If you are travelling, you should consider getting travel insurance. It can cover you against losses such as damaged or delayed luggage, cancelled flights, delayed or missed departure, loss or theft of money or passport, and illness or injury. Many policies include the cost of an emergency return flight if a close relative of yours dies. You may not be able to claim if you have not filled out your medical information truthfully.
What types of travel insurance policies are available?
You can choose between many different types of policies such as:
- Single trip insurance
- Multi trip (or annual) policies
- 65+ travel insurance
- Backpacker travel insurance
- Business travel insurance
You can buy insurance individually, as a couple, or as part of a family. Some companies do not offer insurance for consumers over the age of 65, but there are specialist companies that do offer this insurance.
Will your private health insurance be enough to cover you abroad?
If you have private health insurance, you are probably already covered for illness and injury, when you are abroad so check your policy before you buy, rather than paying for insurance you may not need. Your private health insurer may offer discounted travel insurance that covers you for non-medical loses. However, you need to pay as much attention to the benefits, exclusions and excesses as you do to the price.
You should also get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you travel. If you are an Irish resident and have this card, you are entitled to free or reduced cost state-provided healthcare when visiting a European Union country or Switzerland. You can get more information on the EHIC website. However, medical costs in some countries can be very expensive and travel insurance is still necessary to reduce any additional expenses.
Even if you have health insurance that covers you for medical expenses while abroad, it will not cover anything else that might happen, such as damaged or delayed luggage, cancelled flights, delayed or missed departure, loss or theft of money or passport.
Is it better to buy insurance from your travel agent or another provider?
Travel agents and tour operators often sell travel insurance as part of a package and can insist on you having a certain level of cover in place if you are taking a package holiday, but you do not have to take their insurance.
You may be able to get better value by buying your travel insurance separately from another provider, particularly if you will need travel insurance again later in the year.
What cover do you get on your travel insurance and what is excluded?
It may cover certain medical costs, delays or cancellations. Policy terms and conditions differ between providers, so always check carefully before you buy. If you are not clear about any terms and conditions, contact your provider before you travel, for your own peace of mind.
Check the level of protection each policy offers and ask yourself:
- Do you need additional specialist cover?
You usually need specialist insurance for non-standard holidays that involve activities such as skiing or diving.
- How much excess do you have to pay if you make a claim?
This is the first part of any insurance claim that you have to pay yourself. It is usually a fixed sum.
- Are there any restrictions or exclusions?
Generally, if a cause is not specified, it is not covered – but always check your policy or ask your provider, especially if you are worried about particular risks.
Many travel insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions (suffered by you or immediate relatives) that happen when you are abroad, unless you tell the insurer in advance and they accept that risk.
Your provider may refuse you cover for certain illnesses or place an extra premium on your policy, but if you do not tell them the truth, any claim you may make will not be valid. If you travel against a doctor’s advice, you may not be covered under your insurance.
Some unforeseen events or events outside human control are excluded from your policy. These can include ‘acts of god’ (floods, natural disasters, extreme weather conditions that were not forecasted etc.), war, or industrial action. Some policies offer options to include some non-standard items on your policy, for an additional cost. Generally speaking, you will not be covered under an existing policy if you travel to an area of political unrest, or if you travel to an area against the advice of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.
What happens if something goes wrong before the holiday and it needs to be cancelled?
If you need to cancel your holiday before you go, check the terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy. You will have to meet the conditions of the policy before you can claim. This is why it’s important to consider this when you are buying insurance.
What happens if the airline/tour operator goes out of business?
Check that the tour operator is a fully bonded company and is licensed by the Commission for Aviation Regulation before you book travel. If it is and the company goes out of business, the Commission will assess your claim for a refund, or arrange to get you home if you are stranded abroad or experience significant delays. You can get more information on your rights in our travel section.
You may get some cover if you book your trip on your credit card. Check the terms and conditions of your credit card.
Making a travel insurance claim
Know what procedures you have to follow when abroad
The terms and conditions of travel insurance policies can differ greatly across providers.
Some policies will have very specific instructions to follow when you are abroad, that could affect you if you need to make a claim when you get home.
For example, some policies will insist that you get police reports (fully translated) within a timeline. Many policies also require that you contact the company’s medical/emergency assistance line as soon as possible after the event, in order for your claim to be accepted. It is important that you read your policy before you travel so you are fully aware of these conditions in advance, as you never know when you will need to make a claim.
Keep all documents and claim as soon as possible when you get home
Make sure you keep all documents and receipts that support your claim. You should send in your claim as soon as you can, as there may be a time limit for making claims.
Other types of claims
European residents are entitled to some compensation (EC Regulation 261/2004) if your flight is delayed, cancelled or you are denied boarding. You can get more information in our travel section.