Travel Insurance 101: what you want to know before committing

Travel Insurance 101: what you want to know before committing

2017 is shaping up to be the year of long weekends. Eid al Adha, Arafat, and Al Hijri are all expected to fall on Thursday, meaning that a number of holidaymakers are heading abroad this September; and a number of them will tempt fate by travelling without insurance. If you’re looking for a holiday sans criminal or medical scares, the cost and time dedicated to choosing a comprehensive travel insurance plan is worth it. But don’t worry, you don’t have to go it alone – this handy guide should help demystify the strange, complex world of travel insurance.  

The big if: do I need travel insurance?

If you have a big appetite for risk – allergic to padlocks, uninterested in vaccinations, eat raw meat in hot places – then no, probably not. However, what those with mild travelling concerns should know is that travel insurance policies cover a myriad of different maladies and potential pitfalls; it’s not just cover for lost baggage.

Comprehensive insurance protects you before your holiday has even begun, insuring that the large sum of money you’ve spent in advance is not totally lost should you find yourself unable to travel. An accident, a relative falling ill, or even an almighty traffic jam have the potential to disrupt holiday plans – but fortunately, most travel insurance policies will cover cancellation or missed departure. 

Naturally, most people insuring their holiday are concerned with what happens after they board. Theft, medical evacuation, missing baggage, death – anything and everything can happen. Travel insurance – though marred by a slew of ifs and buts (in the form of terms and conditions) – will salvage most of the costs involved should the unexpected happen. Then again, nothing could happen at all; it’s for you to determine what risks you are prepared to accept and whether it’s worth paying out for something that may not be used.  

How to choose the best travel insurance for you

On average, travellers choose between two types of coverage: "Medical Emergencies Only", most commonly used for the issuance of a travel visa, or "Comprehensive Travel Insurance", which covers an array of potential inconveniences as well as medical emergencies. Choosing the best insurance plan depends on your whether you are looking to simply have entrance to a country that requires you to have travel insurance (which is the case for Cuba and Uzbekistan), or to have comprehensive benefits that cover you in the event of delayed bagged, cancelled flights, loss of a passport, or Travel Medical.

Does property insurance  cover anything overseas?

If opted for, home insurance can cover the personal belongings that you travel with, such as your mobile phone or wedding ring, against all risks.

As one of the major contributing factors to the pricing of medical policy, the area of cover dictates where you can go for elective treatment outside of the UAE. Certain comprehensive medical plans offer an extension of this area of cover in the event of an emergency. So, if you’re looking for travel insurance without wanting to buy a whole new policy, check if there are opportunities to extend the category of insurance coverage with your provider. 

Where can I pick up and claim travel insurance?

You can usually submit claims directly to your insurance provider, your insurance broker, or airline if there is a pre-existing agreement between them and the insurer. To ensure a speedy claim process you should notify the authority relevant to where the claim occurred and request a report of what has happened. For example: a lost/stolen phone should have an accompanying police report; if your flight is delayed or baggage lost, take your claims to be certified by the airlines themselves. Most insurers allow you to submit claims under certain value-thresholds online, however, if you decide to submit your originals via post, or hand it over to a broker, keep copies of all supporting documentation for added security.

Is there any time where travel insurance isn’t necessary?

Some of the time you have no choice – Cuba and Uzbekistan demand that all overseas visitors have travel insurance. Nevertheless, there are occasions where the benefits of bagging insurance do not outweigh the cost:

  1. Your valuables are already covered through household insurance policy, or you have the option to extend your policy to cover you while abroad
  2. You’re not carrying anything valuable enough to warrant taking out insurance
  3. Your age or medical condition means you’d face high premiums

That being said, for most people, travel insurance is an excellent idea.

Buying travel insurance for single trip or investing in annual policy?

It depends on your schedule and if you’re looking and multiple trips for business or pleasure. If you typically take a two-week annual holiday abroad plus one short break, then insurance to cover specific trips probably has the best value. However, if you foresee yourself travelling more frequently, a policy that allows an unlimited number of overseas holidays each year ends up working quite well. Naturally, most are subject to a maximum trip length – usually a month, but there are always options to pay for extensions.

Will a price-comparison site help me find the best insurance for my buck?

Searching online will help you get a sense of price levels certainly, yet this is if you're an individual in the prime of your life with no desire to go on adventure thrills abroad. The same can't be said if you are over 65, or have any pre-existing medical conditions -  online quotes you receive are subject to quite volatile price change with underwriting. If you’re intending to go kayaking, hunting or any other adventurous activities in high-risk locations, expect the same level of quote instability.

In terms of offering, even the most economical deals will offer a strong level of medical cover, but with inadequate or no protection for cancellation, property loss and fringe benefits such as delays.

While it’s important to find a policy within your means, it’s critical that comparison websites don’t detract you from the key reason for adopting travel insurance: receiving cover from risks that are vital to you. Don’t lose sight of the importance of coverage tailored to your needs, and make sure that everything you want covered is, regardless of price. 

Premiums are high for those with underlying illnesses. What happens if I lie about it?

You could get found out. In the event of a medical claim, the insurer will want full details from your GP of any pre-existing medical issues related to the condition at hand. If it turns out that you did not disclose this ailment, the claim will most likely be turned down. 

Travel insurance is a useful commodity, and for anyone who has missed a flight, lost baggage, or been forced to abort a trip too late to accrue a refund, the item they wish they bought in hindsight. We are naturally optimistic creatures that hope (key word here) that bad things won’t happen to us, even if they happen to other people. Nevertheless, they do, and it’s vital that holiday-goers consider the risks specific to their circumstance before turning their nose up the next time a travel agent offers them a travel insurance plan.

Related articles:

6 Things to Consider When Selecting Your Group Insurance Plan in The UAE

Consider These Points When Making Health Insurance Reimbursement Claims

What to Look for When You Compare Health Insurance in the UAE