Cheap travel insurance

Get annual cover from £12/year, or less for single-trip cover

If you've booked a holiday but not got travel insurance yet, DO IT NOW, DON'T DELAY. Half travel insurance's value is protecting you BEFORE travelling if something happens and stops you from going, in addition to cover once you are on holiday, though sadly no policy covers every scenario, so read on for things to watch out for and our top-pick travel insurance policies.

What is travel insurance?

The aim of travel insurance is to cover the cost of the unforeseen, such as illness and injury or theft of your stuff while you're away. 

It's also designed to cover you if you have to cancel your trip before you go, or if you need to return early due to an emergency.

However, it's not designed to cover every eventuality or every loss or inconvenience that you experience while on holiday. Read this guide carefully so you know what is (and isn't) covered.

What does travel insurance cover?

Sadly not all travel insurance is created equally, but you should expect an insurer to pay out for most of the below. 

However, the exact level of cover will vary by policy – so always check the terms carefully before you buy.

Good travel insurance should cover you for... 

Reason Typical examples 
Cancellation as you can't travel If you're made redundant, have to do jury service, fall seriously ill, test positive for Covid, suffer a bereavement or have a home emergency such as a fire, flood or break-in.
Medical costs whilst abroad If you fall ill overseas, including Covid, and require treatment – plus any travel costs if you need to be brought back to the UK for it. Though ALWAYS tell your insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions, or you won't be covered (see our Pre-existing conditions travel insurance guide for full help).
Cutting your trip short (curtailment) If an emergency happens that requires you to travel home early, such as death of a close relative. 
Baggage and personal belongings If any of your stuff is lost, stolen or damaged while you're away. Though there are often limits on the amounts they'll pay out. You may also have cover for this under personal belongings on your home contents policy.
Sports, excursions and other activities If you can't make use of your booked activities, though some policies only cover this if the provider went bust.
Personal liability If you accidentally hurt someone or damaged their property, such as spilling a drink and staining an expensive upholstered chair.
You catch Covid You're generally covered if you test positive for coronavirus before your trip or while on it.

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Book flexibly and pay on plastic for extra protection

Travel insurance provides valuable last-resort protection, but it's best used in combination with other ways of minimising the risk of losing money on a trip...

  • Book easily cancellable or flexible flights and accommodation. Hedge towards offers with no/low deposits or those that give refunds or let you rebook for free if you find you can't go.

  • Pay on plastic. Credit cards offer strong protection, as Section 75 refund rules mean for items costing more than £100, the card provider is jointly liable with the seller – though note that bookings via travel agents may not be covered as it usually only covers payments made directly to the travel provider.

    Debit cards also have some protection under the 'chargeback' refund rules (but these aren't legal requirements and firms sometimes challenge them).

    Yet for both schemes, you'll only be covered if the service wasn't provided, for example if the flight was cancelled or the accommodation was shut. These card schemes won't cover you if you weren't able to, or didn't want to, go on your trip.

  • Package holidays can offer greater protection. If an airline or accommodation provider cancels, you're entitled to a refund. But if the trip or flight is still going ahead but you can no longer travel, such as a new travel warning from the Foreign Office banning all but essential travel, then you have few or no rights.

    However, most package holiday providers won't operate holidays to countries where a travel restriction has been put in place, so they are more likely to cancel the trip anyway.

10 travel insurance need-to-knows

As we highlighted above, travel insurance still covers a large range of unforeseen events, even if you won't be able to completely cover yourself for coronavirus-related events. It's still vital to get before you go away – and here are a few things you need to know before you choose a policy...

  • If you've booked a holiday, do not leave arranging the insurance on the 'things to do' list, as you'll be taking an unnecessary risk. 

    This is because travel insurance doesn't just cover you while you're away – it also covers you for cancellation, events such as redundancy or an injury or death in the family, or anything else that might go wrong BEFORE you make your trip. You're also covered if you catch coronavirus shortly before your trip and can't go.

