Cancer and buying travel insurance

When buying travel insurance, you need to check whether the policy will cover claims related to pre-existing medical conditions, including cancer.

What is travel insurance?

A travel insurance policy protects you from losing money because of unexpected events that might happen while you are abroad or before you travel.

The main areas covered by a travel insurance policy are:

  • Emergency medical treatment – this includes ambulances and getting you back home safely.
  • Cancellation or curtailment – this is if you need to cancel your trip or end it early (curtail it). For example, this could be if you or a family member are ill.
  • Personal liability – this is if you injure someone or damage their property by accident.
  • Baggage – this is if your belongings are lost or stolen.

You do not have to take out travel insurance. But if you go abroad without it, you could end up paying large amounts of money. For example, this may happen if you need emergency medical treatment or injure someone else by accident.

You may have travel insurance with your bank, building society or home insurer, so it is a good idea to check with them.

Types of travel insurance

There are two main types of travel insurance:

  • Single trip insurance covers you for one trip abroad. You need to take out a new policy each time you travel.
  • Annual insurance covers you for multiple trips in the same year.

If you have an annual policy and are diagnosed with cancer during the period of your cover, you may need to tell your insurer. You should check your policy to make sure. This also applies to family members if there is a risk they may have to cancel a holiday because of your health.

The type of trip you are taking and the activities you have planned will affect your insurance; for example, skiing, scuba diving, bungee jumping or a cruise holiday.

How can cancer affect getting travel insurance

If you are living with cancer, check with your doctor or other healthcare professional that you are fit to travel. Even if you are fit to travel, this does not guarantee that you can get insurance to cover cancer.

When buying travel insurance, make sure to check whether the policy will cover claims related to pre-existing medical conditions, including cancer. You will usually have to pay extra to cover claims related to the cancer.

Some companies specialise in providing this kind of travel insurance. They may offer you a policy that covers these kinds of claims, as long as:

  • you have told the insurer about the pre-existing conditions
  • the conditions have been accepted by the insurer in writing.

Make sure you know what is and is not covered before you take out a policy. This will help make sure it will meet your needs. If you are not sure, ask the insurer or an insurance broker. You can find a qualified and regulated insurance broker through the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA).

  • Cancer-related exclusion

    If your travel insurance policy has a cancer-related exclusion, you will not be covered for any claims related to the cancer. Make sure you understand exactly what you are and are not covered for. Always check with the insurance provider if you are unsure.

  • Getting a letter from your doctor

    Some providers will ask for a letter from your doctor confirming you are well enough to travel. This could come from your cancer doctor or your GP. In some cases, GPs may charge you for this letter. It may save time if you get the letter before contacting insurance providers.

  • Medical screening process

    Always make sure you have all the information the insurer will need before you contact them for this process. If your policy says you should tell them about any pre-existing medical conditions, you must answer any question they ask as fully and as accurately as you can.

    If you do not, your insurer could refuse to pay a claim and could cancel your policy.

  • Taking medical equipment abroad

    If you need to take any special medical equipment with you on holiday, make sure your insurance covers this.

  • If someone close to you has cancer

    You need to tell your insurer if the health of someone close to you may affect your trip. If someone close to you has cancer, there is a risk your trip may have to end early or be cancelled because of their health. It is important to read the policy carefully.

  • Check existing policies

    Your health or prescribed medication may change between the time that you take out the policy and when you book, or leave for, a trip. Some insurers ask that you tell them any new information about your health or tests you have during this time.

Finding travel insurance

It is a good idea to get quotes from different insurance providers. These include insurance companies, price comparison websites, supermarkets and banks or building societies.

Premiums and excess payments

Travel insurance policies have different sections covering different events. For example, there may be a section about if you become ill or are injured. Another section may be about losing your belongings. Depending on your insurance provider and its policies, there may be:

  • a single excess charge for any claim you make
  • separate excess charges for each section of the policy when you claim
  • separate excess charges for each person claiming, if more than one person is covered by the policy.

