Do I need insurance for travelling?
Spending a bit of extra time to purchase your travel insurance policy might save you a lot of money and some nasty surprises. Suffering an injury in a foreign country or losing your luggage when you go on holiday could completely disrupt your plans and ruin a long awaited break. Most travel agents in Gibraltar will offer you a policy that suits you and the type of holiday you are planning. Some health insurance plans also cover you outside Gibraltar although be sure to read your policy in case you might have to take out additional cover. No travel insurance policy will cover you for everything that might happen on your holiday.
What is excluded in a travel insurance policy?
A travel insurance policy will usually cover events such as the costs of medical care following accidental personal injury and theft of your possessions, as well as costs that you incur if your travel plans are disrupted.
However, the cover is subject to specific exclusions. It is therefore just as important to know what's not covered by a policy, that is "the exclusions", as it is to know what is covered.
Carefully check all the exclusions before you decide on a travel insurance policy. They should be clearly identified in the policy document.
For example, most travel insurance policies will exclude claims for loss or damage suffered because:
- you didn't advise the insurer of a pre-existing medical condition or you travel against medical advice.
- you join in adventure, dangerous sports or other hazardous activities. Adventure activities often include bungee jumping, white water rafting, gliding, mountaineering, motor-racing, ballooning, snow skiing and scuba diving but might include other 'dangerous hobbies.'
- you leave your luggage unattended in a public place and it is lost or stolen;
- your valuable items such as cameras, sound equipment or mobiles are lost or stolen when left unattended in a motor vehicle or put in unaccompanied baggage;
- your age. Some insurance companies will not insure you if you are over a certain age; and/or
- you cancel plans because of a change in your financial circumstances or business obligations
Are travel insurance policies all the same?
Some policies include 24-hour medical assistance, a help line and private hospital cover, although be careful of special circumstances which can apply. Other policies target younger travellers and will cover a broader range of adventure-type activities. Above all, not all policies have the same level of cover. Shop around to find a policy that suits you and the type of holiday you are planning; the cheapest policy may well not be the right one for you. Ask questions to clarify your understanding.
What should I keep in mind when purchasing travel insurance?
- The purpose of your trip is the first consideration. Is it a typical holiday or a business trip or a particular holiday involving activities such as rock-climbing or sporting activities such as skiing? You must disclose such information and ensure you know whether you are covered for any possible losses or injuries you may suffer in participating in such activities. You will have to pay a higher premium in such instances. If you are attending a particular event as part of a group such as a sport tournament, it might be best to organise a group policy specifically for the event.
- The kind of medical treatment you will be entitled to if you suffer an injury or illness whilst travelling. Ask about emergency and rescue services particularly if you intend to visit remote areas and whether limits apply. Think of the least expected possibility such as a toothache! Remember that there is no cover for any pre-existing medical condition such as any chronic illness like asthma or diabetes. Enquire what happens if you have to stay longer or less than your intended holiday period due to illness.
- You may be required to sign a health warranty stating that you are not suffering from any serious or chronic illness or receiving or waiting to start medical treatment for any condition. Read it well before signing. Any misrepresentation or failure to disclose any condition will render your insurance void.
- Ask what costs are covered in the unfortunate event of death. Enquire what cover you have for repatriation and burial costs.
- Whether you will need cover for valuables. This term includes items such as jewellery, watches, photographic equipment and sports equipment amongst others. Assess whether you will really need to take such items with you and make sure the limit on your insurance policy is enough. There may be a limit for each item and a maximum limit. So take the time to check the value of the items you and any other travelling companions will be carrying. Remember you must keep these items in your hand-luggage and not in an unaccompanied suitcase whilst travelling.
- Check on the possibility of covering cash and travellers cheques. Some policies do not provide this cover for certain territories. Remember you will be expected to supervise your cash while travelling and it is always advisable to keep the cash level to a minimum. Check what rates of exchange will be used in the event of a loss.
- Enquire what excesses apply to the different sections of your policy. If you have two unrelated claims, two different excesses may apply.
- Make sure you understand the cancellation and curtailment cover given under the travel policy. The policy will list specific circumstances which may cause you to cancel or curtail your journey and which are covered. Only in these instances will the policy refund you any non-refundable deposits you had paid in advance. Remember the cover under this section will start from the date you purchase the travel policy and that it is therefore important to take out the insurance policy as soon as you pay any deposit to the travel agent/airline.
So don't organise all your travelling arrangements and leave your insurance policy as an afterthought!
How do I make a claim under my travel insurance policy?
As the travel insurance brochures will tell you, accidents can happen. And if they happen on your holiday, then you need to know what you are expected to do under your travel insurance policy. Otherwise you risk a claim being denied in part or in full by the insurer.
Here is some information you should keep in mind when making a claim:
- Check your policy to see if the section relevant to your loss is subject to an excess and check what the excess is. If your losses fall under different sections check them all.
- You are required to report any losses or thefts to police authorities in order for a claim to be paid. If the loss or theft occurred in a particular place such as your hotel you will also need to report it to the hotel management. This should be done within 24 hours of your discovering the loss. Keep a copy of the police report to present it to your insurers when you return. You also need to check any deadlines for making a claim with the insurer.
- If your baggage is lost or gets damaged during the flight, report it at the airline desk in the baggage hall before you leave the airport. You will receive a "Property Irregularity Report". You will need to present this to insurers. If you discover the damage after leaving the airport, notify the airline in writing. Most airlines require notification of your loss within seven days. This applies to any other form of travel i.e. by sea, train etc. Insurers will not be able to meet your claim if you don't submit a "Property Irregularity Report" for baggage lost or damaged in transit.
- You should not admit or deny liability for any loss or try to negotiate any settlements.
- You need to keep the receipts of any expenses that you incur because of an insured event that you might claim on your return. These could include the cost of replacing essential personal effects when your baggage is lost for more than twelve hours or receipts for the purchase of foreign currency. Remember insurers will require you to substantiate your claim.
- When travelling, carry with you details of the emergency assistance offered by your insurer. ALWAYS take a copy of the policy with you on holiday so that you know what to do if something goes wrong.
What should I do if I am having trouble settling my claim?
What should I do if I am having trouble settling my claim?