Do I Need Travel Insurance for The Schengen Area?

James Rodriguez James Rodriguez updated on March 18, 2020

You'd like to visit the Schengen area and travel insurance is the least interesting thing about your travel? But during one of your trips, have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to get emergency treatment, where you lost your baggage at the airport, or just about anything else unexpected?

Hence, you’re probably wondering how to find the best travel insurance?

In the below ultimate guide for travelling from the UK to the Schengen area, we will tell you everything you need to know about travel insurance for your trip: is it compulsory, what key features should you pay attention to, how much does it cost, what are the driving requirements etc?

Let’s get started.

Is travel insurance for the Schengen area compulsory for UK residents?

No, it's not. As long as you planned to travel within the Schengen zone for less than 90 days within a 180 days period.

The Schengen area is a border-less zone where all residents can circulate freely from one country to others without having to show any passport. The 26 Schengen Area countries are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • CzechRepublic,
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland.

The United Kingdom, although member of the European Union for the time being, is NOT a member of the Schengen area. However, citizens from the UK are allowed to travel across both the Schengen area and the European Union visa-free for a maximum of 90 day within a 180 days period.

Thats is also valid for BOTCs (British Overseas Territories citizens), BS (British Subjects), BOCs (British Overseas citizens) and BPP (British Protected Persons).

In the case where a UK resident must travel within the Schengen area for a period longer than 90 days, he/she would need to apply for a Schengen visa (Tourist, Business, Working, Student, Transit). To apply for a Schengen Visa, you will need to show:

  • A UK passport still valid for at least 3 months after your return
  • A UK residence permit
  • A proper Visa Application Form
  • Two recent passport photos taken within the last three months and compliant with the Schengen visa photo criteria
  • Your trip itinerary and proof of accomodation
  • A proof of financial means
  • A proof of employment / student status
  • A valid proof of travel insurance with cover for medical expense of minimum £30000.

Travel insurance to enter the Schengen area soil is therefore compulsory for anyone needing to apply for a Schengen visa.

However, even if you are planning to visit the Schengen zone for less than 90 days and therefore do not need to apply for travel insurance as a legal requirement, we strongly advise you to do so. Travel insurance is much more than a nice-to-have product and will get you covered for anything that may happen while you are abroad.

Why do I need travel insurance for the Schengen Area?

Imagine that during your trip, at a roundabout, someone runs into you. You need to call the emergency services. An ambulance comes and you need to make IRM checks to ensure everything is alright.

Unfortunately, it happens much more often than we think, and it could leave both you and your partner with significant medical costs to pay if you didn’t apply for travel insurance before leaving.

A recent study of Which as shown that on more than 10 000 UK travelers in 2018, 64% of them have had medical care while traveling abroad. The average spend of medical treatment abroad reaches £1300 but can be much more.

Here is a list of the most common unexpected costs arising during people’s trips:

What if….How much does it cost on average?How much will you have to pay without travel insurance (but with EHIC*)?How much will you have to pay with travel insurance?
You need air rescue£3251£3251£0 until medical expense limit is reached
You need an IRM £245£0*£0 until medical expense limit is reached
You need to have surgery and to stay at a hospital  £5600£0 in public hospital only*£0 until medical expense limit is reached
You need medical repatriation £38500£38500£0
You need dental care£500£500£0 – if planned in policy
Your baggage has been lost at the airport£780£780£0
Someone stole your money£200£200£0 until limit is reached
You need to cancel your trip£200£2200£0 until cancellation limit is reached
Fees to be paid with or without travel insurance

* British people travelling to the Schengen zone can benefit from their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) until 31/12/2020, which  any European citizen can get for free. The EHIC should, as required in law, cover any medical procedures and treatments you may get while you are in the Schengen area. The EHIC will not, however, cover any emergency or repatriation costs and any medical care considered as non urgent. This is where travel insurance comes in.

If you have a medical history, always take your EHIC with you as it will cover standard care for pre-existing medical conditions (unlike travel insurance if you didn’t tick the pre-existing medical condition box while applying). Check out our reviews on pre-existing medical conditions travel insurances.

