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One-way travel insurance

Are you moving abroad, or travelling for an indeterminate amount of time? Find out if one-way travel insurance is the best policy for your trip.

Key points

  • One-way travel insurance may appeal to those emigrating, backpacking or leaving the country for a significant amount of time
  • If you're taken seruiously ill, some policies include repatriation cover that'll whisk you to your desired destination, not back home
  • Unlike multi-trip insurance, one-way cover stops when you reach your final destination

Calling all nomads! If you're moving to a new home overseas, or planned an adventure of a lifetime (and haven't booked a return trip) you can get one-way travel insurance to match your one-way ticket.

If any of the following applies to your trip, look into one of these policies before buying off-the-shelf travel insurance:

  • You haven’t booked a return ticket
  • You’re leaving the country for a significant amount of time
  • You’re planning a multi-week, one-way cruise
  • You’re an expat returning to your home country, but stopping off in a number of places on the way home

For those who wander but are not lost, it protects you between destinations too. For instance, if you head to Australia to work or live for extended periods of time, but have a passage to India or a stop off in Asia along the way. 

What does it cover?

In a nutshell, one-way insurance covers exactly the same things in standard travel insurance plans, with a few bonuses and exclusions.

One-way travel insurance covers:

  • Medical costs
  • Loss or theft of personal possessions (including travel tickets and currency)
  • Travel delays
  • Missed departures as a result of factors beyond travellers' control
  • Personal liability
  • Natural disasters and terrorism

As with other insurance plans, it's possible to add on additional cover for certain activities - ideal if you're planning on stopping off in South Africa for some shark-diving or hoping to mark to celebrate your arrival in New Zealand with a bungee jump off Auckland Bridge.

Benefits of one-way travel insurance

One-way travel insurance may take into account your final destination and that can be invaluable if you're emigrating, or planning a long stint elsewhere.

For instance, if you become seriously unwell on holiday, standard travel insurance will cover the cost of repatriation to the country you departed from, but with one-way travel insurance, you'll be repatriated to the country you're heading to.

Generally, you should look for a policy that provides at least £1m for personal liability and £2m for medical expenses in Europe and £5m worldwide

One-way travel policies do come with a time limit - cover lasts from the moment you begin your journey to when you arrive at your final destination, although it can be extended to cover a 'settling in' period once you arrive.

You'll also be able to submit a claim - whether it's for a flight delay, stolen luggage or medical costs - immediately, from whatever country you're in at that moment, rather than waiting until you've reached your final destination.

Don’t be caught out by exclusions

As for what's not covered, items being shipped separately - such as furniture to your final destination - will need an additional insurance plan.

They’ll usually cost between one and five per cent of the total value of the insured items, depending on the level of cover you opt for.

One-way travel insurance doesn't extend to four-legged friends, either. You'll need to obtain a separate insurance plan if you're paying a specialist company to ship any pets out to your final destination.

How does it differ from multi-trip insurance?

Unlike multi-trip insurance, one-way travel insurance only expires when you've reached your specific, nominated destination within the country you're moving or returning to.

Some insurers will also allow you to extend the end date, allowing you time to sort out insurance policies (such as medical cover) which will cover you in your new home, once your travels have come to an end.

"There's a danger with multi-trip insurance cover, if you're not intending to return to the country of origin, that an insurer may decline any claims made even if they fall within the dates of coverage,"  explains Dr Matthew Connell, Director of Policy and Public Relations at the Chartered Insurance Institute.

"The reason? If the insurer can find evidence that you intended to stay longer, it can show that this was a deliberate attempt to use travel insurance as a substitute for private medical insurance - not just emergency medical cover for someone travelling abroad."

Money matters

One-way travel insurance shouldn't cost more than standard travel insurance packages, but don't make the mistake of trying to save money by underestimating the potential cost of medical treatment, should you fall ill in any of the countries you travel through en-route to your new home.

That cheap-as-chips bronze package might look incredibly appealing, but skimping on certain aspects of cover - especially medical ones - is a false economy.

"It's so important not to underestimate the cost of medical care abroad when buying travel insurance," adds Dr Connell.

"Recent figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show how expensive claims for treatment abroad can be.

"In one case, the cost of treatment for a traveller who'd suffered a stroke came to £768,000."

So what amount of cover should you choose when it comes to one-way plans?

"Everyone’s insurance needs are different," points out Dr Connell.

"Generally, you should look for a policy that provides at least £1m for personal liability and £2m for medical expenses in Europe and £5m worldwide - this covers the potentially very expensive bill for emergency medical treatment should you become ill or injured, and also a flight home (or to the final destination) by air ambulance, if necessary."

Finally, when purchasing your one-way travel insurance, make sure you make it very clear that you require one-way insurance cover, not similar packages, such as multi-trip plans.

If you weren't born in the country you're departing from, it's also important to check that this won't affect your cover - some insurance providers will insist that you've been a resident for a set number of years.

By Tamara Hinson