A travel insurance policy protects you from losing money because of unexpected events that might happen while you're abroad or before you travel.
- emergency medical expenses, such as treatment while you're abroad
- getting you home safely
- if you have to cancel your trip or end it early, for example, if you or a family member are ill.
The main types of travel insurance are single trip or annual policies for multiple trips. The type of trip you're taking and the activities you have planned will also affect your insurance, for example, skiing, scuba diving, bungee jumping or a cruise holiday.
The information on this page is about cancer and travel insurance. For general information about travel cover, visit GOV.UK.
Travelling when you have cancer can affect your trip in many different ways. We have more information about preparing for travel.
We have a travel insurance checklist which can help you prepare questions for insurance providers.
If you are living with cancer, you should check with your doctor or other healthcare professional that you are fit to travel. But even if you are fit to travel, this does not guarantee that you can get insurance to cover your cancer.
When buying travel insurance, you need to check whether the policy will cover claims related to pre-existing medical conditions, including cancer. There are some companies that 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.
You will usually have to pay extra to cover claims related to the cancer.
Make sure you know what is and is not covered before you take out a policy, so you know it will meet your needs. If you are not sure, ask the insurer or an insurance broker.
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 that says you are well enough to travel. This could come from your cancer team or from your GP. In some cases, GPs may charge you for this letter. It might save time if you get the letter before contacting insurance providers.
Taking medical equipment abroad
If you need to take any special medical equipment with you on holiday, make sure your insurance will cover this.
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.
If you have an annual policy and you are diagnosed with cancer during the period of your cover, you may need to tell your insurer. Check your policy to make sure. This also applies to your family members if there is a risk they may have to cancel a holiday because of your health.
Be prepared for questions
Always make sure you have all the information the insurer will need before you contact them. 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.
It is a good idea to get quotes from a range of different insurance providers. This includes insurance companies, price comparison websites, some supermarkets and your bank.
We have set up a forum about travel insurance on our Online Community. You can find out which insurers people are recommending at macmillan.org.uk/travelinsurancegroup
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.
Not all providers meet our standards, but we are working to ensure that more providers achieve these standards in the future. Two travel insurance providers who meet these standards are Insurancewith, part of tifgroup and the Post Office.
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.
Premiums and excess payments
Travel insurance policies have different sections covering different events. For example, there may be a section about what might happen if you are injured. Another section may only apply if you lose 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.
When there is a single excess charge per claim, this can mean you will pay less if you need to claim.
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 biba.org.uk/find-insurance.
Try to have certain information ready when you start looking for travel insurance. This will make your search easier. We have a checklist which includes examples of some of the things a travel insurance provider might want to know.
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.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
The EHIC allows you to get emergency or state-funded healthcare in some countries for free or at a reduced cost.
You must be a UK resident. This means you normally live in the UK. You do not need to have British nationality to be a UK resident.
There are no exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions. But the EHIC does not cover:
- private healthcare
- ambulances (this depends on which country you are in)
- getting you back to the UK
- non-medical things such as personal liability, trip cancellation or baggage cover.
The EHIC does not replace travel insurance. This means it is important to have an EHIC and the right kind of travel insurance before you travel.
How to apply
An EHIC is free and lasts for up to 5 years. You can apply online at ehic.org.uk or call 0300 330 1350. Your card will normally arrive within 7 days.
You can find more information about the EHIC and health advice for travellers online. Visit:
- nhs.uk/healthcareabroad if you live in England, Scotland or Wales
- nidirect.gov.uk/travelling-abroad if you live in Northern Ireland.
Countries with mutual healthcare agreements with the UK
Some countries outside the EU have mutual healthcare agreements with the UK. You will be treated in the same way as a resident of that country.
This may be different from what you would expect from the NHS or Health Service. Because the agreements do not cover every situation, you will still need to get travel insurance.
To claim free or reduced-cost treatment in these countries, you will need to prove you are a UK resident. This usually involves showing a UK passport.
For an up-to-date list of countries that have a mutual agreement with the UK, visit nhs.uk/healthcareabroad
Countries with no healthcare agreements with the UK
In countries that are not covered by the EHIC and where there is no mutual agreement with the UK, you will have to pay the full cost of any healthcare.
If you are travelling to these countries, it is important to buy travel insurance that covers any healthcare you might need. The high commission, consulate or embassy of the country you are visiting should be able to give you information on the healthcare services available.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has details of where you can find these and British embassies when you are abroad.
Getting a refund on your treatment
You may need to pay for treatment while you are abroad and then claim this money back. You are likely to need the original invoices and documents from your treatment to make a claim.
If you are covered by travel insurance, your insurance provider will explain this process to you. If you have an EHIC and are travelling in a country where it is valid, you should try to claim any refunds before you return home. There is information about how to do this in different countries at nhs.uk/healthcareabroad
To make a claim on your EHIC once you return to the UK, contact the Overseas Healthcare Team on 019 1218 1999.
Returning home due to an illness or an emergency (repatriation)
The EHIC and some travel insurance policies will not pay to transport you back home in an emergency (repatriation). When getting travel insurance, you should check whether repatriation is included.
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