Important Information – Please Read
DON’T BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE FROM ANYWHERE UNTIL YOU HAVE READ THIS!
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE BUT PROBABLY DON’T!
We are aware that the conditions relating to insurance cover are generally regarded as a rip-off and there is a serious lack of understanding about the scope of cover that is provided on insurance policies.
After years of involvement in the travel insurance industry, we have built up a good understanding of the main areas where problems can arise. We would like to share this knowledge with you, so that you enter into the buying process with your eyes wide open and with a better understanding of the product that you are buying and will be relying on during your travels.
A travel insurance document is about as tedious a piece of literature as you will find anywhere and we would challenge anyone to stay awake long enough to read it from end to end, though you must, even if you do it in bits over a period of time. Most of it is pretty harmless and obvious common-sense stuff but we can highlight the main areas that you should concentrate on so that you can avoid nasty surprises in the event of needing to claim.
In our opinion, there is no such thing as an “all-risks” policy and that term should be outlawed!
So here goes – we’ll approach this section by section – You’re not going to like this!
Medical conditions that exist prior to purchase of your policy will not be covered unless you have disclosed them and had them accepted, and that includes cancellation claims arising from the condition
Our policies cover common conditions such as asthma and diabetes (provided that they are stable and controlled) but most travel insurance policies don’t.
Costs of ongoing medication that you know beforehand will be needed are not covered. Costs of vaccinations etc that are needed to enter certain countries are not covered.
Dental treatment costs are capped (no pun intended) at £350 on our policies. This is for emergency treatment and pain relief only, so no fancy cosmetic stuff. Anything to do with teeth is regarded as dental, even if it is done in hospital, i.e. wisdom teeth removal.
Emergency medical repatriation is covered, but it’s not your choice. The decision over whether you need to be repatriated is made by consultation between the insurers medical experts and the treating doctors.
Insurers have the right to bring you home, if the treating doctors consider you are fit to travel, rather than have expensive operations and treatment done overseas.
Medical cover on travel insurance is only for necessary and emergency treatment. There have been occasions where elements of medical bills have been thrown out, because they are not considered by the insurers to have been necessary or could have waited till the insured returned home.
For sports-related medical claims, certain treatments, such as physiotherapy, are often excluded.
Insurers have the right to turn down claims for “alternative” treatments, so if you go for a session of faith-healing or the like, feel free, but it won’t be covered. Many policies will not cover you at all for injuries sustained as a result of participation in sports or activities or work. Check this carefully and make sure that the sport is mentioned specifically, not just vague reference to “sports”.
Claims arising from your “intoxication” will not be covered, So if your drunk or stoned – you’re on your own!
BAGGAGE AND PERSONAL EFFECTS
Generally, cover for valuable items is poor. This is the section of travel insurance that causes the most problems and is the one which is most adversely affected by a high level of fraudulent claims.
Travel insurance policies always have a SINGLE ITEM LIMIT which is the maximum that will be paid for any one item or set of items, This is usually in the £100-£300 range, depending on the policy.
More dangerous still is the TOTAL VALUABLES LIMIT. Policies define the term “valuables” as being obvious things like jewellery and watches, but also includes photographic and electronic equipment. The total valuables limit is usually in the £150-£400 range depending on the policy, meaning that the policy will not pay more than that limit IN TOTAL for the duration of your trip. So, if your policy has a SINGLE ITEM LIMIT of £200 and a TOTAL VALUABLES LIMIT of £300 and you lose a £200 camera and a £200 watch, you will only get £300 settlement as, despite both items being OK on the single item limit, the claim is capped by the total valuables limit.
Valuable items, as defined in the policy wording, are never covered if left UNATTENDED. Unattended must be taken literally, as the term is defined as being out of your sight and where you cannot immediately get hold of it, unless it is in a locked and secure area where no-one else can get at it. Valuable items are not covered, for instance, if they go missing from your baggage, whilst it is checked in with the airline, so carry valuables in your hand baggage and keep it with you.
Valuables are not covered if left in dormitory-style hostel accommodation, where other people may have access to it in your absence. Valuables are not covered if left in an unattended vehicle (including motorhomes). Even your ordinary belongings (non-valuable) are not covered if left in an unattended vehicle overnight.
