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5 tips for choosing the right travel insurance

Selecting a suitable travel insurance policy can be a bewildering and befuddling task. It's tempting to think that one visit to a price-comparison site and a quick scan for the cheapest policy is all you need. If only it were that straightforward -- competition among insurance providers to ensure that their policies get the highest ranking and clearest visibility on these sites is fierce. As a result, while the cheapest deals that climb to the top of the listings might seem alluring, they won't always provide the cover you need. With that in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind when you're on the hunt for a policy.

Check your Existing Cover
You might already be covered without even being aware. Some banks now provide free (albeit basic) travel insurance for their customers -- it's always worth checking this before you start shopping around. And while you're doing that, have a look at your home insurance policy as well; this will often cover the loss of personal items while away from home. 

Get the Basics Right
Medical cover:
For most of us, this is probably the most essential part of any cover; we all want to know we're going to be OK should some medical disaster befall us in a far-off land. Consumer watchdog Which? reckons you should be looking for "European insurance that provides at least £2 million worth of medical cover, or worldwide travel insurance that offers at least £5 million worth of protection."

Luggage and personal items: There are two things to bear in mind here. Firstly, does the policy provide a sufficient level of cover for your bags? A decent one will provide coverage of £1,500 at the very least. Secondly, be sure to check what the limit is for a claim on individual items; beware of cheap policies, which tend to set this pretty low. There's little point having a policy with a single-item limit of £150 if you're planning on taking £500-worth of digital SLR camera with you.

Cancellation policy: Having to cancel or cut short a holiday is bad enough; ending up out of pocket as a result is pure misery. According to Which?, a decent policy will provide "cover of at least £3,000, which will include cover for any excursions you have already organised and paid for. Your cover should also include the cost of getting you home".

Excess: As a rule of thumb, the cheaper the policy, the higher the excess will be. So, if the excess on your policy is set at £200 and you claim for £300, the insurer will pay £100. Many insurers now routinely set the excess at around £200, so be careful to scrutinise this before you commit.

Annual or single trip?
Planning to take three holidays or more in the next year? Get yourself an annual policy and you'll almost certainly save some cash. Check the maximum number of days covered in a single trip, though -- some policies will provide cover for 45 days, some for just 21. If you're going backpacking, we recommend choosing a specific backpacker's travel insurance policy.

Make sure your destination is covered
Insurance providers clearly aren't big fans of the world map. You'll find that while the US & Caribbean are frequently not automatically included in worldwide policies, African countries such as Egypt and Morocco are included in European ones -- something to bear in mind if you're heading to multiple locations or choosing an annual policy.

Read before you ride
If your idea of being active on holiday involves doing a lap of the pool on your way to the swim-up bar, you needn't concern yourself with this. If, however, you're the fidgety, thrill-seeking sort, you might want to consider which activities you might undertake on your travels. While the likes of bungee-jumping and kite-surfing will be automatically covered by some policies, activities such as horse-riding and skiing are often seen as higher risk and will cost extra.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, London
Friday, 19 July 2013
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Rory Batho