European travel insurance policy can help provide you with cover for a number of situations; if you fall ill, have an accident, your belongings are lost or stolen, or you have to cancel or cut short your holiday.
It’s not a legal requirement but taking out a travel insurance policy can give you peace of mind that, if something goes wrong before or during your trip, you won’t lose out financially.
A Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) gets you free or reduced cost healthcare in the European Union (EU). It’s replacing the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but your current EHIC remains valid until the expiry date on the card.
A GHIC/EHIC card isn’t a replacement for travel insurance, though. It won't cover any private healthcare, or repatriation back to the UK.
As most EU countries don't have free medical care like the NHS, you might only be able to access private treatment while abroad. And without travel insurance, you'd have to pay for it yourself.
Each insurer will have their own criteria for which countries they include in their European travel insurance policies.
In general, though, you can expect a European policy to cover travel to all member states of the EU, as well as European countries which aren’t in the EU - places like Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, for example.
Surprisingly, many insurers also include certain countries that aren’t in Europe in their cover - such as Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
Check your policy carefully to ensure your destination is on your policy’s list.
Your travel insurance for Europe should include cover for things like:
You’ll need your passport to travel to any EU country.
Be careful to check how much time you need left on your passport for the country you’re visiting. Many countries require that you have at least three or sometimes six months remaining before you arrive. You may need to renew your passport before you leave if it expires soon.
Check the travel advice in advance.
UK passport holders can stay for up to 90 days in a Schengen zone country during a 180-day period without a visa.
If you’re travelling to several Schengen countries within the 180-day period, all visits count towards the 90-day limit.
It’s a good idea to start your cover as soon as you book your trip or have started paying for it.
That way, if your holiday is cancelled or you can’t go away because of illness or bereavement for example - you should be able to make a claim. But do check your policy for its terms and conditions regarding cancellation before you buy.
Even though the UK has left the EU, you can still access emergency medical care for free or at a reduced cost in EU countries with your EHIC until it expires, or the newer GHIC card. So, the cost of insurance shouldn’t be more expensive.
Factors that affect the price of your policy include things like:
While some insurers may not accept you for cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition - like cancer, a stroke or heart disease - there are plenty that will.
These policies may be more expensive, though, because there's more of a risk that you could need medical treatment on your European trip.
It’s vital that you declare any pre-existing conditions to your insurer. If you don’t, you risk invalidating your claim.
If you have a serious medical condition and can’t find cover for your European holiday, check out the MoneyHelper directory of insurance providers.
It’s best to compare a wide range of travel policies to see which offers the best and most comprehensive cover at the right price.
Particularly important at the moment is finding a policy that offers adequate cover for Covid-19 related issues.
If you’re travelling to Europe for work purposes, then a business travel policy will suit you.
It includes everything you’d find in standard travel insurance - like medical, cancellation and luggage cover. But it also offers specific cover for things like expensive business equipment and samples of merchandise you may take on a trip.
It can even pay for the cost of sending out a replacement business colleague should you have to cut short or cancel your trip.
If you’ve got two or more trips planned in a year, it can often work out cheaper to buy annual cover, rather than separate single-trip policies, so compare the options.
An annual policy means you don’t have to go through the hassle of taking out a different policy every time you go away, too.
While it’s not compulsory, it makes financial sense to take out travel insurance when you consider what it would cost if you needed to pay out of your own pocket for lost or stolen luggage, hospital treatment or repatriation.
Most good policies will cover you if you cancel because of a positive test, need treatment for Covid-19 while abroad and/or have to extend your stay because of a diagnosis.
But only a handful of policies provide cover if a UK lockdown means you can’t travel, or the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) changes its travel advice after you’ve booked your trip.