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Repatriation cover and travel insurance

If you unexpectedly fall ill on your holiday, or have an accident, repatriation cover pays to get you home to the UK.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 14 October 2019  | 4 min read

What is repatriation insurance?

Repatriation is a part of travel insurance that covers the costs of getting you back to the UK if an illness or accident you suffer when you're abroad, affects your return travel plans.

Additionally, if you’re somewhere where you don’t speak the local lingo, an emergency 24-hour helpline is usually included in the cover to help you communicate with the medical team looking after you.

Key points

  • Repatriation is a part of all standard travel insurance policies
  • If you have pre-existing medical conditions you need to disclose them, and check you'd still be covered for repatriation if it was for one of these conditions
  • Expats will need specialist policies as repatriation is usually only available for UK residents

Is repatriation included in travel insurance?

Yes, it’s included as part of standard travel insurance policies. Some insurers won’t specify a cover limit for repatriation, just that it’ll cover the costs, while others will have medical cover limits that include the cost of repatriation.

Details of how much cover a policy provides for repatriation (if stated at all) can be found in the medical emergency expenses section of the insurance policy documentation. If you’re still not sure, contact the insurer and ask them directly.

Repatriation isn't cheap so think carefully about your end destination.

To get a ballpark figure of what level of cover you'd need, do a little research about the cost of medical care, short-notice flights home, and hotels in the area - for example, repatriation could be more expensive in America, than in France.


What’s included?

All insurance policies provide different levels of cover, but as a general rule the following should be included:

  • The cost of getting you home once your medical team say you’re well enough to travel
  • Accommodation and travel expenses for a companion to stay with you until you can travel home
  • Organising the trip home on your behalf
  • 24-hour emergency assistance via a helpline
  • Repatriation of an insured traveller's body if they die

Some things are excluded

Pre-existing medical conditions

You’ll need to find a policy that covers any pre-existing medical conditions you have.

If you don’t tell an insurer about a pre-existing medical condition, it could invalidate your insurance meaning you’ll have to pay for your medical expenses and travel costs to get home yourself.

Drink and drug related illnesses and injuries

Insurers don't expect you to abstain while you're away. But, any accidents you have won’t be covered by your insurance if your judgement was impaired due to drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs.

Expats

Most standard insurance policies will only insure residents of the UK, so if you’re a British citizen living abroad, and want to come back to the UK if you get ill, or have your remains returned should you pass away, you’ll need to get international healthcare insurance.

Violent conduct

Violence related injuries also won’t be covered.

Why do I need repatriation insurance?

If you need to be transported home from abroad, it will cost a lot of money. It’s not just a replacement plane ticket, you could also need:

  • A medical escort
  • Medical equipment
  • A specialist air ambulance
  • Hospital stay medical expenses
  • Travel and accommodation costs for a companion

These costs may well run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Without repatriation cover, you’ll have to foot the bill yourself.

How does repatriation work?

Your case will be assessed by specialists to decide if and when you should be repatriated.

Whether you are or not depends on things including the medical resources of the country you’re in and how serious your condition is.

For example, if a country’s facilities are poor you could be repatriated. On the other hand, if you’re too unwell to travel, repatriation might not be possible.


Does an EHIC cover repatriation?

No, it doesn’t provide repatriation cover, so if anything happens you will have to deal with your own medical needs, and pay for transport back to the UK and any related expenses yourself.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is an essential piece of kit if you’re holidaying in the European Economic Area (EEA), as it means you can get the same level of healthcare as residents of the country you’re visiting.

Keep in mind not all countries in the EEA provide free healthcare either, so you’ll have to contribute to the cost of, or pay for all of your medical treatment if you don’t have travel insurance.

You can't use the EHIC outside of the EU. If you have worldwide travel insurance it'll cover the costs of heathcare and repatriation wherever you're travelling, usually up to a limit. You can find out what value of healthcare and repatriation cover you have in your policy docs, or the insurer will tell you.


Will Brexit affect repatriation cover?

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the EHIC won't be valid but it won’t impact the healthcare or repatriation cover in your travel insurance.

Regardless of where you go in the world, or whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal, your travel insurance policy will still cover repatriation costs up the value specified in your documents.

If you buy insurance after Brexit, and you’re concerned, contact the insurer to confirm how much and what repatriation cover you have.


Adventure breaks, extreme winter sports and repatriation cover

If you’re planning on getting your skis on, rock climbing, or riding a jet ski then you’ll need to search for a policy that covers these kinds of activities.

As there’s more chance of you getting hurt on an adventure holiday or doing winter sports, it’s important that you have adequate repatriation cover.


Repatriation of remains

People sometimes die while away from home, and their body needs to be brought back home. This is known as ‘repatriation of remains’, and should be covered under your insurance policy.

There might be a limit on how much an insurance company will contribute to repatriation of remains, so check the terms and conditions to see how much it will pay.

It’s also worth checking whether there are any limitations on the age of the policyholder, and keep in mind that an insurer will only pay out for pre-existing medical conditions, or if someone dies while doing a high-risk activity, that are covered under the policy.

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