For as cheap as £1/day, “Comprehensive Travel Insurance” is a contract which fully covers you for your trip to the Schengen area and provides you with both financial compensation as well as assistance during your trip. Travel insurance is not mandatory for anyone holding a valid UK passport but is, however, absolutely necessary. Just give yourself peace of mind.

What are the best travel insurance policies to visit the Schengen area?

How can you choose between the plethora of travel insurance policies on offer and find the least expensive policy? Many insurers, even some small ones, offer very good value for money deals. We’ve come up with a selection of small and big actors offering tempting deals. 

Among them you’ll find:

InsurerPriceOur reviewSee insurance offer
logo world first£6,54
  • Provides all travel insurance types with 4 levels of cover (all rated 5 stars by Defaqto): Standard, Premier, Exclusive, Superior
  • 4,8/5 on TrustPilotVery good customer care according to reviews
  • Offers dedicated family travel insurance
  • No credit or debit card fees guarantee
  • Possibility to apply 12 months in advance
  • UK-based customer service and claim team
  • Reimburse within 14 days
Get quote
logo js travel insurance£6,88
  • Provides cover for up to 75 years old for a single trip
  • Offers cover for 500 different sports
  • Provides all travel insurance types with 3 levels of cover: Silver, Gold and Platinum
  • Medical compensation range is £5M – £10M
  • Also provides cover for cruise and winter sports
  • Up to £500 laptop cover
Get quote
logo explorer travel insurance£7,08
  • 4,58/5 rate on Reviews
  • Provides all types of travel insurance with 2 level of protection: Gold and GoldPlus
  • Medical compensation for up to 85 years old
  • Dedicated customer service according to reviews
Get quote
logo travel insurance 4 medical£9,48
  • 4,8/5 consumers reviews rate on TrustPilot / 5 stars on Defaqto
  • Specialist insurer providing full cover for up to 1000 medical conditions (including Alzheimer’s, HIV, cancer etc.)
  • Includes cover for pregnant womenUK based-call center
  • 24/7 assistance team
  • Provides cover for people up to 100 years old
  • Provides all travel insurance types with 3 level of protection
  • Medical compensation limit minimum is £3M and max £10M
  • Also provides cover for cruise and winter sports
Get quote
Travel insurance comparison for the Schengen area

*Quotes above are for a 30 years old person applying for a one week trip to the Schengen area travel insurance.

Note that a travel insurance to Schengen area should aways cover any Schengen member states, provides you with a minimum of £30 000 medical cover as well as repatriation, emergency hospital treatment and medical aid.

Even better, use our comparison tool to find the best deal for you! At Safe, we’ve checked out hundreds of travel insurance providers and we are now able to allow you to compare dozens of holiday insurance deals in only a few seconds without giving any personal details.

Always remember to check limits and excess amounts, maximum number of days per trip and exclusions in an insurer’s policy terms and conditions booklet. 

Which travel insurance type do I need for the Schengen area?

You can apply for different insurance types depending on your type of trip, from frequent luxury or business travel to cheap holidays to the Schengen area.

The most common ones are: 

Travel insurance typeExplanationMain features
Single trip insuranceThese travel insurance policies are for one-off holidays. You will be covered from the start of the journey until the end. You can decide the number of days you want to be covered for. Covers for the period of the stay
Annual multi-trip insuranceThese policies are made for frequent travelers going away for holidays, business trips or for any other reason several times a year. You would need to check whether it is more competitive to buy two or three single trip insurance policies or an annual multi-trip policy.
You can choose between a worldwide, worldwide excluding the USA, Caribbean and Canada or an european travel plan.  This last one is the plan you should go for while seeking for Schengen area travel insurance.
Covers for a period of 12 monthLength of each trip usually limited to 31 days (but can vary from 10 days to 90)Sometimes there is an age limit (66 years old on average)
Long stay and gap year insuranceThese plans are made for students or any british resident wanting to explore the world, including for backpacking,  gap year trips or for any other long stay reason.Usually covers periods between 90 days for up to 18 monthsFor gap year trips,, there might be some age restrictions (from 16 to 45 only, for example)
Types of travel insurance for your trip to the Schengen area

What are the must-have features for travel insurance? 

