Travel Insurance: Do I Really Need It?

General Finances
By hiveup,

No matter how old you are, there will always be people to worry about you whenever you travel. Whether it be on your gap year abroad, diving off the cliffs of Costa Rica, or your 50th anniversary spent in South Africa; both your friends and family may need that extra reassurance that you’ll be alright. Most importantly, no matter how confident you are in your own abilities, you can never predict what may or may not happen, so perhaps travel insurance can provide a little peace of your own mind as well.

photo made with love by OOWA

Regardless of your initial reason for purchase, the idea behind insurance is always the same; protection against the unplanned. More people than you realize end up paying obscene amounts of medical bills over the occurrence of just one unfortunate incident. With that being said, we do not want the fear of getting hurt to hinder your travels either. We want you to be able to hike up to the Tiger’s Nest of Bhutan, to Canyon down the waterfalls of Dalat; no adventurous soul wants the finances of bad luck to be a limiting factor, which is why travel insurance will not just benefit your family and friends, but your health and experience as well!

Annual and single trip coverage
A comprehensive travel insurance policy can assure that you are covered from most travel inconveniences possible; from travel interruptions to medical emergencies. If you are a frequent traveller, you may want to consider annual travel insurance, as it would provide you with the coverage you need, without having to go through the same paperwork each and every week. Otherwise, the bulk of us just trying to get the most out of our annual 14 days would be better off purchasing single trip insurance.

Most importantly, look beyond cost

You would want your insurance policy to cover the essentials for your particular trip, so make sure the policy that you are paying for covers you for the risks you may actually be exposed to, rather than the cheapest insurance policy out there that only covers lost baggage.

Many insurance companies have relatively strict claim procedures so as to protect themselves against fraud. This means that to claim insurance, you often are required to provide an extensive list of documentation prior to making a claim. Andrew, who had been on a ski trip in Japan, had misjudged a jump and fell head first, taking serious spinal and head injuries. An immediate phone call to the insurance company ensured that all the arrangements for appropriate medical care were handled directly by the insurance company; and since they knew exactly what was going on, claim procedures were a breeze.

Do ensure you are not already covered
Certain credit cards do provide coverage for travel purchases, and this already ensures you are covered, without having to purchase additional insurance. This is especially the case if you use a travel-linked card, such as a Citi PremierMiles Visa Card, or a DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card.

Where’s best to get it from?
Travel insurance is most commonly purchased through airlines, independent insurance companies, or through credit cards. If you’re not already covered by a credit card, independent insurance companies often do give airlines a good run for their money; their policies are often more comprehensive, and cheaper.

When to get covered
Please ensure you’re covered before you go for your trip. Don’t bother trying to purchase insurance for something that has already happened – you won’t be protected. That’s like purchasing life insurance for someone who has already passed away. As such, it is always advised to purchase insurance as soon as the trip is confirmed; you never know if you have to cancel a trip because of a family-related emergency that requires you to stay grounded. Pre-trip incidents are often included in the insurance coverage, and it makes sense to get insured early on to benefit from the full coverage offered.

In contrast to Andrew’s smooth sailing claim, the story of Tragic Sam might strike a chord with anyone of you who have had to make a claim before – as the leader of an overseas community service project, he had to file a claim for a volunteer who had contracted gastroenteritis during the trip and had to be hospitalized. What made the medical emergency claim difficult for him was the strict list of required documents to prove that everything was on a ‘must-have’ basis (insurance companies often aim to cover only essential services). This required doctor’s memos, and hospitalization invoices, documents which a local hospital in a developing country often don’t provide on hand. The fact that the grief stricken father of the volunteer demanded her to be flown back to Singapore to receive treatment did not help him with the claims in any way. Worst of all, the insurance company was not able to provide any help during the process, because of the lack of a customer centre in Vietnam.

Sam’s painful experience documents some important lessons; always ensure you are able to document your claims. When it comes to medical emergencies, it is often best to call ISOS, an international helpline, for assistance. As internationally-accredited hospital networks, they have the tools to provide you with the necessary help to make claims easier.

To sum up,
If you’re going on a really low-risk trip, like a weekend shopping trip to Bangkok, chances are you may never have to make a claim. But, there’s still a chance. Those of us that don’t want to deal with the anxiety may just find living life a lot easier and more enjoyable after purchasing an insurance plan; a deal I’d be happy to make. Insurances are always a gamble, and while you probably value the gamble for life insurance a lot more than over travel insurance, you don’t ever want to regret not buying insurance. Just make sure you’re not spending money for something that is completely useless, or something you already have.

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