Your complete guide to travel insurance
Ireland’s guide to travel insurance. All the help you need to buy the right travel cover for your holiday, get a European Health Insurance Card, and what to do if things go wrong.
What’s in this guide?
What travel insurance covers
Why get travel insurance?
Travel insurance can protect you financially if something goes wrong when you’re travelling abroad or on holiday.
This could include paying for medical care if you fall ill, refunding your booking if you have to cancel or compensating you for lost or stolen personal belongings.
What’s covered by travel insurance?
It depends on the insurance provider and level of cover you choose, but most decent policies cover:
You can also add extra cover to include things like:
- Winter sports, e.g. skiing and snowboarding
- Extreme sports, e.g. scuba diving or paragliding
- Golf equipment & bookings, including your clubs and green fees if you’re injured or too ill to play
Make sure you take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you’re travelling in Europe, even if you have travel insurance.
Types of travel insurance
To get the right value from your insurance, it pays to get the right type of insurance tailored to your circumstances and the type of travel.
Here’s the types of insurance you can get in Ireland:
Single trip or annual multi-trip travel insurance?
If you have more than two trips planned per year, it’s usually cheaper to get an annual policy, but your age and medical history may affect what’s available.
With annual cover, you’ll be covered for any short trips in Ireland, but if you plan to travel outside of Europe and the UK or are unsure of your travel plans, choose an annual policy that covers worldwide destinations.
For a look at the pros and cons of single versus multi-trip insurance, visit How to choose the right travel insurance.
How to choose the right type of cover
You’ll save money by choosing the right type of travel insurance for your circumstances, so ask yourself these questions before buying:
- How many trips are you taking? Consider taking out annual cover if you plan to travel more than three times per year.
- What will you be doing? Consider specialist cover if you plan to go skiing or do another high-risk activity.
- Who is the cover for? Check for discounted cover if travelling as a couple, family or group. If you’re over 70 your choice may be more limited.
For more advice on finding the right insurance for your needs, visit our how to find the best travel insurance guide.
Does travel insurance cover COVID-19?
Losses due to epidemics, border closures, warnings, travel advisories or quarantine rules are generally not covered; however, some insurers offer COVID-19 related benefits.
They may provide cancellation, curtailment, medical expenses and accommodation cover if you get COVID-19 while abroad and are unable to return home as planned.
If this is an important concern, shop around, read the terms and conditions carefully and get several quotes before choosing a travel policy.
Buying travel insurance
How much does travel insurance cost?
Standard single trip insurance could cost you less than €25 if you are young with no underlying medical conditions, but may not provide the cover you need if it’s very cheap.
Annual or multi-trip travel insurance could cost around €50 or more for European cover and €65 or more for Worldwide cover. The older you are, the higher the premium regardless of your health.
If you have private medical insurance which covers you while you’re abroad, your travel insurance will be cheaper still.
What affects the price of cover?
- your destination
- your age
- your medical history
- whether you have private health insurance
To find the cheapest travel insurance quote, shop around so you can compare prices and benefits.
What if I have private medical insurance?
Even if your existing medical insurance covers you abroad, a comprehensive travel insurance policy can offer financial protection in other areas, for example, if you need to cancel your trip or your travel money is stolen.
The good news is that many travel insurers in Ireland offer a discount on your quote if your medical insurance covers you abroad, which could make your travel insurance even cheaper.
If you hold private medical insurance, you could get up to 25% off the travel cover price.
What’s the age limit on annual multi-trip cover?
For many annual policies, the maximum age limit is 75 years, but often people over 70 years must hold private health insurance.
Should you buy the cheapest travel insurance?
Although it’s tempting to pick the cheapest policy, it’s not always a good idea with travel insurance. The cheapest policies will offer less cover and have more exclusions.
It’s best not to scrimp on cover for medical expenses and personal liability because you could end up liable for eye-watering expenses if you get ill or are involved in an accident on holiday.
Also, pick a policy that fully covers the cost of the holiday and your belongings and find a policy that includes enough financial protection for you and your family.
Who offers travel insurance in Ireland?
Most of the large insurers in Ireland offer travel insurance, as do private health companies. An online search will also provide a selection of smaller, travel insurance specialists.
Although there are many insurance providers to choose from, many policies are underwritten by the same companies.
What you need to buy travel insurance
Before you buy your travel insurance, you’ll need to know:
- Your destination: usually shown as UK and the Channel Islands, Europe or Worldwide (including or excluding USA and Canada).
