It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays. Follow current COVID-19 rules where you live: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In England, you must have a permitted reason to travel abroad and complete a declaration form.
Some countries have closed borders, and any country may further restrict travel or bring in new social distancing rules with little warning. Check our advice for all the countries you will visit or transit through.
When you return, follow the rules to enter the UK from abroad (except from Ireland).
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office currently advises against all but essential travel to many countries and territories, due to coronavirus (COVID-19) risks. You should check the travel advice for your destination and read our COVID-19 travel advice. If you are legally permitted to travel internationally during the COVID-19 pandemic, and you decide to do so, you should have appropriate travel insurance.
If you already have a travel insurance policy, you should check what cover it provides for coronavirus-related events, including medical cover and travel disruption. If you are choosing a new policy, make sure you check how it covers these issues.
If you do not have appropriate insurance before you travel, you could be liable for emergency costs including medical treatment. We recommend you buy your travel insurance as soon as possible after booking your trip.
Travel to the EU
If you are travelling to the EU, you can apply for a free Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). If you already have an EHIC it will still be valid as long as it remains in date. A GHIC or EHIC gives you the right to access emergency state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in those countries.
Check for the latest information on GHIC or EHIC online, or by phone on 0300 330 1350.
Remember that a GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. EHIC is not valid on cruises.
You should make sure your travel insurance covers your healthcare needs.
When taking out travel insurance you should also check:
- the level of healthcare cover it includes
- the travel disruption cover it includes
- the terms and conditions
Contact your insurer if you have any questions about your travel cover.
Travel to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland
For Norway only, if you are ordinarily resident in the UK, you can use your UK passport to access state-provided medical treatment, if it becomes necessary during your trip.
If you’re travelling to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you cannot use a GHIC and most people also cannot use EHIC to get medical treatment. Check whether your card is valid.
Make sure you get appropriate travel insurance for your needs, including cover for emergency medical treatment and associated costs.
Check the latest foreign travel advice for those countries before you travel.
Overview of travel insurance
Wherever you’re travelling, getting the right travel insurance is one of the most important things to do before you go. It could save you and your family a lot of money and difficulty if things go wrong before or during your trip.
Travel insurance policies are designed to provide cover for many eventualities, including medical expenses, a trip being cut short or cancelled, and loss or theft of possessions.
This guidance aims to help you understand the key features of travel insurance and choose a policy that will meet your needs.
It is recommended to take out an insurance policy as soon as possible after booking your trip, to make sure you’re covered in the event of any changes before you depart.
When you travel, make sure you take details of your insurance policy with you, including your policy number and the emergency assistance telephone number provided by your insurer. Give a copy of your policy details to the people you’re travelling with and friends or family back home, in case they need to contact your insurance company on your behalf.
Choosing a travel insurance policy
Shop around for the best deal, but never buy a policy based on price alone. The cheapest policy may not cover all of your needs. Check that any policy you buy provides appropriate cover for your pre-existing medical conditions and any activities or sports you’re planning to do.
When choosing a policy you should consider:
How often you travel
If you’ are planning more than one holiday in a year, consider buying an annual multi-trip policy. Single trip policies are usually more cost effective for older travellers and those with medical conditions.
If you already have travel insurance as part of a bank account or credit card, check the policy terms for any age or trip limits there may be, as well as ensuring the policy covers your health and other needs for each trip you make.
The length of your trip
Some annual policies may include limits for the number of days of each individual trip, or a maximum number of days’ travel over the course of the year. If you’re going away for a longer period, a gap year or backpacker policy may be more suitable.
Where you’re going
Some annual policies only cover destinations within Europe or exclude certain long-haul destinations. If you’re travelling further afield, make sure you buy a worldwide policy or a single trip policy for your specific destination.
Cruises generally require additional cover due to the difficulty in getting travellers to hospital for treatment. If you are going on a cruise, make sure your travel insurance covers this.
Many travel insurance policies will not cover you if you travel to a high risk destination (often defined as a place where the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advise against all but essential travel or all travel), so make sure you check your policy wording and the relevant country travel advice pages for updates when booking your trip and buying insurance.
What you will be doing
If you will be taking part in certain sports or leisure activities you may need to top-up your cover or buy a specialist policy. See Adventure and sports activities.
What you’re taking
Your household contents insurance or other policies may cover loss of items you take away from home. If you have travel insurance as part of a bank account/credit card, this may already provide some cover for your possessions. In all cases, check the travel insurance policy limits and excesses are appropriate for the value of possessions you are taking on holiday. If you’re taking a number of high-value possessions, specialist mobile phone/gadget insurance may be more suitable as they typically provide higher cover limits.
All insurance policies say that you must take care of your belongings at all times. If you don’t, the policy may not pay out. Take as much care of your property as if it were uninsured.
You should report any loss to the police within 24 hours. Proof of notification will be required when you make your claim.
How many people you’re travelling with
If you’re travelling with others, a family or group policy may be suitable. When buying insurance on behalf of others, it’s important that you have access to any relevant medical details that you may be asked about. Some policies will apply an excess for each person when making a claim, so check the policy terms.
The cost of cancellation
If you’re booking an expensive holiday in advance, you may want the security of knowing you will be able to recover the costs if you’re unable to travel. Read through the circumstances where cancellation cover is provided, check that it meets the full cost of your holiday and look for any excesses.
Insurance can allow you to claim unused travel and accommodation costs that you are unable to recover elsewhere. When travelling at short notice, on a low cost holiday or with a flexible ticket, you may decide that you do not need cancellation cover at all.
If your trip is cancelled or significantly delayed, you may be entitled to compensation from the airline or a refund from the travel provider.
It’s still important to have emergency medical cover. If your trip is dependent upon the health of a non-travelling relative, you may need to answer questions about their medical history and pay to top up the cover.
What your travel insurance policy should cover
Health and medical emergencies
This is possibly the most important part of any travel insurance policy. If you do not take out adequate insurance, you will have to pay the costs of any emergency yourself.
A medical emergency in another country can be very expensive, for example:
- £100,000: a stomach bug or infection treated in a hospital in the USA with return flights
- £100,000: a stroke in south-east Asia, with emergency treatment and medical repatriation to the UK
- £25,000: a moped accident in Greece, with surgery and repatriation to the UK
- £15,000: a fall in Spain, resulting in a broken hip, hospital treatment and flights
Your travel insurance should cover:
- emergency treatment and hospital bills, which can be expensive. Check whether your policy covers treatment in public or private hospitals.
- emergency transport, such as ambulance fees or emergency repatriation on medical grounds
- getting home after treatment if you cannot use your original ticket
- reasonable costs for a family member or friend to stay with you or travel out to accompany you home if required
- temporary emergency dental treatment for the relief of immediate pain
- 24-hour assistance helplines to offer support and advice about appropriate treatment
- repatriation costs in the event of death abroad
Before you travel, make sure you declare any pre-existing medical conditions to your insurer and answer questions about your medical history in full. See Policy exclusions.
If you have difficulty finding cover for reasons associated with a medical condition, you can contact a specialist provider.
If you are travelling in the European Economic Area or Switzerland, before 31 December 2020, you can apply for and continue to use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) during this time, as you did before. The EHIC gives you the right to access emergency state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in those countries.
Remember that the EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. It is not valid on cruises.
See Travel to the EU
Adventure and sports activities
If you will be taking part in certain sports or leisure activities, check your policy carefully to make sure you are covered for each specific activity. You may need to top-up your cover or buy a specialist policy.
Winter sports and more extreme sports such as bungee jumping, jet skiing, or skydiving are not typically included in standard policies.
Use of quad bikes is typically not covered.