Should you invest in travel insurance?

May 22, 2014 6:05 pm

When thinking of travel insurance, most people conjure up images of expensive skiing holidays or ambitious mountain-climbing expeditions.

After all, it seems perfectly sensible to stay insured if you’re planning a getaway fuelled by a sense of adventure and danger. But is there any merit in taking out an annual policy if your travelling is limited to an annual trip back home?

“There’s really no point in taking the risk [of travelling without insurance] when it’s at such a low cost,” says Liam Wholey, CEO & principal attaché, The Travel Attaché. Wholey, who cashed in his own coverage when he was injured a skiing accident in France, says there are so many things that can go wrong on a trip that “only the foolhardy wouldn’t take it.”

Insurance plans can vary greatly, but can help take into account theft of valuables, pickpocketing, accidents and emergencies abroad.

Yet, penetration in the UAE remains low. According to a survey of 748 residents conducted by YouGov and released by Zurich last year, 58% of residents said they never purchase travel insurance for their trips. Only 11% of residents said they always purchase travel insurance when going abroad – as compared to 60-70% in countries like the US, Canada and Australia.

The good news, according to Wholey, is that many people already get some basic coverage as an added bonus with their credit cards. In fact, just recently, First Gulf Bank announced a promotion to offer UAE customers free travel insurance if they register before the end of June. However, he says that it’s important people check through the terms and conditions to make sure it is a “decent cover.”

The type of policy needed really depends on the person travelling and what they want to do on their holiday, says Katharina Holzkamp, head of sales and distribution, “If it’s winter season and you want to go skiing, you probably need a better plan. Also, dangerous sports (which can include diving) are normally not included in basic plans.”

Another add-on can be cancellation insurance, which is especially useful when planning larger expensive holidays.

She adds that for clients with families, they normally recommend taking out an annual policy that can be worldwide (excluding USA and Canada) or a plan at a higher premium that covers travel across the globe. These plans can range anywhere from $100 onwards, depending on additional services required.

What are other aspects of the policy that people should be sure to examine? According to Holzkamp, it’s important to go over what classifies as an emergency in the policy because it can vary greatly depending on the plan. Also, people should be sure to read through what the exclusions are so that they know what they will be covered for and what they wont. “If you broke your leg two months ago and if you have some problems on your trip [as a result of that], it probably won’t be covered as it would be considered a pre-existing condition.” She notes that it’s important people go through any questions they have with their insurance provider.

When making the decision, it’s important to remember that insurance is really about taking an extra measure of safety and getting the “peace of mind to travel,” adds Robert-Paul Van Tol, senior executive consultant, Nexis Insurance Brokers. “The idea is that most people go to an environment where they’re not used to being and aren’t sure of what injuries or incidents can happen. No one wants to be in that situation.”