    So, always buying your travel insurance ASAB (As Soon As you've Booked a holiday).

    The same rule applies for a UK holiday, and we have a guide to help with arranging UK travel insurance

    ... and see if it's cheaper to get a group or individual policy

    If travelling with your partner or family, you have two options – you can cover everyone under one policy, or each person takes their own. It's often cheaper to get a combined policy, however, there are times when separate policies will be a better option (so always check, to be safe), including:

    • If one of the travellers is over 65, as the group price you'll pay is based on the oldest traveller, or the person deemed to be the highest risk, so the insurer will usually hike the price for all (see our Over-65s' travel insurance guide for ways to cut costs).
    • If one of the travellers has a medical condition, as it will increase the price for all.
    • If just one of the travellers is going outside Europe, in particular to the US, or on a skiing trip (or even both), it could be better to have separate policies, rather than the whole family buying extended cover when it's not needed.
  • Like all insurance policies, there are a number of things that providers won't pay out for. Here are some of the most common:

    • Dangerous sports. If you're doing something a bit unusual, such as ski jumping or snowmobiling, check the terms and conditions of your policy first. If you find you're not covered as standard, or via an optional extra,  specialist providers such as BMC and Snowcard may be able to offer you cover.

      Alternatively, specialist brokers can help you find insurers that cover non-standard trips. To find one, see the British Insurance Brokers' Association website.

    • Alcohol-related injury. You may be on holiday to unwind but if you are badly injured while you are more than just a little tipsy, your insurer is likely to reject your claim. The same goes for drugs. Insurers have different classifications of 'drunk', with some using blood alcohol limits, so check your policy carefully before you buy.

    • Medical conditions. Insurers will often cover you if you have existing medical conditions, but if you fail to tell your insurer and then need treatment for that condition, or a related condition, you won't be covered. You may also struggle to get a claim paid if you ignore advised medication or jabs needed to enter a country.

    • Refused entry (to visiting country). No one wants their holiday to end before it begins, but most standard policies won't cover this type of scenario. Insurance policies have a list of scenarios they do cover (for example, theft, medical assistance).

      It's your responsibility to check your travel documents are valid and you meet the entry requirements. Always check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website for the entry rules of the countries you're visiting well before travelling and give yourself plenty of time to get your paperwork in order.

    • Unattended possessions. Travel insurance will cover your personal possessions when you're abroad but it doesn't mean you can be gung ho with your stuff. If you leave your items unattended and they are then stolen, your insurer will not pay for their replacement.

    • Travel to dangerous countries. The FCDO outlines which countries it deems are unsafe for travel. If you travel to a country on its list, your cover is likely to be invalid. Check out the FCDO's current travel advice for more.
    • The excess. This is the amount you have to pay towards any claim you make. For example, if you cancel a trip and are entitled to £3,000 back from your insurer but have a £500 excess, you will only receive £2,500.

      However, many travel insurance products have separate excesses for different sections of the policy. For instance, some providers may make you pay an excess on both stolen cash and luggage. So if your suitcase was nicked and your wallet was inside you would have to pay an excess on both.

      It's important to check all excesses so you know exactly what you will have to pay if you make a claim.
    • Private hospital treatment. Only some insurers will cover you, others won't, so double-check your policy – whether out of curiosity or if you need to make a quick decision on which to go to.

      Of those we asked, it was a mixed bag. For example, if you're overseas and know you need to go to hospital to check out a chest pain, LV says it would cover you in a private hospital, but not all the insurers we asked would.

      However, if you're in an emergency, for example, you've a ruptured appendix or had a serious accident and are taken to a private hospital by emergency services without your knowledge, you're more likely to be covered by insurance, though there is still a chance of rejection.

      If rejected and you're unhappy, you can always go to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which can arbitrate.
  • The thought of having to declare medical conditions can be daunting but travelling without making your insurer aware of any issues can result in any claim you make being rejected.