Each travel insurance policy is different, since it is the insurer who determines the content of the contracts it offers: guarantees, compensation limits, deductibles, travel insurance prices, etc. 

However, all contracts on the market must include at least the following guarantees, applicable in the Schengen area and elsewhere abroad:

  • Medical expenses: compensation by the insurer for your health expenses during your stay (consultation, analysis, emergency treatment, longer hospital stay, etc.).
  • Repatriation assistance to the UK: financial and logistical support by a dedicated 24/7 team for your early return to your country of residence if it proves necessary. 
  • Trip cancellation and cover for delayed or missed departure: compensation if you need to cancel your trip for whatever reason or if you missed your departure.
  • Personal liability: compensation for any damage or injury made to a third-party (consider adding it as extra if not included in standard cover).
  • Baggage: compensation for any lost or theft of baggage while travelling (consider adding it as extra if not included in standard cover).

Most of the time, travel insurers offer different formulas. Cover types involved are usually the same, but the compensation limits and deductibles vary. 

Main guaranteesCover you should get for your travels to the Schengen areaMin – max limit amount you should get for your trip to the Schengen areaGood to check
Medical travel insurance
  • Any emergency transport, medical procedures and treatments at the hospital
  • 24/7 assistance team and helplines
Average £1 million limit
  • Are private or public hospitals included in your policy?
  • Will there be advance fees?
  • If you haven’t declared any pre-existing medical conditions or a pending diagnosis, any claim related to healthcare will be declared as invalidated by your insurer.
  • Are dental emergency treatments included?
  • Will any “accompanying person” fees be reimbursed?
Trip cancellation / curtailment
  • Illness, injury or even death of you or one of your relatives at the time of departure
  • Very bad weather conditions at your destination
  • Terrorist attack at your destination
Minimum £2000 limit
  • Is it included as standard or as an option?
  • Will you get compensation if you cancel your trip for “all justified reasons”?
  • Which reasons exactly are included to get compensation for your trip cancellation?
  • Compensation for baggage and belongings theft or loss up to the limit known
  • No receipt required
Minimum £1500 limit
  • Is it only valid during return transport or during the entire stay?
  • Do you need the receipts for any belongings for baggage claims?
Missed departure, delay Compensation if you miss your flight or train when it is beyond your control or if your journey is delayedMinimum £500 limit (minimum £200 limit for delay)
  • Are all justified reasons for missed departure covered? 
  • How many hours delay to get compensation?
RepatriationCost of repatriation before or after your original ticketReal fees
  • Is any transportation mode included (by alternative schedule flight or by air ambulance)?
Personal liabilityCompensation for any damage or injury made to a third-party during your trip up to the limit knownAverage £2 million limit 
  • What is the limit by article and valuables (don’t focus on overall limit only)?
Legal expensesLegal fees for claiming compensation to another personAverage £15000 limit
  • Does it cover any lawyer fees (including appointment fees)?
Must-have features of your travel insurance to the Schengen area

What are the nice-to-have features for travel insurance?

Main guaranteesCover you should get for your trip to the Schengen areaMin – max limit amount you should get for your trip to the Schengen areaGood to check
Money and cashCovers for loss or theft of money or equivalent such as chequesMinimum £500 for money (pre-paid tickets, travellers cheque etc.)

Minimum £200 for cash
How long can you make a claim to the police to be covered? Is there a 24-hour claim limit?
Dental emergency Covers for emergency dental careMinimum £250What is included in emergency dental care? Cosmetic will most of the time be excluded
Loss of passport or documentationCovers additional fees such as accomodation or travel replacement as a result of loss of documentationMinimum £250How many nights are covered?Do you need receipts of any additional fees incurred?
Nice-to-have features for your travel insurance to the Schengen area

Which upgrades could you add as extras for your travel insurance?

Additionally, you may tailor your policy for your trip to the Schengen area with optional extras such as:

  • Business trip cover
  • Sport, winter sport, extreme sport cover
  • Schedule Airline Failure (at least £1500 covered)
  • Gadget insurance
  • Cruise cover
  • Etc. 

What does your travel insurance to the Schengen area not cover?

