UK Government, along with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, advises against non-essential travel to many countries. Visit the Government website to stay up to date, and check out this page to see which countries fall under the UK’s green, amber and red list travel zones (the colour will affect your coverage).
The current global crisis has created an unprecedented demand for travel insurance claims, due to cancellations and disruptions, and according to consumer publication Which?, a number of providers now offer some sort of COVID-19 coverage. However, the degree and range of coverage varies, so you’ll need to check the policy carefully. Not all countries are covered.
This guide will focus on some of the top travel insurance providers available in the UK, and their standard offerings—in no particular order. Please note that it is not an exhaustive list, nor are prices set in stone—everything is subject to change. Always triple-check the terms and conditions before signing anything.
Note: All of the UK travel insurance providers listed below include some COVID-19 cover.
UK travel insurance providers
SafetyWing: Travel medical insurance
Simple to navigate | Set up for digital nomads
SafetyWing is set up for frequent travelers, and specifically digital nomads and remote workers. You can buy coverage from anywhere in the world, even after you leave your home country (including the UK). It also covers a pretty big list of outdoor and adventurous activities (though bad luck for anyone who is into bull-running, Aussie rules football, or base jumping).
The FAQ section makes scanning the terms and conidtions nice and simple. Standard policies cover four weeks, but you can sign up for automatic renewal for up to 364 days. Price-wise, a 28-day policy for someone between the ages of 10 and 39 costs around £29.43 (excluding travel in the US—add an extra £24 to cover that).
- Simple to set up
- Ideal for digital nomads and remote workers
- Includes a comprehensive list of sports and outdoor activities
- Underwritten by global insurer Tokio Marine
- Limited COVID-19 cover
For frequent travelers, adventure seekers, flexible policy needs
World Nomads is a bit different from typical insurers; it was started by travelers for travelers in 2002. It’s available to people from 130 countries and is particularly good for adventurous travelers. That means if you’re into skiing, bungee jumping, shark cage diving or white water rafting, you’ll find the coverage you need, which isn’t the case for many standard UK travel insurers.
You can choose from the Standard Plan or the Explorer Plan (the latter offers more coverage; see the official site for plan comparison). As of the time of writing, a 28-day policy covering travel to Europe costs £42.49 for the Standard Plan or £49.99 for the Explorer Plan. If travelling to the US, the price jumps to £102.00 for the Standard Plan and £140.40 for the Explorer Plan.
- Flexible policy – you can buy more cover during your trip if plans change
- Reliable – underwritten by specialist insurers and global partners
- Ideal for adventure sports and activities (covers 200+ activities)
- 24/7 emergency assistance
- Limited COVID-19 cover
Caters to a good range of policy needs | Decent price points
Allianz Travel is a good ‘all-rounder’ in the world of travel insurance that offers comprehensive categories, including medical, winter sports, and backpacker. The website is nicely laid out, and you can find what is and isn’t covered by policies at a glance.
Allianz Travel’s parent company Allianz Global Assistance is one of the largest travel insurance companies in the world, so it’s able to offer a larger breadth of coverage than a lot of insurers. Price-wise, policies start from £44 for annual cover, but adding skiing etc. to a policy bumps up premiums considerably. For example, a backpacker without skiing is under £30, but with skiing is over £50—although the coverage is for a year. Single trip insurance starts from as little as £4 and covers you up to £2,500 for cancellation.
- Various policy types, including Single Trip, Annual, Backpacker, Medical and Winter Sports
- Decent price points
- Good reputation for customer service (Trustpilot, Feefo, Tripadvisor)
- Limited COVID-19 cover
Post Office Travel Insurance
All medical conditions considered | No upper age limit
The UK Post Office Travel Insurance offers various levels of cover, including single trip, annual cover, backpack cover, worldwide cover, family cover, and pre-existing medical conditions cover. It gets pretty good customer and consumer watchdog reviews, and offers a 24/7 emergency helpline, although claims lines are only open during UK office hours, which could be restrictive.
