If you are considering any sort of travel it is imperative that you know the importance of travel insurance. If you think you can’t afford a policy then you should not take the risk of travelling. It is just not worth taking a chance on the unknown. Life can be fickle and you owe it to yourself to have the peace of mind that if an accident happens, you will get the medical assistance required.
It is all too easy to get carried away with the excitement of planning and booking a trip, but it is important to take unexpected events into consideration before parting with your hard earned cash. If you have paid for your flights and then have to cancel the whole trip before you even leave home, the airline will not compensate you. If while you are on your holiday, your luggage goes missing or god forbid you are involved in an accident, have to be hospitalised or operated on, you NEED to have adequate travel insurance in place.
I have known someone go on holiday and flout their doctors advice regarding insurance. While abroad they became ill and ended up having to sell their house in order to pay the medical bills for treatment and safe passage home. It is not worth taking the risk, for the price of an insurance policy.
The Purpose Of travel Insurance
Travel Insurance will provide cover for unforeseen circumstances such as having to cancel your trip, suffering illness, injury, accident or theft while on your trip and if you need to return home early due to an emergency.
So just how do you go about buying an insurance policy? How do you choose the correct policy for your needs at a price you can afford? Below is a guide to walk you through the important factors to take into consideration before making a purchase.
Comprehensive Guide to buying Travel Insurance
Considerable thought should go into your purchase as everyone’s needs differ and what is included/excluded form policies differ from one provider to another.
1. Buy insurance as soon as you book your trip
People make the wrong assumption that they only need to buy insurance the day they leave for their trip, but what happens if you fall ill or have to cancel the whole trip due to unexpected events? You will not be reimbursed by your airline for the cost of your flights for starters.
Having a policy in force will provide cover for cancellation due to unforeseen circumstances and illness that occur before you travel.
2. Always declare pre-existing medical conditions
It is imperative to declare ALL existing medical conditions and health problems including any tests you are having and whether you are pregnant. Failure to do so result in your claim being rejected. It is not worth the risk of omitting vital information for the sake of taking extra time filling out your application.
3. Know What Your Holiday Needs Are
Before considering which insurance policy to buy, it is important to clear on your own needs. Ask yourself the following questions to help you make the right decision on level of cover you will require.
- How many people are travelling and need to be covered and what are their ages.
- Which country/countries are you travelling to.
- What is the length of the trip.
- Will you be making multiple trips within the year.
- Will you be travelling with expensive belongings such as camera gear.
- What activities will you be taking part in? eg winter sports, adventure sports.
- Will you be carrying a large amount of foreign currency?
4. What is typically covered
While the levels of cover and excesses will differ from policy to policy, all will offer a varying degree of cover on:
Emergency Medical Cover
This will include accidents, injuries and unforeseen illnesses, and covers the cost of receiving treatment overseas – including dental emergencies in most cases and the cost of having to fly you back to your home country. I personally always opt for a limit of either £5 or £10 million.
(Another consideration which most policies cover, is the cost of cremation or repatriation of a body should you or someone else covered under the policy die during your trip).
Personal Liability for any compensation if you become legally liable for an accident you may cause while on holiday. The limit is typically £2 million and will cover situations such as you crashing into and injuring another skier.
Cover is provided for you not being able to go on holiday due to unforeseen circumstances and cover in case you need to return early. Valid reasons include serious illness of a family member and being made redundant.
The majority of policies provide cover for delayed departure due to adverse weather, industrial action and mechanical breakdown.
Baggage and Personal Effects
Cover includes accidental loss, theft or damage to baggage and personal belongings while on holiday. Items can include air tickets, passports, cash, electrical equipment, clothing etc but policies vary considerably with regards to the amount of cover and the excess you will have to pay towards each claim.
5. What is not covered
Adhering to the policy limits and reading the fine print will prevent any shocks when it comes to claims being rejected. There are a number of common things that providers will not pay out for, namely :
Pre-Existing medical conditions
If you fail to disclose any existing medical conditions which you are then treated for, cover will not be included under the policy.
Alcohol and drug related injuries
Should you suffer injury while under the influence of drink or drugs your claim will likely be rejected.
Activities and Sports
The majority of winter sports are excluded under most policies and can only be included as an extension to the policy so be aware of your policy wording. There are also a number of activities that some providers exclude from normal cover so make sure to check all exclusions listed under the policy wording.
Travel to dangerous countries
It is important to check the Foreign & Commonwealth (FCO) office for an updated list of countries deemed unsafe to travel to, as visiting one of these is likely to make your cover invalid.
Unattended Baggage and belongings
Your cover will not include loss of possessions while left unattended and stolen. Airport security will also confiscate unattended baggage.
6. Length of trip
You can buy travel insurance for a single trip or annual multi-trip depending what your travel plans are for the year. If you know that you will be travelling at least twice in the year then it will most probably be cheaper to purchase an annual policy.
It does however depend on the length of each trip and where you are travelling to, as insurers have a limit on the number of days per trip which is often 31 days, but can be more or less. I have annual insurance through Trailfinders as under their annual multi trip, any one trip is covered up to a maximum of 70 days.
If you require cover for longer trips then you should consult a specialist insurer such as World Nomads which will better suit your needs.
7. Who are you covering
Insurance providers will base the cost of a policy on the age of the traveller and consider those over the age of 65 years as a higher risk, and charge more accordingly. Therefore buying a policy to cover a family or group, which includes an older traveller may be more expensive than seperate policies.
If everyone is under the age of 65 years, then it is cheaper to buy a policy for a couple, family or group, under the one policy. Always work out the cost beforehand to ensure that you get the best deal.
8. Where are you travelling
Insurers have different price structures depending on which parts of the world you are travelling to. These usually include Europe, Australia & New Zealand, Worldwide excluding north America and Worldwide including North America. This is in part to the high cost of medical treatment in the USA and premiums will reflect this cost.
It is worth noting that some insurers allow travel to a handful of Non-European countries under the selection of Europe, so it is always wise to check.
9. Cover at home
If you have an annual policy then this will provide cover for trips taken within the United Kingdom. However, medical cover will have restrictions due to the fact that we have a free national health service to rely on.
10. What is a policy excess
Some sections of your insurance policy will have an excess applied. This means that each and every insured person will be liable to pay the first part of each claim, per section for each separate incident.
For example if you have a policy limit of £2,000 on loss of personal belongings but have a policy excess of £75, you have to pay the first £75 of the claim.
Many Companies have separate excesses per section of the whole policy so it is imperative that you read the entire policy so that you are fully aware of your excess contribution in the event of a claim.
Be aware of cheaply priced policies as they often come with high excesses.
11. Where to buy Travel Insurance
Hopefully you have now decided that insurance is too important to travel without, so just how do you go about finding a policy?
I advise you to use a comparison site such as moneysavingexpert once you have established what your needs are.
The most important factor to remember about buying travel insurance is to match the policy to your own personal needs, and obtain the level of cover that makes you feel comfortable.
Before parting with your money ensure that you read and double check all the terms, conditions, inclusions, exclusions and policy excesses.
The peace of mind of having travel insurance means happier travelling!
Do you buy travel insurance or take the chance of staying healthy when travelling?
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