If travel insurance policies weren’t utter minefields before, they certainly are post-pandemic.
Which? has warned a lack of clarity from insurers over how much protection their policies offer for Covid-related disruption could lead to travellers losing money this summer. Research from the consumer champion suggests people are being left with a false impression about the level of protection they would benefit from if the pandemic was to impact their holiday plans.
Some of this is down to poor communication by travel insurance providers and the use of blanket terms such as ‘Covid Cover’ or ‘Enhanced Covid Cover’.
The UK government is strongly recommending people get travel insurance before going abroad this year. Here are seven tips to consider before you jet off.
1. Check your policy
If you already have travel insurance, check what cover it provides for Covid-related events, including medical cover and travel disruption. If you’re unsure, call up your provider and ask.
If you’re choosing a new policy, “make sure to read the policy so you are aware of the scope of cover,” before buying, says a spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers. “Policies bought after the pandemic was declared are unlikely to cover cancellation as a result of coronavirus as it is a known risk.”
Which? advises those booking a holiday this year to look for a flexible policy that covers them against countries changing from green to amber or red between booking and travel.
2. Actually read the small print
When taking out new cover, be aware of the variation between the amount of information insurers give on their websites regarding their core levels of cover, says a Which? spokesperson. Terms such as ‘Covid cover’ or ‘Enhanced Covid cover’ mean different things for different insurers, so avoid making assumptions.
Pay particular attention to the medical expenses, cancellation and the policy’s general conditions and exclusions. “If there are protections that you want from your travel insurance, but you find the policy document confusing, contact the insurer directly to confirm before booking,” Which? advises.
3. Make a note of exclusions
Extra caution should be taken if you’re only given information on the benefits of the policy, but not the details on what’s not included, according to Which?.
The Association of British Insurers urges people to be aware of any exclusions. “All ABI travel insurers will continue to provide cover for emergency medical treatment needed overseas, including emergency medical treatment related to Covid-19. However, policies are unlikely to cover cancellation due to Covid-19, as it was a known risk when the policy was taken out.”
You might want to be aware of any quarantine requirements on your return to the UK as travel insurance will not cover costs associated with quarantining in government-provided accommodation.
4. Make sure it’s actually ok to travel
Always check current FCDO advice before you go abroad, because travelling when advised not to is likely to invalidate your travel insurance.
5. Learn the Covid rules for the country you’re visiting
It’s really important to be aware of – and comply with – the travel requirements for the country (or countries) you’re visiting.
“It is your responsibility to comply with any border restrictions in place at your destination country,” says a spokesperson for ABI – whether that’s proving you’ve had a negative test before entering the country or needing to show your vaccine status. “If you do not comply with these requirements, then you will need to return home at your own cost.”
6. Get your health card ready
Health insurance cards enable you to get state-provided medically necessary healthcare when visiting an EU country – this basically means healthcare that cannot reasonably wait until you come back to the UK. Some examples might include if you visit A&E, or need routine medical or maternity care.
If you hold a current European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to access free healthcare when visiting the EU, this remains valid until its expiry date. After then, or if you do not have an EHIC, you will need to apply for a free Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). You can apply for a GHIC here.
Neither card is a replacement for travel insurance as it will not cover you for all medical costs, or the cost of emergency repatriation back to the UK. However they’re still a must for travellers to have peace of mind while abroad.
7. Brush up on your rights
Travel is no longer a simple affair, so it pays to brush up on your rights and jot down all the relevant information you need for your trip. This means in the event of any travel problems, you’ll know what support you are entitled to.
Some things you might want to check, says ABI, include: the refund policy of any accommodation providers, what you are entitled to if booking a package holiday, and what the legal obligations of the airline are if your flight is disrupted or cancelled.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.