Travel insurance for European getaways

Why is travel insurance important?

Forking out for your two-week getaway to the sun is probably one of your biggest annual expenses and you've likely saved hard for it. If you or a member of your family were to become ill or suffer an accident while on holiday, emergency medical treatment can be a very costly and unexpected expense.

Travelling uninsured puts you at risk of paying substantial medical bills if you require treatment abroad, and in some cases, hospitals may refuse to treat you without insurance or sufficient funds to cover the medical costs.

Travel insurance is usually a low-cost way of providing peace of mind for you and your family and could prove to be a godsend should anything happen while you're sunning it up in Lanzarote.

As well as covering medical expenses, a good travel insurance policy should also cover lost luggage and belongings, holiday cancellation and delays, personal liability and curtailment (cutting your holiday short).

Do I need travel insurance for Europe?

Even when travelling within Europe, travel insurance is a must. It's a common misconception amongst travellers that a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will provide all the cover you need during your trip, but this simply isn't true. While the GHIC is a good addition to your travel documentation, it is not an alternative to travel insurance. A European Health Insurance Card only provides access to state medical care in the European Economic Area and does not cover other costs such as repatriation to the UK or additional accommodation costs should you be unable to return home. You should also remember that the level of free public healthcare can vary between countries, so you may not have access to the same specialist treatment that you would at home. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommends having both an EHIC and separate travel insurance when visiting any European country.

Following the UK's departure from the European Union the EHIC is being phased out and replaced by a new UK issued Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) .

Your current EHIC remains valid for travel in the EU until it expires. You can find the expiry date on the front of your card. Once your EHIC expiry date has passed, you'll be able to replace it with the new GHIC.

Just like the EHIC, the new GHIC is free and gives you the right to access state-provided medical care during a temporary stay in the EU. You do not need to apply for a GHIC if you already have a valid EHIC.

However, just like the EHIC, the new GHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. And unlike the old EHIC, which provided cover for some non-EU countries such as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, from the 1st January 2021, both the EHIC and GHIC are only valid in EU member countries.

So, we've established that purchasing travel insurance for your European trip may be a very wise move, but as each European country has its own healthcare systems and costs for medical care, they also come with their own set of considerations when it comes to travel insurance.

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What you need to know

Do I need travel insurance for France?

A popular holiday destination for Brits, France normally plays host to around 17 million British holidaymakers every year. While most visits go without a hitch, the most common problem reported is pick-pocketing, so it may be wise to check whether your travel insurance policy covers you for stolen possessions and what value limit they set on this.

Bear in mind, if you are visiting France with the intention of travelling to The Alps for a spot of skiing or snowboarding, you should make sure your insurance covers you for this and any other activity you wish to take part in. It may also be wise to ensure your policy covers you for extra medical costs, repatriation back home and possible transfer to neighbouring Switzerland for treatment.

Do I need travel insurance for Spain?

While Spain may seem close to home, don't make the mistake of travelling there uninsured. As with all European countries, you should get your free GHIC before leaving the UK but do not think of it as an alternative to travel insurance. The GHIC will give you access to public medical care on the same basis as a Spanish citizen, but it's worth bearing in mind that some medical costs are not covered by the GHIC - so it is possible that you will have to pay some money towards any medical treatments you require.

Also, some European policies do not cover Spain or may charge you extra for cover in this country due to the high cost of medical treatment often seen in this popular holiday destination, so always check before you travel.

Is Turkey part of Europe for travel insurance?

If you are planning to travel to Turkey, make sure it is included within the countries covered in your travel insurance policy. While some providers consider Turkey to be part of Europe, other travel insurers class it as a 'worldwide' destination - so it's vital that you check.

Unfortunately, your GHIC is not valid in Turkey, so be sure to purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover any medical expenses you may incur. You'll also need a visa to enter Turkey but may be refused one if your passport isn't valid for at least another six months after your planned visit.

Is Iceland in Europe for travel insurance?

While Iceland is not a member of the European Union, it is classed as part of Europe for the purposes of taking out a travel insurance.

However, as Iceland is not a member of the European Union, from 1 January 2021, British travellers cannot use their EHIC or GHIC to get medical treatment in Iceland. It's therefore important to ensure you take out travel insurance with sufficient cover for medical expenses, should anything happen.

It's worth noting that Iceland experiences extremes in weather conditions, so it's easy to have your travel plans disrupted by storms. And with 30 active volcanoes, volcanic ash clouds could leave you stranded or unable to travel to Iceland. So, it's highly recommended you purchase a travel insurance policy that covers volcanic ash disruption.

Please note: Iceland is a popular stop off point on Scandinavian cruise holidays, so if you are planning to visit Iceland on a cruise ship, you will need special cruise cover for this.

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Do I need travel insurance for Ireland?

Known for its rugged landscape, traditional pubs and vibrant music, Ireland is a popular destination for Brits seeking a short trip away. With the emerald isle being so close to the UK, you may think you can forgo travel insurance when planning a trip there. But whether you're visiting Northern Ireland or the Republic, travel insurance may be a very wise purchase.

Northern Ireland

When it comes to travel insurance, Northern Ireland is typically covered under UK jurisdiction, and as such, British visitors are usually covered for any accidents or injuries by the NHS. However, travel insurance may still be beneficial for your trip as it can cover flight (or ferry) delays, cancellation, lost luggage and transfers to a hospital back home, if needed.

The Republic of Ireland

As the Republic of Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom, there is no NHS to rely upon should you fall ill or suffer an accident during your trip. In the Republic of Ireland, your GHIC card entitles you to the same state healthcare as Irish nationals, but again, there are exclusions to this cover such as repatriation and private care, so travel insurance is a must. As Ireland is a popular destination for stag and hen dos, you should be aware that if you fall ill or suffer an accident due to too many pints of Guinness, your travel insurance is unlikely to pay out for your medical treatment.

How can I compare travel insurance policies?

We're sure your European jaunt will go without a hitch, but sometimes the unexpected does happen. Purchasing travel insurance means you can relax and enjoy your well-earned break without the fear of a potential hefty hospital bill or lost luggage putting a dampener on your holiday.

At Compare Cover, we've made finding and comparing travel insurance quick and easy. Our online quote form is simple to use, and our travel insurance guides are full of helpful facts and information to answer any questions you may have about purchasing the right travel insurance policy for your trip.

How Brexit could affect your Travel Insurance

On the 1st January 2021, the UK completed its formal separation from the European Union. There are now some changes you should consider before you travel to the EU.

Before the UK's departure from the EU, British citizens could use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to gain access to state-provided healthcare in EU member countries. This EHIC remains valid for travel in the EU until it expires. You can find the expiry date on the front of your card.

Once your EHIC expiry date has passed, you'll be able to replace it with a new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) .

Just like the EHIC, the new GHIC is free and gives you the right to access state-provided medical care during a temporary stay in the EU. You do not need to apply for a GHIC if you already have a valid EHIC.

Remember a GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance.

It will not cover any private medical costs or help towards costs for emergencies such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. The EHIC or GHIC is also not valid for travel on cruise ships.

It's also important to note that unlike the old EHIC which was valid for travel in the EU, extending to non-EU counties Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, from the 1st January 2021, both the EHIC and GHIC are only valid for travel to EU member countries.

To find out more about visiting Europe from this date, the government has published a range of guidance and notes .

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