    Just let the insurer know, even if you don't deem it particularly important, especially as each insurer will have its own list of conditions it deems as more serious.

    Make sure you give a full and frank rundown of all the health problems you have, or have had – including any coronavirus-related health issues – usually in the last five years. Plus you'll need to tell the insurer if you're pregnant too.

    For much more, including tips, tricks and how to find the cheapest deals, see our Pre-existing conditions travel insurance guide.

  • Insurers will classify your trip as 'European' or 'worldwide'. Worldwide is often further broken down to include or exclude the US, Canada, the Caribbean or Mexico. Selecting the option to include these countries increases the premium due to the high cost of medical treatment – particularly in the US – and possible repatriation.

    Annual European travel cover isn't just for Europe

    If you're travelling just outside Europe, you don't always have to select worldwide cover. Many insurers actually allow you to use their European cover in a handful of non-European countries too.

    If you're visiting Egypt, Morocco, Turkey or Tunisia, it's worth getting a quotation for European cover first and then checking the policy's geographical area definition to see if the country you're going to is included. The following insurers – Allianz*Insure and Go and Coverwise* – all class Egypt, Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia as Europe.

    It's also worth noting that not all insurers automatically include Spain (and the Balearic/Canary Islands) in their European cover – you may have to pay extra to include Spain if you plan to travel there.

    Check if the Foreign Office is advising against travel to your destination

    The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has a list of countries which it feels are unsafe for travel. Usually, this covers areas where there's war, terrorism or other reasons not to travel, such as natural disasters or a pandemic.

    So, when you're booking, and in the weeks leading up to your trip, check the FCDO website for the latest on whether you'll be able to travel as things can change quickly. You should also see if the country you're planning to travel to has restricted entry – you can usually do this via its UK embassy website.

    If one or the other means you can no longer take your trip, see if you can rearrange it, or if the provider will give you a refund. 

    If you still want to travel (though note we're not encouraging you to do so), you'll need a specialist policy as standard insurers won't cover you, even if travel was allowed when you booked your trip.

    Try Battleface*, or, for European trips, Insurefor.com* and Staysure* (with its 'European Foreign Office travel advice extension' optional add-on). 

  • The free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and its replacement, the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which has been sent to new applicants since 1 January 2021, entitles you to treatment in state-run hospitals in the EU at the same cost as a local would pay. So if they pay nowt, you pay nowt.

    The main difference since 1 January 2021 is that you'll NO LONGER be able to use your EHIC or GHIC in Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, as they're not part of the EU.

    An EHIC/GHIC should be seen as an extra to travel insurance, not a replacement. Travel insurance covers a far greater range of scenarios, as well as gives cover for cancellation, possessions, delays, repatriation, personal liability, and more. Plus, even using an EHIC/GHIC you may need to pay, and travel insurance will cover that (and often using the EHIC/GHIC means you don't pay the excess).

    How do I get a GHIC?

    The card is free so if a copycat site pretending to be the real thing advertises a fee (often about £35), run a mile. For full info and how to get it for free from the legitimate NHS site, read our Free EHIC/GHIC guide.

  • If you know you're going to travel at least twice in a 12-month period, consider an annual policy instead of single-trip cover. This is because annual cover can work out cheaper than buying two single-trip policies. But always do the maths.

    Of course, this varies depending on where you're travelling and for how long, but if you get an annual policy you also have the added comfort of knowing if you have a third trip within that 12-month period, you already have the cover in place.

    Annual cover will insure you for an unlimited number of trips over a 12-month period. However, the number of days you can be on holiday for per trip may be capped – it can often be as low as 17 days, with others setting the limit at 31 or 45 days but it can sometimes be as high as 90. If you're planning a backpacking trip or gap year travelling where you'll be away for months on end, you'll need specialist backpacker insurance.

  • You may already have travel insurance without knowing. Some bank accounts that charge a monthly fee have extra benefits such as travel insurance. If you think your account offers insurance as a sweetener, check the terms to see if it is appropriate for your trip.

