This post was requested by a reader, initially wondering whether it was really worthwhile I was a little reluctant. However deciding to do a little research it was amazing to discover that so many people actually skip it.
It may not be an exciting, sexy or evocative post but hopefully it is practical and will provide a few useful tips.
This is not going to be a debate on whether it is necessary or not because travelling without adequate insurance is just plain stupid! Insurance for a short trip of a couple of weeks is dirt cheap and even if taking a round the World extended journey the risks involved far outweigh the potential costs.
Medical costs for even a fairly trivial injury or illness will likely blow a good proportion of the budget. Anything which may result in spending several days or more in hospital can incur some horrendous expenses. It is likely that any savings will be quickly gobbled up and possibly worse.
Most of us have heard of cases where parents or family have been required to second mortgage their homes to pay off the medical bills of a travelling child and possibly repatriation fees too.
Thinking that just because there are not any potential ‘high risk’ activities involved so it will be fine is flawed. It is impossible to predict what might happen, tripping over a kerbstone, being hit by a jetski whilst swimming (from experience) or just becoming seriously ill are all possible but not anticipated.
Almost every insurance policy not only provides medical cover but a multitude of other benefits including loss or theft of equipment and luggage.
So whatever sacrifices that maybe made to cover the costs of that extra excursion do the sensible thing and do not skip the insurance!
Insurance needs to fit the traveller
There are almost as many different kinds of travel insurance policies as there are types of traveller, but it is equally obvious that the cover needs to suit the individual.
The requirements for an elderly couple staying at an all inclusive resort in Majorca are probably very different from a twenty year old cave diver exploring the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Whilst it is tempting to just obtain the cheapest policy available from a price comparison site and then consider that the trip is covered, there will be little comfort in this if they subsequently refuse to pay out for those expensive medical fees.
The four most common forms of insurance are as follows:
Single trip – suitable for those that are taking a one off or annual trip, they can be purchased very cheaply and cover the specific period of the trip.
Multi-trip – those that take several trips a year, there is usually a limit on the length of each trip of around thirty days but as many trips as required can be taken in a year. This bulk purchase usually works out less expensive than purchasing multiple single trip cover. They are often included in ‘privilege’ subscription bank accounts.
Backpacker – this is suitable for extended trips which last several months or more most expire after a year but some can be purchased for several years. They also cover many countries and most parts of the World.
Expedition/specialist – keen climbers, mountaineers, skiers, divers or anybody with a specific interest which may be considered ‘high risk’ should consider suitable insurance cover. This can often be provided by a relevant governing body such as the British Mountaineering Council BMC or the Professional Association of Dive Instructors PADI
Policies of insurance companies are often quite similar even throughout the World but every country has its own legal requirements and guidelines. The advice here is generic so it is advised that specific details of individual policies are read thoroughly.
Ensuring that the policy provides all the cover that is required, means reading the small print carefully. Most of the benefits will usually be provided in a summary of the policy however paying attention to the details of the fine print will save potential problems later.
It will be very frustrating if an injury is incurred mountaineering at 5000 metres thinking you have adequate cover only to find that hidden in the details is a clause that means you were actually covered to a height of 4500 metres.
Policies are available for more mature travellers and for those with existing conditions, just be honest and do not try to hide anything the company needs to know.
If a basic policy is obtained and during a trip some high risk activities become tempting it is possible that the existing company will change the policy to a suitable level for an increase in premium.
Most of us now travel with all manner of expensive hi-tech equipment, laptops, cameras, iPads, iPhones, smartphones and camcorders which all need insuring.
Choosing the right policy for equipment requires great care, unfortunately almost all will fall well short of the value of even a small percentage of these gadgets. Most have a woefully low total value of cover and rarely payout for a single item valued over a few hundred pounds/dollars.
It is possible that household contents insurance may cover some loss but do not assume, check with the provider.
It is much more likely that specific insurance will be required for expensive items. There are plenty of photographic equipment insurers and most will also cover laptops and other ancillaries that are essential. As long as these are declared when taking out the policy they can be included, just expect to pay a higher premium.
Reading the fine print is again highly recommended, make sure if you need ‘old for new’ replacement the policy provides it.
Staking a claim
Insurance companies are out to make a profit. That should not surprise anybody, but unfortunately it often means that they will attempt to find any clause possible to prevent having to payout a claim.
To make things difficult for them to achieve this, ensure you have fulfilled all the requirements of the policy. Keep and provide whatever documentation there is to support the claim. Report a theft to the police within twenty four hours, usually a prerequisite of the policy and obtain an incident number or report.
Ensuring you have taken adequate care of any valuables is of paramount importance, if the company perceives there was not sufficient due care they will refuse the claim.
It is also likely they will also attempt make a low settlement offer, do not be shy, refuse it if it seems unfairly low.
Claiming for a stolen camera when returning back from Corsica two years ago the insurance company involved threw dozens of obstacles in the way. Almost a year was spent with them requesting further details and countless exchanges of communication before they finally sent a cheque.
This tactic was probably in the hope that it would be accepted as it was money in my hand, however digging my heels in the sum was questioned and they subsequently paid out a further five hundred pounds!
- Get the right policy
- Read the small print
- Make sure all your equipment is covered
- Ensure all the requirements of the policy are met
- Don’t be a wimp when dealing with a claim
……….. but most of all trust me on the a main advice “ALWAYS get travel insurance”
Good information sources:
Safe travels, epic adventures