As the UK’s restrictions on travel are slowly beginning to relax, many people are starting to plan their first trips abroad in over a year. Given the complexity of travel in today’s climate, thoughts naturally turn to how travel insurance will work in the (post) COVID-19 era and how travellers can ensure they have adequate protection.
Katie Crowe from travel insurance specialist, battleface tackles some of the biggest questions regarding travel insurance and COVID-19.
Do I have to get travel insurance to go travel abroad?
Many countries around the world are now requiring proof of travel insurance upon entry. Even prior to COVID-19, travel insurance was strongly advised to have for everyone who travels internationally. Research carried out in March 2021 has found that a fifth of Britons have been caught out with fees when travelling without insurance.
The majority of Brits claim to always purchase travel insurance (49%), but this figure is likely to increase once travel reopens. The data by Opinium and commissioned by battleface* shows that Britons are now more likely to research countries entry requirements prior to travel with 42% claiming that they will research health certificates (versus 35% pre-pandemic) and 37% claiming that the will research entry requirements regarding travel insurance (versus 28% pre pandemic). Travel insurance has always been advisable, but due to the current climate it is becoming even more important.
What is the traffic light system and how does this impact on travel insurance?
The traffic light system proposed by the UK’s Global Travel Taskforce means that the ban on non-essential international travel will be removed, replaced by a traffic light system which categorises different destinations based on the risk level. Countries will be allocated as green, amber, or red, depending on the current advice given on travelling to that specific location. The countries COVID rates, vaccination numbers and the emergence of any new variants are all factors in determining a country’s category.
Like with the travel corridors in 2020, the government has confirmed that the countries’ status will be subject to review, and therefore may be moved in and out of the different colour categories (including a “green watch list” to identify green countries that could be moved to amber). This is likely to create concern amongst holidaymakers around the validity of their travel insurance. Most notably, what will happen if they have booked insurance for a green-listed country that changes categories by the time of their departure.
If the country changes colour then this may invalidate certain travel insurance policies so it is very important that customers check the policy’s T&Cs. Battleface notably covers countries that are under FCDO and government advisories, meaning that if a country changes colour or is removed from a travel corridor after the insurance is purchased, either before or during the trip, then the traveller will still be fully covered.
Do I need travel insurance if I have an EHIC or GHIC card?
Your GHIC, or EHIC up until its expiration date, covers you for necessary state service healthcare when you are visiting an EU country. Necessary healthcare is defined as healthcare that is essential during your stay and cannot reasonably wait until you have returned to the UK. This healthcare includes emergency care, treatment or routine care for a pre-existing medical condition, routine maternity care (excluding birth), oxygen and kidney dialysis.
If the treatment that you require falls out of this realm, it is crucial to have travel insurance that covers other medical treatment. In short, the EHIC or GHIC is not a travel insurance equivalent.
Do I have to be vaccinated against COVID in order to be insured?
A vaccination is not a requirement for travel insurance. Many insurers, like battleface, do not need to see proof of a vaccination in order to insure you for your travels. However, it is crucial to check the countries’ vaccination requirements before you travel.
Some countries have indicated that they will only allow vaccinated travellers to enter, so travellers need to research this before booking a holiday. In terms of attitudes towards testing, the Opinium data showed that 62% of Britons are in favour of more countries adopting vaccination passports. 26% say they would be put off travel if they had to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
It will be interesting to see what entry regulations different countries put in place to bring back tourists and recoup some of the tourism dollar.
What things do I need to consider when booking my insurance?
You need to ensure you have adequate insurance for the specific trip that you are taking. All trips and types of travellers vary and therefore a one-size-fits-all approach to insurance does not work. You should find a policy that is adaptable based on your destination, length of trip, existing conditions and the activities you expect to be doing on the trip.
To ensure your specific needs are met, look for a flexible plan.
At a time where travelling is more variable than ever, it is important to find an insurer that is adaptable. Certainly, in the immediate future, picking an insurer that provides cover if the destination moves into a red or amber category can provide extra piece of mind.