Travel insurance – Find the right medical cover

Travel insurance is a necessity and not a luxury.

Very often when purchasing travel insurance travellers go on price, and sometimes on the reputation or brand of the company selling it.  However, which plan should you select?  There are comprehensive, visa-specific and non-comprehensive plans on the market.

Here are some guidelines based on a few factors to help you reach an appropriate choice:

  • Destination
  • Age
  • Duration of your trip
  • Sports
  • Baggage

Destination

To a large extent the destination sets the risk level for the insurer and this affects the price.  If you are travelling to a country that is known for, say, kidnapping, you should choose a plan that covers this and covers it well.  Few policies include injury or death due to the acts of warfare or terrorists.

Some travel insurance policies are guided by the status of the destination country according to the British Foreign Office or US State Department web sites.  This is true even if the policy is issued in a third country and does not involve citizens of those lands.  If the destination is deemed a war zone then normal insurance will not apply.  (The insurers will reason that you have deliberately put yourself in harm’s way.)

If the place you may be travelling to is a tornado or earthquake zone then logically the policy you select should cover disruptions and damages, injury or death arising from those sorts of natural disaster.

Also related to the destination is visa-related health insurance.  Visitors from certain overseas lands that apply for an EU (Schengen) visa will have to offer proof of suitable insurance without which the visa will not be issued.  Medical cover for Schengen visa purposes is more expensive than regular cover.

Age

If you are over 85 years you will find it difficult to obtain suitable cover.  The age varies by company and can be lower, so shop around if this applies to you.  Senior cover starts from around 65 and goes up in steps from there.

If you cannot obtain cover then check out what your regular medical insurance scheme covers: you may still be okay to travel.

For younger folks there is student cover that applies to those taking gap years or extended holidays that will last a few months.  The maximum age for this varies from 29 through to 35 depending on the individual insurance company.

Duration of your trip

The longer the trip, the more pricey it will be, though the rate per day will likely reduce.  Here, one would want to shop around to find the best policy and the most appropriate company.  A less comprehensive policy will be cheaper, but read the small print and note the benefits and exclusions, so you know exactly what is covered.  You will find it gives greater peace of mind to have more extensive coverage.  The longer that you are travelling the more likely it is that some sort of medical emergency may befall you.

Sports

If you are going to be participating in dangerous sports such as bungee jumping, white-water rafting or paragliding, you will need to state this to the insurance company at the time of taking out the cover.  Such activities do not usually preclude cover but they affect risk and therefore the price and you will need to declare your intentions if you expect to obtain cover.

Some policies will not cover these activities at all and you’d be in a sticky situation if you’ve broken a leg while skiing to find that out afterwards.

Footnote: Baggage

Though this article is mainly concerned with medical insurance, you find that baggage insurance is frequently available as an option on the medical insurance, particularly if you are purchasing insurance online.

The amounts that are covered for lost luggage vary from one plan to another.  If you’re carrying expensive cameras and suchlike, you need to make certain that they are fully covered.  The best is if you are permitted to nominate specific items.  That way there is no uncertainty.

If you have expensive items you may find it better to include a travel option in your comprehensive insurance than to try include them in a travel policy.  All too often travel policies have a limit in value per claimed item, and it is low.  So your claim would be subjected to “averaging”, even though the total sum insured was correct.

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