The Unexpected: Know and Prepare Before you go

As the we’re in the middle of vacation season and those of use who haven’t already booked a trip are considering last minute deals there is one question that rears it’s head; that of travel insurance – is it worth buying or not?

There are few cons and many pros to taking out adequate insurance. The only downside to insurance that I can identify is that you have to pay for something that you may or may not use. I can completely understand why some people may decide that this is an expense that they would rather not afford. Cash strapped students who are taking a gap year or going on one last hurrah before the hard work really starts, those travelling on a budget – it’s very tempting to see the insurance as one additional expense that you hope to get away without. But this is exactly the problem. You are hoping to get away with it. What if you don’t?

It Happens…

I have been a claimant of travel insurance in the past. This was for an freak accident that no one could have predicted. I simply slipped and put my hand out to save myself and felt my arm bend in completely the wrong place. I wasn’t doing anything stupid or risky. I wasn’t intoxicated. I wasn’t with anyone who was doing anything stupid or risky. I wasn’t even messing around. I was walking along a path to a community gathering. The biggest problem for me, in that moment was that I was in the middle of the Amazon jungle when it happened.

‘Oh!’ I hear you say ‘That’s OK, I won’t be going anywhere remote so I don’t need to read on’. Please do. The thing is that the accident I had could have happened anywhere. It could as easily been in a hotel resort. Indeed, I had a colleague who slipped en route between his hotel reception and his room, broke his ankle and needed medical repatriation.

The hard truth is that insurance isn’t something that you need, until you really need it. Then, without it you can be seriously in trouble. For example, repatriation from Spain can cost around €20,000 and from the East Coast of the USA between £30,000-35,000. These are not trifling figures that you can ‘find’ in an emergency.

Government Advice

A recent survey which was administered by sunshine.co.uk revealed that three quarters of those asked didn’t use the Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) travel advice service before travelling to a particular destination. In addition it showed that 53% would ignore the warnings and go ahead with their holiday regardless if they did happen to check and the warning was not to travel.

The FCO offers free advice to UK citizens planning to travel outside the UK. It’s an invaluable service and goes into some detail about what to expect, areas to avoid, potential pitfalls of crime or political unrest and also visas required.

The US State Department also offers it’s own travel advice to their citizens which, interestingly, can differ from the UK advice.

Read the Small Print

The key point to note about this advice, should you choose to ignore it, is that many insurance policies become invalid if you ignore the advice given. This means that should you find yourself in dire straits in a country for which you thought you were covered, you might find out that you have no insurance to fall back on, and worse, that you really, really need to leave or to receive help in some way. There are special insurance policies which will cover you if you are visiting against FCO advice but you need to read the small print and make sure that you have understood your policy.

In addition, if you have travel insurance, but are an EU citizen you are entitled to the same health benefits as locals wherever you are in the EU. In order to claim this though you need to produce an EHIC card to prove eligibility. This card is the newer version of what was the E111 form (since 2006) and comes in a handy credit card size which you can keep in your wallet. It’s free to apply for – steer clear of sites claiming to ‘help’ you as it’s really a very simple application process and you can get it direct from here.

Most insurance companies will expect you to avail yourself of this service, should you need to claim and will only cover what isn’t covered under the EHIC scheme; so it’s important to hold one if you are eligible.

Do also consider if there are any specifics you need to cover. Are you going diving? Rock climbing? do you need a specific activity covered? Should it be a specialist insurer? Do you never travel without expensive gadgets like an ipad? These are things you will need to think through and make sure they are taken account of in your insurance.

Once the unpleasantness of thinking about all that could go wrong has been sorted out and thought through you are then free to enjoy your holiday. You will know that if something does go terribly wrong you will be taken care of and, if necessary, transported home. It might also make the difference between going on to enjoy the rest of your trip or staying in a darkened hotel room room wishing for the flight home.

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