Most travel insurers will not give financial compensation for: 

  • Any claim made as a result of pre-medical condition or pending diagnosis undeclared at the time of purchase
  • Any claim made as a result of you being under drugs or alcohol
  • Difficulties due to natural disaster, war, civil unrest (watch out for strikes)
  • Any claim made as a result of a terrorist attack (except if you took this cover as an option)
  • Pregnancy and childbirth complications during travel.

We would advise you to thoroughly check your policy booklet for the main exclusions before leaving home. 

What else should you pay attention to while shopping around for travel insurance for the Schengen area?

While shopping around for travel insurance for your trip to the Schengen zone, always pay attention to:

  • The compensation amounts you will get for a claim by consulting our up-to-date reviews on each insurer (especially for medical expenses, trip cancellation, personal liability, baggage and personal belongings)
  • The deductible amounts you’ll have to pay in case of claim (don’t forget that you’ll need to pay the excess on each claim)
  • The exclusions you may have in your policy (strike, cancellation trip due to the carrier defaulting etc.)
  • Coverages included in policies or available as upgrades (winter sports, business trip etc.)
  • The claim process (100% online? How many days do you have to make a claim?)
  • The maximum duration of each trip included as standard (at least 31 days)
  • The upper age limit (if you are a senior travelling).

How much is travel insurance to the Schengen area?

For example, this is the cheapest price for a single trip policy of seven days (with an excess at £100): 

AgeEuropean cover (Schengen area)
18 – 35From £8.52
36 – 50From £9.33
51 – 65From £13.33
66 – 75From £19.02
Average cost of travel insurance for the Schengen area depending on age range

It is, however, quite difficult to give precise ranges of how much a travel insurance will cost you for the Schengen area, as prices are based on a wide range of criteria. It will mainly depend on:

  • If you’re going for a single or annual multi-trip as mentioned above
  • If you’re subscribing to upgrades such as cruise, business or gadget cover
  • If you have pre-existing medical conditions 
  • The length of your stay
  • If you’re travelling alone, with your partner, a group or your family
  • The financial limits you’d like to get in case of a claim
  • The excess amount you’re willing to pay
  • What will you be doing (e.g. winter or extreme sports)?

When do I need a Schengen visa as UK resident?

If you’re a UK citizen with a valid UK passport, you do not need a visa to visit the Schengen area as long as you are travelling for less than 90 days within 180 days period as explained above. 

However, you may need to apply for:

  • A Schengen visa is you are planning to stay longer than 90 days (tourism, work, student, medical reasons etc.)
  • A Schengen if you are UK resident but national of one of the country listed here
  • An ETIAS visa as from the 31/12/2020*, after Brexit. The European Travel Information and Authorization System is an online platform where any UK resident can apply for a visa valid for 3 years (they'll have to pay 7 euros). The whole process of getting this visa online may take only 15 minutes and the travel authorisation should be immediately available to the traveller applicant. This is to prevent travelers from having to get Schengen visa for each small trip.

The UK and EU are due to sign a visa-free reciprocal agreement to allow both British citizens and European citizens to freely travel between both countries. This is to prevent citizens from needing to obtain a Schengen visa. However, this is still conditional depending on what the UK decides for European travelers reaching the UK. 

To get a Schengen visa, you will need to apply at the british embassy or consulate of the country you will spend your time in. Find all contact details in our travel insurances reviews by destination.

Do I need a passport to go to the Schengen area?

Yes, a valid passport or ID will be required at airport customs.

How to drive a car in the Schengen area? 

Maybe you would like to rent a car in the Schengen area, or maybe you’ve imagined a whole road trip driving from the UK to France, Germany or any other Schengen area country? You may be wondering what exactly you need to do for driving on your holiday in the Schengen area

Before 31/12/2020: any UK resident with a full and valid UK licence is allowed to drive within the Schengen area.

As from 31/12/2020: any UK resident might need an international driving licence depending on what is decided. 

You will also need:

  • A green card
  • A valid proof of insurance and ownership (called V5C form)
  • A GB sticker
  • A valid passport or ID

Find the best European car insurance here. If you’re renting a car, make sure you’re covered for car hire excess

Drink drive limit is not the same in all Schengen area countries. Check carefully before hitting the road.