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Travel insurance won’t cost you an arm or a leg, but it can leave you without them if you are not properly ensured.

There is no use in buying budget insurance for a ski-holiday packed with black runs (and broken bones). That will require winter sports and adventure travel insurance.

And while you might consider yourself healthy, there can always be some unexpected surprise on your trip. If your trusty girlfriend elopes with the matador, a heart attack in Spain will set you back at least £35,000.

So a little effort, light research and the right choices will go a long way to ensure that you pack financial protection and medical assistance with you on your trip.

Where to buy?

You can get travel insurance at the supermarket and pharmacy as you check out with your shopping, but any insurance company worth its salt is also fully accessible via the internet. There are also those 'compare' sites that will tell you which one is the cheapest, but cheapest might not be the best for you. Also read the fine print.

You can read all about it, make your choice, pay and get confirmation all online. Your insurance card, though, must still be delivered by the trusty old postman.

What to buy?

Like groceries, you can get almost anything: single trip, multiple trips, one week, one month, annual, budget, backpacker, winter sport travel, adventure sport travel, Europe, worldwide, single, couple, family, extended family, with baggage, without baggage and any variation of the above.

Sounds confusing? Not really. Determine what you are going to do and what you need cover for before you start and that will narrow it down.

What should I pay?

There are many special deals out there that may or may not cover extreme sports like bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower, but generally nobody should ever pay more than £25 per week abroad. Many reliable insurance companies offer much better deals, especially if they are multiple annual packages.

Does it matter how old I am?

Yes it does. Generally those between 18 and 50 are treated as equals. The rest might be 'discriminated' against.

But there are various companies offering special deals for children and the greying market. Beware not to lie about your age. It could lead to a claim not being paid.

What will it cover? 

The primary reason for travel insurance is medical cover. Many countries will not grant you a visa if you are not properly covered (and you must be able to prove it).

But you are right, it is not all about medical expenses. Travel insurance can also cover the cancellation of a trip, the loss of luggage and, more importantly, the expenses associated with the loss of personal belongings such as your passport, credit card and even time lost due to delayed flights. You can even be covered for causing damage or harm to a third party, but it all depends if the cover is listed in your schedule of cover. Make sure to read it.

What is the period of insurance? 

Normally the cover for cancellation of a trip starts on the day you pay, but the actual cover only starts when you leave your usual place of residence. Note that you will not be covered for more than 24 hours before your booked departure time or 24 hours after your booked return time.

If you return earlier than planned, the cover will normally lapse.

Where are the booby traps?

As a rule travel agencies use travel insurance to boost their income. It is not unheard of to pay up to five times more for travel insurance through a travel agency than you would have paid if you purchased the insurance from the insurer directly.

Make sure your travel insurance policy is underwritten by a reputable company that adheres to the policies of the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

It's also a good idea to get a European Health Insurance Card. The NHS website states: "Your EHIC lets you get state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. It will cover you for treatment that is needed to allow you to continue your stay until your planned return. It also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care, as long as you're not going abroad to give birth."

There are lots of websites out there that will charge you for this service, but you should never have to pay. Get your free card here.

Image credit: Thinkstock


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