Rule number one of traveling:
If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel.
I have done a fair bit of traveling in my time, and also worked in the travel industry, and I always hear people say ‘why do I need travel insurance? I will be fine. I’m not going for long’. This completely dumbfounds me and makes me realise that people are actually quite uneducated on what travel insurance really covers, the benefits, and why it so crucial to have while you are out exploring the world. I thought I would share my experiences, what I know about travel insurance, and why it is as essential to your travel as airline tickets!
So what really turns people off getting travel insurance? From chatting to others the first thing that I always hear is that ‘it’s too expensive, I can’t afford it’. Travel insurance would take up 5% of your total travel costs, and is inevitably cheaper than what it would cost if you didn’t have insurance. Yeah it might be a shock at first, particularly if you are traveling to America, and yeah you might not actually need to use it, but what if you did? When I spent 8 weeks in America recently, my travel insurance cost around $600. At first I was like ‘woah that is pretty hefty I have never had to pay that much before’ but America is one of the most expensive countries when it comes to medical bills. I have heard horror stories of people who have broken their legs and had $150,000 bills, or had to have a doctor come to their hotel room because they were too sick to leave and the bill was in excess of $1000 for a consultation less than 15 minutes…
You might be thinking ‘I’m not going to America so it will be fine’ but you could easily have hospital encounters anywhere else in the world. In my experience, I have found myself in hospitals in Thailand, Cambodia (multiple times), and Vietnam. Asia is generally cheaper with most travel insurers as they have lower medical costs, but there are also other risks that could increase your chances of ending up visiting a doctor or going to a hospital. For six weeks in Asia my insurance was around $300, however over that time I ended up having the equivalent in medical costs. I got very sick with food poisoning a few times, went into anaphylactic shock (and discovered I was allergic to scorpions), AND was mugged and needed x-rays, stitches, and medical attention over the duration for two weeks. You don’t know what is going to happen to you while you travel, so wouldn’t you rather pay that once off fee to have your medical expenses reimbursed to you?
Not only are medical bills covered but, dependent on your travel insurer, you can also be reimbursed for lost luggage, theft, and damaged goods. Australians in particular have a tendency to bring excessive amounts of electronics with them worth thousands of dollars – laptop, phones, cameras (sometimes more than 1) – so what would happen if your $2000 mac book was damaged or stolen? Or your luggage never arrived at your destination and they couldn’t retrieve it? Or someone stole your bag including your phone? If you didn’t have insurance you would pretty much need to suck it up and move on, but if you did have cover all you would need to do is get a police report and (most) would reimburse you for your losses. Even if your luggage is lost in transit and you have a few days until it is returned to you, some companies will give you money (I’ve seen $500) to go out and buy toiletries and clothing to cover you for those days that you wait. How easy is that? From experience, I had my iPad damaged whilst in Europe and I put in a claim with my insurance provider and within 48 hours they reimbursed me with the retail value of it. If I didn’t have insurance I would have lost my iPad AND money!
Another cover that travel insurance provides is cancellation costs. Australians love to go to Bali, but what happens if you can’t get there or leave because of the ash cloud that keeps happening and grounding all flights? Travel insurance would cover the cost of your flights if you had to cancel because you weren’t able to go, or cover your accommodation costs while you waited for an available flight so you wouldn’t have to sleep at the airport! In the case of serious medical emergencies (say you broke your leg and couldn’t travel), you would be able to get your costs reimbursed to you! So paying a $300 fee and getting $5000 back if you had to cancel? I don’t know about you but that sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
Sometimes you might not even need to use your travel insurance at all, but wouldn’t you prefer that peace of mind? Like I said before, you never know what could happen while you are traveling, and I wouldn’t want to be unprepared in a foreign country.
So the question of ‘do I need travel insurance?’ should really be ‘where can I get travel insurance?’, but how do you know which one is best for you?
- Compare what is covered with different providers. There is no harm shopping around to find the best option. You can really pick the cover that works for you.
- Check out http://smarttraveller.gov.au for all the up to date information about quality insurance providers and risks associated with the countries you are visiting
- Research about your insurance providers. There are a lot of companies online that promote ‘cheap travel insurance’ but would you compromise quality for price?
- Make sure you know what is covered. Are you going skiing in Japan? Or going to drive mopeds in Bali? A lot of the basic plans do not cover extra activities so don’t get caught out!
And remember, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel!