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Although travel insurance is not required to visit the United Kingdom, having a solid travel insurance plan for any trip there would be very clever.
The CDC recently advised Americans to avoid travel to the U.K. If you’re keen to go anyway, or booking a future trip there, having the right financial protection in hand is even more essential. Even if you’re fully vaccinated, there’s still a risk of catching Covid and having it derail your U.K. travel.
The U.K. is a large destination with a mix of urban and rural settings. The range of travelers include long-weekend tourists who want to visit London and capture the excitement of The Royals, while other travelers plan two-week journeys to enjoy the countryside and historical significance of the region.
Because U.S. health insurance plans (including Medicare) generally won’t cover health care expenses when traveling abroad (or have limited coverage), look for a travel insurance policy that has a range of benefits including:
- Medical expenses and medical evacuation coverage
- Trip cancellation, delay and interruption coverage
- Baggage loss insurance
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Trip Cancellation Insurance for U.K. Trips
Although no one expects to cancel a trip, there’s always the possibility that an unexpected event could cause you to cancel your travel plans. That’s what trip cancellation insurance is for: To protect your trip investment if you need to cancel.
The reasons you could cancel and make a claim mostly center on emergency and unfortunate reasons: a death in the family or of a traveling companion, a life-threatening family situation or a national emergency either at home or at the country of your destination. For example, if there were a terrorist attack three days before you fly to London, that would typically be a covered reason.
Trip cancellation reimburses you 100% for the prepaid and non-refundable costs of your canceled trip. If you have fully refundable plane tickets, for example, that would not be a claim under travel insurance.
Or if you get in a fight with travel companions the week before your trip, that’s not a covered reason to make a claim.
If you want to have the most flexibility for canceling—family fights, fear of travel, watching a royal wedding on TV—then you should consider a “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) insurance upgrade.
Adding CFAR will raise the cost of your travel insurance about 40% but give you the broadest latitude to cancel and make an insurance claim. You can typically receive reimbursement for 50% or 75% under a “cancel for any reason” claim.
Getting Delayed on Your U.K. Trip
Travel delay benefits cover your extra costs if you experience a delay while traveling due to a host of covered reasons. For example, if you are all set to catch your 10 p.m. flight to London and leave your house at 6 p.m. to head to the airport, and the highway is shut down due to an accident and you miss your flight, you can file a claim.
You can make a claim for expenses such as rebooking your flight or losing the money on your first night of pre-paid hotel accommodations.
If your flight is delayed while you’re waiting in the airport, you could make a claim for meals and toiletries you needed during that time.
Check the policy for the required time delay before benefits kick in (such as six hours) and for the cap on reimbursement per person.
Coverage for Trip Interruption
Trip interruption is what’s known as a “post-departure benefit” because it would happen after you’ve started your trip. Commonly covered reasons include injury, illness or death of the traveler or traveling companion, terrorist events, severe weather or a family emergency at home.
Your policy’s benefits will cover the costs associated with last-minute flights, transportation, and any unused and prepaid deposits you will lose if you abandon the trip early.
Disappearing Baggage and More
Baggage loss coverage encompasses more than luggage that gets lost in transit. The scope of coverage includes baggage and personal belongings.
While in any travel destination, particularly urban centers, there can be petty theft, pickpockets and the potential to have your belongings swiped.
Baggage benefits in a travel insurance policy can cover a repair, replacement or reimbursement of your items, says Lisa Cheng, a spokesperson with World Nomads, a travel insurance company. That could include your wallet, purse, a mobile phone or other property—up to the cash value at the time they were stolen.
”However, cash and credit cards are usually excluded from travel insurance policies. You should call your credit card company to put a stop on your card and try to minimize the amount of cash you carry on you,” she advises.
Also, Cheng says be sure to file a loss report with the police or other local authority (airline, hotel manager, tour leader, etc.). When you’re ready to file a claim, you’ll need to provide the loss report and show proof of ownership such as receipts for any stolen items.
The reimbursement amount will be determined by a depreciation formula set by the travel insurance company, says Cheng. Don’t expect to get compensated for the amount that you originally paid for the item. Per-article and total maximum limits might also apply.
Getting Sick or Injured While in the U.K.
A U.S. health insurance plan will likely not cover any medical costs in the U.K. While traveling, there’s always a risk of illness or injury, so a travel insurance policy with travel medical insurance is essential for international travel.
For example, road safety is a consideration for a U.K. trip.
“Driving on the left side of the road and the right side of the car can be unfamiliar and confusing for American drivers,” says Cheng. “Accidents and injuries can happen anywhere, any time, not just behind the wheel or at a specific destination. Emergency medical coverage can help defray some of the costs of medical treatment, including ambulance transfers, hospital stays, doctor’s visits and prescription medicine.”
If your U.S. primary health insurance policy doesn’t provide coverage abroad, Squaremouth recommends you purchase an insurance policy with at least $50,000 in medical coverage for travel to the U.K.
Note that not all travel medical insurance covers Covid-related illness. Even if you’re fully vaccinated, there’s a chance you could contract Covid while traveling. A travel insurance agent can help you make sure you buy travel insurance that covers Covid medical expenses.
Consider Medical Evacuation Costs
The sprawling rural settings of the U.K welcome travelers to meander and explore historical sites, charming cottages and a slower pace of life.
But sprawling rural settings often mean a lack of high-quality medical care. If you fall during a walking tour, for example, and need to be treated for a broken limb, a local medical clinic is unlikely to be properly equipped.
This is where a robust travel insurance policy is a life-saver. You should always keep the 24/7 emergency hotline of your travel insurance company in your phone or handy. If you need emergency medical help, this is an outstanding and efficient resource. The travel emergency team will coordinate medical attention on your behalf and can dispatch a medivac to transport you to a medical facility that can treat your injury.
Without travel insurance coverage, you would have to pay out of pocket for medical transport and care, which could run into thousands of dollars. The nominal cost of a travel insurance policy safeguards you and your travel companions in many ways.
Squaremouth recommends at least $100,000 in medical evacuation coverage in case you require a medical transport back to the United States.
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Related: From the UK and looking for travel insurance? Use our UK travel insurance comparison service.