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Half of holidaymakers unaware of travel insurance exemptions

Find out how to avoid being underinsured

While a holiday abroad may seem like the perfect opportunity to try new things, many popular activities aren’t covered by your travel insurance policy. And half of holidaymakers aren’t clear on what is and isn’t included.

Around 49% of people admit they’re not sure what activities are covered by their travel insurance policy, research carried out by travel insurer Columbus Direct has found.

Moreover, if you’re injured while taking part in an adventurous activity abroad, you’ll need to pay out an average of £1,700 for medical and repatriation costs if you’re not properly covered, the research found.

Paragliding was identified as the most popular activity that’s not covered by most standard policies.

Which? explains how to make sure you’re always covered when you travel abroad, and how to find the best cheap travel insurance.

Which activities am I covered for?

The level of cover offered for activities will vary between travel insurers, so you always have to check the policy documents carefully.

Standard travel insurance policies will usually cover some level of activity, such as jogging or swimming. As a general rule, your policy will be explicit about what is and isn’t allowed.

But beware of caveats attached to some past-times; many policies specify requirements such as ‘roller skating: pads and helmets must be worn’. There may be additional stipulations if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

For winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding and even glacier hiking, some insurers offer a winter sports premium, but you’ll need to pay extra to be covered.

If the activity you want to do isn’t listed on general policies, you could try a specialist insurance company – there are several that focus on adventure and extreme sports.

Alternatively, you could contact the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (Biba), which will put you in touch with a broker in your area who can help find the insurance you need.

What happens if you’re not insured?

If you decide to go ahead with an activity that’s excluded by your policy, you’ll be liable to pay for all of your medical expenses if anything goes wrong and you get injured.

This can create bills that go into thousands of pounds, depending on which country you’re in.

But it’s not just medical costs, which may be less of a concern in EU countries. You may also be liable for damage to equipment, as well as the costs of returning home or cutting short your holiday.


What if I don’t know which activities I’ll be doing?

While being on holiday is a great opportunity to be spontaneous, it’s worth trying to plan ahead with your travel insurance.

You should always thoroughly read your travel insurance documents to understand what activities you’re covered for before you leave.

If you’re likely to be persuaded to book a skydive or go shark-cage diving, you could buy insurance that covers extreme sports. That way, you’re free to take advantage of any adrenaline-filled activities that come your way.

Alternatively, you might be able to organise extra travel insurance while you’re away. If you do this, note that you must have bought the policy before you do the activity, or you won’t be covered.

Some insurers will allow you to call and add an extra activity to your policy on the spot, but not all providers will allow it.

Don’t be tempted to rely on the insurance held by the company organising the activity. Often, you will have to sign a document beforehand which is a disclaimer relinquishing the company from all responsibility for any injuries.

How to find cheap travel insurance

Adding cover for more dangerous activities may increase the price of your policy, but there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Work out the value of your trip

Tot up the cost of your holiday and the combined value of the items you’re taking with you to get an idea of how much cover you actually need. For instance, for a low-cost backpacking holiday, you may not need much in the way of baggage and cancellation cover and can opt for a cheaper policy.

Taking several trips? Get annual cover

Single-trip policies work out cheaper if you’re only going away once or twice in a 12-month period, but annual-trip policies are better if you’re going abroad more often.

Buy travel insurance as early as possible

Rather than waiting until the day before your trip, take out insurance straight after you’ve booked your holiday. That way you’re covered if you have to cancel (if it’s for a good reason).

Go with a policy that’s tailored to you

Avoid relying on cover sold with your trip, and carefully check any travel insurance that may be included with your bank account. You need to make sure you’re fully covered for any medical conditions, the destination you’re travelling to and the activities you’re doing there and standard policies may not cover these things to the extent your require.

Remember your Ehic if you’re going to Europe

The European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) entitles to you to treatment in state hospitals in the Europe at the same price as the residents of that country.

But it’s not a replacement for travel insurance. In some countries, local residents pay a fee for accessing medical services, which you’ll only be able to reclaim if you have additional travel insurance.

The Ehic also won’t cover the costs of returning home, expenses incurred by your travelling companions and a range of other costs that you might face if injured overseas.

Find a deal with a Which? Recommended Provider

Our list of cheap and best-rate providers can help you find the right cover, without overpaying.

We reviewed 200 standard travel insurance policies, combined with the feedback from thousands of customers to give each provider a Which? policy score and a customer score.

To see the policies in more detail, you can also look through our individual travel insurance provider reviews.

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