If you're heading abroad for some festive fun in Europe this winter, make sure you have an adequate travel insurance policy.
With the big day just around the corner, many people will be heading to the Christmas markets in Europe to enjoy festive food and drink – not to mention some serious shopping.
Some of the biggest and most popular markets include those in Germany, Vienna, Brussels and Prague.
But while you may be preoccupied with buying presents in these winter wonderlands, you can’t afford to cut corners on cover – even if you’re only hopping across to the Continent for a few days.
Get an EHIC card
First off, you should apply to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
This entitles you to the same medical treatment as a national of that European country.
The card is free and is valid for five years. For more information visit the NHS EHIC website page.
While there are a number of websites which charge for these cards, you should give these unofficial sites a wide berth, as EHIC cards are free.
Don’t rely on the EHIC alone
With an EHIC card, you need to be aware that the cover is limited, and does not include repatriation, loss of possessions or airline failure.
"The EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance," warns Alan Purvis, director of AA Travel Insurance.
"While travellers should take the card to the treating hospital, they are still likely to incur costs. This is why you need to take details of your travel insurance too.
"Without this cover you could be landed with some pretty hefty bills for treatment."
Check you have adequate cover
Findings from travel organisation ABTA show a fifth of all holidaymakers travel uninsured, putting themselves at risk of high medical bills if they fall ill or have an accident abroad.
"Even if you book a trip last minute, make sure you have enough time to shop around for travel insurance that suits your individual needs and offers good value for money," says Gordon Morris from Age UK Enterprises.
Always read the small print
When buying travel insurance for a short break, don’t just take the cheapest policy available.
"Cheap policies may have a high excess or be riddled with exclusions," says Mike Powell from Defaqto.
"You need to shop around for comprehensive cover."
As a guide, you should look for a policy with £2 million cover for medical expenses in Europe, £1 million personal liability, £3,000 cancellation, and £1,500 for lost luggage.
Consider end supplier failure
If you opt for a DIY itinerary and book your own flight and accommodation separately, you will not be covered by the ATOL scheme which protects package holidays booked through an operator.
To ensure have the best possible protection in place, it’s worth taking out a travel insurance policy offering cover for end supplier failure.
This will cover you if an airline, hotel or car hire firm goes bust after you’ve booked, but as this cover is not included as standard, you need to check the wording.
Remember that by using a credit card to book your flight or hotel, you will get protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. The same applies with the Visa Chargeback scheme.
Tips to cut the cost of cover
- If you’re likely to go abroad more than two times a year, an annual policy will work out cheaper than several single-trip policies.
- If you’re only planning on travelling to Europe, opt for a "Europe-only" policy, rather than a worldwide policy.
- Remove any features that are duplicated on your home cover; for example, items such as cameras and mobile phones may already be covered a feature known as "personal possessions away from home".
- If you’re travelling as a couple, you may be able to get a discount for booking a policy together, while families with children should also be able to qualify for further discounts via a family policy.