Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

Originally posted: 29th Jun 2023

Falling ill or suffering an accident abroad is far from ideal. Yet, despite the risks involved, it's surprising how many Brits still venture overseas without adequate travel insurance cover.

Imagine this scenario: You're enjoying your holiday, but suddenly, an unexpected illness or injury occurs, forcing your trip to come to an abrupt end. As a result, you find yourself in a situation where you need to make an emergency return back to the UK. Not only can this be emotionally distressing, but it can also be financially burdensome.

However, the good news is that most comprehensive travel insurance policies include cover for not only medical expenses but also repatriation. This means that in such unfortunate circumstances, you can rest assured knowing that you will receive the necessary medical assistance and support while you're away from home.

Having travel insurance with medical cover and repatriation is not just a wise choice, but it's also a responsible decision. It provides you with peace of mind, knowing that you're protected in case of unforeseen emergencies during your travels. So, before embarking on your next adventure, make sure you have the right travel insurance in place to safeguard yourself against any unexpected mishaps.

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What is repatriation cover?

Repatriation cover is a crucial component of your travel insurance policy, ensuring your protection in case of a serious illness or injury that requires you to be brought back home to the UK. This comprehensive coverage not only safeguards your return but also extends its protective reach to include a family member who may be supporting you abroad during your treatment.

Moreover, in the unfortunate event of a loss, repatriation cover provides financial protection against the substantial expenses associated with bringing a body back home. As part of your medical cover, a dedicated team of specialist medical professionals will assess your situation and determine whether it is in your best interest to be repatriated or continue receiving treatment abroad.

As an example, you may be brought home to the UK if:

  1. You can’t get the appropriate treatment or level of care where you are
  2. You need a long period of recovery, which will be more suitable back home
  3. It may be too costly for you to receive treatment where you are

Do I need repatriation cover?

You can never predict the unexpected, and although medical repatriation is an extremely rare event, it's wise to ensure you're covered. The reason why it's so important is that it can be financially burdensome. Repatriation isn't always as simple as boarding an earlier scheduled flight back home.

In more extreme cases, it might involve medical evacuation via an air ambulance or even a private aircraft from a more remote location. For example, imagine you were on a cruise ship in the middle of the vast ocean when a medical emergency occurs. In such situations, arranging for medical repatriation can be a complex and costly process.

Having comprehensive coverage that includes medical repatriation can provide peace of mind, knowing that you'll receive the necessary care and assistance, regardless of the circumstances. It's better to be prepared for the unexpected and have financial protection in place to handle any unforeseen medical situations that may arise.

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Does travel insurance cover repatriation as standard?

Fortunately, most standard travel insurance policies will include this type of cover (but, be sure to double-check). In most cases, this will be listed alongside any medical coverage listed in your policy - although some providers may list it as a separate item altogether.

Moreover, if you decide to take out specialist travel insurance to cover a pre-existing condition, you may find that there is even more extensive coverage for medical-related areas, including medical expenses and repatriation. This additional coverage ensures that you have peace of mind and comprehensive protection throughout your travels.

What cover is typically included?

The first thing to bear in mind is that cover will vary from policy to policy. However, broadly speaking, when it comes to repatriation cover, you'll usually find that it includes several important aspects.

  • It covers the cost of getting you safely back home once you've been cleared to travel. This means that you don't have to worry about the financial burden of arranging your own transportation.
  • Repatriation cover often includes accommodation and travel expenses for a companion who can stay with you until you are able to travel home. This ensures that you have the support and company you need during your recovery.
  • Some providers go the extra mile and actually take care of organising the entire trip home on your behalf, saving you time and effort.
  • Repatriation cover also typically offers emergency helpline assistance that is available 24/7. This means that no matter where you are in the world, help is just a phone call away should you require any assistance or guidance.
  • In the unfortunate event of a death, repatriation cover often covers the cost of returning the insured traveller's body to their home country.

It's important to note that there are certain exclusions to be aware of. For example, cover for pre-existing medical conditions is typically not included in standard travel insurance policies. To ensure that you have the necessary coverage for any medical conditions you may have been diagnosed with, it's advisable to seek a specialist policy that caters to your specific needs. Failing to do so could potentially invalidate your policy, leaving you without the appropriate coverage when you need it most.

How much repatriation cover do I need?

