Travel insurance: is it worth?

How bad can it be letting travel insurance slide?

Julia McGee-Russell
26th November 2018
Image: Franck V.

Once you add up all the costs of travel; flights, hotels, activities, and spending money, many travellers are hesitant to add the often-expensive fees of insurance. What are the odds that something bad enough to need insurance will happen to you anyway? Maybe you’re certain you won’t take big risks, or you’re familiar with the destination, and think yourself a generally responsible and sensible person. But no matter how savvy you are, you can’t always get yourself out of a sticky financial situation without help.

I have never had to claim on my travel insurance. Others, however, are not so lucky. A schoolmate of mine decided to travel through the Australian outback with some friends. He hired a truck, and went off for his adventure. They were involved in a crash. He broke two ribs, a collarbone, and his back in seven places. He had blood in both lungs, and his right lung collapsed. He also had a small bleed on his brain, and a severely bruised heart, in addition to extreme whiplash. He needed an emergency flight to hospital. The costs of medical care for these injuries in a country without a healthcare agreement with the UK would have been astronomical. You truly never know when the worst is going to happen, so my motto is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. In terms of travelling, if there’s a way to reduce the risk for bad experiences, I believe you should do so.

Moreover, it isn’t only in medical emergencies that travel insurance can save the day. All your belongings were stolen or lost? You’ve suffered a bereavement, or have to cancel your trip for another reason? You’ve damaged property or injured someone else and need money to pay personal liability? In each of these situations, a high-quality travel insurance arrangement will ease the monetary strain, or pay for them entirely. When something that could ruin your trip has happened, the last thing you need is the added fear of wondering how to pay for it all, especially when stranded in a foreign country where everything is unfamiliar. The few hundred pounds or less spent on insurance is truly tiny compared to the amount available for emergencies – millions usually for personal liability or medical expenses.

Not all travel insurance is made equal, however. It is always worth paying special attention to the ‘excess’, a fee many insurance policies require you to pay up front to make a claim. These can be from £50 to over £100, so in some instances, such as claiming insurance for lost or stolen belongings, the total you’d have to pay in excess fees is actually more than the money you would receive. Depending on the destination country, insurance prices vary greatly. But there are alternatives, such as bank accounts. Several ‘premium’ bank accounts have insurance included, meaning you pay a monthly fee for the account, with the added bonus of insurance. Paying a smaller monthly fee for the duration of a long-term trip is far more manageable than a large lump sum, and often these accounts include free worldwide withdrawals, saving you money on those pesky conversion and ATM rates.

People get injured, lose important belongings, and cancel plans all the time. Accidents, clumsiness and illness don’t stop just because you’ve booked a holiday to Majorca. No matter how soul-cleansing or relaxing your next trip will be, that £200 spending money for cocktails won’t literally save your life. However, in the worst-case scenario, travel insurance will.


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AUTHOR: Julia McGee-Russell
Deputy Editor of The Courier, previously Arts Sub-Editor and Head of News at Newcastle Student Radio. Lover of all things arts, culture, and self-care.

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