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The dreaded travel insurance

Damaged luggage

Ready to hit the bars! Source: Air Travel Luggage Consultant Weblog

I’ll start the tips section with a topic that’s all too familiar to anyone who has ever had a mishap during travels; the big I, Travel Insurance!

There are as many travel insurance policies and combinations out there as there are opportunities to make use of them or completely invalidate them.

Despite the plethora of options however, here are some things you should keep in mind when planning a trip somewhere, regardless of whether it is abroad or in your very own country.

Before I go any further, I must state that being human, I am generally reluctant to pay for anything that I may very well *never* use.

I also know too well the myriads of ways in which travel insurances word their policies (or even select the font-size with which to word them) in order to confuse consumers and sell products that do not address the consumers’ needs.

On the other hand, insurance fraud is as much to blame for creating a vicious circle of mutual lack of trust between insurer and insured.

In other words, take everything with a hint of caution and read things over and over until you are certain you know what you are about to purchase.

Do I need it?

In short, yes; spending time in a place that is not your residence makes you automatically reliant upon the local infrastructure which may be either inadequate, expensive or simply beyond your reach or knowledge. In addition, carrying valuables in areas or situations where their safety is compromised, necessitates even more a form of cover that can protect you in the event of a loss, damage or theft.

The real question however is whether you already are insured for a holiday or activity and simply do not know about it.

So, am I already covered?

If you buy flights and holidays on-line, then you are most likely using a credit or debit card or a direct bank money transfer.

Travel insurance offered by credit cards

Many credit and debit cards offer basic travel insurance as standard

Many banks and card issuers will automatically offer you a basic travel insurance if you pay for the majority of your holiday using their card or bank.

By majority they usually mean around 70% of the cost of flights and hotel, although this may vary wildly.

In most instances, this basic travel insurance will cover you against delayed flights, arrangements in the event of cancellations and invalidity or death compensation.

They generally will not cover you against loss, theft or damage of property (such as your baggage) or pay for medical treatment (with the general exception of invalidity).

There may be even finer differences between card policies depending on whether you booked with a credit card, a debit card or a charge card.

U.S. credit cards for example, tend to offer worldwide car hire insurance as standard, something which is definitely not the norm for the average European credit card.

In general, your first port of call when deciding if you require travel insurance for a trip is to check if and what for you are already covered by your card issuer or bank.

The same rules apply more or less for home insurance where in many instances you are either fully covered when travelling or you can purchase add-on cover cheaply with a mere phone call.

What about medical costs?

Okay, so no matter how expensive your camera is, or how much you paid for those sunglasses, your health and well-being should be your primary concern.

Depending on the travel insurance you purchase, you can get cover for emergency and ordinary medical care, transfer to medical facilities, general compensation for suffering and repatriation.

The European Health Insurance Card

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Some countries have agreements between them to allow their residents to enjoy the same healthcare benefits as the people of the country they are visiting for the same cost (if any).

This is for example the case among all member states of the European Union and also between countries such as e.g. the U.S. and Sweden.

If you are European, apply for the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) at your country’s health department website to get access to healthcare in the (European) country of your visit at local costs.

While this is great, there may be exceptions to these rules which make all the difference.

Had an accident on a Swiss mountain and need air rescue? You will need to pay the full price unless you have travel insurance that covers it (even if your country has an agreement with Switzerland on the treatment costs themselves).

This is because the Swiss also have to pay for the helicopter rescue unless they get special insurance for it.

Needless to say that all forms of extreme sports (and in some instances, diving and skiing too) require a special insurance policy to be taken out.

In general, make sure you have a good idea of what activities you are likely to engage in while on your holiday and ensure that you take out the appropriate insurance policy to cover them.

Got any travel insurance tips, horror-stories or general travel safety advice? Feel free to share in the comments box below!

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