Travel insurance is not normally top of the priority list when planning holidays but it should be. Tour companies know that, and that’s why they normally insist travellers have insurance. Travel insurance typically covers cancellation and curtailment, personal liability, personal possessions, injury & illness and emergency assistance.
The most significant insured risk is the medical one. If you have a serious medical emergency whilst abroad, valid travel insurance could literally be the difference between life & death, and will cover the assistance costs – an air ambulance back to the UK from the East Coast of the USA could set you back £50,000 otherwise. Without travel insurance and faced with an emergency, your only option would be to contact the nearest UK consulate or embassy who will no doubt help as best they can, but will not pay for assistance.
Like most things in life you tend to get what you pay for with travel insurance, and the low cost options sometimes have limitations. Apart from the specifics of the cover, the variables that determine the price are the number of days and geography covered, the number of people on the policy and their age.
Some basics to consider when buying a policy….
Travel insurance is sold as an annual policy or single trip. If you are going abroad more than once a year then an annual policy may work out cheaper. If you insure a single trip, take the policy out as soon as you have committed to the cost so that you have cancellation cover immediately.
Typically three options are offered for geographic cover: Europe, Worldwide excluding USA & Canada, and Worldwide including USA & Canada, the latter, with widest coverage, being the most expensive. Remember though, the further away from home you are, the more expensive emergency costs are likely to be, so the more important it is to have travel insurance.
Individual, couples and family policies are normally offered as standard. Couples and family policies will normally be cheaper on a per head basis. Family policies typically cover two adults and their children, but they do not normally provide cover for minors travelling on their own.
The cost of travel insurance increases with age. Standard travel insurance policies would typically have an age cap of between 70 & 80, but it would be unusual for the older traveller not to be able to get insurance if they shop around. There are a number of insurers who offer travel insurance for the older travellers at a price that reflects the increased risk. That said, travel insurance for the older traveller with significant pre-existing medical conditions can get very expensive.
Always consider the policy exclusions. Cover for skiing is normally an extra. Standard annual policies typically provide a limited number of days cover in a year – if you need more, there are specialist policies that provide this. Undeclared pre-existing medical conditions are not normally covered, neither are alcohol or drug related medical costs.
And when you travel…..
Take a copy of your policy certificate with you and the travel insurer telephone numbers. The insurer may have three different numbers for customer services, claims and 24 hour assistance. If your travelling in Europe take your EHIC card.
In the event of a medical emergency, contact the 24 hour assistance number who will advise on a course of action. If you act unilaterally and without insurer authorisation, the assistance costs incurred may not be insured. In cases of theft, always report it to the local police and get a crime reference number or equivalent and call the insurer claims number as soon as possible. As a general rule, inform the insurer as soon as possible in the event of any potential claim to confirm cover and give the insurer the opportunity to mitigate the costs of the claim.