TRAVEL INSURANCE – THE SMALL PRINT

Travel insurance isn’t the nicest part of your trip to sort out, especially if you’re not clued up about what’s what. Travel insurance is a must, but it’s a well known fact that they will try anything to get out of paying up. So you need to be careful. Check out my post here, about A BASIC GUIDE TO BACKPACKER INSURANCE

My guide will tell you what to look for, where to buy, and a few recommendations and general tips to buying travel insurance. But there are certain clauses that catch a lot of people out time and time again. So if you’re looking for travel insurance, make sure you check the following in the small print:

  1. You can’t keep coming back home to the UK
    If you plan to return home for whatever reason, whether it be a family wedding, operation etc, you need to check you actually can on your insurance. You may find you need to take out a new insurance policy, starting again in the UK. A lot of insurance policies do allow you to have 21 days in the UK, during your policy, but anything longer than this, your policy is void. So always double check before you book the flight home, as it may be an extra cost you need to consider, if you need to take out some new insurance. If you come home for a few months, then leave travelling again, but think it’s ok because your original policy was for 12 months, YOU WILL NOT BE COVERED! Should anything happen, the insurance company will ask for flight details from the date you took out the insurance, and once they realise you were back home in the UK for a few months, your policy will be void, and they won’t pay you anything. If you know you’re definitely returning home for a few months in between your travels, it’s worth taking out shorter separate policies.
  2. You need to prove you plan to return home to the UK
    A lot of companies offer backpacker/longstay travel insurance, but in the small print, most will say you need to prove you intend to return to the UK. It does mean you’re ok to travel without a return ticket booked, but it’s something to consider when making a claim. Saying your visa has ran out, or a party invitation, isn’t valid proof that you plan to return to the UK.
  3. You need to start your trip in the UK
    Unless you’ve gone with a specific travel insurance company that allows you to take out insurance while outside of the UK, your trip will not be covered if you don’t start it while you’re in the UK. I always book my insurance from the day my flight is booked out of the UK. If you’re not in the UK when starting the insurance, and you’re a UK resident, True Traveller is a recommended travel insurance company that provide insurance for those that aren’t starting in the UK. It’s more money, but it more than likely works out cheaper than getting a flight back to the UK.
  4. Make sure you select ‘worldwide cover’ if you’re doing a stopover
    If you plan to spend a few days in a country along the way to your final destination, you cannot take two separate policies out, because of point 3 about not starting the trip in the UK. You also cannot put your trip is just to your final destination, as the policy will be void, due to your stopover. And yes, they will ask for flight details for the whole trip. If you plan to do a stopover, you will need to select ‘worldwide cover.’ This means you’re covered for most countries usually, apart from the USA, Canada & the Caribbean. If you’re going to one of these, then you will need to select ‘Worldwide cover, including the USA, Canada & the Caribbean.’ If you’re doing a stopover and NOT leaving the airport, or just doing a day trip as you have a few hours to kill, then you will not need to select worldwide cover. Most policies give you the option to add or they include stopover cover. But this is limited to a few hours, so will not cover you for a few days. Hence you have to select the worldwide cover option if you’re spending a few days in a country along the way.
  5. Check your activity is covered
    This sounds a silly one, but you’ll be surprised how many common activities aren’t covered. Don’t worry if yours isn’t covered, a lot of companies allow you to add on activity packs, and you can do this while you’re away. So if you suddenly decide last minute to do a skydive, you can just contact your insurance, and pay the extra difference for adding it on. It’s usually only around £30, which isn’t a lot compared to medical bills, if anything did happen. Also some activities may say they’re covered, then in the small print it says no personal accident claim for that particular activity. Meaning if you break your leg while surfing, you can’t make a claim!
  6. Make sure you tell them about any medical problems – even if you no longer suffer/take medication
    If you have ever been diagnosed with something in your life, whether you still take medication for it or not, let the insurance company know. I was a good example of this. I used to have asthma as a child, but no longer have it or take medication for it. Never had it bad, and never had an asthma attack. But I still had to declare it. The insurance companies make it very clear in the small print. “If you have EVER had a breathing problem.” If I didn’t declare it, the insurance company would have done everything they can to void me making a claim. I thought it was as simple as I wouldn’t be able to claim if I had anything asthma related or any breathing problems. But it turns out they would have tried to void my insurance even if I claimed for something such as breaking my leg. Which is definitely not asthma related! It cost me an extra £20 to add to my insurance, which is a pain, but nowhere near as much as the medical bill I would have had to pay had anything gone wrong.
