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We all know that anything can happen on a trip, even if we only wish the best. A wise man once said: Expect the best, prepare for the worst. That’s what travel insurance is for.

Do you really want to have to pay millions of dollars after getting sick abroad? What about if your trip is cancelled and you already paid thousands of dollars for a cruise or accommodation? I don’t think I have to plead my case that travel insurance is as essential as your passport. But what should be covered? How to choose the best policy for your personal needs? Here’s what everybody ought to know about travel insurance!

travel insurance

Which countries are covered?

Not all policies cover all countries visited. Sometimes the policy will only cover for the countries that your government hasn’t issued a ‘avoid all travel advisory‘. So always read the fine prints before handing over your hard-earned cash for any policy. You can always check with a review site like Consumers Advocate to try and find a policy that best suits your needs.

RTW planning choosing destinations

Activity coverage

Look at the list of activities you’re covered for. You might not be covered if you want to try paragliding or bungee jumping. Also, study the list of the sports you’re allowed to play. Ultimate fighting isn’t probably covered!

And you might not be covered if you are teaching an activity. For example, in my policy, I am covered if I am diving, but not if I am teaching diving.

travel insurance

Cancellation

Good policies will cover you against flight and train cancellations, which can be useful if you have already paid for your accommodation.

The length of your trip

Some policies cover your trip for up to 21 days. That’s usually the case with travel insurance that your credit card provides. Since I will be leaving for almost 2 months this winter, I have to make sure my policy will cover my whole trip, not just the beginning of it.

Extension

If you decide to stay longer, make sure your policy can easily be extended while you’re away, and that you will only pay for the difference in cost between the two periods rather than having to take out a new policy for your additional time.

Illegal activities

Most policies won’t help you out if you get up to anything illegal. No policy covers for nuclear, chemical or biological warfare, but some policies do insure against terrorist acts.

Luggage and valuables

If you are taking with you a laptop, a mobile phone or other valuables, check that they’ll be covered as some policies require you to declare these upfront by providing equipment serial numbers. Cheap policies may only cover a limited amount of valuables unless you pay more for the initial policy.

travel insurance

Pre-existing conditions

If you’ve got asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure or any other illnesses, make sure they’re covered. Usually you are OK if your condition is diagnosed and stable, but all policies vary.

Receipts & serial numbers

Keep receipts and serial numbers at home for anything you might lose during your trip.

Sufficient coverage

Buy a policy that will cover repatriation to your home country, and not only to the nearest regional medical facility. You don’t want to get stuck abroad when you are in such a bad condition that needs to be assessed immediately.

And look up how much you will have to pay before your insurance company pick up the tab. You might be covered for 5 million dollars of medical expenses, but still have to pay $5000 from your own pocket.

Who pays what?

Check if your policy will make you pay on the spot and you will have to redeem the money later, or if the company will pay the providers directly. If you have to claim later, you will need to keep all the documentation and receipts.

If you already have a medical condition, some policies will ask you to call a center back home where an immediate assessment of your condition will be made.

Emergency hotline

Always carry with you your company’s emergency hotline numbers. Since we never know when something can happen, it’s better never take a chance.

You can also take pictures of your policy and send it to yourself by email, so you can always have access abroad. And you can also give a copy to a relative or a friend back home, that could help you.

Traveling should only be about fun and easy experiences and adventures. But just like at home, anything can happen. We’re better be prepared, than sorry!

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