    While travel insurance with these packaged accounts is a decent perk, do NOT confuse it with a benefit offered with credit cards called travel accident insurance. This only covers accidents on a train, plane or in a hire car paid for on the card. Never think travel accident insurance means you're completely covered.

    For accounts that offer travel insurance (and other perks), see our Top packaged accounts guide.

  • Winter sports can be dangerous, so as soon as you've splashed out on your break, make sure you are insured on the slopes. As well as covering you for the basics you'd get under a standard travel policy, you'll also be insured for any injury that happened while doing the activities, and your winter sports equipment.

    You're usually covered for:

    • Medical costs if you have an accident. The cost of medical bills if you get injured on the slopes can be extortionate, so it is essential to have the right cover. The Association of British Insurers has said one Brit required £90,000 of treatment for a fractured rib and punctured lung. Even a smaller injury, such as damage to a knee ligament, cost as much as £3,800 to treat.

      Add being airlifted from the mountain to hospital, repatriation if you need to be flown home injured from the US or Canada and this would significantly increase the claim.

    • Piste closure. If your piste closes (usually due to lack of snow or an avalanche) and you're unable to hit the slopes, your insurer may give you back a set amount a day. This can range from £10 to £50 – up to a limit of £200 to £500.

    • Loss of or damage to your ski equipment. Most winter sports policies will cover you for accidental damage, theft or the loss of equipment. Different providers offer different limits so think about the value of your stuff and pick your policy accordingly.

      If you've hired ski equipment, it may be covered by your insurer if it's lost, stolen or damaged. Some providers insure any rented kit as part of your baggage up to a certain amount; others only pay up to 50% of the sum insured for hired equipment. Some ski equipment providers may also cover their gear for you so it's worth checking with the resort before you buy your cover.

      Alternatively, if you've paid for a full ski pack – including ski school fees, a lift pass and hired ski equipment – in most cases, this will be covered. The amount can range from £150 to £500, but can be as high as £5,000. As always, check your policy closely for any potential exclusions.

    • Public liability (if you crash into someone and injure them or damage their property). Travel insurance policies tend to have about £2 million worth of public liability insurance. Having a winter sports add-on means that this will apply if you injure someone or damage their property while skiing. If you haven't told the insurer you'll be skiing or snowboarding, any damage you cause usually won't be covered.

    You'll generally be covered for skiing or snowboarding on the piste, and some policies will cover you for going off-piste if you're with a qualified instructor as part of a lesson.

    If you are doing something a bit more unusual, such as ski jumping or snowmobiling, check the terms and conditions of your policy first. If you are planning to take part in something even more wild – such as luging or stunt skiing – specialist providers such as BMC and Snowcard may be able to offer you cover.

    Quick questions

  • Most regular travel policies will only cover you for loss or theft of goods and medical costs while you're on a cruise. You may NOT be covered for other eventualities unless you upgrade your policy. These include:

    • Missed departure
    • Unused cruise excursions, for instance, a day trip to a city port
    • Cruise itinerary change
    • Cabin confinement, for example, onboard virus

    To get cover for these, you can usually select an add-on to get the right protection – which won't break the bank. If you want to buy one, a quick way to get a quote is to use a comparison site such as  MoneySupermarket*Confused.com*Gocompare or Compare The Market.

    It's also worth comparing to see if any of the top-pick policies below let you add cruise cover.

  • Even if you think you've found an all-singing, all-dancing policy that covers for every eventuality, beware. There's often a clause built in that says the policy won't cover 'recoverable costs', which essentially means you need to prove that you can't claim back those amounts elsewhere.

    So you'll usually need to put in the legwork and ask the provider, for example, the airline, holiday operator or car hire firm (and in some cases the credit card company), for a refund before your insurer would even consider a claim under the travel insurance policy. It's also worth noting that many insurers consider a credit note to be satisfactory, and may not pay out if one has been offered.