As above, medical repatriation can be an incredibly expensive undertaking. It is essential, therefore, to ensure that your insurance policy provides sufficient coverage for such circumstances. Fortunately, many travel insurance policies offer a minimum coverage of £1 million, and some providers even go above and beyond by offering coverage in excess of £10 million.

While this may seem like a staggering amount to some, it is an indispensable buffer when you consider the exorbitant costs associated with emergency medical care in foreign countries. It provides peace of mind, knowing that you are adequately protected in the event of an unforeseen medical emergency while travelling.

Who decides if I need to be repatriated?

Your insurance provider plays a crucial role in determining whether or not you will be repatriated. They collaborate closely with a medical assistance company, which directly communicates with the doctors treating you. This collaborative effort enables them to make an informed decision based on your condition and the specific type of treatment you require.

Additionally, the availability of medical facilities and resources in the country where you fell ill will also influence this decision. However, it is important to note that there may be situations where you are deemed medically unfit to travel, further impacting the outcome.

Can you get repatriation cover with a pre-existing medical condition?

Yes - just like any standard travel insurance policy, a specialist policy covering pre-existing conditions should include cover for repatriation. This means that if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to be safely brought back to your home country due to any pre-existing conditions, you can rest assured knowing that your insurance will take care of the costs associated with repatriation.

In fact, it's crucial to emphasise the importance of declaring any pre-existing conditions when purchasing travel insurance. Failure to disclose these conditions to your insurance provider can have serious consequences. If you require repatriation as a result of an undeclared pre-existing condition, the likelihood is that you probably won't be covered for any of the associated costs. So, to ensure peace of mind and comprehensive coverage, it's always recommended to be transparent and upfront about any pre-existing conditions.

What should you expect if you need repatriation?

In the event that you or a family member require repatriation, it is important to understand that the final decision lies with the specialist medical assistance team who collaborates with your travel insurance provider.

As mentioned earlier, they will consult with the medical professional responsible for your well-being after experiencing illness or injury abroad. Subsequently, they will carefully determine the most appropriate course of action. This may involve arranging your transportation on the next available commercial flight or considering more intricate options such as an air ambulance or a private plane. Rest assured that their expertise and thorough evaluation will ensure your safe return home.

Where can I get the best deal on repatriation?

When it comes to travel insurance policies, it's crucial to keep in mind that not all of them offer the same level of coverage for medical repatriation. This is an important consideration when comparing different insurance options.

To have peace of mind during your travels, you may find it worthwhile to pay a slightly higher premium in order to ensure you receive the best possible protection. After all, your well-being and safety should always be a top priority.

At Medical Travel Compared, we make the process of comparing quotes from a wide range of travel insurance providers who offer medical repatriation cover incredibly easy. We understand the importance of finding the right policy that suits your specific needs, so you can travel with confidence and reassurance.

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Single trip insurance is for one-off, individual trips and will cover your specified travel dates. This is usually up to 45 days, however, some insurance providers can cover up to 94 days. If you’re not a frequent traveller, single trip cover is a great option and will likely be cheaper than an annual multi-trip cover.
If you travel 2 or more times a year, annual trip cover may very well save you money. The maximum duration of any trip will always be specified and will vary by provider. But don't worry, when you get a quote we'll ask you what your maximum trip length is and only show you quotes which match!
If you don't travel much then a single trip cover is perfect as you can cover specific dates suited to your trip. If you have cancellation cover, you'll also benefit from this as soon as you buy your policy. If you travel 2 or more times a year, it may be cheaper for you to go for an annual trip cover. It's best to start your annual trip cover as soon as possible, as if you have cancellation cover, you'll only benefit from this from your policy start date.
A pre-existing is any medical condition for which medical advice, diagnosis, care or treatment was recommended or received before applying for a travel insurance policy. Some conditions we'll need to know if they have ever been present, whilst some within a certain time period.

A pre-existing condition is a diagnosed medical condition that existed before taking out a policy. We'll ask a series of questions about the medical history for you and any travellers on your quote. If you answer yes to any of these, you will need to tell us about the traveller's conditions. This could be a condition that a traveller has now or has had in the past. If you are not sure what conditions you need to declare, we have online support available to help you 24/7!

It's really simple and quick to do! After you've told us about your trip details and answered some medical history questions you can add your pre-existing conditions, one by one, for each traveller. You'll only need to enter your details once, it's all online and there's no need to call, or provide details of your conditions in writing.
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