Travel insurance that specifically mentions Covid is now required by more than 40 countries. We look at the rules, options, and advice for people travelling from France.
Many countries now require passengers from all over the world (including France) to hold travel insurance policies that specifically mention and provide coverage for Covid-related incidents, including hospitalisation and self-isolation.
This ensures that travellers can cover the costs of eventual hospital stays, hotel stays in case quarantine is needed, and even repatriation in the case of severe illness.
Some countries have even more specific requirements. Thailand, for example, requires at least $50,000 USD (around €44,000) worth of health coverage. Costa Rica has the same requirement, but insurance there is only mandatory for passengers who are not fully vaccinated.
This has caused problems for some older travellers too, as some insurance companies have an age limit for their policies.
Travellers are advised to check before travelling and ensure that their documents and policies conform to their health situation and age, and the rules of their destination country.
Countries and territories that currently require mandatory Covid health insurance for foreign travellers:
- Europe: Russia, Ukraine
- Africa: Algeria, Benin, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Togo, Seychelles
- Americas: Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil (for travel of more than 90 days), Chile, Costa Rica (unless fully vaccinated), Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Turks and Caicos Islands
- Asia: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand
I am a French resident. Do I need travel insurance?
Yes, some destinations now require it, as stated above.
In addition, travellers are generally advised to take out health insurance when travelling abroad, even though it otherwise remains optional in France.
Quentin Poizat, commercial director of leisure and tourism at insurance company Allianz Partners France, told Le Figaro: “People in France are well covered by la Sécurité Sociale and their complementary health insurance when in the country, so they often think that they will have the same coverage abroad.
“However, as soon as they cross the border, the probability of spending €50,000 on medical expenses increases. This is true in Europe and even more so in the rest of the world.”
Costs for healthcare in countries such as the US, Australia and Japan can quickly soar. And even a €20,000 hospital stay in European countries, such as Spain, will only be reimbursed up to €1,250 by la Sécurité Sociale.
Mr Poizat added: “The current health crisis has heightened travellers' awareness of the risks of going abroad without insurance. This is shown by the significant increase in the numbers of people taking out insurance policies since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Which insurance policies cover Covid?
In contrast to the start of the pandemic, most insurance policies now offer some level of coverage for Covid-related issues.
Travellers are advised to check that a policy covers costs such as healthcare while abroad in case of Covid, self-isolation fees, coverage in case the trip is extended due to Covid, cancellation fees, or a new return flight home if needed.
Geoffroy Bonnet-Eymard, director of Chapka Assurances, said: “Today, it’s difficult for people to commit to travelling when there’s so much uncertainty over whether they will go or not, and the risk of getting stuck is increased. As an insurer, we try to enable people to travel with peace of mind.
“Now, we consider Covid-19 to be just another ‘normal’ illness. Also, extra things are covered, such as a refund if people’s don’t get their Covid test results in time (which is now required for many destinations).”
Similarly, Allianz Partners said: “We have added guarantees that weren’t there before, such as cancellation due to quarantine.”
However, some policies only offer coverage for vaccinated travellers, and there are still exclusions that are not covered, such as a nationwide lockdown, border closure, or simply “fear of travel”.
Mr Bonnet-Eymard said: “An unvaccinated traveller who goes to a red country, which is not advised by the foreign affairs ministry, will not be covered for healthcare costs due to Covid or quarantine. However, they would be covered for other accidents or illnesses.”
How should I choose a good travel insurance policy?
Make sure you understand what the policy covers, from cancellation to baggage, to flights and accommodation, as well as Covid issues or possible fees.
Ensure that the policy applies specifically to your location, destination, health conditions, baggage contents, activities covered, and trip type. Check the rules of the country you are visiting before buying or travelling.
Also check what other services or useful extras the policy includes, such as a 24-hour medical assistance line, 24-hour claim line, or a local translator if needed.
Do I need to buy my travel insurance at the same time as booking my trip?
Most cancellation coverage requires that the policy is taken out at the same time, or within 48 hours, in order to be valid. On the other hand, policies covering medical expenses, loss of luggage, repatriation and interruption of stay can usually be bought after, or even up to the day before, departure.
I have a Visa or Mastercard bank card with travel insurance. What does that cover?
Firstly, you will need to have paid for your trip with the card in question to qualify for coverage.
The coverage offered depends on your level of card. The lowest level does not normally include cancellation or health costs; or if you are covered, this will be for relatively small amounts or in a limited set of circumstances.
The higher level cards, such as Visa Premier or MasterCard Gold, offer more coverage, but usually with lower limits than major insurers (for example, €30,000 in health fees compared to an average of €100,000 in Europe, or €150,000 compared to an average of €1,000,000 in the United States).
Most cards will not let you cancel in the event of most personal issues, such as a personal injury, illness, or a requirement to quarantine due to Covid.
The cards are usually sufficient for travel to European cities, as long as you are not engaging in unusual or dangerous activities, such as skiing or extreme sports.
Unsurprisingly, insurance companies recommend that travellers take out extra cover on top of their cards, especially if they are taking part in riskier activities or want to ensure maximum coverage in the case of Covid.
Mr Bonnet-Eymard said: “Bank card insurance has followed the post-Covid trend of extending cover, but in a more limited way, especially on cancellation cover…Generally speaking, they are less reactive and will take longer to reimburse, as travel insurance is not their primary business.”
How do I use my insurance if needed?
If the worst happens and you do need to claim, the most important numbers to have to hand are:
- Your policy number (and sometimes your details such as email address used)
- The medical helpline phone number (from France and/or abroad)
- The claims phone number (from France and/or abroad)
The first port of call should be to check your policy, and then call the insurance company and/or helpline.
This information will usually be enough to check whether the incident is covered by your policy, and enable the insurance company to start a claim.
They should then let you know what documents they will need to proceed, such as medical certificates, receipts, or invoices.