- The dates of your trip: this is the date you leave Ireland and the date you arrive back in Ireland.
- Who needs to be covered: usually shown as individual, couple or family but check the help information for exclusions.
- The age of each traveller if you’re buying a group policy, have that information to hand.
You may also be asked to confirm:
- If you hold private medical insurance that covers trips abroad
- If you need cover for winter sports
When should you buy travel insurance?
It’s best to buy your single-trip travel insurance as soon as you book your trip so you’re covered if the flights, accommodation or package holiday is cancelled.
This will also cover you if something happens before your trip starts, which means you have to cancel your holiday, e.g. you or a relative becomes seriously ill.
For an annual or multi-trip policy, you need to know roughly when you’ll be travelling as you have to choose a start date for your policy and it runs a year from that date. If you book a holiday that starts before your policy does, you won’t be covered.
The European Health Insurance Card
What is European Health Insurance (EHIC)?
It’s free healthcare available to Irish residents and EU citizens living in Ireland. The European Health Insurance Card, known as the EHIC or formerly E111, shows that you’re eligible for free healthcare when you travel in Europe.
If you’re travelling to the EU or European Economic Area (EEA) you should take it with you in case you become unwell or have an accident and need medical attention.
Each member of your family needs an EHIC when they travel within the EU. You can apply for them in person, by post, or online if you have a medical or drug payment scheme card.
What does it cover?
Here’s a summary of what the EHIC does and doesn’t cover you for:
*If you’re a student studying abroad, you’ll be covered for up to an academic year.
How to use the card
If you need medical care while you’re away, you must show your EHIC to the public medical centre or hospital as evidence of eligibility.
You can expect to get the same treatment and care as local residents and on the same terms.
If public healthcare is free in the country you’re visiting, you won’t pay anything, but if there’s a charge for medical services, you’ll be charged too.
Here’s more information about how to use your EHIC in each country and any costs involved.
Do you still need travel insurance?
Yes, it’s essential you get travel insurance and an EHIC, or you won’t be covered for things like cancellation and lost or stolen luggage.
Your EHIC just covers medical costs in the EU, but travel insurance can include many extras to suit your trip, such as winter sports cover. You can find out more about how to choose the best travel insurance in our helpful guide.
How to renew or apply for the EHIC
You can either apply or renew:
- In person: at any local health office except Dublin North West. Check what ID to take.
- By post: Print out an application form and post it to your local health office along with any documents required.
- Online: using the official HSE website
The EHIC is completely free. Never use a website that tries to charge you a fee.
Claiming on your travel insurance
You’ll need to contact your insurance company as soon as possible in the event of a problem.
Remember to take your travel insurance documents and their emergency contact details with you when you travel. Take a paper and electronic copy of the policy so you have more than one way of accessing the information.
If you’re taking expensive items abroad, jot down serial numbers or take photos of your electronics or jewellery before you travel.
Here’s the emergency claim numbers of popular travel insurers in Ireland:
|Insurance company||Claims number||Calling from abroad|
|AA Insurance||01 431 1204||+353 143 11204|
|AIG||01 661 9133||+44 (0) 1273 723 146|
|Allianz Travel||1866 884 3556||-|
|An Post Insurance||1800 719 087||+353 (0)1 440 2762|
|Aviva||1800 940 515||+353 (0) 1 440 1790|
|Blue Insurance||091 560 619||-|
|Chill Insurance||091 560 665||+353 91 601 612|
|InsureandGo||091 545 907||+353 91 545 908 (emergencies)|
|Laya Travel Insurance||01 261 1508||+44 1273 456 683|
|Multitrip||091 560 638||-|
Claiming for illness, accidents and medical emergencies
If you need medical treatment while you’re away, you’ll need to contact your insurer as soon as possible. Your insurer has to agree to any medical procedures, so do this before treatment takes place.
This may not be possible in an emergency, so get evidence of any treatments or medication you’ve paid for.
Depending on the country you’re in, you may have to pay up-front for treatment and claim it back when you get home, so always secure medication receipts or an invoice for medical treatment.
It’s vital you tell your insurer about any existing health problems or conditions when you take out insurance, or you may not be covered.
Claiming for lost, stolen or damaged belongings
If your belongings are lost or stolen, inform the local police within 24 hours of your items going missing and get a statement. If this isn’t possible, tell someone else such as your hotel manager, tour operator or airline and get a written report.
If you have to replace essential items, such as toiletries or clothing, keep receipts for everything you need to purchase and provide them as evidence to support your claim.
