What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is a policy that covers all of the main costs of traveling, whether domestically or abroad. This includes cancellations and delays, medical bills, lost luggage and more.
When purchasing insurance, personal circumstances can affect the cost of a policy. These include age, length of trip, pre-existing medical conditions and government-issued travel warnings.
However, travel insurance is not as detailed as other kinds of insurance. Factors such as the destination and past medical history generally do not affect the overall cost.
It is important to provide evidence of delays, injuries or missing baggage in order to claim on insurance. For successful claims, providers will usually pay for travel arrangements, the cost of lost items, and medical expenses.
Types of travel insurance
Policies fall into the categories of single-trip or multi-trip travel insurance. Single-trip insurance only covers the dates of your journey, while multi-trip covers all trips made within a certain time frame, such as one year. While multi-trip cover is more expensive up front, it works out cheaper for frequent flyers or business travelers.
What does travel insurance cover?
Every insurer sets out their own insurance policies, but most have a lot in common. Below you can see what is usually covered by travel insurance.
Common travel insurance policies cover medical costs incurred by accidents on a trip. This includes medical treatment and transport, as well as medical evacuation and bodily repatriation.
When traveling to countries with high medical costs, such as the USA, most insurance companies offer high-medical expense options.
As with all claims, travelers must provide evidence such as a medical report to support their claim.
Interruptions, delays, and cancellation
In many cases of transport delays or cancellations, the transportation company is obliged to compensate you, and your insurer is not required to provide cover.
In the event of interruptions that are not due to company error, such as weather delays, the insurance company will cover the traveler.
Cover includes canceled and delayed transport, even stretching to missed connections due to a delay.
If you miss a flight and cannot prove it was for reasons outside of your control, it is unlikely that insurers will pay out.
Lost or delayed luggage is one of the main reasons people insure themselves when traveling. Insurance covers lost baggage, personal items or travel documents, matching the cost of missing goods. Other insured situations include delayed baggage and the subsequent replacement of essential items.
Again, if there is doubt about the validity of the claim, insurers are unlikely to provide cover.
What does travel insurance not cover?
Although policy providers differ on exact details regarding cover, the exceptions below apply to most insurers. However, personalized policies can include the following factors.
Travel insurance policies generally do not cover pre-existing medical conditions. Similarly, traveling to receive non-essential elective medical treatment, such as plastic surgery, is not covered by travel insurance policies.
Some companies provide specialized travel insurance that covers pre-existing conditions and disabilities.
Self-induced medical costs
Similarly, as with most insurance policies, travel insurance often does not cover damage judged to be reckless. This includes medical bills due to excessive alcohol or drug consumption and stretches to sports injuries.
Conflict and natural disasters
Insurance policies often do not provide medical cover in countries going through war or natural disasters like floods or earthquakes. Governments may issue travel advice that cancels cover in places considered high-risk areas. However, most policies do cover cancellations as a result of unexpected risk.
Where can I buy travel insurance?
Directly with insurance agencies
Most insurance agencies sell travel insurance directly on their website, over the phone or in their office. Agencies take personal factors, such as age and the overall cost of the trip into account for the most accurate policy.
Insurance agencies can consider specific needs, such as extra health coverage for sports vacations.
There has been a recent rise in comparison websites for travel insurance quotes. Go Compare is a good example of an insurance comparison website.
These sites show you a vast range of policies side-by-side, so you can see the best policy and price for you. Like in the case of insurance agencies, travelers must provide personal details to get accurate travel insurance quotes.
Credit card companies
Certain credit card companies offer travel insurance if you book your trip using their card. This is a great advantage as it removes the time, effort and cost of taking out a personal policy.
However, the downside to insurance through a credit card is that it is often a one-size-fits-all format, and is rarely as comprehensive as insurance specifically bought from an insurance agency. As they are less flexible, they usually do not take special circumstances, such as sports activity into account. Furthermore, they can include limits and exclusions, so it is important to know exactly what the policy offers.
Is travel insurance required by law?
As a general rule, travel insurance is optional. However, some countries require a minimum degree of coverage, especially in terms of health. This is especially common in countries where a visa is required. Therefore, it is crucial to find the specific regulations for the country you are traveling to.
When is the best time to buy insurance?
It is good common practice to purchase travel insurance during booking to cover any issues in the lead up to your trip. In most cases, you can even insure yourself after the beginning of your journey and it will be effective immediately. However, you must take into consideration that some companies may have specific policies that require purchase in advance.
Another thing to bear in mind is that travel insurance is never retrospective. Any cancellations, delays, or accidents that occur before the policy is purchased are not covered.