Travel insurance – everything you need to know

Find out everything you need to know about travel insurance, from what you're covered for to what's excluded, what to do if you need to declare an illness to how you make a claim

happy couple travelling



Travelling abroad brings new and exciting experiences. And whether you’re jetting off to sunny beaches or sailing around the Atlantic, thoughtful planning and preparation is required.

By taking out a comprehensive, quality travel insurance policy, you'll have full peace of mind that you and your family are protected, whatever may happen. Leaving you to make the most out of your trip.

What does travel insurance cover?

Travel insurance covers you for inconvenient or stressful situations that can happen when abroad, such as theft of personal belongings or accidental injury. You can buy travel insurance to cover you and others for unexpected medical treatment expenses (including incidents of death) and unforeseen circumstances, such as cancellations.

Terms and conditions need to be fully understood before you buy cover to make sure you have the right policy for your trip. Different prices are available to help you find the right cover to match your travel needs. For example, if you're travelling abroad and have an illness, or if you're going away and taking part in extreme sports, your policy will need to cater to these.

Some insurers, including Admiral, offer separate travel insurance policies or upgrades for cruise insurance and winter sports holidays with specific terms designed to suit these travellers.

What does travel insurance not cover?

Every trip and every traveller is different, so varying circumstances apply, but as with any insurance policy, it's important that you read the terms carefully. Generally speaking, you won’t be covered if you break the terms in the policy or withhold vital information.

You're also not covered for deliberate, harmful or reckless acts, such as drinking excessive alcohol directly linked to injury or illness, contracting a sexually transmitted disease, or failing to wear necessary safety gear i.e. helmet.

How long am I covered for?

You can purchase ether a single or an annual multi trip policy. A single trip policy covers you for one return trip based on the dates you've selected. A single return trip can cover you for a maximum of 365 days i.e., if you travelled to one country on 1 January and returned home on 31 December that same year.

Annual multi trip policies cover you for as many trips as you like within a 365 day period, starting from the date selected in your schedule. Each trip must last a maximum of 31 days.

With Admiral, it's possible to extend this period at an extra cost and once your request has been approved by an expert, although this may vary with other insurers.

Which of my personal belongings are covered?

Items covered include:

  • cash
  • mobile phones
  • laptops
  • cameras
  • anything else of considerable value.

In the event of loss, theft or damage of these items, cover will be provided for up to the value stated in your policy. When making a claim for theft, you must report it to police or your transport operator. 

Make sure you clearly state the maximum value of your personal belongings so that you're appropriately covered. All receipts must be provided to prove each item's value and in order to compensate you properly.

Due to the complex nature of personal belongings claims, you'll need to pay excess on every item other than personal belongings delayed in transit. You won’t be covered for unattended personal items, including baggage, nor are you covered for valuables lost or stolen from a beach or swimming pool area.

Find out more about insuring your personal possessions for travel.

What to do if you have a pre-existing condition or illness

You must make it known to your insurer if you or any named people on your travel insurance policy have a pre-existing condition or illness. This ensures you have the right policy and are appropriately covered should medical treatment be required when abroad. You also need to make sure you're fully covered in the event of repatriation (return home) if further treatment is required and you need to come home early, or if you need to deal with the repatriation of a body in the event of a death.

If you don't make your insurer aware of health issues then you'll not be able to claim for any medical treatment or repatriation in relation to these known issues. Tell them if, in the last two years, you have received any form of medical treatment, advice or prescription from a doctor, are awaiting diagnosis, or are on a waiting list for inpatient treatment.

What are pre-existing conditions and illnesses?

These types of health issues include, but aren't exclusive to:

  • cancers
  • heart conditions i.e. angina
  • diabetes
  • strokes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • breathing conditions i.e. asthma
  • bone or joint conditions i.e. arthritis
  • anxiety and depression
  • terminal prognosis

If your circumstances change after you've bought travel insurance, you’ll need to let your insurer know so they can adjust your policy to fit your needs. You're not covered if you fail to take any required medications or inoculations, nor if you've been told not to travel by a medical professional. You can also make a claim to cancel your trip provided it is before the date of travel.

What happens if there is a medical emergency or repatriation?

You may find yourself in a situation where you need emergency medical care. If this happens, you need to contact your insurer emergency assistance service at once. They will answer your questions and advise on appropriate care.

