As an ex-travel agent, I know basically everything there is to know about travel insurance.
Mostly because it paid out the most commission to travel agents (so of course I worked my ass off to sell it), but also because it’s a damn useful product for anyone to have on their travels.
Searching for a travel insurance policy can be pretty confusing. Why are they all different prices? What the hell do they cover? What on earth does ‘excess’ mean?
Well folks, here’s an easy guide (minus all the technical mumbo jumbo) on what to look for in travel insurance.
Is travel insurance worth it?
Yes. Hell yes. Why? Even though I’ve only made a claim once (when I so cleverly left my mobile phone in a Chinese taxi), I know of many people that have made much bigger claims. And believe me, if it was you who just crashed your rental car into a fence while road tripping through Australia or who got stuck with a $400,000 medical bill after breaking your leg while zip-lining in a remote jungle and having to get airlifted out by helicopter (true story, btw), you’ll be bloody glad you have it.
How to find the best policies
Comparison websites (such as this one for US/Canadians or this one for Australians) are good for checking pricing and inclusions on different policies, but it’s always best to book directly through the insurance company website to avoid any extra fees.
One thing to note is that frequent travellers might benefit from a multi-trip policy or going with a company that caters for long-term travellers. Be careful to check the maximum trip length in the policy, and whether you’ll have to return to your home country first before travelling again.
Most important things to have covered
Cancellation – No matter how unlikely it may seem, you can never know what will happen in between booking your trip and leaving. Cancellation cover is a must.
Some policies include this automatically, and some others change the price of the policy according to how much cancellation cover you will need (which should be the amount that you have pre-paid for your trip). If you’ve paid $2000 for flights and $1000 for accommodation, then you should get a policy with $3000 of cancellation cover.
Medical – Unless you’re travelling domestically, you should always have medical cover. Always! No excuses. In some countries, the medical systems are not nearly as good as you might have access to at home, so if you injure yourself and need to be moved to another country to get better treatment, that is going to cost you an arm and a leg (not literally).
Other things you might want covered
Travel delays – Many insurances will offer some cover for things like accommodation costs if you flight is delayed, emergency items you need to purchase if your luggage is delayed, and replacing your luggage if it is one of those rare few that get eternally lost in the labyrinth of the luggage network.
Car rental – If you’ve rented a car before, you’ll know that the company staff always offer you additional insurance to cover costs if you crash the car. Some travel insurances include this, so double check that you won’t be doubling up on insurances.
Valuables – Some policies will offer cover for replacing certain items if they get damaged or stolen on your travels. This might include laptops, cameras, or jewellery, so if you’re taking anything that would be costly to replace – this is worth having! You may even be able to increase the cover if you’re taking more valuables than the policy includes.
Extreme sports/Adventure activities – Extreme sports or certain adventure activities may not be covered in some policies. If you’re planning on skydiving, skiing, or even driving a scooter while you’re on your trip, you may have to pay extra to have this covered.
When it comes to the pricing of policies, I honestly believe that you will get what you pay for in travel insurance. The cheaper the policy, the less it will cover, and the company will be less likely to pay out if you make a claim. Some other things that affect pricing include:
Excesses – Most travel insurance policies will have an excess, which means you will forfeit the excess amount (usually $100-$250) when you make a claim on the insurance.
Some policies will allow you to change the excess amount. Lowering it means the price of the policy will go up, and increasing it means the policy cost will go down. You will have to judge whether you’re willing to forfeit that amount if you make a claim.
Coverage – Expensive policies might cover you for a vast range of things like losing your wallet in a nightclub to the doctors costs from getting a coin stuck up your nose, and some will be cheap as chips but will laugh in your face if you try to make a claim for absolutely anything. Again, you will have to decide what kind of cover you would like, and whether the price difference is worth it.
Limits – Some policies limit the amount they will pay out for each claim. Which is fine, but just be careful – you don’t want to have only $1000 luggage covered when you are taking $2500 worth of gear.
Things to look out for
Short layovers between flights – If you’ve booked two flights on separate tickets and the time between them doesn’t meet the minimum connection time (usually 1-2 hours depending on the airport), you won’t be covered for costs if you miss the second flight due to the first one being delayed.
Breaking the law – I know this seems super obvious, but if you do something as simple as driving a scooter after you’ve been drinking alcohol or without a helmet when the law in the country says that’s not allowed, then your travel insurance company will use that as an excuse not to pay you for any claims you’ve made.
One last tip I’ll leave you with is to document everything – take photos of what’s in your luggage before you leave, and make sure you have receipts for all your valuables. And if something happens while you’re travelling, make sure you get a police report/written letter from the venue or someone’s contact details for later. This will make it much easier if you need to make a claim.
Any other questions you have about travel insurance, or any tips you have for others purchasing insurance? Share with us in the comments!
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