With the winter holiday season just around the corner, many people are currently engaged in making travel plans to exciting and exotic destinations. From stitching the perfect itinerary to zeroing down on the best hotel and flight bookings, a lot of energy and time would have already gone into ensuring that the trip is a memorable one. In the quest for new experiences, many often tend to miss out on the crucial aspect of protecting their journey from unforeseen contingencies, and that’s where a reliable travel insurance
policy comes into play.
Scope of travel insurance
Most consumers buy travel insurance
just because the visa process mandates it. Those visiting Schengen countries, for example, have to provide travel insurance
as part of the visa documentation process. Even Australia mandates people over a specific age group to apply for it. But travellers often fail to understand that it’s the only protection that they will be able to fall back on in the event of an eventuality during their trip.
If you lose your passport, for example, your travel insurance policy will reimburse you for the cost incurred on acquiring another passport and a duplicate visa. Similarly, in case of baggage loss, the insurance cover will compensate for your loss up to a certain permissible limit. In case of baggage delay, the expense incurred on buying new personal goods will be reimbursed.
Far worse is a medical emergency when travelling abroad. In such a situation, a travel insurance policy comes as a saviour. You get the benefit of cashless hospitalisation. The insurance policy will compensate for flying a close family member to the location, and will take care of other related expenses.
Then there are things that are beyond your control. Your trip can get cancelled or delayed due to the airline’s fault. Imagine you have paid upfront to stay in an exotic and expensive hotel for three-four days but there’s a delay of a day or two due to flight cancellation. Many hotels repay only a part of the money on cancellation or don’t pay anything at all. Also, what do you do about your prior hotel or airline bookings if your trip gets cancelled suddenly due to a natural calamity at your destination? A travel policy compensates for the expenses incurred on accommodation and ticket bookings. In case of a delayed flight, it will cover additional expenses such as an unplanned night stay at a hotel.
In case of theft, an insurance policy takes care of fraudulent charges incurred due to loss of credit/debit cards. However, you must read the fine print of the policy to understand what’s covered and what’s not.
Confirm if you have travel insurance already: You could have travel coverage already and not even know about it. Some credit cards or home insurance policies provide travel cover too. It is, therefore, worth checking your existing accounts before buying a new policy. If you do, you may not need an additional cover.
Get your vaccinations done: If you have a medical condition make sure to carry your vaccinations and medicines recommended by the doctor. Some insurance companies may not pay in case you get a viral infection in the absence of proper precautions.
Check for valuables cover: When it comes to insurance, it is critical to understand the difference between baggage and electronics and other valuables cover. While ‘baggage’ refers to personal day-to-day items, electronics and valuables comprise a completely different section of the policy. Many companies do not compensate if you do not carry an invoice copy. It is, therefore, essential to carry original bills and vouchers or have digital copies on your phone or mailbox to prove your purchase claim.
Pay more to get more: Some travel insurers allow customers to pick and choose the cover they need. Make sure you check the different covers available. It may feel that the unbundled products are expensive, but they could be more comprehensive, and the scope of coverage could be better in unbundled products.
Check if pre-existing diseases are covered: Not all insurers cover pre-existing diseases and related medical emergencies. If an individual has a cardiac condition, for example, and he gets a heart attack, not all insurers may compensate for this claim. If a traveller has an existing condition, do understand the terms and conditions and scope of coverage for the pre-existing conditions.
Multi-trip policies do make sense: If you are a frequent traveller, a multi-trip policy is recommended. They cover all trips undertaken in a policy year. However, do check the length and limit of each trip that the insurer is willing to cover. Some insurer may allow cover for 30 days on each trip while some may give cover for a higher number of days. If an individual undertakes five-six trips a year, go for multi-trip policy rather than a separate policy for each trip. Also, multi-trip policies are more economical than buying a cover each time you travel.
Check for cancellation terms: The most disheartening part of a trip is if you have to cancel at the last moment due to unforeseen snags. Many travellers don’t realise that only a few companies will offer compensation if the customer cancels the trip. It is, therefore, essential, that you read the policy wordings and understand if the insurer will honour a claim if the insured cancels his trip.
Vacations are supposed to be pleasant and memorable. You do not want unfortunate incidents to spoil the fun. While you cannot control future events, you can ensure that you are adequately protected if something goes wrong. You will need to research and compare plans as what would work for someone else may not work for you. Medical expenses abroad can cost a lot, so it’s vital that everyone going abroad has adequate cover in place for any eventualities.
A cheaper cover may not necessarily be the best. Opt for an insurer that has a strong domestic and international network and a successful claim settlement track record. But most importantly, be clear of your own needs and expectations from a travel plan and protect yourself adequately before setting out.
Multi-trip policy for frequent travelers
It is cheaper if you holiday with family abroad two-three times a year
Features of a multi-trip plan are similar to those of one-time travel policy
Premiums depends on the number of days a traveller stays abroad for each trip
A plan that caps each trip at 30 days is cheaper than one which covers for 45 days
Some insurers also have specific policies for different regions such as North America, Asia and Schengen. Ensure that the plan covers all the countries you are travelling to
The writer is EVP & head, consumer lines, Tata AIG General Insurance