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UK Travel Insurance

Our top picks and is it worth getting for a staycation?

With international travel still heavily restricted, many of us are looking closer to home for our holidays. If you're considering a break in the UK, or you've booked one already, you may be wondering whether it's worth buying insurance to cover your staycation. Here's what you need to know.

This is the first incarnation of this guide. Please tell us your experiences in the UK travel insurance discussion.

Other travel help guides... See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for more on holiday refunds and current restrictions, or see UK Hotel bargains and Cheap train tickets for cost-cutting tips.

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What is UK travel insurance?

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

UK travel insurance is not a special type of policy – it's just normal travel insurance that happens to apply to domestic trips. When buying a single-trip policy, you can normally specify that you'll be travelling within the UK. With annual multi-trip policies, the UK is normally included if you say you'll be travelling in Europe or worldwide (though check as policies can differ) – so you may already have cover if you have an existing annual policy.

Either way, the idea's the same: UK travel insurance is supposed to provide extra protection for your staycation. However, while it covers many of the same things as overseas travel insurance, not everything's the same...

The big difference – medical treatment is 'free' in the UK

This is arguably the biggest difference between travel insurance for UK trips and overseas travel insurance. Abroad, the costs of a medical emergency, whether illness or injury, can quickly add up. Accordingly, most policies cover you for treatment in a state-run hospital and come with big claim limits to pay for those bills (even if they're not always necessary).

But in the UK, the NHS provides hospital treatment free at the point of use – and you're expected to use it, or your own private healthcare plan, instead of claiming against your insurance. And since medical cover is one of the main components of all travel insurance policies, that raises the question – should you bother with it for a UK break? Read on to find out more...

What does UK travel insurance cover?

To be covered at all, your trip must first fit your insurer's definition of a UK holiday – and this not as straightforward as it sounds. 

Generally, you'll only be covered if your trip involves spending at least two consecutive nights in pre-booked accommodation.

This means that very short breaks, road trips and some camping holidays won't usually be covered. A few insurers also stipulate you must be more than 25 miles away from home.

But each insurer has their own definition, so check the policy wording carefully to make sure your trip is covered. If you're not sure, it's best to ask the insurer directly before buying the policy.

Am I covered for coronavirus?

The pandemic is a major concern for any prospective travel, but working out exactly what a policy covers isn't always straightforward. In the table below, we've summarised the level of cover you can expect when it comes to Covid-related cover.

Scenario Are you covered?
You or a family member can't travel as you've got Covid-19.
Most policies DO cover this, as long as you're not travelling against Government advice.
You or a family member can't travel as you've been told to self-isolate by NHS test & trace.

SOME policies cover this – check insurer's site and the policy wording carefully.

You can't go because Government restrictions mean you can't travel.
NOT covered by most policies – the pandemic is now considered a 'known event', so you won't be able to claim for this.
Can't travel as you don't feel safe going.
NOT covered – this is known as 'disinclination to travel' which travel insurance never covers.

In short, you're generally covered if you catch coronavirus before your trip or while on it and can't go. We've also focused our top-pick policies on those which cover you if you've been told to self-isolate and can't go on the trip, though this is by no means standard.

However, travel insurance to cover cancellations due to national or local lockdowns doesn't really exist, so you need to accept that risk.

It's best to always book flexible, easily-cancellable flights and hotels so you can cancel or rearrange your trip if you're caught by restrictions. Our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide has more information about your rights to cancel/move your trip, or get refunds from your provider. 

What else does UK travel insurance cover?

With medical treatment provided by the NHS, and limited Covid-related cover, why bother with insurance for a UK break? Well, it could still cover you for other things you may want to protect yourself against, including:

  • Cancellation – but only for specific, serious reasons. These usually include being made redundant, having to do jury service, falling seriously ill (including with Covid-19) or suffering a bereavement. Home emergencies eg fire, flood or break-in are also usually covered.

  • Curtailment. This is where you go on the trip, but need to cut your holiday short due to an emergency. As with cancellation, there's usually a list of (similar) accepted reasons you can claim for, so check the policy wording carefully.

  • Baggage and personal belongings. If your stuff is lost, stolen or damaged while you're away, you should be able to claim, as almost everything you take with you is included – think phone, camera, wallet, expensive clothing, etc. Yet be aware policies can vary greatly both in the amount covered (including single-item payout limits) and in the excess – the amount you have to pay towards the claim yourself.

    And you may already be covered under your home contents policy, as these often cover belongings outside the home, so check.

  • Sports, excursions and other activities. Whether you've booked surfing lessons in Polzeath, a via ferrata climb in Kinlochleven or a ride on the forest coaster in Betws-y-Coed, the cost of tickets and reservations can add up. Some policies will reimburse you if you can't make use of your booking. However, some stipulate you can only claim for these costs if the reason you missed out is that the provider of the activity went bust.

    Again, watch out for the excess – a high one could mean it's only worth claiming for pricier outings.

  • Personal liability. This protects others and their property from accidents you may cause while on holiday. For example, the personal liability element of your insurance would cover you if, while staying at a plush hotel, you spill some hot coffee and stain an expensive upholstered chair.

While you can expect an insurer to pay out for most of the above, the exact level of cover will vary by policy – so check the terms carefully before you buy.

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Should I get UK travel insurance?

There's a lot to consider – you'll need to weigh up whether the cover you get is worth shelling out for. So ultimately, it's a balance between cost (we look at this in the section below) and peace of mind. The more you'd struggle if there were an emergency that your travel insurance would cover, the more you should hedge towards getting some insurance.

Here's the view of MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis...

