What does travel insurance cover?

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Fact checked.
March 13, 2024

In a nutshell

Travel insurance can cover a wide range of things you can personalise for your trip – but the essentials are medical bills and getting you home if there’s been an accident, any holiday cancellations, lost or stolen luggage and personal items and any legal costs to cover accidents involving other people or their property. logo

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Booking a trip away? Good to hear – we’re sure it’s a well deserved break. Travel insurance is essential for your holiday – here’s what it covers and how to get the best deal for you.

Why get travel insurance?

You might think you’re invincible and will never get injured on holiday, or even that bad things only happen to other people. But accidents and bad luck happen to everyone, and it’s not worth the risk travelling without insurance.

If you do have an accident, you could be looking at huge medical bills – from £1,000s to £100,000+. Holidays themselves are expensive too, and if it gets cancelled you'll be out of pocket too. Plus you might need to pay for legal costs if you get into an accident with someone else. So, having the correct insurance in place could save you a small fortune if something bad happens while you are away. We’ll run through everything travel insurance covers below.

Nuts About Money tip: you might have travel insurance already, as part of a deal with your bank account. If you pay a monthly fee, it might be included. It’s worth checking, and checking the level of cover – you might save some cash.

Do I need travel insurance

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What does travel insurance cover?

Travel insurance can cover quite a few things – not just your medical bills. And, there’s lots of optional extras too. Here’s what to look for in travel insurance as part of a travel insurance policy (a policy is simply what the insurance covers).

What does travel insurance cover?

Here’s what you can get cover for as part of a travel insurance policy (a policy is simply what the insurance covers).

Essential cover

Here’s the essentials that every travel insurance policy should cover:

  • Medical bills
  • Getting you home
  • Holiday cancellation
  • Missed departures and delays
  • Lost luggage and personal belongings
  • Damage to property or injury to someone else (personal liability cover)

Travel insurance will even cover you for things before you leave too. For example, if you are made redundant (so might not be able to afford the holiday), if you need to do jury duty, if your home has been burgled or there’s been a fire or flood shortly before you are due to leave (so don’t travel).

It also covers recent bereavement of a close family member (if you don’t want to go anymore), and if there’s official changes to your destination status, such as if it’s been classed as unsafe to travel by the government.

Recommended additional cover

Here’s what we recommend you include in your travel insurance policy:

  • Emergency dental care
  • Cash and cash equivalents (e.g. pre-paid tickets)
  • Lost passport
  • Terrorism (not a joke)

Specialist cover

Here’s what cover you’ll need if you’re doing specific activities:

  • Winter sports cover
  • Extreme sports cover
  • Adventure sports cover
  • And more cover, specific to your holiday

What travel insurance doesn’t cover

There’s a few things to mention here, that won’t be covered in any travel insurance policy:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions that haven’t been shared with the insurer
  • Existing knowledge of an illness of a close relative (that has now stopped you travelling)
  • Medical treatment from an injury or illness while being drunk, or after having taken drugs
  • Airline strikes and other strikes that have been already been announced

Nuts About Money tip: always be honest when taking out travel insurance – the insurer won’t pay out if they find out something wasn’t true, such as if you end up in hospital but have pre-existing medical conditions. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Pre-existing medical condition

If you want to learn more about this, we’ve got a guide to what travel insurance does not cover.

Medical cover

Medical cover is the main part of all travel insurance policies. Unfortunately, unlike the UK, emergency medical expenses aren’t free when you need them abroad. And they’re very expensive!

If you broke your leg from an accident or a fall abroad, you’re looking at around £15,000. And if you need any surgery, expect to pay £30,000+ 

And the longer you stay in hospital, the more expensive it gets. If you get a serious infection in the USA, expect to up to and even above £100,000.

Medical cover

The figures can be nuts! But they can be avoided. Travel insurance can cover all of your medical bills, so you don’t have to worry about the cost and just concentrate on getting better.

Alongside the actual medical bills, travel insurance will normally cover any ambulance assistance and any hospital admin fees. Pretty much anything and everything can be covered.

It will normally cover you to get home too, if you can’t use your booked ticket home. This is called repatriation. But on top of that, it can even cover the costs (accommodation and flights) for a friend or family member to stay with you and travel back.

Note: if you are drunk when you require medical attention, your insurer will normally not pay out. So watch out when you’re drinking!

Trip cancellation cover

Cancellations are also normally included in a standard policy. This means if your trip, or holiday, is cancelled for reasons outside of your control, you’ll be compensated. However, you can’t simply cancel your trip yourself if you decide to not go. 

Trip cancellation cover

Common reasons for cancellations include:

  • An injury or illness, either yourself or a close family member
  • The loss of a close family member
  • Attending court either as a witness or part of jury service
  • Losing your job (redundancy)

Note: if you have a pre-existing medical condition and you didn’t declare it, but need to cancel your trip because of it, you won’t be covered.

With flights, if they’re delayed or cancelled it can normally be the airline refunding you the cost or rearranging your flights. However, if it’s more than 24 hours, your travel insurance should pay up if the airline doesn’t.

And for the whole trip cancellation, you should be reimbursed for the total cost of your trip, including flights, or up to the amount specified in the policy (e.g. up to £4,000).

Lost luggage and personal belongings cover

You’ll normally be able to claim back the cost of your luggage and any personal items you have with you when you’re travelling, if you lose them, or they’ve been stolen.

However, there’s typically a limit on how much you’ll get back in compensation – which you’ll specify when you take out the policy. There’s actually two limits, the total value of all your belongings, and the limit on one single item.

