Schengen travel insurance

Abbie Laughton-Coles
Abbie Laughton-Coles
Updated 4 October 2022  | 5 mins read

Over half the countries in Europe make up the Schengen area, so chances are you’ll enter it during your next holiday on the continent.

Luckily, we’ve got all the information you need for your trip.

Key points

  • Travel insurance isn’t a legal requirement to enter the Schengen area for UK nationals, but it’s recommended
  • A GHIC or EHIC can give you access to emergency state healthcare at the same rate as a local. However, it isn’t a replacement for travel insurance
  • You’re able to visit the Schengen area for up to 90 days within a 180-day time period - longer than this and you’ll need a visa

What is the Schengen area?

The Schengen area is a group of 26 European countries, 22 of which are members of the European Union (EU), that have eliminated common borders and allow free movement for people, goods and services.

If you enter one of the countries within the Schengen area, you’re then able to travel between the rest of the member countries without border control.

What countries are in the Schengen Agreement?

The Schengen area consists of:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Do I need a visa to travel to the Schengen area?

If you hold a UK passport, you can visit the Schengen area for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa. Every country that you visit in the Schengen area during this time period will count towards your 90-day limit.

Those that plan to visit for longer than 90 days will need to apply for a visa.

How do I get a visa for travelling to the Schengen area?

A long-stay visa will be required if you’re staying in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days within a 180-day period.

The requirements for your visa will depend on where you’ll be staying during this time. You should apply to the consulate or embassy within the UK of the country you’ll be visiting.

You may be required to apply for a Schengen visa if you’re a UK resident, but don’t hold a UK passport. For example, if you’re working or studying in the UK but hold a passport from a different country.

Do I need travel insurance for the Schengen area?

It’s not a legal requirement for UK citizens to have travel insurance when visiting the Schengen area, but it’s recommended.

The right policy will cover you if you have a medical issue while on holiday, and for things like your baggage being stolen or if you have to fly home early because of an emergency.

Pre-existing conditions and insurance

It’s vital that you let your insurer know about any pre-existing medical conditions when you apply for travel insurance.

If you don’t and have to claim during your trip for a medical emergency that’s a result of your pre-existing condition, you won’t be covered.

It’s likely you’ll be able to find a policy that will cover your medical requirements, however, it may be more expensive than a standard policy.

If you have a serious condition, you may need to find a specialist policy. If you’re struggling to find an insurer that will cover you, you can check out the travel insurance directory from MoneyHelper.

How much travel insurance cover do I need to visit the Schengen area?

The level of cover you need will depend on your personal circumstances and what you intend to do on your trip. It will also dictate the price of your premium, for instance, purchasing add-ons for extreme sports and having a pre-existing condition will mean the price of your policy increases.

If you need a long-term visa to reside in the Schengen area for a prolonged period, you’re required to have medical insurance that covers you for a minimum of €30,000. It should cover any country within the Schengen area, and offer cover for medical assistance, and emergency treatment.

What’s covered by travel insurance for European countries?

Most standard European travel insurance policies will cover you for:

  • Medical cover and hospital expenses for up to £5 million
  • Baggage that’s lost, stolen or damaged
  • Cancellation or curtailment of your trip
  • Repatriation to receive ongoing medical treatment in the UK
  • Flight delays
  • Personal liability
  • Loss or theft of passports and travel documents

What isn’t covered by a European travel insurance policy?

You should be aware that most policies will exclude:

  • Theft of baggage or belongings that were left unattended
  • Travelling against government advice
  • Any incidents that occurred while you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Acts of terrorism (this could potentially be an add-on to your policy)
  • Medical treatment required for pre-existing conditions you failed to declare
  • Taking part in high-risk activities without the appropriate policy add-on, for example, skiing or bungee jumping
  • Delayed or cancelled flights due to scheduled strikes or industrial action

It’s important to read the terms and conditions of a policy before you purchase so you can see exactly what you’re covered for.

How much does travel insurance cost for countries in the Schengen area?

The cost of your travel insurance policy is calculated based on your personal information, so there’s no one size fits all pricing system.

The insurer will consider the following when calculating your premium:

  • Your age
  • Any pre-existing conditions
  • Where you’re going
  • How long for
  • Whether you intend to take part in any high-risk activities (what is covered as standard will differ between insurers)
  • If you’re taking out a multi-trip policy, do you need a worldwide policy that includes the USA, Canada and the Caribbean?
  • Are you purchasing policy add-ons?

What should I do if I have a medical issue while in the Schengen area?

If you have a medical emergency and have packed your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or General Health Insurance Card (GHIC), then you’ll be entitled to receive healthcare at a state-run hospital at the same rate as a local citizen. This means it will likely be at a discounted rate or free (depending on where you are).

If you have to claim on your travel insurance for your medical treatment, you must contact your insurer to raise a claim. If you can, talk to them before you receive the treatment to have it signed off.

You may need to pay and then claim back what you spend, depending on the policy. Always keep any receipts or documents you receive.

Details of how to contact your insurer’s helpline will be in your policy documents, so make sure you have the emergency phone numbers you need while you’re on holiday.