"For a cheap weekend away, travelling without any valuables, and with easy cancellation I probably wouldn't bother. Yet if I'd booked a week away, as a full holiday especially with excursions, and could get some cheap peace of mind, I likely would."

Before you buy, it's also worth checking whether you're covered already:

  • If you've already got annual travel insurance, it likely includes the UK too. Annual multi-trip policies, and packaged bank accounts, normally cover UK trips (provided you're staying in pre-booked accommodation for more than two nights).

  • The stuff you take with you could be covered by your home contents insurance. Many protect your personal belongings outside the home (eg, your phone, bicycle, expensive clothes).

And if you decide UK travel insurance is right for you, remember our golden rule...

That way, you're covered straight away for cancellation, pre-trip illness or other things that might go wrong.

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Top pick UK travel insurance single-trip policies

We've listed our top picks in the tables below. We've split them based on age, so scroll down if you're 65+. 

Cheapest UK travel insurance policies for under-65s

Below are the policies we've found for under-65s, including individuals, couples and families, ordered by price.

All policies listed meet our minimum cover levels and protect you against everything listed above. In addition, you're covered:

  • If you or a family member has been diagnosed with Covid-19 before your trip.
  • If you've been told to self-isolate by NHS Test & Trace.
Insurer 1wk, individual – price from (i) 1wk, family – price from (ii) Excess
Leisure Guard (Standard)* £5.49 £10.04 £100
Coverwise (Bronze)* £6.09 £11.62 £100
Avanti (Classic)* £7.07 £12.20 £75
Staysure (Comprehensive)* £7.42 £11.52 £65
Insurefor.com (Premier)* £7.70 £20.20 £75
LV (Essential)* £7.80 £13.70 £50-£90

Prices correct as of July 2021. (i) Price will vary depending on your age. (ii) Based on two adults aged 40 and two children aged 10 and 15 travelling.

Cheapest UK travel insurance policies for over-65s

Below are the policies we've found for over-65s, ordered by price.

All policies listed meet our minimum cover levels and protect you against everything listed above. In addition, you're covered:

  • If you or a family member has been diagnosed with Covid-19 before your trip.
  • If you've been told to self-isolate by NHS Test & Trace.
Insurer 1wk, couple – price from (i) Excess
Leisure Guard (Standard)* £14.26 £100
Coverwise (Bronze)* £14.30 £100
Avanti (Classic)* £18.60 £75
Staysure (Comprehensive)* £20.12 £75
LV (Essential)* £22.45 £50-£90
Insurefor.com (Premier)* £26 £75

Prices correct as of July 2021. (i) Based on a couple both aged 66 travelling.

UK travel insurance if you've a pre-existing medical condition

If you've had a serious medical condition, or ongoing medical treatment, you're likely to be quoted ludicrously high prices for your travel insurance. (As an aside, you still always need to declare pre-existing conditions, as they can increase the risk of other claims.) Here's how you can cut the cost...

Step 1: Try standard policies

It's worth trying the policies above first – for some with conditions deemed less serious by the insurers, eg, mild asthma, you may find you can get a standard policy, or only have the price marginally increased. If that's the case, you may not need to go any further.

However, each insurer will have its own list of conditions it deems as more serious, which means you might have to pay a premium or get specialist cover. If that's the case, or you know you have a severe condition, move on to step 2.
 

Step 2: If you have a serious condition, try specialist medical sites 

To cover more serious conditions, such as heart conditions, certain joint conditions or cancer, you'll likely need to try specialist medical insurers' sites (often you won't see these on normal comparison sites).

A good starting point – to benchmark a price – would be to get a quote from Medical Travel Compared. It's a comparison site, and has a wide range of insurers on its panel, though you'll need to check the level of of coronavirus cover provided with each insurer.

Then try AllClear*Avanti* and Staysure*, as we know they all provide coronavirus medical assistance while abroad, including repatriation if needed.

If you've still not found anything, other specialists to add to the list are MIA Online and Orbis - but again, check what level of coronavirus cover the policy is offering.

Step 3: If you still can't get cover or are not happy with the price, contact a broker 

If you're still unable to find cover or the quote is still too expensive, speak to a specialist broker. They will be able to help you find insurers that will cover your condition, though it's unlikely the insurer will cover coronavirus too.

To find a broker who can help, 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.

UK annual multi-trip policies

This is the first incarnation of this guide and, for now, we've focused our research on policies that cover individual trips within the UK, as many people are booking one-off trips due to the current circumstances.

Yet, as we often say, if you go away at least twice a year, it's worth looking at an annual policy, which can often work out cheaper than buying separate cover for each trip.

We'll review the best policies for multiple trips in the UK and update this guide over the coming weeks. If you're looking for annual cover in the meantime, many overseas travel insurance policies cover UK trips if you say you'll be travelling in Europe or worldwide. See our main Travel Insurance guide for more info and our top picks.

Other ways to protect yourself

It's not all about insurance – there are other things you can do to in order to minimise the risk of losing money on a UK trip...

  • The competition watchdog says providers should give refunds for lockdown-related cancellations, but that doesn't mean all do. The Competition & Markets Authority has said that airlines and accommodation and attraction providers should refund customers where they can't provide a service due to Government restrictions. However, this is yet to be tested in court, and some put up a fight. See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for more on this, and how to try to get a refund. 

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

  • Pay on plastic. Credit cards offer the strongest protection as Section 75 refund rules mean for items costing more than £100, the card provider is jointly liable – though this doesn't usually work if you're booking via a travel agent. Debit cards also have some protection under the 'chargeback' refund rules (but these aren't legal requirements and firms sometimes challenge them).

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