Travel insurance in a COVID world

With ongoing travel restrictions and news of ‘red, amber and green’ destinations, the question we’re all are asking is what is covered by travel insurance if we decide to go on holiday?  

Green does NOT mean “go”

It’s important to understand that your travel insurance policy has absolutely nothing to do with the Government’s colour coding of countries, but is entirely defined by the latest FCDO (Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office) advice on whether it’s safe to travel to that country or not.  

Key considerations during the pandemic

Your first visit should be to the FCDO website, which explains whether or not travel is advised to your country of choice, and sign up to their alerts to keep updated. If you simply follow the Government’s colour code list you may find yourself uninsured.  

Malcolm Tarling, the Association of British Insurers, said: 

 ‘There has been some confusion around the perception of the Government’s travel advice. What is important is not whether a country is on the amber list, it’s whether the UK Government advises against all but essential travel. Don’t be seduced by the traffic light system.’ 

What to look for in a travel insurance policy

  • Emergency medical cover: check the policy wording very carefully to ensure that claims for medical expenses relating to COVID-19 are covered under the medical expenses section. whilst all UK sold insurance policies must have COVID-19 emergency medical cover, policies differ – check very carefully [ [fact-checking Paul Fisher]  
  • Cancellation cover: make sure your policy included COVID-19 cancellation provision  
  • Personal belongings: check if they are covered on your home and contents policy. If you’re buying a ‘single trip’ policy, make sure it includes the items you’re taking with you. 

FAQs: COVID related travel insurance questions

Q. If I get COVID-19 when I am away, will my medical care abroad be covered? 

  • Yes, it will but you will normally need to prove you have the virus by means of positive test (e.g.: you won’t be able to claim you have COVID-19 and stay in your rented villa for an extra two weeks and claim on the insurance). This will depend on the policy wording.

Q. Will my policy cover the cost of my party/family extending their stay to be with me if I get ill?

  • It should, but check what your policy’s definition of ‘party’ is as there will be limitations as to how many people are able to stay with you. This also applies to children and parents; check to see who can stay and for how long. 

Q. If our family are told wehave to‘self-isolate’ while we are abroad (e.g.: we’ve been exposed to COVID-19) will my policy pay for an extended period of accommodation while we wait for negative tests?  

  • Most likely not. Cover is normally only given for quarantine or isolation if you have tested positive and are required to remain at your location under medical grounds. This would also only apply to those covered who have tested positive.   

Q. If the UK changes the colour status of the country I am visiting while I am there, meaning on return my party and I will have to check into a hotel to quarantine, will that stay for my entire party be covered by my insurance policy?  

  • No. Keep a close eye on changes to the country’s status and return home early if necessary. 

Q. If I have to cancel my trip before we leave, because of COVID-19 (e.g.: I get it or someone in our party gets it), will my insurance policy cover me?   

  • Some will, some won’t – it will depend on the exact wording of your policy. We estimate that approximately 50% of policies currently available will cover you, but check your wording carefully.  

Q. A member of our party dies from COVID-19 while we are away on holiday. What happens?

  • This comes under the ‘medical emergency cover’ of your policy. Their policy will pay for the repatriation of their body or ashes. It may even pay for a local burial if that is what you would prefer. Check your policy to see if you can stay with your loved one while you wait for their repatriation.   

Q. We arrive at the airport to find a member of the aircrew has tested positive for COVID-19 and our flight is delayed. What is our position?

  • The reason for the delay is irrelevant. If a ‘public transport’ does not run then you are entitled to either compensation for hours spent waiting or to be put on another flight. But remember, travel insurance is there as a ‘last resort’ when all else has failed. If you are offered different flights, take them.  

Q. I have a pre-existing medical condition; will that make it harder to get insurance coverduringCOVID-19? 

  • Not harder, but you will still be subject to extra questioning.  You will be offered ‘medical screening’, a 10-15 minute chat on the phone where your insurance company will ask you all about your condition and how you manage it. From that they will advise whether a) they can cover you, b) they can cover you but for an additional premium or c) that they can’t cover you. 

Q. How much can I expect to pay for a travel insurance policy in 2021?

  • If in 2019/20 you could buy an online travel policy for a two week summer holiday trip to Europe for approximately £30, you should expect to be paying nearer £35-40 for that same policy today. Initially when COVID-19 struck, insurers bore the brunt of insurance claims as people fell ill abroad. The cost of this rise in claims is now being shared with consumers. 

Get expert insurance advice  

In 2019, the value of claims on travel insurance policies topped £300m.  £141m of that was purely for emergency medical cover. Coming from a country with free healthcare, UK residents are largely unaware of the cost of private medical care, which can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.  

If ever there was a time to work with an experienced insurance adviser like Partners& to help you choose your travel insurance policy, rather than buying from the internet, it’s now. There are currently in the region of 11,000 different travel insurance policies on the market, all with subtle differences in the level of cover on offer; and you don’t want to find your cover isn’t adequate when you’re abroad with a poorly relative. 

Our experienced advisers will be aware of the most important aspects of each policy and be able to guide you towards the right product for you, your holiday and your budget. We’ll save you hours of trawling through the policy fine print and potentially thousands of pounds too if you need to make a claim. You get what you pay for with insurance policies, and now isn’t a time to be scrimping on cover.  

How to buy travel insurance during COVID-19

Whilst the path ahead is still unclear, we at Partners& are here to help and provide advice that will support you with a safe getaway. Please contact your dedicated adviser, or reach out to Chris Dawson in the Private Client team for more information.  

Chris Dawson

Client Executive