Traveling to Europe? Here are essential tips for Travel Insurance, Credit cards and Cash

If you're traveling in Europe, make sure you have the right insurance and health cover, and have access to money.

Travel Insurance

It is advisable to purchase vacation travel insurance before you leave, because you are particularly vulnerable when you travel internationally. First check that your credit or charge card provides cover automatically - usually when you purchase a return air ticket with the card - or if your home contents insurance takes care of some of your possessions under 'all-risks' or similar cover. But be aware that 'free' insurance is unlikely to give you all the cover you'll need, so read the small print carefully or seek advice.

Have a clear idea of what and who you need covered, and consider what you're planning to do on your vacation - any extreme sports, for example. Look at the policy exclusions and make sure you declare any medical conditions you have. People suffering from asthma, for example, may be unable to claim if they do not declare the problem beforehand.

Consider annual travel cover if you go away two or three times a year; otherwise just get cover for the duration of your trip. Insurance bought through a travel agent is usually very expensive. It's best avoided, particularly if you have time to buy cover on the internet (we recommend you look at the Essential Travel Insurance website) or from a broker or bank.

Take your policy documents with you so you know exactly what to do if you need to make a claim. Some people lose out because, for instance, they do not report details of a theft to the local police within a day of the crime.

Health cover

If you're traveling within the EU (European Union) and you're an EU citizen, make sure you have the documentation that entitles you to medical treatment when visiting any other EU country, under the same terms as citizens of that country. In practice, this means either free or at reduced cost. In the UK, this is called the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), but each EC country uses its own name. Further information can be found at

However, you should remember that the card is not a substitute for proper travel health insurance - you may want cover that includes repatriation to your home or a hospital in your own country, so you should talk to your travel or health insurer.

Credit Cards and Cash

Take a mixture of cash, credit cards and other plastic. You can easily withdraw money from cash machines in most of the frequently-visited locations. But be sure to use safe boxes, where provided, to keep your money and expensive items safe.

Most Visa and Mastercard schemes offer consumer protection under their own country's own consumer credit laws, no matter where in the world the purchase has been made. You normally need to spend between £100 and £30,000 (or equivalent in the currency of your card's country of origin) for each purchase. You should check with your card issuer about consumer protection before you travel, however.

Tell your credit-card issuer if you are going abroad. Otherwise, the firms' anti-fraud teams may spot transactions that seem out of your usual pattern (buying a gourmet meal in Paris, perhaps, or a painting in Spain) and you may not be able to use your card. Be careful when using cards abroad, as unfamiliar procedures may leave you open to fraud.

Don't get too concerned with things that can go wrong and ruin your trip, though. With a little careful preparation before you leave and keeping your wits about you when dealing with credit card transactions, you'll have a great vacation wherever you go in Europe.

Bruce Gibson runs Spanish villas rental company Villa Spain - - They have villas which act as an excellent base for a Costa Blanca holiday and a wide selection of property across other resorts in Spain.