    Here's an example we found on Direct Line's site (but most insurers will have similar wording):

    Before contacting us to make a claim please take the following steps:

    • Speak to the provider of your trip to understand if a refund is available, including a credit note or a voucher.
    • If you booked your trip using a credit or debit card, you should speak to your card issuer for advice on whether you can claim a refund from them. This is only applicable if you paid more than £100 for the trip and the service you have paid for isn't available, for example, the hotel is closed so you can't stay there as planned.

    We cannot log a claim until you have tried to recover costs from elsewhere where that option is available.

  

Use our Cheap Travel Insurance Finder tool

This tool lists the cheapest no-frills policies that meet or exceed our minimum cover levels for travellers aged 65 and under without medical conditions, plus a few high-end policies with that bit extra cover.

What's the Covid-19 cover like? All the policies in the tool will cover you if:

You or a family member can't travel as you test positive for Covid-19 or you get Covid overseas and have to pay medical bills or accommodation costs as you need to isolate.

But you WON'T be covered if there are new UK Government Covid restrictions that mean you can't travel, or the Foreign Office is advising against travel to your destination. If you'd like additional Covid cover, such as cancellation cover if Government advice were to change, see our top picks for extra Covid cover, from £25/week.

Policies with additional Covid cancellation cover

There are a few policies that go further than the rest, providing cancellation cover if you're unable to travel due to a change in the UK Government's travel restrictions. All the policies here meet our normal minimum cover levels, with these higher limits:

  • £5,000 cancellation cover per person (M&S Bank is £4,000 with optional extra added)
  • £10 million medical and repatriation expenses per person

They give the following cover for Covid-19 (do check the claim limits): 

You or a family member can't travel as you test positive for Covid-19 or you get Covid overseas and have to pay medical bills or accommodation costs as you need to isolate.

UK Government Covid restrictions, such as a change in Foreign Office travel advice, mean you can't travel and need to cancel.

Though DON'T think of this as complete coverage, as there are still many scenarios you're not covered for. Examples include the Foreign Office advising against travel to your destination but you still travel, or you not being able to travel as you haven't got the right documents..

Top travel insurance with extra Covid cover for under-66s

  TABLE_CELL_STYLE Europe Worldwide   TABLE_CELL_STYLE
Insurer  Individual  Family Individual  Family Excess
Top single-trip policies. Prices for a one-week trip and include baggage cover as an optional extra.
Churchill £26.24 £74.33 £64.88 £183.80 £50
Direct Line £26.53 £101.57 £68.98 £211.34 £50
M&S Bank £44.13 £74.81 £71.22 £139.68 £50
Aviva 
with travel disruption cover
£44.95 £98.10 £62.93 £164.27 £50
Top annual policies. If you go away 2+ times a year. Prices include baggage cover as an optional extra.
Direct Line £42.85 £163.54 £163.94 £414.47 £50
Churchill £71.88 £144.01 £186.58 £373.69 £50
M&S Bank £80.55 £206.68 £120.72 £397.67 £50
Aviva 
with travel disruption cover
£83.01 £196.58 £89.53 £292.08 £50
Top annual travel insurance via fee-charging bank accounts. These could be cheaper than those above for families making a worldwide trip, but require you to open a new current account.
Nationwide FlexPlus* £13/month rolling cost (£156/year) – also includes European breakdown cover and mobile phone insurance. £50
Barclays Travel Pack £12.50/month rolling cost (six-month minimum term, so min £75, or £150/year) – also includes European breakdown cover. You need a Barclays current account to add this on. £50

Correct as of July 2023. All prices will vary depending on your age – individual prices above based on a 21-year old and family prices based on two adults aged 40 travelling with two children aged 10 and 15. 

Still can't get cover or not happy with the price?

Specialist brokers can help you find insurers that cover non-standard trips, or help you if medical conditions mean you're struggling to find an affordable policy. To find one, see the British Insurance Brokers' Association website.

