PICTURE THE scene – you’re in the travel agent organising your next holiday. Despite spending hours carefully choosing the perfect trip, you neglect to buy the right travel insurance. Market surveys show that many people don’t take insurance out at all because they believe that their credit card accident cover, home insurance or private health cover is sufficient. However, it is unlikely that these will give adequate cover and, quite simply, nobody is immune to accidents, crime or health problems – no matter how careful you are on your travels.
You could be knocked down while crossing the road, you may have to cancel a flight booking or your belongings could be lost or stolen – not the sort of problems you’d want to experience a long way from home, without some compensation to fall back on. So, arranging sufficient travel and health cover is vital before you leave home to visit another country.
If you buy a travel or tour package, travel insurance and health cover is often included. This type of standard cover is convenient but will not be tailored to your specific requirements. It is, therefore, always a good idea to ask for alternatives and make sure that you familiarise yourself with the benefits and conditions of your holiday travel insurance before you buy.
Travel insurance and health insurance providers generally have conditions that require the insured person to be responsible for an ‘excess’, which is payment of a predetermined portion of any claim. There may also be restrictions on the cover of certain luggage and valuables, so choose your travel insurance policy with care.
Take your pick
So, how do you go about finding the right insurance? Travel agents are trained to sell travel insurance. They are often the best people to sell it to you because they already know exactly what you are planning to do on your trip and can assess which insurance policy is right for you and your family. It is also worth bearing in mind that if you buy travel insurance when you book your holiday, it means that if you fall ill or have an accident and have to cancel your trip as a result, your travel insurance will cover you. So, ideally, you want cover from the moment you buy your holiday. The longer you delay, the longer you are not covered.
There are lots of factors – not just the price – that you should consider when buying travel insurance. But, whether you get a one-off travel insurance product or an annual multi-trip policy, the most important things to look out for are whether the terms and conditions are what you want and whether the policy adequately covers you for what you will be doing.
Obviously, your personal circumstances and the type of travel or holiday you are about to undertake should be taken into account when deciding. The premium you pay will determine the level of cover you get. For example, if you intend to try a ‘hazardous’ sport such as skiing, standard foreign travel insurance will not be sufficient; you will have to arrange tailored additional cover. However, in general, the main items that your travel insurance should cover are:
• Cancellation of tour or flights
• Lost and stolen possessions
• Legal expenses
• Personal liability
• Accident injury or death
• Health and medical expenses, which can easily run into thousands of euros. If you are European and travelling in Europe, make sure you apply for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from your local health authority. This card replaced the E111 form as from January 1 this year. This allows access to medical facilities between member countries, but the cover offered is basic and limited to the cover available within your own country. It is also important to note that the full cost of treatment may not be covered and additional medical fees could be applicable, so travel insurance is still advisable.
Once you have ascertained that you have a good general level of cover, you need to decide on the type of policy you are looking for. Here are the most common:
Single trip travel insurance – this is designed for people who are going on a specific holiday or single trip – you are only covered from the start date to the end date of your holiday. You will probably be asked what kind of party you have – whether you are a single traveller or a couple, single parent family or a group of people – and the age of each person travelling. Your policy can also cover you for cancellation, so if your holiday is cancelled any time after you book your travel insurance, you can rest assured you will be covered.
Annual travel insurance – this type of insurance provides cover for people who are taking more than one holiday a year. It can work out cheaper to have this sort of travel insurance as it covers you for a whole year, no matter how many trips you make during that year. Your insurance policy will probably come with a choice of individual trip lengths; in other words, you can choose the length of days during the year that your policy will run for from a number of choices already stated by your insurance company.
Winter sports travel insurance – if you like to travel to the snow for winter sports, you will need specialist travel insurance so that, if you have a serious accident, you will be covered no matter what type of sport you enjoy – skiing, snowboarding or even tobogganing.
Golf travel insurance – not every travel insurance policy will cover your golf equipment, so if you are heading off for the19th hole, it’s advisable to make sure you have the right cover for your trip. There are policies that will arrange for a replacement set of clubs for you, if you lose or damage your set. Golf insurance can also cover you for any unforeseen accidents and, if you pay the appropriate premium, you can also be covered for loss of green fees that have been paid for prior to the start of you trip, if a doctor has certified you as being unable to play golf because of an injury incurred while on holiday.
Sorry, you’re not covered for that
Once you have bought your insurance, read your policy to check for conditions and exclusions. If you are in any doubt, contact your insurer to find out exactly what cover you have.
Most policies will not cover drink or drug related incidents. You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you. You must declare anything that you think might affect the cover. Be honest – tell your insurer about current or past medical conditions. This should include the condition of those to be insured and others, such as close relatives, whose state of health may prevent you from travelling or may cause you to curtail your trip. If you don’t declare you may invalidate your policy.
Worry free fun
You’re all packed and ready to go. To ensure a carefree trip, simply follow the following recommendations:
• Make sure you take your policy document and the 24-hour emergency phone number with you.
• Make sure you know what to do in the event of a problem.
• Some insurance companies insist that you call their assistance company as soon as possible after a problem arises.
• If anything does happen, make sure you keep as much paperwork as possible – tickets, receipts, medical bills, police reports and so on – to help prove that what you’re claiming for actually happened.
Finally, whichever policy you decide to opt for, remember that peace of mind is always the best option available – bon voyage!