Travel insurance for heart conditions

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 22 March 2022  | 5 mins read

Having a heart condition needn’t hold you back if you want to take a holiday.

And if you buy travel insurance that covers your heart condition, you can relax in the knowledge that, if something happens, the medical care you need will be paid for.

Plus, a suitable policy will reimburse you financially if your heart condition means you have to cancel or cut short your trip.

Protecting yourself can give you peace of mind, so you can unwind and enjoy a restful break.

Key points

  • It can be challenging to find travel insurance with a heart condition, but there are plenty of companies that can insure you
  • Travel insurance with a heart condition is likely to be more expensive than a standard policy
  • Always inform your insurer about your heart condition, or you won’t be covered for any claims related to it
  • Check with your GP and medical team if it’s safe for you to fly before booking a holiday

Can I get travel insurance with a heart condition?

Finding travel insurance when you have a heart condition can be challenging.

Some travel insurance providers won’t cover people with heart conditions at all. But as long as you’re not travelling against the advice of a medical practitioner, there are companies that will consider you.

Look for insurers that include cover for pre-existing conditions and check if yours is included in their cover. Or search out specialist providers who offer policies for more serious conditions. Then compare cover to find the best insurance for your particular needs.

Bear in mind that it’s likely that travel insurance premiums will be higher because of your heart condition.

How will my health affect my travel insurance?

All travel insurers will ask if you have any pre-existing conditions before they offer you a quote.

Pre-existing conditions include things like high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and psychological conditions like depression, as well as heart conditions - everything from angina to heart failure.

You’ll need to declare your heart condition whether you’ve been recently diagnosed and are waiting for or receiving treatment, or if you’ve been diagnosed in the past and have recovered.

Some insurers refuse to cover certain pre-existing conditions. Others will provide cover but charge extra for it. Or they may offer to cover you but exclude your particular condition from the cover.

Depending on how serious your heart condition is, you may need to look for a specialist provider - one that is accustomed to insuring people with more complex medical needs.

The government’s MoneyHelper service has launched a directory of insurance providers to help you find one.

Does travel insurance cover for heart conditions cost more?

Cover for certain serious pre-existing conditions can be expensive. That’s because, with a heart condition, insurers deem you more likely to have to make a claim while you’re away.

But it’s important you declare all your medical issues to your insurer.

If you don’t, they’ll be unlikely to pay out for claims related to your health conditions such as hospital expenses or having to cancel your trip.

If you fall ill abroad and need hospital treatment for your heart condition, or if you need repatriation to the UK, it can cost tens of thousands of pounds. So getting the right cover is essential.

Which heart conditions can travel insurance cover?

You’ll need to check individual policies, but travel insurance can cover a wide variety of heart conditions, including:

  • Angina
  • Arrhythmia
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Heart attack
  • Heart bypass
  • Heart failure
  • Heart diseases

Is standard travel insurance enough?

Most policies won’t cover heart conditions as standard. To be protected against every eventuality relating to your heart condition, you’ll need to find a policy that accepts people with your medical condition.

Even if you feel well and your condition is stable, it’s not worth taking the chance and relying on a standard travel insurance policy.

If you did happen to fall ill on your travels, you could face having to fork out for some hefty bills.

Is a heart attack classified as a pre-existing condition in insurance?

Yes, if you’ve had a heart attack recently, or even if you had one a while ago but since made a full recovery, you need to let your insurer know about it as a pre-existing condition.

What is covered by heart condition travel insurance?

Travel insurance for people with heart conditions covers the same things as a standard policy, which includes:

  • Medical expenses - cover for emergency treatment and accessing private healthcare
  • Repatriation - the cost of transporting you back to the UK because of your health
  • Personal liability
  • Delays and cancellation
  • Lost or delayed luggage
  • Theft or loss of personal possessions
  • Covid-19 - cover when Covid-19 affects your travel plans

Importantly, though, travel insurance for heart conditions will pay for any expenses that arise due to your medical condition - costs that could mount up to tens of thousands of pounds. Without this cover in place, you’d have to pay the costs yourself.

So, if for example you experience chest pains and are admitted to hospital on your holiday, the cost of treatment would be covered. Likewise, if you must return home because of your health, or if you miss your return transport because you’re receiving treatment for your heart condition, then your insurer will pay for that.

You’re also covered if your condition flares up and you have to cancel or cut short your trip.

If you failed to disclose your heart condition to your travel insurance company - or if you chose to exclude it from your cover - then all related costs would be yours to pay.

What happens if I need medical treatment abroad?

Your insurance policy booklet will let you know exactly what to do if you need to access medical treatment.