Always double-check the level of cover offered before taking out a policy as well as providers' websites for any info about coronavirus. Your broker should also be able to help you with any questions you have.

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How to claim on your travel insurance

Claiming on your travel insurance shouldn't be daunting and – if you understand the terms and the excesses on your policy – you shouldn't be in for any nasty shocks. Follow the five steps below if you do need to make a claim.

  • Submit your claim as soon as possible. Contact your insurer as soon as you can. Some parts of your policy may have a short window to submit a claim and it may take a while to be processed.
  • Get your insurer to accept a medical claim before you get treatment. If you need to make a medical claim – and it's not an emergency – get your insurer to accept the claim over the phone first, before getting treatment. For example, if you sprained your ankle, call your insurer – if it accepts the claim then, you're less likely to be faced with a rejected claim later down the line. For obvious reasons, don't delay treatment if it's an emergency.
  • Notify the police if it's a theft or loss. If something goes missing or is stolen when you are abroad you may need to get a crime reference number or the overseas equivalent to make a successful claim. Report the incident to the police as soon as you can – you often have to do so within 24 hours – to make sure your claim doesn't hit the skids.
  • Keep receipts. If you are claiming for lost luggage or delay, remember to keep receipts of essential items you have bought while waiting, such as food and drink. Many insurers allow you to add these expenses to a claim and may ask for receipts as proof.
  • Complain if you feel your claim was unfairly rejected. If your insurance company rejects your claim, and you think it has done so wrongly, don't take it lying down. Complain to the free Financial Ombudsman. This independent adjudicator will make the final decision on a claim if you are locked in a dispute with your insurer. For more on how to make a complaint, read our Financial rights guide, or see our section below.

How to complain about your insurance provider

The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer-service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others.

Common problems include claims not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not, then…

Travel insurance FAQs

  • What is an excess and how does it work?

    An excess is the amount you have to pay towards any claim you make. For example, if you cancel a trip and are entitled to £3,000 back from your insurer but have a £100 excess, you will only receive £2,900.

    However, the excess amount, and if it applies per section, and if it applies per traveller, does vary from insurer to insurer.

    For instance, most providers will likely expect you to pay an excess per person. So if the policy was for a couple, and the flight was cancelled – do expect to pay an excess per person.

    It is also worth knowing that an excess per section could also apply. An example could be if your suitcase was nicked and your wallet was inside you could have to pay an excess on both.

    If you have a group policy you may also have to pay an excess for each person for any loss that impacts your entire party, such as cancellation. It's important to check all excesses so you know exactly what you will have to pay if you make a claim.

    Hence why it is always important to check the policy cover so you know what you are getting.

  • Will any policy cover me if I'm travelling for a month or two?

    If you're going away for more than 60 consecutive days then standard travel insurance is unlikely to cover you.

    You'll therefore need specialist backpacker insurance – sometimes called gap-year or extended leave insurance. These policies can protect you for up to 18 months as standard in most cases, and can even be extended.

  • Could ONE drink invalidate my claim?

    Many people aren't aware that if they have an alcoholic drink on holiday, and lose something or have an accident, their insurance may not cover them – even if they only had the one drink. Insurers all have different interpretations – which we have seen in the T&Cs – ranging from "drinking too much" to "approx four pints" to "alcoholic abuse".

    In practice, what most say is that it's all about whether or not the drink has affected your decision-making. As we all have different tolerances, for some this could mean that just one drink could invalidate a claim.

    It's also been reported that some insurers have gone as far as testing blood samples for your alcohol level (although we wonder how this works in practice) but as stressed, this does vary from policy to policy.

    Having a claim refused could hit hard, possibly excluding you from medical or possessions cover. As a general rule, use your common sense as it's about safety as well as insurance. For example, if you're skiing and have two or three glasses of wine at lunch before hitting the slopes again, you're increasing the chance of an accident – which you also may not be covered for.

    See our Eight things many of us do on holiday that could invalidate our insurance blog – it's an eye-opener.

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