Macmillan cannot recommend travel insurance providers. But we have a set of standards that we think travel insurance providers should meet in order to provide appropriate cover for people with cancer.

For example, people with cancer should be offered appropriate cover that meets their needs, at a reasonable price. They should also be given clear information that is easy to understand, and be supported by trained, specialist staff who understand about cancer.

We have set up a forum about travel insurance on our Online Community. You can visit the group to find out which insurers people are recommending.

If you have problems buying or claiming on travel insurance, call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 to speak to one of our financial guides.

British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA)

You can find a qualified and regulated insurance broker through the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA). Insurance brokers do not offer insurance directly. Instead, they try to find a suitable travel insurance provider for you. They can take your details, check and compare insurance options, and then search for providers on your behalf. Call BIBA on 0370 950 1790 (local rate landline number, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm) or visit their website.

Checklist for buying travel insurance

When you talk to insurers, you may be asked some difficult or upsetting questions about your health. However, insurers may need to do this to decide whether they are able to offer you a policy, and how much it will cost.

Depending on how you feel when talking about the cancer, you may find it easier to contact only one or two companies at a time. Or you could contact an insurance broker or financial adviser who can do the research for you.

Our financial guides can advise you about speaking to your insurer. They can also tell you about your options if you are not happy with the service a provider has given you. Call them on 0808 808 00 00.

We also have a handy checklist of things your insurer might want to know, and things you might want to know.

Things an insurance provider might want to know

Having answers to these questions can help you prepare for contacting providers. You may want to write down:

  • where you are travelling to
  • the length of your trip
  • any health conditions you have
  • how long ago the diagnosis was
  • where the cancer is or was
  • whether the cancer has spread, and if so, where to
  • whether you are currently having treatment, or whether there is treatment planned
  • whether you have had surgery in the past or have surgery planned
  • any medication you are currently on
  • any current symptoms and side effects
  • how advanced the cancer is and whether it is terminal
  • details of GP, hospital or specialist visits in relation to the cancer in the past year
  • whether the health of anyone else (either someone who is travelling with you or someone at home) could possibly affect your planned trip
  • any medical equipment you need for travel
  • any winter sports, extreme sports or similar activities you plan to do on your trip.

Things you might want to know

It can help to compare the policies and quotes of different travel insurance providers. This may help you decide on the best insurance policy for your situation. You could draw a table and write down the following details for each provider:

  • the company name and their contact details
  • the cover amount
  • whether you would be covered if your trip was cancelled
  • whether the policy includes an exclusion for cancer
  • whether any other exclusions apply
  • how much excess you would need to pay if you made a claim
  • the price the company has quoted you for the policy.

Emergency healthcare in the European Union

If you become ill in some EU countries, you can use a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) to get emergency healthcare. The treatment may be free, or you may have to pay. If you have a UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) it will be valid until the expiry date on the card. Once it expires, you’ll need to apply for a GHIC to replace it. All UK residents can get a free GHIC.

A GHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It is important to have both a GHIC and travel insurance that makes sure you can get the emergency health treatment you need abroad.

To apply for a GHIC and for the latest information on emergency healthcare in the EU, visit the NHS website or GOV.UK

COVID-19 Update

Some insurance providers may not cover you to travel during the coronavirus pandemic. You should keep up to date on travel advice from the government.

We have general information about cancer and coronavirus.

  • Disclaimer

    We would like to make it clear to you that the contents of this website are not, and are not intended to constitute, a financial promotion within the meaning of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 nor an invitation or inducement to engage in investment activity. We also do not endorse or recommend any financial products or services.

    Macmillan is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

    The information that we provide you is for general guidance on your rights and responsibilities and is not financial or legal advice. We are not liable to you for any information or services obtained by you from, or given to you by, a third party.

    If you need more details on your rights, please contact a financial, legal or other appropriate adviser.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.