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Travel & Holiday

Securing travel insurance

Are you properly covered? Some factors to consider when buying travel insurance
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - August 31, 2011
By: Sheila Lim
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Securing travel insurance

Most of us must be familiar with the term “penny-wise, pound-foolish”. This is a term that’s applicable to those who think of shaving a fraction off their holiday budget by forgoing travel insurance coverage. The reason is that should misfortune befall them, the cost of getting themselves out of trouble could be very much heavier to bear.

REASONS TO INSURE YOURSELF

A host of unforeseen circumstances could lead to financial risks, and they could occur before you leave for your trip, while you are travelling or getting home. The risks include missed flights, cancelled tours, travel-company bankruptcies, inclement weather, accidents, illnesses, robberies, strikes, terrorism, lost/damaged baggage, emergency evacuation and repatriation (sending a dead person’s body home).

Of late, incidents like getting stranded due to political unrest and natural disasters are becoming more commonplace. The volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Chile, for example, curtailed hundreds of flights in countries far away from where they occurred. We’ve also seen how floods are no longer prevalent only in rural areas but in big cities like Sydney, Hong Kong, New York and Jakarta too. Such incidents may create a host of problems for travellers, like having to bear the unexpected costs of finding alternative ways home and different accommodation because of missed flights.  

TYPES & COST OF COVERAGE 

Generally, an insurance package encompasses five main categories: trip cancellation and interruption, medical, evacuation, baggage, and flight insurance. You'll usually purchase a package that includes all of these categories. However, you can also opt to purchase supplemental policies to cover specific areas of concern or request a policy that focuses on a certain aspect like medical coverage. 

Insurance costs vary. The choice and cost of insurance coverage depend upon each traveller's risk and potential loss, which pertains to various factors, such as how much of the trip is prepaid, the kind of air ticket purchased, your state of health, the value of your belongings, your travel destination/s and the types of activities you’ll be involved in.

SELECTING A TRAVEL INSURANCE PACKAGE

  • When choosing a travel insurance policy, look at what it covers so you can be confident you’d have the protection you need if you need to make a claim. For instance, if you are planning on engaging in activities involving some degree of risk, such as cliff jumping, skydiving or bungee jumping, you should consider getting additional coverage for such activities.

Travel insurance policies also tend to limit the amount you can claim for lost/stolen cash and other valuables, so check the terms and conditions of your policy.

  • Medical cover is one the most important components of your travel insurance policy because the costs of hospital treatment incurred in an emergency abroad could be incredibly costly.

If you have no travel insurance, you would have to foot your own medical bills. A quick visit to a doctor will more likely be an out-of-pocket expense and you’ll have to seek reimbursement when you get home. If hospitalisation is required, the hospital will typically work directly with your insurer on billing. In some cases, you may be required to contact your insurer for approval before seeking medical help.

  • If you have pre-existing health conditions, your health can be greatly affected by your surroundings or the activities you’ll be engaging in. Even if your doctor has determined that you are fit to take the trip, look for travel insurance that can be used to cover the possible medical costs you may incur. But before you buy a special medical insurance policy for your trip, check with your medical insurer if you are already covered by your existing health plan.

You should inform your insurer if you, or a family member travelling with you, have any pre-existing medical condition; otherwise you run the risk it may refuse your claim in the event that you do need to make one.

  • Always deal with a reputable insurance agency so that you are less likely to encounter problems when making a claim.
  • As with all legal documents, always read the fine print. If you are buying travel insurance online, do not forget to read the terms and conditions carefully, especially the exclusions (for example, dangerous activities). You may also be required to declare any pre-existing conditions.
  • Clarify anything you’re not clear about. For example, how do they define "travel partner" or "family member" (does a grandparent qualify as one?), or the difference between trip cancellation and trip interruption. Trip cancellation is when you don't go on your trip at all, and it is fully covered. Trip interruption is when you begin a journey but have to cut it short; in this case, you'll be reimbursed for the portion of the trip that you didn't complete.
  • Check whether your travel insurance policy comes with access to a 24-hour helpline that will provide help and advice in an emergency.

Always carry your insurance policy and emergency contact numbers with you on the trip. Should any problem occur, contact the agency as soon as possible. Go to the nearest police report to file a report if the case warrants it.

 

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