Read the fine print before buying travel insurance
UAE residents are being urged to check the fine print on their travel insurance before flying abroad during the New Year period, with some policies potentially leaving them short on cover in an emergency.
Paul Brierley of Nexus Insurance Brokers says gaps in provision are especially problematic when travel insurance is offered as an ‘extra’, such as when booking a holiday or as part of a credit card contract.
“These are good insurance policies from reputable companies, but they are often very simple and take a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Brierley, Business Development Director at the Dubai-based brokerage. “A policy that you purchase by checking a box as part of a travel booking will rarely be tailored to your individual circumstances and needs. By definition, it must be based on some very general assumptions, rather than a personalised assessment.”
(Paul Brierley, Nexus Insurance Brokers)
Purchasing travel insurance online is very straightforward, but Brierley always urges any traveller with non-standard requirements to consult a broker.
“One important point of difference is medical evacuation – when illness or injury requires specialised transport home,” he said. “One of the online policies Nexus checked – offered as an add-on when booking travel online from Dubai – specified evacuation to the ‘country of issuance’, so only to the UAE. Many expats prefer to be evacuated to their home country, and a broker will find you a policy that gives you that choice.”
Nexus also identified issues for travellers buying flights through online ‘discount airfare’ search engines. Many of these discount fares combine separate, unrelated airlines for outbound and return journeys, so the passenger is effectively buying two one-way tickets.
“If you buy travel insurance as an add-on with the outbound airline, it may only cover a one-way journey rather than the return trip,” Brierley explained. “Insurers often place a time limit on a one-way policy, with some only offering a maximum of seven days’ cover. If the total holiday is longer than a week, you won’t be covered for the whole trip.”
Domestic flights within your destination country can also be subject to complicated rules, he added, and specific activities may be excluded, such as riding a motorcycle or scooter, or sports with a higher risk of injury, such as skiing.
“Check the fine-print and check the exclusions before clicking ‘buy now’, and if there is any doubt or confusion, consult a broker,” said Brierley. “Make sure your travel insurance is right for you, so you have the peace of mind to enjoy your break.”
-In almost all circumstances, medical coverage should be the number one concern. Travellers should ensure that the medical coverage is adequate. Healthcare in some countries, notably the United States, may be significantly more expensive than in the UAE. Age and medical history will almost certainly be taken into account, and you must ensure that your policy covers pre-existing and chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or asthma. Paul Brierley says: “Do bear in mind that travel insurance is only intended to cover emergency expenses, such as accidents or unexpected illness. In other words, you won’t be able to use it to refill your regular prescriptions, nor for a dental check-up.”
-Consider additional coverage for sports, many of which are subject to exclusions. While this may seem obvious for an Alpine snowboarding break, that bungee jump or spontaneous spin on the ice rink may be equally risky. Many insurers offer ‘bolt-ons’ covering fun yet dangerous activities.
-Brierley says the most common claims are for lost or damaged luggage. Furthermore, the UAE’s low crime rate can contribute towards a false sense of security when abroad. [S/he] said: “Many expats are on attractive salaries and accrue designer goods valued far in excess of standard ‘lost and stolen goods’ coverage. Of course, it’s safer to leave the Rolex at home, but do ensure your valuable possessions are protected.”
-Annual policies are often more cost-effective than single trip offerings, particularly for those who travel three times per year or more. While travel agents’ and airlines’ add-on policies are often attractively priced, the cost can soon mount up if you fly frequently.
-Unpredictable events such as freak weather, war, and terrorism are often dubbed ‘force majeure’ or ‘acts of God’ in policies; these typically invalidate coverage should they cause travellers to curtail their trips, or worse, be injured. Yet with climate change on the rise, alongside geopolitical tensions, precautions may be prudent.
-Personal liability is another consideration. Countries vary widely in their approaches to this, and the costs involved can be huge.
With so many factors to consider, choosing the right policy is a complicated business. Suitably qualified professional brokers can find policies that cover all their clients’ requests – as well as identifying risks they may not have considered.