Image via Flickr user Astrid Westvang
Don’t Leave Home without It
Several years ago, I went to visit some friends in the U.S. in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. On arrival, I realized that I had forgotten to buy travel insurance. Feeling young, fit, and reckless, I decided that it would not matter as the trip was only to be two weeks long. What could possibly go wrong in such a short space of time? As if to tempt fate, I decided to join my friends snowboarding for a day. I was slightly more nervous given the knowledge that I had no insurance, but my friends persuaded me little could go wrong since I was a beginner and wouldn’t be moving fast enough to have an accident. Unfortunately, due to some bad amateur coaching, I ended up being taken off of the slopes on a stretcher and in a daze, with no memory of the day, date or year for that matter. When the safety workers were about to put a neck brace on me and take me to hospital, I admitted that I had no insurance and preferred it if they left me to get better by myself. I did, luckily. But I have never travelled without insurance since then.
Who Needs Travel Insurance?
Majority of world travellers tend to be quite young, and some are reckless. Youngers always have the idea that youth is on their side, and ignore that travel insurance are not needed. The idea of paying what seems like a large sum of money, and most often will never be use can seem to be ridiculous for a young traveller. However, accident or illness could happen and usually happen in a foreign country. Regardless of age, if you do not have any form of travel insurance, your life could be in danger and in terms of the financial damage on medical costs.
Your insurance policy should offer at least US$2,000,000 in medical expenses in case the very worst happens, preferably more if possible. It should also offer 24-hour emergency service and repatriation in case you need to be flown home.
How Much Insurance Should You Take Out?
Once you have decided to buy travel insurance, your next decision is whether to try and save money by not including your cash and belongings covered under the insurance plan. By deleting this coverage, it will bring down your premium slightly. However, if you have new camera equipment etc. you may pay the extra few dollars and have these things covered too.
On the other hand, don’t pay out too much for a premium if you aren’t going to make the most of it. Travel insurance for people doing winter sports often doubles because of the associated risks, so it makes a huge dent in your wallet. However, unless you plan to be on the slopes every single day of you trip, it’s worth considering other options. There is daily travel insurance, and some covers for single trip travel as well.
What Should The Insurance Plan Cover?
Some final factors to consider before buying travel insurance include checking to see that the policy covers you for what you will be doing. Aside from winter sports, there are other sports that require a higher premium.
And an important point for many will be whether you will be covered for manual labour. Many of us take part in various forms of manual labour when working or volunteering abroad and some companies don’t cover this. If you are in any doubt, contact the insurance company and ask them before you buy your policy.
Don’t Forget to Read the SMALL PRINT!
Once you have bought your insurance, ALWAYS READ THE SMALL PRINT, no matter how tedious this job might be. If you know what to do in terms of your insurance company in case of an emergency, it could make a difference between making a valid claim or not.
Important Things to Remember That Could Make All the Difference
Now, you have your insurance policy that covers you for everything that you need, and you have arrived at your destination. As much as you should have fun on your trip, don’t assume that just because you do have travel insurance, it makes you invulnerable or able to take excessive risks.
Any accidents caused by alcohol or drug abuse, no matter how small, will completely invalidate your claim so BE VERY CAREFUL. Alcohol and drug abuse in an unknown country is usually a very bad idea anyway as you are less aware of local risks, more vulnerable to attack, and penalties can be much higher than at home.
One final thing to remember is that once you have stepped onto that flight your chances of buying travel insurance for that particular trip are greatly diminished. Most insurers will only cover you if you buy the insurance before you leave. Some will provide insurance once you have already left but these are quite difficult to find.
And finally, don’t forget to take your insurance details with you wherever you go, otherwise they are useless! And where possible, make photocopies and leave them with a friend or family back home in case your gets stolen.
By Caroline Nye
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