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Get the right travel insurance for you
While no one likes to think about all the things that could potentially go wrong while they are travelling, it's essential you set off prepared for every eventuality...
You may decide you want to take advantage of the extended break over the summer holidays, or consider a gap year in which you see some of the world. You could find yourself volunteering in a developing country, island-hopping, working a ski season, trekking through the jungle, getting involved in animal conservation... The list of globetrotting options is endless. And insurance is likely to be the last thing on your mind! It needs to a top priority, though, as travelling without it could see your adventure come to an abrupt and costly end.
You could, for example, become ill and require medical attention, or have your rucksack stolen along with your iPod, camera and phone. You may even need to return to the UK unexpectedly, which could cost you dear if you have to re-organise your travel plans.
And without insurance, the resulting costs could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds (medical care and repatriation). That's why it's important to take the time to find a comprehensive policy that suits your circumstances.
Here are some questions to consider when choosing a policy.
There are a few different types of insurance to consider, with the two main options being single-trip cover or annual multi-trip cover...
The former covers you for one trip, the latter generally lasts for a year and covers you for numerous separate trips. That’s why it’s a good option for frequent travellers. However, it's important to note that there will be limitations on how long cover for each trip lasts, and that with many policies the maximum is 31 days.
If you want to head off for more than a month, you should therefore look into specialist gap year insurance and backpackers' insurance.
Policies of this kind give you cover in multiple destinations over the course of your trip, meaning you only have to organise one policy for trips of up to one year. However, as with every form of insurance, it's essential to read the small print before you buy, and choose a policy accordingly.
There will generally be a cap imposed on the amount of time you can spend in each country, while it's important to ensure every country you are visiting is covered, even if you are just passing through.
Other specific conditions you may come across include not being allowed to visit home in the specified period – although this is not always the case. Again, read the small print to find a policy that works for you.
TravelSupermarket recommends that you look for a policy that offers at least the following levels of cover:
When researching and buying your policy take note of these all-important areas. It will help you to buy the right policy for your needs...
European or worldwide cover?
Choosing between European policies and worldwide cover may sound simple. But there can be discrepancies; while some insurers consider Turkey and Egypt to be in Europe, others do not.
Looking for an adventure?
Part of the appeal of travel for many students is the opportunity to have new experiences, whether this is white-water rafting in Zimbabwe or climbing trees in the Amazon.
On standard travel insurance policies, adventure sports are often automatically excluded because of the high level of risk. But with a specialist gap year policy, such activities are more likely to be covered. Again, always double check the small print if you are considering a specific activity.
Working while away?
You may want to spend some time working while you are away, either to continue funding your trip or to get some experience to put on your CV. Working abroad and volunteering are generally covered by gap year policies. However, manual labour is often excluded so, again, double-check the policy terms.
Remember your EHIC
An EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), which basically gives you the same rights to state health care as local residents, is essential for travel in Europe. To apply for your free card, visit the NHS website.
But beware: the card is in no way a substitute for travel insurance. It won’t cover emergency repatriation or your backpack being stolen, for example.
Things to look out for when buying your policy
*If you have a pre-existing medical condition, it's important that you tell your insurer, as if you were to get ill without disclosing this, it could invalidate your cover.
*Countries that are either warzones or in a state of political or social unrest are unlikely to be covered by travel insurers, so keep an eye on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website’s advice.
*Insurers are very unlikely to pay out for a claim if you are under the influence of either alcohol or illegal drugs at the time of the incident.
Keep our tips in mind when you travel. They are designed to help you travel safely and avoid problems...
Visit your doctor well in advance of your trip to find out if you need any injections or medicines.
Find out about the local customs and laws of destinations prior to visiting them.
Give family or friends an itinerary of your plans, and contact them with frequent updates.
Keep your passport number, insurance policy and emergency contact numbers in a safe place that can be easily accessed.
Wear a money belt and keep your belongings close to you. Look out for pickpockets and be especially careful in crowded areas.
Read the Know Before You Go guidance (https://www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo) and also check FCO Travel
Advice for destinations you are planning to visit https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.