Most policies can deduct an amount for wear and tear for certain items. They don’t always do this but they can. The cover is not for the cost of a replacement, it is for the value of the lost item – there can be a difference.
Keep receipts for everything – you will be asked for them if you need to claim for lost or stolen items. Regrettably, insurers feel that the days are gone where they can take someones word for the ownership of an item. There is often some leeway on this, we have seen claims where the Claims Office do not insist on receipts for every lost pair of socks, but generally speaking you will need to prove ownership of valuables.
Claims for lost or stolen CASH are severely limited, so don’t carry large amounts. Cash limits vary, but are usually in the £50-£250 range depending on the policy. Keep foreign exchange receipts, as you will be asked to prove that you had the claimed currency.
Theft and loss must be reported to the police and a report obtained. Unreported loss/theft will not be covered.
You are only covered against cancellation for reasons such as illness of yourself, travelling companion, close family member, or for redundancy or jury service, but not much else. Cancellation due to disinclination to travel, financial circumstances, split up from partner etc are not covered.
Cancellation due to an airline or tour operator going broke or cancelling part of your trip are NOT usually covered by travel insurance. For instance, if you decide to cancel flights because an overland tour you had booked separately does not operate, cancellation charges on those flights may not be covered, unless your policy states otherwise. Your policy will state, in the small print, exactly what circumstances are covered in the event of cancellation, but they can be very limited.
In the same way that your own pre-existing medical condition can effect cover, the health of other people, on whom your cancellation might depend, will also affect cover. For instance, if a family member has a medical condition and you end up cancelling your trip as a result of that condition, you are not covered, as the condition was known about.
Curtailment cover is usually lumped in with cancellation cover, but we have treated it separately here, as we feel that this section is the least understood part of a travel insurance policy and is the result of more disappointment and ill-feeling than all the other sections combined.
On the vast majority of travel insurance policies the curtailment section is only designed to pay the ADDITIONAL COSTS that you might incur in cutting a trip short due to the illness or death of a close relative back home (provided that their illness or death was not the result of a pre-existing condition).
These costs are usually very small or non-existent, as the insurers will utilise your existing tickets, where possible, to get you home and the airlines usually change dates or reroute those tickets for little or no extra cost. You are not covered for curtailment if you have travelled on one-way tickets as the insurers say that you would have had to buy a ticket home anyway.
When you get home and the emergency is over, you might decide to go back out and resume the trip where you left off. Most policies will not pay to get you back out and to add insult to injury, if you decide to buy a new ticket and go back out, you will need to re-insure, as a Cancellation or Curtailment claim ends the policy. A very few policies have an extra section called Resumption of Trip cover, which will pay up to a certain amount to get you back out and you do not need to re-insure. This is usually on condition that there was at least a certain percentage of your insured period left to run at the time of resuming your trip. This type of cover is very rare and most policies are not designed to get you back out again..
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel you must curtail your trip, You MUST call the 24 hour emergency number on your policy, don’t just book a ticket and come home. If the curtailment has not been notified and agreed to, your claim may not be paid.
Curtailment cover is not designed to compensate you in any way for the lost part of your trip or lost enjoyment and even unused parts of tickets are not covered (these will usually have been utilised to get you home anyway).
This section is often misunderstood. This cover is not designed to cover the cost of your defence if you get arrested overseas. It is designed to help you or your family bring a case against someone who has caused your injury or death whilst travelling. Read this section carefully.
These are claims where someone claims against you, for instance for damage to their property or injury that you have caused to them.
Personal Liability claims made against you that result from you being in charge of vehicles or animals are NOT covered. This can include cars, motorcycles, horses, aircraft, boats, bicycles etc. In the case of motor vehicles, this is not usually a problem, as the law usually insists that cover is provided by the car or motorcycle insurance, but activities such as horseriding and cycling could be a problem.
Personal Liability claims arising from you working are not covered, as liability is usually covered by employers. However, you cannot take this for granted in some parts of the world.
Travel Insurance policies, like car insurance, usually have excesses. These are the amounts that the insurers will deduct from a claim, i.e. the first £50. These mean that you cannot make small claims at all, where the amounts are less than the excess amount.