Before travel was my job, I was pretty clueless about travel insurance. I knew I had to have it, sure, but I didn’t really understand what it all meant or how to choose a good one. The single determining factor for me used to be price, but now I know more and while the price is still important, there are so many other things to consider as well. Matt and I have both fallen really ill overseas and thanks to our travel insurance, we were okay financially – I shudder to think what would’ve happened if we hadn’t had it. I cannot stress it enough, you absolutely must have travel insurance when you travel. Here are my top tips on how to choose good travel insurance and a few tips and tricks too!
Consider an annual policy
I’m hitting you with a pro tip right out the gates! We used to purchase a single policy each time we travelled until Matt, the thrifty little genius, discovered the magical world of annual travel insurance policies. With an annual policy you’re covered for every trip you take more than 100km from home and you save money in the long run. Our current policy checks all the ‘essential’ boxes I’ve outlined below. If, like us, you travel a lot, an annual policy could be a good option for you.
Be very clear on what’s covered
Before you buy a policy, it’s incredibly important you understand what’s covered. It’s also very important the policy you choose covers you for the essentials you may need. Here are my tips on what to look for in a really good travel insurance policy:
- Unlimited or high coverage limit on medical expenses (Do not underestimate how quickly medical bills can rack up)
- Any existing medical conditions you may have are covered
- Emergency medical evacuation by road or air and repatriation to your home country
- Additional expenses due to events like death, sudden illness or injury, weather events, natural disaster, riot or strike
- Cancellation costs to cover you for financial loss due to an unforeseen cancellation
- Covers you for most countries in the world (they will never cover places like Somalia)
- Offers worldwide, 24/7 emergency assistance (trust me, this very important)
- Covers lost, damaged or stolen personal possessions like cameras, luggage, jewellery (be sure to check the amount of cover and make sure it’s enough)
- Covers your electronics (don’t just assume it does, be certain) you may need to bump the amount of cover up if you travel with more electronics
Pro Tip: If you’re travelling while pregnant, you need to be certain of what’s covered as a lot of insurers will not cover childbirth overseas, premature or otherwise. It’s also likely they won’t cover you for any complications that arise during your pregnancy. This mostly applies to women past the 26-week mark and, in the case of twins, 19 weeks. Speak to your doctor before you set off for a babymoon and if it isn’t going to work to go abroad, have your vacay closer to home.
Be very clear about what’s not!
There are some things travel insurers just won’t cover, so you need to be very clear on what these are so you can avoid those situations and/or understand the risks if you choose to do them anyway. Here are a few examples of what may not be covered, even if you have a policy in place:
- Accidents that happen when you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Accidents that happen when you’re taking crazy risks, like jumping between hotel balconies
- Your personal possessions are stolen while left unattended in a public place, like the beach or a cafe
- Injuries sustained while riding a scooter in a foreign country, potentially illegally, as you don’t have an international license
- High-risk activities like ice hockey, parachuting, hang gliding, ice climbing and skydiving, just to name a few
- If you choose to visit a destination with a DO NOT TRAVEL warning, like Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen
- Injuries sustained during a period of civil unrest, that could have reasonably been avoided (don’t join in the coup)
- Any nasty STDs you catch out there in the big bad world – practice safe sex, people!
Pro Tip: Before you leave home, take a photograph inventory of all the things you’re taking with you. Photograph each item and, if you have them, take photos of the receipts to verify your purchases too. Upload all the photographs and copies of your receipts for hotels, flights etc somewhere online, like Dropbox. That way, if things get lost or stolen and you need to make a claim, you can easily verify you purchased the items and had them with you.
Keep your wits about you…
Insurance is a big industry and whenever there’s money involved, there’s always someone trying to get their cut. Here are a few things to look out for when dealing with travel insurance:
- Don’t automatically purchase bag insurance when booking flights as it may already be covered by your travel insurance policy (check before buying!)
- Don’t buy insurance from a travel agent as they tend to bump the rates up to make crazy commissions!
- Instead, buy your policy directly from the insurer you want to go with
- Don’t assume two insurers offer a policy with a specific company are offering the same policy – always read the fine print
- Be sure you fully understand the sub-limits in each section of your coverage (i.e. is your laptop only covered for $500 under your $10,000 cover for stolen electronics?)
I just want to end with this – everything I’ve written here is based on my thoughts, opinions, and experiences. As with anything, it’s important you take the time to do the research and make sure you’re choosing a policy that’s right for you! We’ve claimed on our annual policy a few times and had no problems. It’s up to you which company meets your needs and works for your individual circumstances.
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