As travel bloggers, we often get asked our opinions on travel insurance. No one likes spending money on something they may never need. But travel insurance is one of those things; you don’t need it, until you need it… and then you really, really need it. Some people will boast of never buying it, saying they don’t care if they lose something or get robbed. Some people think they don’t need travel insurance in countries like Australia where they qualify for Medicare or in Europe where they have an EHIC card. Some people think if they have family living abroad they don’t need to bother with insurance. All of those people are wrong. Insurance is a travel essential, leave home without it and you might regret it.
So why do you need travel insurance?
Most policies have excesses for lost or stolen items and realistically most people won’t be travelling with items that are all that expensive. It can also be very tricky to make a claim for missing property whilst you are overseas. We had an iPhone stolen from our hotel room in a small Cambodian town. After a lot of explaining, translating and complaining we realised we had absolutely no hope of getting the phone back. We knew we would need a police report to claim on our travel insurance, but there was no way of getting the police to come out. There was no local station so we would have had to travel to another town; in order to get a crime report we knew we would have to pay an undisclosed amount to the police. With the cost of the excess, transport and crime report we decided to cut our losses and suck up the cost of a new phone. It was frustrating, but it was the only incident of theft in our two years of travel, so in the grand scheme of things we did pretty well.
Our advice is to forget about insuring your possessions and worry more about protecting yourself. When you buy travel insurance, death and illness are the two things you are insuring yourself against. Firstly, your own potential illness or death and secondly the illness or death of a family member at home. Here are some real life examples of why simply have to have travel insurance.
In February 2010 Sian embarked on what should have been a round the world trip. After four months of travelling, Sian’s mum was diagnosed with cancer. Luckily, she had planned ahead and had a basic level of backpacker insurance. Before flying home she spoke with her insurance company who advised her to keep receipts of any expenses and that she could claim almost all of the costs back. Sian was able to claim back the cost of her flight home from Cambodia, plus the cost of her unused future flights around the world. The policy also included a curtailment payment, which provided money for any lost days of her trip. As she was just four months into her trip she received the maximum amount payable. Sian received over £5,000 from her travel insurance company. She was able to put this money away and concentrate on caring for and spending time with her mum. One of the things that kept her spirits up in the terrible times that followed was the knowledge that she could resume her trip at some point in the future.
If you become ill during your trip and require hospitalisation or repatriation, costs can mount very quickly. If you haven’t got travel insurance your next of kin may find they have to sell everything they own to pay for your care. When Sean Pinnington was injured in a motor bike accident in Vietnam his father had to pay £25,000 to get him back home. Sean actually had travel insurance but was not covered to ride a motorbike without a UK licence (read the small print). You might think you are a cautious traveller or that you are in perfect health, but accidents and illness can strike at any time. Make sure you have a decent level of insurance that can pay your medical bills and bring you home if needed.
It has been said that death is one of the few certainties in life. It can happen at any given time or place and sadly it happens to the best of us. If you are away from home and a family member dies, your insurance will usually cover return flights in order to attend the funeral then resume your trip. Whilst you might not bother resuming your two week holiday, if you are on a longer trip, you could benefit from have a few weeks at home to grieve with your family before returning to your travels when you feel ready. If you have to cut short your trip due to a death in the family you may also be eligible for a curtailment payment; on a longer trip this can really add up.
No one is planning on dying, especially not whilst they are on their holidays, but it does happen to thousands of people each year. It is not just elderly tourists on Saga coach trips who die overseas, young, healthy people die too. Thirty year old Kay Flitcroft was visiting her parents in Menorca when she suffered serious injuries walking home from a night out. Sadly Kay died from her injuries and due to not having travel insurance, her family were left to pay for her repatriation to the UK. Her friends and family rallied around and with a Just Giving page managed to raise the £7,000 needed to get Kay home.
Neville O’Grady was a charity working who had lived in Cambodia for several years and ran NFO, a charity we spent time working with. When he suddenly died the staff and volunteers found out he did not have any travel insurance. This meant Neville had to have a local funeral at a temple in Cambodia. Traditionally Cambodian funerals happen very quickly after a person has died, meaning none of his family in the UK could attend the ceremony.
To save your family the trauma of trying to repatriate your body or organising an international funeral, you simply have to get travel insurance.
OK, I’m convinced, now what?
Travel insurance is something that everyone needs to have before they travel and is not always as expensive as you might think. The first thing to do when shopping for travel insurance is to check whether your bank account includes a policy. Some people may find they already have insurance, all they need to do is check the small print and inform the provider that they are due to travel, simple!
For people without an existing policy, research the level of cover you require and find a deal that best suits your circumstances. Usually the longer you travel for, the higher your premium will be, but you can lower it by limited your activities. If you want cover for shark diving and skiing, be prepared to pay a little more.
We paid around £350 per person for a whole year policy, which we renewed for a further year whilst we were away from home. When you consider the potential costs of medical treatment or repatriation, this is a drop in the ocean and well worth it for the protection. Let your next of kin read this article and they might even buy it for you!
There are plenty of companies offering different types of insurance to suit different trips and travellers. We recommend World Nomads travel insurance, who offer comprehensive policies that can be bought and extended online from anywhere in the world.
Travel insurance: simple & flexible
You can buy, extend and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from over 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.