You must also tell them if you need to cut your trip short due to a medical emergency, and do so before you act on these arrangements. The emergency assistance service will also confirm what expenses are covered in your policy. For example, you may need cover for travel and accommodation expenses, such as a new return ticket home if you're unable to use your current ticket due to emergency medical treatment.

Depending on the limit of cover stated on your policy, your insurer will cover costs for emergency medical services. Emergency medical cover includes surgical and hospital treatment for injury, illness, quarantine, or at worst, death, as well as the cost of ambulance transport.

At the time of writing, before a decision has been made on Brexit, the UK has reciprocal health agreements with other countries. It's very important that you seek medical treatment in a place that accepts these, for example, the GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) or Medicare in Australia.

Not only will you avoid paying excess with these agreements, but it will also make process easier and swifter if you find yourself in a medical emergency.

Making a claim for emergency medical and travel expenses abroad Make sure you contact you insurer’s emergency assistance service within 24 hours if:

  • You need to go to hospital as an inpatient
  • The doctor treating you says you need tests or treatment as an outpatient
  • You need to return to the UK or extend your trip because of a medical emergency
  • All receipts of expenses such as accommodation, meals and phone calls must be kept. It's also important that you follow the advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, as well as your doctor.

Sports and leisure activities

Sporty folk will be pleased to know that the majority of activities are covered under Admiral insurance policies as standard.

Anything considered dangerous or hazardous, however, will not be covered unless agreed by us.

The following activities aren't covered under Admiral's standard travel insurance:

  • Abseiling
  • Dinghy sailing
  • Elephant riding/trekking
  • Fencing
  • Go-karting
  • Bungee jumping
  • Camel riding
  • Hockey
  • Clay pigeon shooting
  • Jet boating/skiing
  • Kite surfing
  • Motorcycling

Special conditions are also set out for cover for scuba diving, in that you must hold a British Sub Aqua Club (B.A.S.C.) or equivalent and use properly functioning equipment.

Hazardous activities, such as assault courses, shark diving and coasteering, require additional cover, which you’ll need to purchase on top of your travel insurance policy. But be aware that no hazardous activities are covered under the Personal Accident & Personal liability section.

Visit our policy guide for a full A to Z of what sports you are and are not covered for. And check out our guide to 13 amazing destinations around the world for adventure sports.

Winter sports

Throwing yourself down a mountain – even if you are attached to a pair of skiis or a board – is more dangerous than your standard pool-side break. For that reason, cover may not be included as standard.

As with many insurers, Admiral offers winter sports cover as an additional extra – you can add this cover onto your policy at any time.

Policy holders under the age of 65 are covered for some snow sports, except for ski-doos/ski mobiles and luges on the snow or ice. Any off-piste activities must be within ski patrol guidelines and accompanied by a qualified instructor.

Winter sports equipment including your ski pass is also covered from £500 to £1,000 depending on the premium you choose. Unforeseen slope closures, avalanches/landslides and ski hire is also covered.

Find out more about what you're covered for with our winter sports upgrade.

Changes and cancellations

Any changes to your trip need to be recorded and shared with your insurer so you can guarantee you are fully covered. Changes such as travel dates, adding additional travellers to the policy, informing them of medical conditions, or planning for a hazardous activity, must be brought to the insurer’s attention.

You're covered if you have to cancel your own trip or cut your trip short due to unforeseen or extreme circumstances, including death or illness of you or your travel companion, court cases or home damage. There are certain terms which apply, so make sure you understand these fully.

You're not covered for all cancellations, for example, if you fail to have the correct passport or visa, if the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office have advised against travel to that country, or if you or any of your travel companions are deemed unfit for travel. Cover for cancellation by yourself is valid from the date that you purchased the travel insurance.

Getting ready before you go

It's important to tell your insurer about any ailments or health conditions that you have before you travel so they can provide the best policy to suit your needs. If you don’t notify your insurer of any health issues before you go away, you will struggle when you come to make a claim.

Eligibility for travel insurance

You must be a permanent resident of the UK and registered with a GP or medical practitioner to take out a travel insurance policy. Your trip must constitute leaving and returning to the UK and you must have no knowledge or reason to believe that your trip will be cancelled or cut short. If you are unsure of your eligibility, speak to one of our team.