Travel Insurance

Buying Travel Insurance

Some parts of planning a trip away can be great: booking flights, imagining itineraries or choosing the right camera. Other parts can be as boring as watching paint dry.

Choosing and buying travel insurance probably falls into that second category. However, travel insurance can represent one of the best (or worse) investments into your trip, and it is worth getting it right. Sadly, there is no golden bullet – you just need to set aside some time, concentrate and read the small print. This guide will provide you with a few tips on how to make sure you get a policy that suits your needs and works for you without getting lost on the internet.

Where to start

First things first: How long are you going away for? This will help you make the first big decision, which is whether to buy a single-trip, multi-trip or annual cover policy. If you know that you are going to be abroad more than once in one year, definitely look at multi-trip cover as it is usually cheaper than different single trips.

Second, where are you going? For some reason, some policies will include Morocco and Egypt in Europe but exclude the USA from the world. Make sure you have a list of the places you might end up in, so that you can choose the right policy from the start.

Once you know which type of cover you need, the next step is to search a travel insurance comparison website. Websites such as MoneySupermarket, GoCompare or CompareTheMarket are good places to start if you are based in the UK or Europe. This isn’t so that you can delve right in, but it will give you a broad idea of the range of prices that you will be looking at for a trip. This is where it gets trickier though, as many well-known and reputable insurers will not be in comparison sites and will need to be checked out independently. Some of the most common travel insurers not always found on comparison websites are World Nomads and CSA Travel Protection. Ask friends and family, or read travel forums online to get even more up-to-date and personal recommendations on where to find great providers.

Read reviews online

Once you have two or three providers in mind at a budget you are comfortable with, a good idea is to search them for user reviews. Add the insurance name and ‘review’ into your search engine and see what people have to say about them. If no-one’s heard of them – bad idea. If they seem to never pay out – bad idea. If they have terrible customer service – bad idea. Bear in mind that unhappy ranters are more likely to post than most (especially as the grand majority of travellers will have no need to get in touch with their insurer – touch wood!), but if more than one website has bad reviews then go with someone else. Ask if the company has 24 hour helplines (good) or extortionately high excess payments (bad).

Reading the small print

This is the boring bit that there’s no getting around. On the face of it, all insurers are going to want to make you believe that their policy is great and will save you in any situation you may face. Probably not so. Look at the following main categories of cover and keep an eye out for ridiculous conditions or extortionate excesses.

Emergency medical cover: although you never want to use this, it is key that you get some cover for emergency medical care should something go wrong. Air ambulances can cost upwards of $40,000 so you will want to be covered. It really is worth reading what the policy covers – many policies go up to $1m, some extensive ones go up to $10m. Look at whether it includes private healthcare or just ‘the nearest appropriate facility’, and if it includes the cost of getting you back home if you are really unwell. Take into consideration where you are going and what the local healthcare is like in that area. Also, definitely be sure to declare any pre-existing medical conditions as otherwise this may void a future claim. It is also important to see if any sporting activities are excluded from medical cover – for example some policies will not cover you for injuries sustained whilst paragliding or horse-back riding.

Loss or theft of possessions: most policies will cover some, most or all of your possessions. If you are flying a lot, look into getting a policy that covers baggage loss as many low-cost airlines will only pay out minimal compensation if they lose your belongings. Make sure you read the small print, as some insurers will only repay you in your belongings were under lock and key at all times. Some extra comprehensive cover will also include passports which could give you some extra peace of mind. If the policy says it covers electronics, make sure you read this carefully as they may have limits on the amount they pay out such as $150 – not great if you lose an iPad and camera.

Personal liability cover: this covers you should you get sued for damaging someone else’s property. Again, not something you ever want to use, but could be worth having – particularly if it covers driving and you know that you are going to be using a car a lot.

Cancellations and cutting your trip short: look at the conditions under which your insurance will cover you should your flight be cancelled, missed or if you need to go home early for any reason. Some policies are very understanding, covering traffic delays for missed flights etc., but others are ruthless and you will need to present a barrage of paperwork before you receive any compensation. Worth taking a look at. 

You’re done!

If you’re satisfied with what you see once you have read through the terms and conditions, then you’re basically done. Buy your policy online and write down the important numbers somewhere you will have access to on your trip (such as policy number, reference number, emergency helpline and claims). If after a few days you are not sure it was the right policy (or you have found a better one) then you will always have at least a week in which to change your mind with a full refund.

Happy hunting and travel safe!

Date posted: 29th April, 2015

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