Travelling to a foreign country can be an exhilarating adventure, however, it can also be risky business should any incidents arise. Research by travel Insurance Consultants (TIC) published findings showing that 50% of travel incidents involve accidents, so it’s wise to prepare for the unexpected by understanding travel insurance and ensuring you have enough of it.
For example: seeking treatment for a fall overseas can be a costly and traumatic experience. Kevin Gibson couldn’t attest to this more. He realised the importance of having comprehensive travel insurance when he joined a group of friends on what should have been a week-long ski trip in Slovakia. The trip tragically ended with the first-time skier slamming into a pole on a steep hill and having to be hospitalised due to eight broken ribs and a collapsed lung from the impact.
These are three tips to follow:
Check that your insurance includes cover for the activities that you will be undertaking on your journey: Be aware of the list of activities that insurers automatically include in your policy. A good policy should include skiing and scuba diving (provided the diver is licenced or accompanied by a licenced instructor) as well as leisure and most competitive sporting events. Pay attention to the exclusions so you can compare different insurers’ offering and know when to top up. These could include rugby, boxing or cage fighting incidents, for example, which require special insurance extensions. Hunting, sky diving, parachuting and horse racing for instance, are excluded entirely – most insurers won’t pay for claims arising from such sports and activities.
Verify that your medical benefit is your key focus of cover: The medical benefit is the heartbeat of travel insurance and makes up most claims. Had Gibson not had the medical benefit included in his travel insurance, he would have had to pay for all his medical transportation costs out of his own pocket. The magnitude of Gibson’s injuries meant that his travel insurance needed to hire a private driver to drive from Vienna to a Slovakian town, three and half hours away, to collect him as there were no local taxis willing to drive that far. His cover also allowed him to fly back to South Africa in business class so that he could lie down for most of the flight, as per his doctor’s orders – that would ordinarily cost about R33 900.
What about free travel insurance through your credit card? Most credit cards will provide travel insurance if you use your card to buy a full-fare return ticket. This may include limited medical cover at SA scale, which doesn’t help when incurring bills in foreign currencies. In some cases, this will include limited personal accident cover. Generally, free insurance will not protect you from all the risks you might incur while traveling, like cancellation and luggage cover. Hospitalisation for pre-existing illnesses is usually excluded. It’s important to make sure you understand what the package includes and to boost your policy to proactively protect yourself from any incidents.