Your insurer will want to see that you’ve taken reasonable steps to look after your luggage or belongings whilst travelling, so be prepared for questions and support your claim with evidence wherever possible.
Claiming if you have to cancel your trip
Your claim for cancellation or trip curtailment will only be accepted under certain conditions. It’s wise to check the small print for acceptable reasons, but typically they will be:
- unexpected death, illness or injury involving you, your partner or fellow travellers
- unexpected damage to your home, such as fire, flood or burglary
- you’ve been advised not to travel due to pregnancy (after you bought insurance)
- you’ve been called for jury service or as a court witness
Check your policy schedule for the rules of reimbursement should you have to cut short your trip.
Holiday consumer rights
You now have the same rights whether you book your holiday at a high street retailer or online. Here are your consumer rights if you book a package holiday or linked travel arrangement.
When can you cancel?
You can cancel at any time up to the start of your holiday for a reasonable cancellation fee. The less notice you give, the more money you’ll lose.
You may be entitled to a full refund without paying any fee in the following situations:
- In extraordinary circumstances: e.g. war, terrorism, floods and earthquakes that will significantly affect the holiday or stop you from reaching your destination safely.
- If the price increases by more than 8%: you have the right to cancel without paying a charge. Contractually no price changes are allowed within 20 days of the departure date.
- If significant changes to the holiday are made: e.g. departure and arrival times that will affect your accommodation and transport arrangements.
When can the travel company cancel?
They may have to cancel due to extraordinary circumstances beyond their control or where they can’t get the minimum number of participants needed for a trip to run. In these situations, you have the option of:
- A replacement holiday of equal or superior quality
- A lower quality holiday, plus a refund for the difference between the two trips
- A full refund
Can your holiday price go up after you’ve booked?
Yes, the cost can go up but not within 20 days of your departure date. The cost of your trip may be affected by increases to:
- Transport costs e.g. fuel prices
- Taxes, fees and duties charged at airports or ports
- Currency exchange rates
What are my package holiday rights?
If you book a package holiday, you should be:
How to complain about your holiday
You must raise any issues with the travel organiser without delay, where you feel a service isn’t satisfactory. If you delay, it could affect the compensation you get.
They should be allowed to put things right, but if this doesn’t happen, you should gather evidence to support your complaint e.g. take photos or video footage.
If the matter is still unresolved when you’re back home, you should put your complaint in writing within 28 days of the holiday end date. Details of where to send your complaint should be shown in the contract’s terms and conditions.
If you’re unhappy with their response or they fail to respond within a reasonable timeframe, you can contact:
- The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CPPC): who can investigate Irish traders and ensure they comply with the Consumer Protection Act.
- ECC Ireland: who can settle complaints between consumers and traders in another EU country, not Ireland.
Travel companies may use arbitration to resolve complaints. This is where an independent party investigates and reviews the evidence to decide how much compensation to award.
You also have the option of pursuing a claim up to €2,000 through the Small Claims Court.
Specific travel insurance questions
What is the maximum length trip I can get cover for?
It depends on the insurer. Most insurance providers cover trips lasting up to 30 days, but you could find cover up to 60 days if you shop around.
If you buy an annual travel insurance policy, you’re covered for multiple trips but only up to the maximum duration per trip and total duration for the year.
If you need continuous cover for longer, backpacker insurance usually lasts up to a year but can last up to two years.
Do you need special travel cover if you're pregnant?
Most travel insurance policies will cover you to travel in the early stages of pregnancy, but you should always check how far into the pregnancy the cover will last. For example, you may be covered to travel up to 32 weeks into your pregnancy but not beyond this date. If you fall pregnant after taking out a travel insurance policy and will be at a late stage in your pregnancy when you’re due to travel, you may be able to claim for cancellation.
What is a linked travel arrangement?
This is where you buy two or more travel services from different companies that are linked. For example, you book a flight on one website and click on a targeted link to another website where you book accommodation for your trip.
The second booking must be made no later than 24 hours after the first, to count as a linked travel arrangement.
You have fewer rights with a linked travel arrangement than with a package contract and you’re only covered against insolvency with the first booking.
What does repatriation mean?
It’s the return of someone to their own country. For example, if you fall seriously ill during your holiday you’d have to travel back to Ireland early and may need treatment on the flight home.
Emergency repatriation can be very expensive because you may need to travel back to Ireland in a specialist air ambulance, or you might have to be brought home from a remote location.
Repatriation is usually included in the medical cover benefit of a travel insurance policy, but check the policy document to make sure.