Synopsis: Explains the benefits of why you should always take out a good travel insurance policy cover before a trip.
The primary benefit of obtaining good travel insurance coverage is the knowledge that should something go wrong while you are abroad, you won't be responsible for finding the money to put it right, at a time when you are already stressed out.
As with all insurance policies it is important that you read the policy documents carefully to ensure that the cover you require is included, this is especially the case if you are of the sporting or adventurous persuasion as many activities increase the risk of injury and, therefore, may not be covered as standard or may only be covered for a limited frequency during the period of insurance. Policies vary quite a bit so it pays to shop around if you have the time, or speak to a specialist broker, to try and find a policy that covers your intended activity at no extra cost.
Travel insurance policies come in various forms but most policies include the following categories of cover, although you should always read the policy wording to find out what is and is not covered by the particular policy, also different policies may have the benefits in separate categories or bundle them under one heading:
Covers the cost of emergency medical treatment, this usually involves being treated at a hospital but not necessarily. Prior authorization by the insurer is normally required if the expected cost of treatment is likely to be above a fixed amount set out in the policy wording, this is often quite low, in the hundreds of pounds.
Covers the cost of emergency medical assistance, mainly getting someone to hospital, whether that is the costs of a road ambulance or where necessary an air ambulance or sea rescue, although you must check that you are covered for the activity in which you were participating when injured or becoming ill. Repatriation, covers the cost of returning you to your home country after receiving medical treatment, with an accompanying medical professional where necessary. Also covers the return of your remains in the event of your death abroad.
In the event of there being no hospital capable of treating you locally, this section of the policy covers the costs of transporting you to the nearest hospital that can treat you, even if it is in another country
A small daily amount to cover incidental costs of being a hospital in-patient abroad. Usually has a minimum length of stay requirement and a maximum limit on the total benefit paid.
Covers any financial loss, unrecoverable by other means, such as lost deposits or non-refundable transport costs, you suffer as a result of having to cancel or cut short your trip or having to return home suddenly. Common reasons for claiming under this section would be the sudden and unexpected serious illness or death of a close relative, or something happening to your home such as fire or flood. What is considered a valid reason to claim under this section varies from policy to policy so as usual you must read the small print.
Covers additional costs if you miss your scheduled means of transport for departing your home country and the first international means of transport on the return journey. Cover under this section is usually restricted to incidents out of your control such as failure of public transport or your own vehicle breaking down, although you may be required to prove that it had been maintained regularly. Missed connections in a third country that is not your home country or the final destination country are often excluded.
Provides cover in the event that you injure a third party or damage their property, although there is often an exclusion for liability arising from the use of a vehicle or by an animal under your control, such as a horse or dog.
In the event of you becoming involved in litigation there is some cover for legal costs.
Usually a relatively small amount of life cover if you die or permanent disability cover in the event of you being seriously injured such as loss of a limb or being permanently blinded.
Cover for your personal belongings and money that you take with you. There is usually an overall limit that is the maximum for any claim as well as limits for individual types of property. These are the single item, pair or set of items limit, for instance a set of golf clubs is considered to be one item and you cannot claim for each club separately. The valuables limit, valuables usually referring to jewelery and electronic devices. There will be an individual item limit as well as a total valuables limit being the maximum cover in any one claim for all items considered to be a valuable. There will also be a limit on the amount of cash covered in a claim. In the event of theft there will also be restrictions on valid claims with regard to where the item was, if it was secure, and a requirement to report the theft to the police. If you replace any goods you will need to obtain receipts.
Most but not necessarily all sections of cover will have an excess amount which is the amount that you are expected to pay in the event of a claim and the insurer only covers costs over and above that figure. This excess amount may be per person, per policy or per claim.
Although I have listed the standard covers, many policies offer you the opportunity to modify the policy either by adding on cover or by removing sections of cover completely. Common options are to waive the excess amount in the event of a claim, to increase the amount of cancellation cover included in the policy, to exclude the personal belongings section, to exclude the cancellation section and in some cases you can exclude the emergency medical treatment section. Another frequent modification is to add cover for a specific activity although the effect on the premium can be quite dramatic depending upon the type of activity as most policies will apply a multiplier to the base cost and this can more than double the premium.
To summarize, a standard travel insurance policy contains many different sections of cover, not all of which everyone needs, but for most people a standard travel insurance policy will cover all the unexpected events that can occur while away from home.
Please bear in mind that if you buy a travel insurance policy that doesn't provide the cover you require, you have wasted your money, not to mention the fact that you could be left facing a very large bill. With all insurance policies you must always read the small print, in the UK you have a 14 day period after purchase, provided that you haven't already made use of the travel insurance policy, where you can get a guaranteed refund if the travel insurance policy turns out not to be suitable, leave it later than that and any refund is at the insurer's discretion.