Lifestyle Guides

When and why do you need to buy travel insurance?

Booked your next holiday? Don't wait to buy travel insurance


Holidays abroad rarely come cheap. With air fares and hotel room prices on the rise, it’s natural for cash-conscious travellers to look for opportunities to reduce the cost of their trips. Some assume that finding a cheap travel insurance policy, or not buying one at all, is a good way to save money on travel. After all, buying travel insurance isn’t mandatory – many people travel without it, particularly if they’ve got an EHIC and are travelling in Europe.

Last year, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) found that insurance was only significant concern for 2% of travellers. Most people spend more time worrying about getting to the airport, going through security or waiting for their luggage.

But this train of thought can be a costly one. The high costs of foreign medical care, replacing lost valuables or having to cancel your trip can all be mitigated if you’ve got the right insurance policy in place.

So, the short answer to when you need to buy travel insurance? Always. But if you’re looking for more specific information on the different circumstances when travel insurance is required, or advice on how to make sure you’re covered in every eventuality, we’ve got your back with this guide.

When to buy travel insurance

One common question that travellers ask is when they should arrange their insurance prior to travelling – should they buy it immediately, or wait until a better deal comes along?

The best advice we can offer is to buy your travel insurance on the same day you book your holiday. This doesn’t mean opting for the default insurance policy offered as an optional extra by your airline or tour operator. You can usually get better, more comprehensive cover by buying it separately.

The reason for arranging your insurance as soon as you book your holiday is simple: if something happens that means you need to cancel the trip, you’ll be covered. From illness to travel disruption, there are all kinds of reasons why a holiday might need to be cancelled. And by purchasing an insurance policy that comes with cancellation cover, you’ll have peace of mind that you won’t have to spend your savings on a trip that never happens.

Travel insurance for destinations in Europe

European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) have led to the common misconception that you don’t need travel insurance when visiting countries in Europe. While it’s true that some countries in the European Union offer free healthcare to UK travellers who present a valid EHIC, this isn’t the case everywhere.

Your EHIC only entitles you to the level of state-provided care that locals receive in the country you’re visiting. Not all European medical systems work like the UK’s; some will require you to pay towards the cost of your care. You can check medical care costs for the country you’re visiting via the NHS’s country-by-country guide.

Regardless of whether you have an EHIC, you will not be covered for the cost of piste rescue in ski resorts, or being flown back to the UK due to illness or a medical emergency. And by solely relying on your EHIC, you’ll also miss out on cover for cancelled or shortened holidays, not to mention lost belongings. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you possess both an EHIC and an appropriate travel insurance policy before travelling abroad in Europe.

Travel insurance and medical conditions

If you have a pre-existing medical condition and are planning on travelling, it’s even more important to get your insurance sorted as soon as possible. Should one of your pre-existing medical condition be exacerbated, you may need medical care whilst away or even cancel your holiday before travelling…

Be entirely honest with your insurer when telling them about your pre-existing medical condition. If you need to make a claim and they find out that you haven’t been truthful about the state of your health, your cover may be invalidated, and you will have to pay for your care yourself. No matter how minor your condition is, declaring it ahead of the holiday will help you to avoid potentially sky-high medical fees further down the line.

Most reputable insurers offer medical screening to help you find out whether a condition will affect your travel insurance. At Admiral, we conduct our medical screening by telephone and online through our quote process. 

Winter sports, golf and cruise travel insurance

Different types of holidays sometimes require different types of travel insurance. If your idea of a perfect break involves whizzing down ski slopes, teeing off on the world’s best golf courses or sunning yourself on the deck of a luxury cruise ship, it’s worth looking for a policy that caters specifically to your needs.

For example, a winter sports holiday involving skiing or snowboarding can provide cover for things like piste closures, delays caused by avalanches and lost, stolen or damaged skiing equipment (both your own and hired equipment).

Likewise, a travel insurance policy catering for golf holidays will pay towards replacing damaged, lost or stolen golf equipment, as well as reimbursing you for lost green fees if you’re unable to play due to illness or injury. Cruise travel insurance is the ideal choice if you plan on sailing the high seas, and need to know that you’ll be covered in the case of eventualities such as missed port departures, itinerary changes and cabin confinement.

Admiral offers winter sports, golf and cruise travel insurance as upgrades to our standard policies, so you’ll benefit from all the essential elements of cover previously outlined (medical, personal belongings and cancellation cover). As with other types of travel, it’s smart to buy your insurance on the same day you book your holiday for the best chance of being covered.