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Travel Insurance

A family member gets sick just before your trip and you need to stay home to look after them. The tour operator you booked with goes out of business leaving you stranded at the airport. You have a medical emergency while on vacation and need to be flown home for treatment. Without travel insurance, at best you could lose your deposit and be seriously inconvenienced, at worst you could be on the hook for some exorbitant bills.

Before purchasing travel insurance, check how much coverage you already have through your home and health insurance or through your credit card if you used this to pay for your trip. You may only need to purchase supplemental travel insurance to fill in any gaps in coverage. Purchase travel insurance from an insurance company rather than from the tour company you are booking with because if that company goes out of business, your insurance claims may not be paid.

Travel insurance covers trip cancellation/interruption and emergency medical care and evacuation. If you do not already have overseas medical and hospital coverage as part of your health insurance, you should make sure that these are part of your travel insurance plan. With trip cancellation/interruption, you need to seek a refund from the airline, a tour company or cruise line first, and then your travel insurance will reimburse you any non-refundable deposits. Emergency medical evacuation coverage is essential if you are travelling to remote areas far from Western-style medical facilities. Other coverage commonly offered by travel insurance includes: “unforeseen emergencies” such as a call to jury duty, a natural disaster or a flood or fire at your home; lost or stolen luggage; travel delays; overseas funeral expenses; accidental death or injury and legal assistance. Many travel insurers offer a 24-hour emergency line for policyholders to call for assistance, offering translation services, help in replacing lost documents, health and travel advisories.

Read the coverage exclusions and limitations carefully to make sure that you are buying the coverage that you need. Some policies will only cover trip cancellation/interruption for medical reasons, others exclude pre-existing conditions. Check if the policy will pay for medical coverage up-front, whether you need to apply afterwards for reimbursement and what the limits are for health care and evacuation. Some insurers may require you to call the company’s medical specialist to get a referral before accessing medical care abroad.

Travel insurance will often exclude problems as a result of illegal drug use, pregnancy-related expenses, pre-existing medical conditions and war or terrorism, although it may be possible to purchase riders for an additional premium to cover these. You can also add riders for travel to high risk countries or participation in high risk activities such as rock climbing, mountaineering, white water rafting, scuba diving and bungee jumping.

Travel insurance premiums are based on your age and the cost of your trip, as well as how comprehensive your coverage is. Shop around to find the coverage that best fits your needs.