  7. If you’re staying in hostels, you may not be covered
    Because hostels/dorm rooms aren’t classed as a “safe” place, a lot of backpacker insurance policies are void if something gets stolen from a hostel. To get around this, it says make sure the valuables are locked in a safe. They also ask for photos as proof that the safe was broken into, plus police reports. So if anything goes missing from your dorm room, and it wasn’t in a safe, then tough luck, you won’t be able to claim. You also can’t claim for anything between the hours of 11pm – 6am, even if they were taken from a locked safe. Because in theory, the insurance company believe you should be with your valuables between those hours. As a backpacker, a lot of backpackers are probably out partying between those hours, and the insurance companies know that. They aren’t oblivious to this. It’s just another clause to get them out of paying, as they know this is when it’s most likely something is to go missing.
  8. Your insurance is void if you drink too much alcohol, or are on any form of illegal drug
    This goes without saying, but some people are still unaware. If you’re in an accident, the hospital automatically do a blood test, or make a judgement whether you’re under the influence. This will go in your hospital report, and once the insurance ask for those, your claim will be void. This doesn’t mean you can’t have no alcohol in your system, because you can. But it is capped off at the usual drink drive limit. So a couple of pints, if that, and if you have an accident, you won’t be able to claim.
  9. Make sure you select ‘longstay’ or ‘backpacker’ cover – NOT annual multi trip or single trip
    If you select annual multi trip, it’s not for someone who is going to multiple places on their travels, as some may think. It’s for people taking multiple HOLIDAYS a year. A holiday is completely different to travelling. The cover is also only for so many weeks at a time, before you have to return to the UK again. So if you’re travelling place to place, for months on end, it’s not going to cover you. Most comparison price websites now let you select ‘backpacker’ as insurance type, but if you are unsure, just ask the insurance company BEFORE you buy, and they’ll be happy to let you know which of their policies suits you best. Single trip is capped off after so many days, so again, if you’re travelling for months on end, even if you’re staying in the same country, it may not cover you for your needs, unless you’re taking a short trip.
  10. £1000 baggage, doesn’t mean £1000 per item
    A lot of people see baggage cover is £1000, so assume you can claim up to £1000 for an item. It is usually capped off at around £250-£350 per item, and the grand total is the figure they give you, such as £1000. If you have an expensive laptop or camera, that £250 or £350 is going to be nowhere near the value of it, once you take off your excess. So it might be worth buying separate insurance for your gadgets, or adding them on as an extra.
  11. Gadgets doesn’t mean gadgets
    So when I was looking into insuring my Macbook and Sony camera. Although I found an add on where the value of them was covered, I read the small print and saw that they weren’t. It states electrical items up to £1000, or whatever value it is you’ve selected, but then in small print, a lot of policies say laptops aren’t covered, and aren’t classed as an electrical. Bizarre I know! Also a lot of policies say phones aren’t covered. Obviously everyone has a phone with them these days, and they are probably one of the biggest claims. Which is why a lot of insurance companies won’t pay up. So if you’re taking a brand new iPhone with you, it’s worth baring in mind.
  12. And gadgets need to be fairly new & bought as new
    If you’ve had your phone over 2 years, or your laptop over 18 months, then it’s likely that they’re not going to be covered. It states in the small print how old the items need to be. And you’ll be surprised how fairly new they need to be, to be qualified for cover. They also need to be bought from new. So if you’re like me, and bought your GoPro off eBay, then it won’t be covered with your travel insurance.

I could go on forever, but these are some of the main points that I constantly see travellers getting stung by, by their travel insurance. If this post teaches you anything, it’s read the small print. Every policy is different, depending on the company, and the level of cover you want. This is obviously a general observation, but over the years, they seem to be quite familiar between the big name companies that are popular with backpackers. It is a pain in the neck reading the small print, but so many times I’ve gone to pay nearly £200 on insurance, then read the small print and realised I wouldn’t even be covered if I went to make a claim. So I would have wasted £200. Don’t just go for the cheapest option on a price comparison website. The policy may be completely pointless to you. Remember to always get insurance and make sure you keep up to date with it, while you’re on the road!

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