But usually, the following applies:

In an emergency:

  • If you’re taken to a hospital by the emergency services, let the hospital know you have travel insurance in place
  • As soon as possible (usually within 24 or 48 hours) you or someone you’re travelling with should notify your insurance company on their emergency assistance helpline
  • If your medical emergency bill comes to more than a certain amount, your insurance company will usually settle the bill directly with the hospital
  • If you have to cut short your trip or require repatriation to the UK, you should let your insurer know so they can authorise the associated costs

For non-urgent medical help:

  • Some insurers ask that you contact them first if you need to see a doctor or want to visit an A&E department in a hospital, so they can help you locate the most appropriate treatment
  • In most cases, you can pay for non-urgent outpatient treatment yourself and make a claim when you return home (providing you have receipts)

Will my GHIC card cover my condition?

A Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) gets you free or reduced cost state-funded healthcare in the European Union (EU). It’s replacing the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but your current EHIC remains valid until its expiry date. You can apply for a new card on the NHS website.

A GHIC/EHIC card isn’t a replacement for travel insurance - it won't cover any private healthcare or pay for repatriation back to the UK if your heart condition necessitates that.

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.

What might I be asked when applying for travel insurance?

When you declare a pre-existing condition, you’ll be asked a set of questions about your health. This helps the insurer determine the risk and therefore the price they’ll charge you.

You can expect questions like:

  • How long ago did your symptoms start?
  • How your condition has been treated
  • How short of breath you get, and if you have tightness or pain, when walking on the flat for a short distance
  • If you’ve ever been a smoker
  • If you’ve had a heart bypass, angioplasty or coronary stent
  • If you have an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation)
  • If you’ve had a heart attack and if so, how many
  • What medication you’re taking
  • A list of all your medical conditions

It’s important you answer all the questions honestly and accurately to the best of your knowledge so that the insurance company has all the relevant information in the event of a claim.

How can I safely travel with a heart condition?

Firstly, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your travel plans and what you intend to do on holiday. They can then advise if you’re well enough to take part in the activities you plan to do.

Be aware that very hot and cold climates or high-altitude destinations can put extra stress on your heart, so you might want to consider this when choosing your holiday.

If you have a pacemaker or ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator):

  • Carry your device identification card with you to show to airport security staff
  • Depending on the airport, they may direct you to the full security body scanner. This won’t harm your device but may set off the metal detector alarms 
  • If a hand-held security wand is used - tell the security officer where your device is so they don’t hold the wand over it

Sort out your medication well in advance

  • You’ll need enough for the trip, plus extra in case you lose some or it’s stolen
  • Take a full list of your prescribed medicine away with you in case you need to get hold of more
  • It’s also worth checking that your medication isn’t restricted in the country you’re travelling to - your GP might be able to help with this, or you can check with the country’s embassy about their rules

You can be at risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when you fly long-haul with a heart condition

  • Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol
  • Get up and take a short walk every hour
  • Rotate your ankles and stretch your legs in your seat every now and then, too

Sort out travel insurance that covers your heart condition

  • Do this as soon as you book or start paying for your trip. That way you’ll be covered if your heart condition flares up before you go away and you have to cancel under doctor’s orders

When can I fly after having a heart attack?

You should always ask your own doctor for advice on when it’s safe for you to fly.

According to the NHS website:

  • The British Cardiovascular Society says that people who are at very low risk of having another heart attack could fly as little as three days after having one, while the UK Civil Aviation Authority recommends that people at very low risk can fly seven to ten days afterwards
  • You’re considered very low risk if this was your first heart attack, you’re under 65 and you have no complications or further treatment planned
  • Those over 65, or people who’ve had more than one heart attack, are more likely to have another one. But if you have no symptoms and no further treatment is planned, you're considered medium risk and the Civil Aviation Authority says you may fly from ten days after your heart attack
  • If you have further treatment planned and have signs of heart failure, you should wait until your condition stabilises before flying

These are just very general guidelines, though, and your own medical team can offer advice based on your personal circumstances. Remember, you should never fly against their advice - it will invalidate your insurance.

Check with your insurance company and tour operator, too, as they may have their own rules and regulations about travelling after a heart attack.

Can I get travel insurance for children with heart conditions?

Yes, a child with a heart condition can be covered by travel insurance. You need to declare their condition when you take out a policy, whether on an individual or family travel insurance policy.

If you’re travelling with a child with a heart condition and you have separate policies, you may have to declare the child’s condition on your own insurance policy. That’s because, if you have to cancel or cut short your trip because of your child’s heart condition, then you should be covered. Check with your insurer.