What does travel insurance NOT cover?

Christopher Dowling
May 19, 2024

In a nutshell

The key things travel insurance does not cover are a pre-existing medical condition (if not shared beforehand), luggage and personal items left unattended, any accidents if you’ve been drinking excessively, or medical tourism (explained below). And it won’t cover any cancellations if you simply decide not to go, if there’s bad weather, or any strikes known beforehand. logo

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Familiar with travel insurance, but not quite sure exactly what’s not covered? Let’s run through what it doesn't cover – and to make it clearer, what travel insurance does cover below.

What travel insurance does not cover

Let’s get straight into it, here’s what travel insurance doesn’t cover on any travel insurance policy:

  • Does not cover unattended luggage or any personal items not left securely (if stolen).
  • Does not cover any pre-existing medical conditions that haven’t been shared to the insurer beforehand.
  • Does not cover anything related to the illness of a close relative if you had pre-existing knowledge of it (e.g. your holiday was cancelled as a result of their illness).
  • Does not cover you if you’ve been drinking alcohol excessively (or have taken drugs) and you have an accident or injury.
  • Does not cover you if you’re doing anything illegal, for instance driving without a licence.
  • Does not cover you if you’re travelling for a medical reason (e.g. a nose job) and need care after (called medical tourism).
  • Does not cover you if there’s already been a strike announcement and you book afterwards (e.g. if an airline strike is public knowledge).
  • Does not cover you if you decide to not go on your trip.
  • Does not cover you if the weather turns bad and you don’t go, or return home early.
What does travel insurance NOT cover?

Here’s what won’t be normally be covered as ‘standard’, you’ll need extra cover, or specialist insurance:

  • Winter sports (skiing) and extreme sports (e.g. bungee jumping). Normally even jet skiing is not covered.
  • Any care you need for a pregnancy, If you’re already pregnant when booking.

What travel insurance does cover

Now here’s the important bit, travel insurance is often personalised for you, and your trip – not everything, and in fact, most things, are not included as ‘standard’ – you’ll need to add them to your policy (what your travel insurance will cover) as additional cover, called an add-on or extra.

Or, sometimes, depending on what you’re doing on your trip (such as extreme sports or even a golf holiday), you’ll need specialist insurance to cover you and your items (equipment).

Anyway, here’s what normally comes as standard, and we’ll run through the extras below.

Essential cover

What should come as standard with every travel insurance policy.

  • Medical bills (emergency medical expenses)
  • Holiday cancellation
  • Getting you home if you’ve had an accident or cancellation
  • Missed departures and delays (out of your control)
  • Lost or stolen luggage and personal belongings
  • Damage to property or injury to someone else (personal liability cover)
What does travel insurance cover?

On top of that, you’ll normally be covered for things before you leave for your trip, for instance, if you’re unable to go on your trip because you’ve been made redundant (so can’t afford to travel anymore), if you need to do jury duty, or if your home is burgled, or damaged by a fire or flood.

Plus, there’s cover if you don’t travel because of a family bereavement, or an official change in the status of the destination (e.g. the government says don’t travel there).

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Recommended extras

Here’s what cover we think is important to include on all travel insurance policies.

  • Emergency dental care
  • Cash and cash equivalents (e.g. pre-paid tickets)
  • Lost passport
  • Terrorism (we're being serious)

Specialist cover

If you’re doing specific activities, you’ll either need a specialist insurance policy, or a specialist add on. Here’s the most common.

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

Covid-19 cover

With most travel insurance policies, you’re normally covered for Covid-19 affecting your trip, such as stopping you going, or if you need medical treatment or to extend your trip. This is often called ‘covid cover’.

However, the level of cover can sometimes vary, and can range from just cancellations covered to everything covered. The best way to find out about a certain travel insurance policy is to look at the ‘exclusions’ list when you’re getting a quote. This is an easy way to see what’s not covered.

How to get travel insurance

Heading on a trip? Here’s the best way to get travel insurance and find the best deal for you – it can only take 10 minutes too.

