Do we travellers need travel insurance? Is it worth paying that insurance premium every time we go on a business trip or holiday? Well, in my personal experience, it definitely helps. In fact, I advocate having a travel insurance plan for all your trips. I am sure you might have a lot of questions regarding buying an insurance plan for your travels and that is precisely the idea behind this article. This article aims at breaking down the ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of the travel insurance ecosystem while providing you with a list of best practices based on my personal travel experience. Hopefully, through this article you don’t have to lose your passport, miss your flight or face an emergency to learn about the benefits of having a good travel insurance.
Why do you need Travel Insurance?
1) To Leave your Headaches Behind
Like most insurance plans, the idea of travel insurance is to cover your backside in case of any trouble or emergency. Such an emergency may or may not happen, but having a travel insurance plan will solve most of your worries in case an unforeseen event takes place. Such an event could be theft, flight cancellation, lost baggage, loss of passport, natural calamity, medical emergency or even death as a worst case scenario. Having a travel insurance plan could provide you with a helping hand and/or financial assistance.
2) To Mitigate the Risks of Flight Cancellations
Long flight delays or even cancellations are not within our control. But, this might lead to missing connecting flights, losing out on hotel bookings and causing financial turmoil. We all go on holidays to relax and have a good time. Financial headaches are the last thing we want to deal with during our holiday. The right travel insurance plan compensates financially for such events and thereby returning some peace of mind in tough situations.
3) To Handle Medical Emergency
No one wishes to fall sick or meet with an accident during our holiday trips, but such events do take place from time to time. In my travels, I have been bitten by a dog, cut my leg on a coral reef, been badly bitten by sand flies, fallen from a mountain, contracted mysterious fever, suffered umpteen bouts of stomach flu and many other instances where I had to seek urgent medical help. And this kind of medical help was way beyond the purview of my well stocked travel first aid kit. I have even known friends and fellow travellers who have suffered road accidents, been stung by jelly fish and some who found themselves at the wrong place and at the wrong time. Thankfully, all of them had a good travel insurance plan to bail them out.
A travel insurance plan with solid medical coverage is a no-brainer if you have any known medical conditions that might surface during your holiday.
4) To Help with Emergency Evacuation
You might be stuck on top of a mountain with a broken leg or be stuck at sea on a cruise ship or need urgent medical help that is available only in a different country. All of these situations call for emergency evacuation. Not all travel insurance plans cover this in depth, but depending on your destination, the type of activity that you intend to indulge in and some other parameters, you can take a call on including this in your insurance cover.
5) To Provide Help to your Family and Friends in case of your Accidental Death
Death is a mystery. We all know that. We hear of plane crashes, train or road accidents and many other terrible events. God forbid if something happens to you during your travels, your near and dear ones will definitely be worried. Travel insurance cannot give your life back, but it can give some peace to your family and friends by transporting your final remains from the place of death to your home city/country. And depending on your insurance plan and cover, your dependants might also receive a financial settlement in a manner similar to having a term life insurance plan.
How to Choose your Travel Insurance Plan
Now that you have decided to buy a travel insurance plan, choosing one is definitely a big headache. There are so many insurance service providers out there with each one offering so many features and functionalities that we tend to get utterly confused. Add to it the financial and legal jargon and the so called fine print and we have a travel planner’s worst nightmare. It is easiest to choose the cheapest service provider, but it might not be the most prudent choice. The below best practices will certainly help you nail the travel insurance plan that best suits your trip’s needs in a matter of a few minutes.
1) Find out if the Insurance Provider services your Destination Country
This might sound like a lame best practice, but it is something that I would check properly and not take for granted. I learnt it the hard way. There are many countries where mainstream insurance players do not have coverage. I do not know why this happens, but it most certainly does. For example, while buying the insurance for my holiday to Iran, I found out that only 2 of the 30 travel insurance service providers from India provide coverage there. And neither of them were the companies that I usually opt for.
2) Citizenship versus International
Certain insurance players only service citizens of the country while others service the citizens of the world. Let me explain with an example. In India, certain insurance players are allowed by law to provide insurance plans to Indian citizens only. A foreign national cannot come and buy himself an insurance policy from a domestic insurance service provider. However, these insurance players provide coverage across many countries.
3) Yet to Travel or Already Traveling
Again, a complicated rule that is applicable in some countries. Some insurance service providers cover people only if their trip has not begun as yet and do not cover trips that are already in progress. Depending on your requirement, choose wisely.
4) Choose an Appropriate Financial Coverage
Most travel insurance companies provide a wide range of financial coverage. Some call it bronze, silver, gold or platinum, while others are transparent and put the actual $$$ sums next to the coverage value. It is important to choose the right coverage as an increasing cover increases your insurance premium. My standard practice is to start with the basic plan and bump my financial cover up if I say ‘YES to the following:
a) If I am traveling to an expensive country. Expensive countries mean expensive healthcare, expensive hotels, expensive flights and expensive other things.
b) If I am traveling with an existing medical condition. An existing medical condition might need urgent medical assistance during your holiday.
c) If your financial liabilities towards the trip is high. Business class tickets, 5 star hotel rooms and/or expensive tours, especially if non-refundable call for a higher insurance coverage as you will stand to lose the most in case of an unforeseen circumstance.
d) If you foresee any emergency evacuation. It could be the weather, your health or simply your gut feeling.
One can always opt for the highest insurance coverage for peace of mind. But, it might not be an option if you are budget conscious.
5) Round the Clock Customer Service in the Language of your Choice
This is a requirement that most travellers take for granted, but this is one area where I have faced the most hurdles. In times of dire need, the last thing you want is to come across a customer service representative who doesn’t seem to speak your language of choice. It has happened to me quite a few times and it has left me fuming and scratching my head in frustration. Personally, I prefer an insurance provider who offers 24x7 customer support, 365 days a year and in English language wherever I go.
6) Adventure Travel or High Risk Activities
As a thumb rule, standard travel insurance plans do not cover any high risk activities such as scuba diving, sky diving, mountain climbing, rock climbing, snow boarding, racing, sailing or the likes. If you think you will be indulging in an adventure or a high risk activity, it is best to mention that to your insurance service provider and opt for a separate insurance plan. This will definitely cost you more, but you will offer you peace of mind. After all, it is not worth the headache of legally jostling with an insurance company over your claim. If your insurance company does not provide such plans, opt for ones that specialize in high risk insurance plans.
Hopefully, you are a self acclaimed travel insurance expert by now. Go on and enjoy peace of mind while going on your next holiday by leveraging these best practices. And, if you think, you have a few pointers in choosing that perfect travel insurance plan, please do share it with me and all the readers.