When Is Europe Not Europe?

113Holiday destinations in countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco are very popular. When purchasing travel insurance for your trip or holiday it may not occur to you that some of these destinations may not be categorised under ‘Europe’ for insurance purposes. For example, an insurer may not include Turkey or Egypt as part of Europe under their policies, which means that you would be required to purchase a ‘Worldwide’ policy in order to be covered for travel in those areas.

Next time you purchase travel insurance on the Internet pay attention to the box with a question mark [?] next to the drop-down menu under the section marked ‘Area’ or ‘Destination’ or similar wording in the ‘Obtain a Quote’ section. The drop-down menu usually gives a choice, which will be worded differently from company to company and may include any of the following:

  • Europe
  • Worldwide (excluding USA/Canada)
  • Worldwide (including USA/Canada)
  • Australia and New Zealand

It is very important that you select the correct area for your travels, and always double-check that any individual company or insurer does not exclude your destination country from that geographical area. This issue has come under scrutiny recently regarding cover for Turkey and Egypt, and whether the countries are categorised as part of Europe for travel insurance purposes.

Individual insurance companies and underwriters may rate destinations differently, so never assume they are all the same. It is important to make use of the [?] box when obtaining a quote online, and check that you have purchased the correct cover for your destination before you press ‘Buy’. If you purchase insurance over the phone you will be asked for your destination country or countries and the correct cover will be applied automatically.

Insurance underwriters typically rate a geographical area based on a combination of factors, including:

  • Civil stability
  • Any potential threat to tourism
  • The cost of medical treatment and repatriation

Many travellers may find geographical areas and the way insurers rate them and their associated risks very confusing. Take North Africa for example: Libya, Tunisia and Algeria are neighbours, geographically speaking, and yet Tunisia may be the only country of the three that is classified as being within Europe for insurance purposes.

Most companies make a differentiation between Worldwide cover that includes the USA and Canada, and Worldwide cover that excludes the USA and Canada. The premium is obviously higher for Worldwide cover, and often even higher for Worldwide cover that includes the USA and Canada (mainly because of the astronomical cost of medical care and repatriation).

It would come as a huge shock to have a medical emergency while overseas and then discover too late that your insurer will not cover your claims because you chose the incorrect area of travel when you purchased the insurance.

Most travel insurance companies do automatically include popular holiday destinations such as the Canary Islands, the Azores, Tunisia, Turkey, Madeira, and Egypt under Europe – but always check.

Eligible travellers in Europe holding the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) should also do their research and be aware of whether or not the EHIC covers them for their holiday destination. For example: although Turkey is in Europe, it is not a part of the European Union (at the time of writing) and therefore the EHIC is not valid.

The EHIC should never be used as a substitute for travel insurance, but carried in addition to your insurance. The reason for this is because the EHIC has limited cover, and while it should cover most costs for any emergency medical treatment it can vary from country to country. However, the EHIC does not cover many other potentially expensive travel problems, such as lost or stolen luggage, liability claims, legal costs, or the need for air ambulance and medical repatriation (to fly you back home, perhaps on a stretcher and with a medical escort – all very costly).

The standard rule of thumb for most insurers has traditionally been that Europe includes all countries in Europe ‘west of the Ural Mountains’. However, individual insurers may at any time decide to change their territorial limits or boundaries based on the amount of claims they receive for those destinations in relation to the number of policies sold.