Today, everyone’s a jetsetter. Whether it’s for work, holidays or any excuse to get out of the office and country, we’ll take it. Travel insurance can often feel like a complete waste of good money, especially when all goes well on our trips. But when things do go awry, or if your flight gets delayed or your luggage gets lost in another country, it’ll end up being the wisest choice you made.
Travel insurance helps to cover some costs caused by inconveniences before, during and after the trip. But don’t just buy any travel insurance. Here are some things to note for someone who is new to the concept.
Scope of coverage
- Medical evacuation, which involves air lifting you to the nearest hospital and back home. This would be my personal reason for buying travel insurance. If I were to get into an accident during a ski trip, I would want to be sent home as soon as possible, and be in the comfort of my own country and be with my family. A medical evacuation from Haikou, China to Singapore in 2015 was $175,000. And if you have it covered in your insurance, that would mean you pay nothing for that important lift home!
- Loss of belongings during travel, including your valuables like laptops, handphone, money, passports. Some countries are safer than others. If someone robs you of your belongings, you won’t necessarily be able to get the item back, but at least your insurance can help to compensate you (partially) to replace the item.
- Medical expenses abroad. You never know when a medical emergency would happen and if it happens overseas, it could involve some astronomical sums. Travel insurance can help to cover these crazy costs. Some accidents require immediate attention before you can be airlifted back to your home country so it would be important to have this coverage too.
- Medical expenses after return. Sudden changes in weather, such as from the Swiss Alps to sunny Singapore, can cause you to catch a cold. Travel insurance allows you to get reimbursed for medical bills incurred within the 3-7 days of your return due to illnesses that occurred during or because of the trip.
- Travel cancellation due to a family emergency, natural disasters or emergency situations. Most flights are non-refundable but with insurance you can make sure that you don’t lose all that flight money if anything major happens before you can go on your flight.
- Flight delays can happen as a result of adverse weather conditions, or a mechanical issue with the aircraft. These delays can drag on for hours, and travel insurance will cover you if the minimum hours of delay meets the policy’s criteria.
There are many terms to keep an eye out for:
- Annual or single trip – Check if the coverage is for single or annual trips. Annual trips are usually capped at a maximum of 180 travel days.
- Non-committal – Check if the terms are non-committal meaning you don’t need to renew the annual travel plan and the insurer can also choose to do the same.
- Refund – The terms would often include that you don’t get any refund on your premiums even if you don’t make a claim.
- Prices vary – Depending on the claims experience on the overall industry and the insurer, premium rates might be increased without any explanation in the future.
- Geographically categorised – The insurance plans are categorised into areas of coverage, usually Asia alone or Global. Some insurers also have plans that cover only Southeast Asia. Even when it says global, it does not cover places that your local travel advisory board advise against, or war zone areas. So do take note of such terms and make sure you’re covered for the country you’re going to.
Here are some important points to note that you may not be aware of:
- Pre-existing illnesses are not covered. For example, if someone with hypertension has a heart attack during a roller coaster ride during their trip to Australia, regular travel insurance will not cover it. However, there are now some providers that cover pre-existing conditions as part of the travel insurance. Just note that these options are, of course, a lot more expensive.
- Insurance costs the same whether you buy it 10 days in advance or 1 day in advance. You should always buy your travel insurance as soon as you book your trip. The premiums are calculated based on your actual travel dates, so it won’t cost you more when you buy it earlier. Better yet, you can get covered for unforeseen trip cancellations if you or a family member have a medical emergency.
- You simply cannot buy travel insurance after your travel has started. If you forgot to buy it before your trip, and you’re already in another country, pray hard nothing happens and don’t waste your money buying travel insurance.
- Medical expenses are covered within a specific timeframe upon returning. This is usually 3 days or slightly more. If you fall sick during the trip and did not get to see a doctor while travelling, your costs of seeking medical help can be covered if you see a doctor when you return.
- Keep your flight ticket stubs for unforeseen claims. For most claims, you would need your boarding passes both to and from the trip. Don’t be too quick to throw away the boarding passes once you’ve reached your destination. In case of a mishap, I always keep my boarding passes for a week after my trip.
- Reading policy wording is important, not least because you should never assume an insurer will cover you for certain situations. For instance, while Covid-19 coverage often comes with travel insurance now, some still only come as an add-on. It’s important to know what’s included, what’s excluded, and also the limits on certain claims.
- Documentation is important when you need to make a claim. Insurers will require you to have the required proof to support your claim, whether it’s police reports, medical bills, or even a prescription. It might seem like a hassle, or even unnecessary, but in the event that you need to submit a claim, those ‘paper scraps’ are going to be very crucial.
- Coverage for more elderly travellers can differ from the standard. Most insurers reduce coverage for those aged 70 and above, and this is another piece of information you would be able to find if you scrutinise the policy wording.
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