Monday, January 31, 2011

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is short-term insurance available specifically against travel-related emergencies and expenses. International travellers will almost always want to obtain travel insurance because it covers medical expenses, but even other travellers may find it useful depending on their plans.

This article describes common items covered by travel insurance policies and what to check for on your policy. With any policy, it is important that you read the terms and conditions carefully and that you especially review the exclusions (things that the policy definitely does not cover).

This article is a general guide to travel insurance policies, including some possible terms but is not a substitute for careful review of your own policy. Travel insurance policies differ markedly in their

Where to buy

You purchase travel insurance for international trips through an insurer in your country of residence, which means the country to which you'd want to be evacuated to or return to after a serious medical emergency and/or the country you'd need to travel to if a family member became very ill (these are assumed to be the same country).

If travelling within your country of residence, you can buy cheaper domestic travel insurance within that country, but you may decide that you do not need it at all if you are willing to risk losing costs associated with cancellations and so on.

You can obtain travel insurance through your travel agent, your normal insurers, or any one of a number of specialist travel insurers. Travel agents sometimes sell overpriced policies as you are something of a captive audience. Shop around. Because travel insurance policies are somewhat interchangeable, there are a number of websites where you can compare policy costs. This article does not list specific insurers as they are both numerous and country-specific.

Sometimes you may be insured via an existing deal. Some credit card companies insure any trip you take as long as you buy the tickets on a particular credit card. Business travellers may be covered by a company-wide insurance policy, but if you intend to take any side trips or have a personal holiday, check the coverage: usually personal holidays on the side must be of a fairly short length to be covered by a business policy. Be sure to check these existing deals carefully and ideally get confirmation in writing of your coverage. credit card insurance deals, for example, have been known to be invalidated by, say, travellers who paid a deposit amount in cash.

Very regular travellers may find that ongoing travel cover, typically purchased a year at a time, ends up being cheaper than insuring all the trips individually. Most travel insurers offer this option.

When to buy

Some travel agents will offer travel insurance when you book travel, but you can purchase travel insurance between then and shortly before you depart, providing an opportunity to shop around. Of course, if you are injured or become ill between the booking and departure date, you're out of luck if you don't have insurance already. Many travel insurance policies cover only certain expenses, such as "cancellation for any reason" or cancellation due to airline bankruptcy, if the policy is purchased within two weeks of the initial trip payment.

What to buy

There are two major classes of travel insurance:

    * international travel insurance, covering travel outside your country of residence. This is an essential part of international trips because many healthcare arrangements won't apply in other countries and you either need insurance or to be able to pay all medical bills out of pocket; and
    * domestic travel insurance, covering travel inside your country of residence. These policies are generally cheaper than international policies because they usually don't include medical coverage--in your own country, you presumably have other arrangements. They focus on compensating you for purely travel-related problems like cancellations and closures. They are also much less essential and you can consider their worth on a trip-by-trip basis.

When buying travel insurance, you should review the dates of coverage (include the day you leave and the day you arrive home in your cover), that it covers what you need, and the exclusions.

Medical expenses coverage

Usually, whatever standard health insurance you have will pay only claims for medical care in your country of residence. Also, even if your medical care is usually paid for by the government, this usually won't extend to medical costs incurred in other countries. Some countries with universal healthcare (such as Canada, UK]], Australia) might have reciprocal agreements with other countries with similar health care systems. However, even if a country extends its subsidized medical care to tourists, it may not be up to the standards that you are used to.

Unless you are covered by a reciprocal arrangement or your regular health insurance covers international medical expenses, you will have to pay all medical expenses incurred while travelling out of pocket, and in some cases medical care might be prohibitively expensive. Therefore, all international travelers should be certain they have medical coverage via a travel insurance policy that covers medical expenses they occur on their trip.

When considering a travel insurance policy's medical coverage:

    * check the precise details of medical care that you will be able to claim. If your destination has a tiered health system with, for example, public and private hospitals, are you able to use a private hospital?
    * does your insurer offer 24 hour contact with emergency advice? These hotlines allow an insurer to assess a situation and give some advice about medical care as quickly as possible. Your insurer may have local knowledge that you do not have.
    * if you take part in any adventure sports or activities like alpine skiing or scuba diving, check your policy for medical coverage related to accidents that happen while you're doing that activity and whether or not you need any formal training to be insured. If you can't find a general travel insurance policy to cover your activity of choice, you may be able to take out a second policy from an insurer specializing in that activity.
    * is there coverage for illnesses that become apparent after your return? International travel insurance policies usually exclude medical costs incurred in your country of residence even if the costs stem from an injury or illness that happened while you were travelling. Medical costs in your home country are assumed to be covered by your normal healthcare arrangements.
    * does the policy have adequate cover for dental expenses? Some policies provide substantial amounts for general medial expenses, but only very small amounts (for example, only $500) for dental expenses.

Get yourself and your family travel insurance and enjoy great vacations. Book worldwide vacation rentals