How to get travel insurance

There’s 3 easy steps:

  1. Determine the right level of cover
  2. Compare insurance quotes
  3. Buy and get covered

Let’s run through them.

Nuts About Money tip: you might already have travel insurance in place with your bank account (if you pay a monthly fee). It’s worth checking, and checking what the level of cover is – you could save money.

Do I need travel insurance?

Determine the right level of cover

The first thing to do is determine how much (or how little) cover you actually need. The more cover you have, the more expensive your insurance premium will be (how much you pay for your insurance).

So, you want exactly the right amount of cover so you’re not overpaying, but enough cover to cover everything you’ll be doing on your holiday.

It’s easier than you think, we’ve laid out the options above – do you just need the essentials? Or are you heading off to the ski slopes and looking for winter sports cover? It’s as simple as that – and don’t forget to estimate how much all your belongings are too (not sure how much? A reasonable amount to use is £7,500).

Compare insurance quotes

After you’ve determined how much cover you’ll need, next it’s over to comparing insurance companies to find the right deal for you. This bit is easy too. All you need to do is head over to an insurance comparison site, fill out your details and what type of cover you’re looking for.

After that, you’ll get a list of all the insurance companies that are suited to you, and then simply pick one that you like (most people often go for the cheapest of the short list – providing the cover is all similar).

Not sure what one to use? We’ve listed the best below. Start with the first, you’ll likely get the best deal, but if you’ve got more time, you could check them all out.

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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Get a travel insurance quote

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Visit Confused.com¹Visit Confused.com¹

Buy and get covered

And finally, simply click on the policy you’d like to purchase, you’ll normally be taken to the insurers website, with all the details pre-filled (so you don't need to enter them again). Double check everything is correct, and then buy – you’ll often be covered immediately.

Your insurance documents will be sent to your email address (your policy), and often an online account can be created, with your documents saved, so you can come back and check your insurance anytime.

We recommend printing out a copy if you can (and taking it with you on holiday), and save your documents to your phone too.

Travel insurance excess

With most travel insurance policies, you’ll typically have an excess. This is how much you’ll have to pay yourself if you want to make a claim. A claim is asking the insurance company to pay out. And the excess is in place to stop fraud and to stop people claiming low amounts.

Travel insurance excess

With travel insurance, this is typically around £150-200, but can be higher or lower depending on the travel insurance policy and provider. You can also adjust this yourself, and a higher excess will normally reduce your premium (how much you pay for the insurance), and a lower excess, increase your premium.

More info on specific cover

Want to learn a bit more about what travel insurance covers? Here’s the key parts of travel insurance.

Medical cover

The most important part of travel insurance is the medical cover – outside of the UK, you’ll probably have to pay for medical treatment, and often it’s very expensive. Especially if it’s an emergency.

As a rough guide to how much you might pay if you didn’t have insurance, breaking your leg could set you back with a £15,000 bill (ouch), and for any simple surgeries you’re looking at around £30,000.

And in the US it can get even more expensive – it can be up to £100,000 for a hospital stay, and sometime even more.

Medical cover

So, best to avoid the risk of any of these bills with the right travel insurance, you don’t need to worry about the cost of having any accidents.

Plus, insurance will cover getting you home too – even if you need medical assistance to travel. You’ll even be able to have a friend or family member stay and travel back with you (normally).

However, one big issue is that you’re not normally covered if you’ve had any accidents after you’ve been drinking (a lot), or under the influence of drugs. So take care when drinking.

Note: if you need medical treatment for pre-existing medical conditions, and haven’t shared these with the travel insurance company beforehand, it’s likely they won’t pay out. It’s always best to be up-front and honest when taking out insurance.

Pre-existing medical condition

Trip cancellation cover

Trip cancellations are another big part of travel insurance. You don’t want to be left paying the bill if you can no longer go on the trip!

If your trip is cancelled for any reason outside of your control, you’ll get your money back for the full cost of the holiday, or an amount up to the limit set in your policy (e.g. up to £5,000).

Trip cancellation cover

However, if you simply decide not to go, you won’t be compensated.

