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This is not usually the first thing that you think of when booking that holiday to the Maldives. Boring but essential, travel insurance is one travel staple you shouldn't scrimp on even if you're just doing a weekend in Barcelona

Insurance is the dullest subject in travel (apart from Ryanair) – until you need it.

Stranded overseas thanks to an Icelandic ash cloud? Spent two nights on an airport floor during airline strikes? Feeling a bit sniffly after a trip through a swine flu hotspot? Suddenly you’re trawling through your policy small print wishing you’d paid a bit more attention when you bought it.

The first thing to remember is that all travel insurance policies are not the same – choosing the right one can make the difference between significant compensation and crippling debt. With insurance, cheaper is very rarely better. So what do you need to check to ensure you’re not caught out?

Pick your policy type

Before you start searching, be clear about what you need. Your age, health, choice of destination, type of activity and trip duration are key factors. For regular travellers, an annual policy will usually be cheaper than several single-trip policies. Families and couples are often better off under joint policies – but make sure you’re individually covered if you’re not travelling together. Trips of more than 90 days may be better covered under a ‘long stay’ or ‘backpacker’ policy.

Shop around

This is a huge market, so always compare a number of quotes. The best insurance deals are usually online, especially if you are looking for a ‘standard’ policy. Useful sites for comparing quotes and providers include: www.insuresupermarket.com, www.squaremouth.co.uk, www.fairinvestment.co.uk and www.confused.com.

There’s also a useful travel insurance forum with user recommendations on www.moneysavingexpert.com. Be careful when buying online though – the onus is on you to ensure you have declared all relevant conditions and facts. If you have any doubts about what’s covered, call the insurer before you buy.

After much travel, I would recommend you try InsureandGo - we have used them many times, both here in the UK and Australia. 

Get specialist help

If you have specific needs, an insurance broker may be best – they can talk you through exclusions and search the market for you. The British Insurance Brokers Associationcan put you in touch with one.

Read the small print

Dull but essential. Policies do vary widely, so make no assumptions. Think “what if…?”; check all the exclusions, conditions and excesses; and query anything you don’t understand with the insurer.

 

Travel insurance top tips

  1. Get an EHIC – The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to emergency state (ie free or subsidised) healthcare in most European countries, and insurers will often waive your medical excess if you use it. Order one from www.ehic.org.uk or a Post Office – allow at least two weeks for delivery.
  2. Check for multiple excesses – If you lose your bag, will you pay one excess, or one for every item inside?
  3. Beware 'Free' credit card insurance – Offered free with some credit cards, travel accident insurance is not the same as travel insurance – it offers limited compensation for personal accidents abroad, not medical expenses. Some credit cards and banks do offer complimentary travel insurance but check the policy carefully for exclusions.

 

Here are my other recommended sites for travel insurance:

American Express www.americanexpress.co.uk - The is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. The benefits of the American Express Travel Insurance includes that it's easy to arrange, just one annual payment with an easy on-line application and their travel insurance which is backed by 24 hour assistance service of practical support for delayed flights, lost luggage, medical emergencies and much more.

Boots Insurance www.bootsinsurance.com – One of the best and competitive available especially in terms of backpacker insurance. We claimed over a (legitimate) £1000 without a quibble on our last policy. Helpful staff good policy coverage.

Budget Insurance www.budgetinsurance.com - BUDGET is one of the UK’s largest insurance intermediaries, with 1 million customers and covering you for Car, Home, travel and Commercial Vehicle Insurance products! As BUDGET is an independent intermediary, rather than a direct insurance company, they search their panel of leading insurers, to find the best quote for you!

Columbus Direct www.columbusdirect.com - Leading travel insurance specialist, established in 1988. By selling direct to the public, they say they cut out the middle man and save customers up to 60% in commissions charged by other providers. Try them and see!

Churchill www.churchill.com - Churchill Insurance offer a wide range of insurance products, such as car, home, travel, van, pet and breakdown cover

Direct Line www.directline.com - Direct Line revolutionised the car insurance industry in 1985 by selling direct to the consumer via the red phone brand. Since 1985 the product range has increased to include a wide range of general and life insurances, car assistance etc

Downunder Insurance - www.duinure.co.uk Offers travel insurance to travellers and residents in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Their cover ranges from basic to highly comprehensive, with affordable policies aimed at backpackers and gap-year students, but with cover available to travellers and holiday makers up to 55 years of age. More than 60 adventure sports are automatically covered, and they also offer a wintersports policy for skiers/snowboarders. They also offer one-way policies.

ebookers www.ebookers.com/insurance - ebookers.com, part of ebookers plc, was established in 1998. Based upon 20 years of travel heritage from Flightbookers, ebookers.com is a leading pan-European online travel agency specialising in worldwide travel. Some of the industry's cheapest travel insurance products with some of the best levels of cover online and they are are open 24/7 if you have any queries. Insurance providers for Travelbag and Octopus Travel so they can't be bad!

Go Travel www.gotravel.co.uk - Go Travel Insurance is one of the leading providers of online travel and holiday insurance for UK and Irish residents on the Internet. Go Travel Insurance offers great cover at the best prices for single trip, ski, annual and backpackers insurance.

Post Office www.postoffice.co.uk - The Post Office™, one of the most trusted brands in the UK with over 350 years of history, offers customers a wide range of products and services.. Products range from travel insurance and foreign exchange to telecommunications and the recently launched flower delivery service. They also offer one-way policies.

Travel-insurance-online.com www.travel-insurance-online.com - one of the leading providers of online travel and holiday insurance for UK residents on the Internet. Policies are tailor made for travelers going on holidays, business trips, weekend breaks or backpacking for 12 months. The policies are underwritten at AIG Europe (UK) Ltd.

 

 
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