A reasonable figure on travel insurance policies to cover most people is around £5,000. However, if you’re travelling with more expensive items, then simply adjust this limit when you compare deals and get the insurance (we’ll cover how to get travel insurance below).

If you’re travelling with very expensive items, such as gadgets (e.g. film cameras), you can get specific gadget insurance to cover them separately.

Note: you probably won’t be covered if you’ve left your belongings unattended or not stored safely – for instance leaving your phone by the pool when you go swimming.

Passport cover

Your passport is also covered as standard is most insurance policies, so you’ll be compensated for the cost of replacing it if you lose it.

Passport cover

Personal liability cover

This is cover for you, if you accidentally injure another person, or damage someone’s property. You can think of it as legal protection if they decide to try and sue you to claim compensation.

With some insurance policies, this applies the other way too – so you can get legal assistance to claim compensation if you get injured in an accident.

However, if any accident is your fault, you most likely won’t get any cover. And, if you settle any claim (pay the other person personally), you won’t be covered – you’ll need contact your insurance company and let them handle everything.

Sports cover

If you're a bit of an adrenaline junkie and you’re going on a winter or extreme sports holiday, for instance skiing, or for any sporting event, such as an ironman event or cycling holiday, you’ll normally need specialist cover, rather than using a standard travel insurance policy.

This is because the risk of injury and accidents is much higher, and the costs of medical expenses and emergency transport can be much higher too – for instance, an air ambulance on a ski slope.

Plus, you’ll normally be using expensive equipment (e.g. skis, golf clubs, a high-spec bike), and the insurance will normally cover replacing these if they’re lost or stolen too.

It can be cheaper (or higher limits) to get specific cover for the event or sport you’re doing, rather than a policy that covers every sport or activity – which can be very expensive. 


Unfortunately Covid-19 is still here, however most travel insurance policies cover almost everything to do with it now (for instance not being able to travel). But, it can vary across insurance providers, so it’s a good idea to check the ‘exclusions’ list of the policy to see what’s not covered.

Travel insurance excess

With travel insurance, you’ll typically have an excess included as part of your policy. This is how much cash you’ll have to pay out yourself if you want to make a claim (a claim is asking the insurance provider to pay out if there’s been an accident). It’s in place to stop fraud and to stop people claiming low amounts.

Travel insurance excess

The excess is normally around £150-200, but this can change depending on the policy, and you can normally adjust this yourself too – putting a lower excess will increase your premium (how much you pay for the insurance), and a higher excess reducing your premium.

Excess amount

How to get travel insurance

Although travel insurance sounds quite complicated (and it is), the good news is that it’s pretty easy to get. You can get a quote and be covered in under 10 minutes. And here’s how.

The first thing you need to do is work out what type of cover you need. Is it just the essentials? Or will you be doing extreme sports or taking high value items?

After that, simply head over to a comparison site (we’ve got the best below), and fill out a few details about yourself and the cover you’re after. They’ll get to work, and in just a few seconds, you’ll have a list of all the insurance companies happy to cover you, and the details of each cover.

Choose one you’re happy with (normally the cheapest of the options that suit your circumstances), and then you’ll be taken to the insurers website, normally with all your details pre-filled. Have a check over them, and buy the insurance. As simple as that.

How to get travel insurance

Afterwards, you’ll get your insurance documents emailed to you, and normally an online account opened with your documents saved. It’s a good idea to print these off, or save them to your phone, so they’re handy if you need them while you’re away.

Best travel insurance comparison sites

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Best overall

This normally has the cheapest travel insurance quote for most people. will compare up to 40 travel insurance companies (and all the largest companies).

They'll cover all the main types of insurance (e.g. pre-existing medical conditions, winter sports etc).

You can get a quote in just a few minutes too.

Learn more

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Meerkat Meals

Compare The Market will search 42 travel insurance companies to find you the right deal.

They'll cover all the main types of insurance (e.g. pre-existing medical conditions, winter sports etc.)

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Quick quote


MoneySuperMarket compares 35 travel insurance companies to find a great deal for you.

They'll cover all the main types of insurance (e.g. pre-existing medical conditions, winter sports etc.)

Learn more

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How to claim

Remember we mentioned taking your insurance documents on your trip with you? This is just in case you need to claim – you’ll have everything at hand when you need it.

To actually make a claim, there will be a phone number on your documents, simply call this, and you’ll connect with the insurance company directly who will guide you through everything you need to do. They’re prepared for any accident or incident, and have gone through it lots of times before.

You can wait until you get home, but make sure you call as soon as you can, as there will be a time limit on when you can claim.

Let’s recap

Travel insurance covers a wide range of things – all suited to different people and different trips, however they should all cover the essentials, which are emergency medical costs (the cost limit can vary between providers), getting you home, your luggage and items and holiday cancellations. 

Plus, personal liability cover if you have any accidents involving other people or their property (legal costs).

If you need anything else, you can add it, and you’ll need specialist insurance (extra cover) for things like winter sports (skiing) and sports holidays.

Insurance cover is completely different for each person and each trip, so it’s a good idea to get a quote personalised just for you, which you can do with an insurance comparison site, such as Confused.com¹. It can only take a few minutes, and you’ll be covered straight away if you get it.

Remember, it's a good idea to get cover as soon as you book your trip so you’ll have peace of mind that if anyone goes wrong soon after, you’ll get your money back.

And that’s all there is to travel insurance cover – enjoy your trip!

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This article was written by the team at Nuts About Money, and fact-checked by 2 independent reviewers. You’re in safe hands.

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