For such a (relatively) small nation, the United Kingdom (UK) is chock full of things to see and do. In the south, London epitomises the modern city, sporting endless activities and shopping…and good company is just one pub away!
Venture north, past the Old City of York, and you arrive in Scotland. Prepare for food as wild as the cold, and just as tasty (seriously, the haggis is worth trying). Then, fly west to Northern Ireland: the land of legends. Fill in your time by exploring natural beauty the likes of which you’ve never seen, before making your way back over to the beautiful and rugged Wales.
Do I need travel insurance for the UK?
Yes, the UK is packed full of pleasures. Like any holiday, though, you’ll need to keep yourself (and your money) safe while you travel. Here’s why travel insurance is an essential purchase for your trip to the United Kingdom.
Even before you take off on your adventure, your travel cover is taking care of you. One of the great things about these policies is that they can help you get money back if illness prevents you from departure in the first place.
Once you land in the ‘old country’, something you can always depend on is that the sky’s usually going to be a bit grey. And some of the time – often in winter – the weather can disrupt services. The railway system across the country is typically exemplary, but if ice forms on the train tracks (for example), it could keep you from your destination…and cost you big time.
Travel cover may help you recoup costs associated with those delays and cancellations, such as accommodation expenses and deposits you’ve already paid for (assuming you aren’t compensated elsewhere).
Staying safe on the roads
Driving in the UK is a form of transport you may need to rely on, but conditions on these roads vary quite a lot from Aussie ones.
For one, the UK has more cars than Australia. As of September 2018, there were 38.4 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain, whereas Australia only had 19.2 million as of January 2018. All those vehicles and Great Britain still fits into the state of Queensland seven times!
That’s a lot of cars in a small space, so be careful when driving through congested roads. If you get into an accident, your rental car excess could be covered by your travel insurance.
Your stay in the UK is likely to follow a traditional tourist route: shop in London, eat some pub food, drink some fine beers, track down a historical building, rinse/repeat. Partaking in these kinds of activities isn’t exactly fraught with danger, but who knows – you could fall ill and miss out on a big part of your trip!
The UK and Australia do have a reciprocal health care agreement (RHCA), through which Australians can access subsidised public healthcare when travelling between these two countries. However, you won’t be covered for everything, and you may still need to pay some expenses related to treatment.
At least with travel insurance, any medical costs (e.g. emergency transportation, prescription medication, evacuation, dental) may be taken care of. In severe enough circumstances, it could even take care of the cost of returning you home, or expenses related to the accidental death of you or your travelling partner.
Lost, stolen, or damaged belongings
Ever lost a phone on vacation? Your wallet, or (worst case scenario) your passport? It’s no fun, and it could happen anywhere. Worse still is when these belongings are stolen. The UK is a fairly safe place to travel, even with kids and your grandmother in tow. However, precautions should be taken when you travel anywhere.
So, if your bag goes missing at Heathrow airport, your wallet gets stolen in a Glasgow pub, or your suitcase is damaged on a bus ride to Belfast, you shouldn’t be left out of pocket if you have travel insurance.
Can travel insurance cover multiple European countries, or long trips?
Getting insured for a trip involving multiple destinations shouldn’t be drastically different than getting insured for a single trip. Some insurers bundle in multiple countries anyway – maybe even entire continents! Some insurers may only issue a policy while you’re still in Australia, though, so ask before you leave which countries your policy covers you for. Additionally, keep a close eye on Smartraveller for travel advisory warnings for any destinations you plan on visiting.
You may wish to do a bit of work while you’re in the UK, maybe to finance a slightly longer trip. If this is the case, simply track down a travel insurance policy that spans a longer period (which may cost you extra). However, you should read through your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to find out whether or not it pays out claims that have resulted from workplace injuries. You’ll also need to apply for a visa to enter the UK if you plan to work.
United Kingdom travel insurance: exclusions and what to watch out for
There are some things excluded from cover under travel insurance. These exclusions may differ between policies and providers, but here are some standard ones:
- Unattended luggage. If your bags and belongings were stolen while left unattended – perhaps you left them on the pavement as you went to hail a black London cab – then you may find your claim for their loss rejected by your insurer.
- Pre-existing medical conditions. Some insurers may offer cover for these conditions as an optional extra, but claims resulting from a pre-existing condition may otherwise be rejected.
- Intoxication. If you’re injured while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your insurer will likely reject your claim.
- Illegal or reckless activities. Your insurer may reject your claim for an incident in which you knowingly acted in a dangerous, illegal or reckless manner.
Top travel tips for the United Kingdom
We forget, but Australia is a relatively young country compared to others. Take a trip to England, and you have hundreds of years of history to explore in every town (dating back to before the Roman Empire). Our biggest tip? Get comfortable with the idea you might miss a few things, and plan for as much as you can!
That said, we have a few great tips to help you out.
1. Check if you need a visa
If you are visiting the UK for less than six months as a tourist, then you may not need a visa to enter the country.⁶ Visitors to the UK who plan to work (either paid or unpaid), get married, stay for longer than six months or are visiting for another purpose (other than tourism) will need a visa.
2. Pack a power adaptor
Despite the familiarity between our countries, the UK’s power outlets are different to Australia’s, so you might want to pack a UK adaptor, or even a universal adaptor if you plan on visiting other countries as well.
3. Don’t block traffic on the London tube escalators
If you’re planning to use the London tube, then make sure you stand on the right side of the escalators and walk (or run, depending on your schedule) on the left side; if you plant yourself in the middle of the escalator, be prepared to receive the ire of London commuters!
4. You can use your Australian license to drive in the UK
Your Australian driving license can be used to drive a car or a motorcycle in the UK for up to 12 months.⁶ Just make sure you drive on the left (which is easy enough for Australians), and call 999 in an emergency for ambulance, fire and police.
5. Get yourself on the United Kingdom sleep cycle as soon as you board the plane
The trip to the UK from Australia is a long one (e.g. 20+ hours in transit), likely with a stopover in another country along the way. In addition, your destination’s time zone is roughly nine hours behind Australia. Try and get onto this sleep cycle as soon as possible, because jet lag can seriously disrupt a holiday!
Compare travel insurance for the United Kingdom
If you haven’t sorted your travel insurance for your big trip to the UK, we can help you out. Simply head over to our travel insurance comparison service to easily search and compare travel insurance policies within minutes.
Learn more about travel insurance across different countries
UK Government – Vehicle licensing statistics: July to September 2018. Published December 2018. Sourced April 2019.
Australian Bureau of Statistics – 9309.0: Motor vehicle census, Australia, 31 Jan 2018. Published July 2018. Sourced April 2019.
Queensland Government – Interesting facts about Queensland. Published December 2017. Sourced April 2019.
Australian Government: Department of Human Services – About reciprocal health care agreements. Updated August 2018. Sourced April 2019.
Australian Government: Department of Human Services – Reciprocal health care agreements: Visiting the United Kingdom. Updated August 2018. Sourced April 2019.
Australian Government: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – United Kingdom. Published on Smartraveller.gov.au. Sourced April 2019.