A boating holiday might sound relaxing, but make sure you’ve got the right insurance to give you peace of mind for your trip on the waterways.
Legally, you don’t need to take out travel insurance to cover a boat you’re renting for a holiday, but it can give you some useful extra protection.
The boat and its fixtures and fittings will be insured by the hire company and the insurance will also include third party cover in case you cause any injury or damage while boating.
You’ll still be expected to take reasonable care and some will ask you to pay a refundable security deposit.
To protect your deposit you might be able to take out a damage waiver, which is a payment you make to protect your deposit. It means you’ll get your deposit back even if you do accidentally damage the boat.
If you own your own boat, you’ll need to take out at least third-party boat insurance if you use it on the UK’s inland waterways.
Although the boat rental company will have insurance to protect its boat and fulfil its legal obligations, it won’t protect you, your holiday or your possessions.
It’s a good idea to take out a UK travel insurance policy if you’ve booked a boat holiday to cover you for cancellations and loss or theft of luggage.
While it’s true you don’t need the medical cover offered by travel insurance, thanks to the NHS, cancellation cover could be very useful. Hiring a boat can easily cost as much as a trip abroad and travel insurance could compensate you if you need to cancel your trip because of:
Travel insurance can also cover your luggage and possessions for loss, damage and theft.
If you’re taking expensive items with you, make sure you have enough cover for their value with your travel insurance and check that the single article limit is high enough for your most valuable possession.
If you’re bringing tablets, phones and other gadgets, you might need to take out additional gadget cover with your travel insurance. Take note: it’s very easy for a mobile phone to slip from a pocket and into the canal while jumping on and off board.
Some boat holiday operators will be able to offer you optional insurance with your boat hire which covers you for personal injury and theft. Make sure you check how this compares to a separate travel insurance policy to decide which offers better value for you.
It’s usually sold as an optional extra on your home insurance, so check what cover you have and whether it’s enough for your trip.
You could hire a boat for the day before committing to a longer break. It’ll let you get to know the controls or you could arrange it for a family get-together or a sedate stag party or hen do.
You don’t need a licence in the same way as you need a driving licence for a car when you hire a boat for a holiday.
You might hear about a ‘boat licence’, but that’s something that’s only needed by the boat’s owner and you don’t need to do any sort of test to get it (although boat owners will need valid insurance and a 'boat safety certificate' - a sort of boat MOT - to get a licence).
Hiring a narrowboat can seem expensive, but you get quite a lot for your money. Think of the cost as comparable to a hotel stay, because the boat is your accommodation as well as your transport.
Your hire fee includes:
There are thousands of miles of rivers and canals in the UK so it’s a great way to take a holiday that gives you a different perspective, without going abroad.
Just be aware that narrowboats can be widebeam or narrowbeam. Narrowbeam boats can travel on wide canals or rivers but the reverse isn’t true. If you’re in a widebeam boat you’ll need to plan your trip more carefully.
Here’s some of the most popular routes to try: