The prospect of travelling abroad on holiday is an exciting one. We all look forward to a trip overseas, to experiencing new cultures, new food, new sights and talking to people loudly but slowly, while gesturing wildly as we try to find our way to the nearest public loo. But its not all fun and games, there are some serious aspects that have to be considered before we leave for that holiday of a lifetime. One of the most important questions is whether or not we should buy travel insurance and the answer to that is a resounding yes. To not buy travel insurance would be like a fire-fighter walking into a burning building without his or her fireproof overall, hat and oxygen, in other words, not well prepared. The question that naturally follows on the first is: what kind of travel insurance should I get? That answer is not as simple as the first and depends on where you're going, what you will be doing and your general health.
There are some things that your travel insurance will not cover. It is important that you ask a lot of questions of the people from whom you are buying your insurance and that you read the fine print. Remember that you do not have to buy your travel insurance from your travel agent; no matter how much pressure they put on you. You can shop around until you find someone who provides you with a service that meets your needs.
Some of the things that you will not be covered for include:
1) bad weather, just because your holiday was ruined due to rain or heavy winds or dust storms does not mean that you are entitled to an insurance pay out. Weather constitutes one of the risks that you take when you choose the dates and destination of your holiday.
2) If you change your mind insurance companies do not reimburse you either. Insurance companies do not feel that being fickle natured is a sufficient reason for them to make a payment.
3) War, although apparently some policies have an "Acts of Terrorism" clause, which will reimburse you if you miss or are delayed in getting to your origination or destination due to acts of terrorism. Is not that comforting, "Sorry you were held up at gunpoint for 5 days and nearly blown up by a nuclear bomb, do not worry, we'll fully reimburse you for your late flight." At least some people still care, right?
4) You will not be covered for nervous or psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, neurosis, psychosis etc. They never cover the crazy people, if you're nuts you're on your own. Except that in the case of travel insurance they also do not cover
5) Pre-existing medical conditions, unless you have been symptom free for an unspecified period of time. These are known as the cons of travel insurance, they are not good things. The act of terrorism thing pretty much summed it up.
The pros of travel insurance, and there are several of those in case you were starting to get depressed about the whole issue include:
1) being covered for lost or delayed luggage. This means that if they lose your luggage, which is a bummer and sucks because you probably packed all your favourite things and even bought new things for the trip, they will reimburse you and you can go out and buy a lot of new stuff to replace everything that you lost. It's a brand new wardrobe.
2) You are covered for lost and stolen belongings, although there may be some limits on cash and individual item, this is where it pays to read your fine print.
3) In the case of unforeseen medical emergencies you'll be covered for hospital and medical treatment, which, when that emergency occurs, will be a huge relief.
4) Holiday cancellation for valid reasons such as you being too sick to travel or a family death. No fickle mind changing. Cover for delays on departure, usually only if they're more than 12 hours, and usually not for delays en route. Read your fine print.
5) If you have to cut your holiday short due to an unforeseen medical emergency or something similar, some policies may pay out.
6) If you are going to be taking part in dangerous activities like skiing or diving then you should take out specialist coverage in order to be covered and then there should be no problem if you need to be paid out.
7) Most insurance policies have a 24-hour help line that provides legal and medical assistance.
If you're unsure of which company to go with or which policy to go for, ask yourself the following questions:
1) what's the level of cover for the different types of claims?
2) What's the policy excess for different types of claims?
3) What're the policy exclusions?
4) Are you covered for hazardous pursuits?
5) Are you covered if you cancel your holiday and under what circumstances?
6) Does the medical cover include the costs of transporting you back to your home country?
7) In the US, medical bills are higher, is the level of medical cover sufficient for travelling there?
8) What're your personal possessions and cash covered up to? Do you need to cover expensive items like video cameras separately?
9) Do they have a 24-hour help line?
Travel insurance is vital if you're going to travel anywhere abroad. Anything could happen at any time and it is always better to be prepared for any emergency than to be caught short. Include travel insurance as part of your travel budget and do not begrudge it. It could just save your life.