The Economy Backpackers plan for travel around Europe (with the exception of a few countries) starts at £32.04, and Premier Annual Multi-trip plan for Europe (up to 31 days) from £67.19. Expect to pay more if you plan on doing winter sports or taking a cruise.
- Several levels of cover including single trip, annual multi-trip, or backpackers insurance
- All medical conditions are considered
- 24/7 emergency helpline
- No upper age limit
- Limited COVID-19 cover
Comprehensive cover, easy claim process
AXA is a multinational and one of the major insurance companies operating in the UK for home contents insurance, health insurance, and car insurance, and so it’s a reasonably safe bet for travel insurance too. Like many insurers, it offers a Bronze, Silver and Gold tier system for policies. But even with the Bronze level on a single trip or annual multi-trip policy, you’re covered for up to £10,000,000 for things like medical emergencies or repatriation, and up to £10,000 for personal accidents.
It offers the standard single trip, annual multi-trip, and family policies, as well as adventure travel, medical travel, and winter sports. As a price guide, you can get annual cover from £30.26. The website highlights that policies also include cover for things like volcanic ash and strikes, which isn’t commonly signposted with other insurers.
- High-value, wider-ranging cover
- 24/7 emergency helplines
- Online claims anytime or place
- Limited COVID-19 cover
Different types of travel insurance cover to consider
Policy types are typically broken down into the following categories:
Covers you for one destination, and usually for up to 30 days. You can generally choose European or worldwide cover. Activities such as adventure sports or winter sports aren’t usually covered, but you might be able to buy bolt-ons.
Better value if you’re a frequent traveller, but probably not if you’re taking only a couple of city breaks in a year.
There are two types of worldwide cover: including and excluding the USA, Canada and the Caribbean. This is because they don’t have public healthcare for travellers, so it bumps up the price of cover. Make sure to exclude them if you’re not travelling to any of those regions, to save money.
Including winter sports, backpacking, and for pre-existing medical conditions. These are generally excluded from standard policies, so you’ll need to shop around a bit to find an insurer who will cover what you need.
We’ve highlighted the insurers that offer categories beyond the single, annual multi-trip, and worldwide cover, but to narrow your search, note the following:
Winter or adventure sports
Too many to list, this ranges from skiing and snowboarding to other daring, dangerous, and equipment-heavy activities.
Backpacker policies are aimed at 18-35 year-olds and are ideal for gap year/extended trips.
Family travel insurance
Worth looking at if travelling with children, as some offer free cover for under-18s.
Group travel insurance
Worth considering for trips with friends, destination weddings, stag and hen dos, etc.
Over 65s travel insurance
Unfortunately, insurers do discriminate on age grounds, largely due to higher potential risk of ill health. Some insurers won’t insure anyone over 65, and those that do are likely to charge higher-than-average prices—so shop around.
Medical conditions insurance
Getting cover for particular long-term health conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes can be difficult, as not all insurers offer it. The process is also likely to involve a lot of questions, so make sure you leave plenty of time ahead of any trip to secure a policy.
How to make an insurance claim
Making a claim on your UK travel insurance depends entirely on your policy, so check the terms and conditions and get familiar with your insurer’s claim process before you leave, to avoid a huge admin headache. Some are easy to access on the fly, with 24/7 online support, while others have dedicated telephone lines that operate on a UK 9-5 Monday-Friday basis only.
Here are a few quick tips to help make the process as smooth as possible:
- Keep all your travel documents to hand—both physical and digital copies on your laptop or mobile devices (policy docs especially, but also passport, visas, accommodation details, etc.).
- Contact your insurers and the relevant authorities as soon as possible if you need to claim (i.e. for theft, you’ll need a crime reference number from local police before you can make a claim, for lost or stolen luggage contact the airline to report it first, and let them know you’re making a claim)
- Write everything down as soon as possible, and be accurate.
The length of time a claim takes will depend on your provider, and the reason for your claim, but the sooner you contact your insurer the better.