The most common reasons are:

  • 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)

If your flight is cancelled or delayed, it’s normally the airline that will rearrange your flights or refund you. Although your travel insurance will normally cover it if it’s over a 24 hour delay, and your airline hasn’t paid up.

If this means your whole trip is cancelled, the whole trip is normally covered by the travel insurance – up to the limit set in the policy (for instance up to £5,000).

Personal items cover

When it comes to your personal items, they’re typically covered on most travel insurance policies, if they’ve been lost or stolen.

However, they won’t be covered if you’ve left your items unattended, such as by the sunlounger while you’re swimming, or if they’re not stored safely (e.g. your luggage in a locked room).

There’s normally two limits as part of an insurance policy, which is the total cover for all of your items, and a limit on individual items.

So, if you are taking expensive individual items (e.g. expensive cameras), make sure you set a high enough limit, or take out specific insurance for them – such as gadget insurance.

Your passport can be covered too, although not always as standard – and this means that if you lose it, you’ll be compensated for the cost of replacing it. You can still get home if you can’t get a new passport in time, by using an emergency travel document.

Passport cover

Personal liability cover

If you have an accident that involves someone else, or their property (such as a car), personal liability cover is cover to compensate them, or resolve any issues legally.

This can also apply the other way around too – if you get injured or your property is damaged, and you want to make a claim against the other person for compensation.

The important thing is that it’s typically for accidents, if anything is your fault, normally you won’t be covered. And it’s best to let the insurance company handle everything – if you settle directly (e.g. agree compensation), the insurance company typically won’t pay out.

Sports cover

If you’re jetting off for some extreme sports fun, or even a golf holiday, it’s normally best to get specific cover for the sport or event – they’re normally not covered on a standard travel insurance policy.

You’ll need more specialist cover as extreme sports have a much higher risk of accidents happening, and the costs involved can be significant – e.g. bigger injuries, and more remote locations – so bigger, more expensive emergency medical bills.

And, you’ll typically be using more expensive equipment (e.g. golf clubs or skis), so you’ll need a higher level of cover if they’re lost or stolen.

If you’re doing a specific sporting event, or activity, you can also get cover specifically for that, rather than including it on your standard insurance policy. For instance, if you’re going on a cycling holiday, you can get cover specifically for cycling holidays – either in addition to your standard travel insurance, or as a replacement (depending on the level of cover it provides).

How to claim

If you do have an accident, or there’s an incident, you’ll of course want to claim, which is where the insurance company will pay out. And it couldn’t be simpler to do.

Hopefully you’ve taken your insurance documents with you, or saved them to your phone. There will be a number to call, simply call this, and the insurance company will take care of things from there – they’ll guide you through what you need to do. And don’t worry, they’ve handled everything before.

If you want until you get home to claim, call as soon as possible, as there can be a time limit on when you can claim.

Let’s recap

So, that’s it for what travel insurance doesn’t cover, and we touched on what it does cover too. If you want to learn more, here’s our guide to what travel insurance covers.

As a recap, here’s the key things travel insurance typically won’t cover:

  • Any luggage and personal items left unattended or not kept safe
  • Any pre-existing medical conditions, not shared beforehand
  • Any accidents if you’re under the influence of drink or drugs, or doing anything illegal
  • Medical tourism (e.g. travelling for cosmetic surgery and there’s complications)
  • Any strikes that were public knowledge when you booked
  • Cancellations if you simply don’t want to go anymore, or there’s bad weather

Getting travel insurance is super easy, and we recommend getting cover personalised for you and your trip – so you can be sure it covers everything you need, and all of your items. 

It's also important not to over protect yourself (get too much cover), otherwise you’ll end up paying more than you need to on insurance you don’t need.

It’s super easy to get, all you need to do is first get a rough idea of the cover you’ll need, e.g. just the essentials, or specialist cover for winter sports. Then compare insurance quotes using a comparison site – Confused.com¹ is a great option.

And finally, simply click through to the insurers site, your details should all be pre-filled, have a double check and then buy online. That’s all there is to it. All that’s left to do is enjoy your holiday!

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No items found.

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Visit Confused.com¹Visit Confused.com¹
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