Travel Insurance for the USA

From the hustle and bustle of New York City to the vast deserts of Nevada, the USA is a melting pot of breath-taking landscapes and picture-perfect panoramas. If you're lucky enough to visit this awe-inspiring country, you'll need to prepare a few things before you jet-off stateside.

Do I need a visa to visit the USA?

If you have a valid British passport, you won't need a visa to visit the USA, should you meet their conditions of admission. The UK and the USA have a reciprocal deal in place called the Visa Waiver Programme, meaning you can travel in the USA for under 90 days without a visa. However, you must make sure you have an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) before you jet off. This must be applied for online and will cost $14 and needs to be applied for at least 72 hours before you travel.

Do I need travel insurance for the USA?

Arranging travel insurance may not be top of your to-do list, but it may be a smart move. Hospitals in the US are usually private and medical bills are notoriously expensive. In the US most people rely on private health insurance to help with medical costs. But as visitors, we don't have this to fall back on. It's a good idea to make sure your travel insurance provides enough cover for medical bills as well as cover for emergency care and flights home, just in case you need it.

A case involving a tourist from Northern Ireland, who travelled to the USA in May 2019 to visit her sister, highlights just how important it is to purchase travel insurance before visiting America. The teenager is now facing a bill of $150,000 after suffering a brain injury following a fall from an electric scooter.

Compare Cover found that a travel insurance policy for a person of her age, with no pre-existing medical conditions visiting the US for two weeks would have cost just £13.99. That's just under £1 a day!

Worldwide travel insurance

For your American adventure you'll need to type in USA as your holiday destination or you can select an area which would be Worldwide including the USA and Canada. Some worldwide policies exclude the USA, so always make sure it's covered under your policy.

Worldwide cover tends to be more expensive than travel insurance for the UK and Europe due to the high cost of medical care outside of Europe, so if you take regular trips the US, it may be better value for money to purchase an annual policy rather than many single trip policies.

However, it's still worth shopping around and comparing travel insurance quotes for both single trip and annual trip to see which works out cheaper for your holiday plans.

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A wild American deer

What does travel insurance cover?

  • Medical bills - if you fall ill or suffer an accident while you're sunning it up in San Francisco, travel insurance can help towards the cost of medical treatment.
  • Holiday cancellation - this will cover you should you need to cut your holiday short or cancel altogether, for an unforeseen event such as a family bereavement. Purchase your travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday, so that you are covered straight away. Should your travel provider refund part of your holiday cost, the travel insurance will usually cover the balance, subject to any excess.
  • Damage, loss and theft of luggage - your travel insurance policy could help you to replace your personal belongings up to an agreed value limit.
  • Flight delays - if your travel plans become delayed due to industrial action, adverse weather or mechanical breakdown, when flying in Europe, your airline is required to provide food and drink after two hours. Some travel insurance policies offer additional cover at these times such as access to a complimentary lounge and cover for significant delays.
  • Personal liability - this covers you if you are liable to pay damages due to an accident resulting in injury to someone or for loss or damage to someone's property.

It is important to check the details of your policy meet your specific needs as you may encounter some of the following common exclusions:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions - it's important to declare any medical conditions you have, as failure to do so may invalidate your policy. This could leave you to pay for your medical bills, potentially costing you thousands of pounds.
  • Use of drugs or alcohol - if you suffer an accidents or injury while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your insurer is unlikely to pay out.
  • Travel outside government guidelines - travel to countries the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised British holidaymakers to avoid.
  • Extreme sport or winter activities - accidents or injury due to activities such as skiing may not be covered under a standard travel insurance policy. If you're planning anything adventurous, you'll need to upgrade your policy cover for this activity.

Travel tips for the USA

Visit your doctor. Depending on where you go in the US, you may need some vaccinations before you go. Visit your doctor 4-6 weeks before you travel to discuss this.

Remember to tip!

Tipping can be a minefield for Brits travelling in the US, so don't get caught out! Although discretionary tipping is an unwritten rule in most US states. You will need to tip most service staff including airport and hotel porters, bar staff, restaurant waiting staff, taxi drivers, parking attendants and hotel housekeepers.

Add the tax to your purchases.

When shopping in the USA, the price you see on the tag isn't usually what you'll pay. That's because the sales tax is often omitted from the label. How much tax you'll have to pay on top can vary significantly from state to state. If you find yourself struggling to work out the full cost of something, just ask, Americans are generally a friendly bunch!

Drive carefully!

If renting a Cadillac and cruising along Route 66 is your idea of the ultimate holiday, you'll need to consider a few things before you get behind the wheel. Each state has their own driving rules and regs you need to obey. You also need to bear in mind that standard travel insurance doesn't cover damage to rental cars, so it may be wise to take out additional cover such as Supplementary Liability Insurance, to cover damage to the car, theft, third party cover and uninsured motorist protection.

Weather warning.

Some parts of the USA are prone to extreme weather such as hurricanes and flooding. While most travel insurance policies will cover expenses relating to additional accommodation and travel costs caused by natural disasters, it's worth double checking you're covered.

Compare travel insurance for the USA

The best way to find a travel insurance policy for your American adventure is to shop around and read the policy information carefully. At Compare Cover we make it easy for you to compare travel insurance quotes from a range of providers.

Your results can be filtered based on the level of cover. You can then click on any quote to look through the policy features, then once you've found the right policy for you, simply click through to the insurer to buy online.

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