It’s a boring topic, insurance. Getting it sorted is probably my least favourite thing to do before planning a long trip. But finding the right insurance is both tricky and incredibly important. Sadly. So read on for some helpful tips – essential if you’re new to planning your own trip! Remember: research beforehand, be responsible whilst you’re away, and be diligent once you get back if you’ve got something to claim for.
TL; DR: don’t pick the cheapest option, it usually isn’t worth it. And don’t be a complete moron whilst you’re abroad. That’s definitely not worth it.
Step 1: Research
What kind of trip are you going on?
There are different types of travel insurance depending on what kind of trip you are taking. Multi-trip insurance provides an annual policy allowing you to go on more than one trip and still be covered, so this can be good if you know you won’t be limiting yourself to just the one long trip.
However, be aware that most multi-trip insurance usually only covers you for trips that are less than 90 days in duration (or even less time), so if you’re going on an extended backpacking trip (i.e. more than three months) then this won’t be the best option for you.
Backpackers insurance overcomes this problem: specifically designed with things like gap year trips in mind, it covers you for longer – up to 18 months – and may often be tailored to the needs of backpackers, such as covering you to volunteer or work. The downside here is that often backpackers’ insurance is a bit more expensive.
You can also get single trip insurance, which can be a viable alternative: single trip insurance can be taken out for as long or short a time as you need. This flexibility is the main strength of single trip insurance; however look out for cheap but useless insurance which won’t pay out when you need it to.
What activities are you planning on doing?
Different policies will have different activities covered as standard, so make sure you read to check that you’re covered for any specific activities you know you’ll be doing. If it’s not, it usually doesn’t cost too much extra to add it onto your policy, but consider this when you are weighing up the costs of various options. And make sure that you do declare extra activities – because if you don’t, you won’t be covered!
Do you have any medical conditions?
If the answer to this question is yes, then you must declare them. It may add cost to your cover, but if you end up having to claim and you have withheld information (any information!) this may allow the insurance company to rightfully refuse to pay up. If you’re not sure about a particular condition, then you can always ring up and ask them whether you should go through the medical screening service. For example, I have mild asthma (like, the mildest asthma ever), but I still always declare it when taking out travel insurance.
How much excess do you want to pay?
The excess is the amount that you will have to cover before the insurance will pay out. For example, if you have a laptop worth £500 stolen and your excess is £300, you will only receive £200 from the insurance. It is almost always worth paying the excess waiver (sometimes as little as £15!), which eliminates the need to cover costs – if anything at all gets lost or stolen or broken, it will almost certainly be more than £15 that you will be losing out on if you have to pay an excess!
However, on some backpacker insurance policies, an excess waiver isn’t an option so bear that in mind when you’re claiming!
What is your most expensive possession worth?
Look at the single item payout. Does it match your most expensive item? Everyone will have a different packing list, and there are definitely some people who will do things the old fashioned way and just set out with a brick phone, some sturdy hiking boots and lots of sensible clothes. However, the likelihood is that you will have at least one expensive thing in your baggage, so it is important to check what the value of the single item pay-out is. If the most the insurance will pay for one item is £300 but you are taking a phone worth £500, consider looking at a different policy.
Step 2: Take Responsibility
You need to make sure you’re taking all reasonable precautions to look after yourself and your belongings, or it is likely that you won’t be covered for it. If you leave your phone or tablet lying on a bench and it gets stolen, the travel insurance company would be within their rights not to cover you. If you’re from Europe, make sure to take your EHIC card with you when you travel within Europe, to make sure your medical expenses don’t rack up. You can’t be insured for your own stupidity! So make sure to keep things locked away whilst you are not in the room, and always keep an eye on your stuff (this should go without saying anyway…).
Report it to the police.
If something does happen that you will later need to claim for, make sure to go to the police station as soon as possible after the incident. You will usually only be able to report it if you are in the place where the incident occurred. Most if not all insurance providers require a police report or equivalent as proof that the incident occurred. And, if necessary, don’t shy away from a bribe – that might just be how it works in some places, and it will be worth a few pounds if you later make a successful claim.
Step 3: Claim
Track down your receipts.
When you are claiming for an item, where possible it is good to find proof of purchase of the item in question, in order to back up what you’re telling the insurance company about the cost of it. It’s best to try to build up a strong supporting bank of evidence, to give you the best possible chance of getting compensated.
Contact your insurer ASAP.
Insurance claims may be the last thing on your mind in the chaos that happens after coming back from a long trip away, but claims might take a while to process, and your carefully kept documents could easily get lost among all the post-trip devastation. The quicker you do it, the faster you’ll get your money back!
If all else fails, be a bit inventive.
Sometimes you won’t be able to get your money back through your travel insurance – for example if your policy wasn’t comprehensive enough. If this is the case, there are a couple of other things that you could try.
One option is to claim through your house contents insurance, which may cover your possessions even when they are not actually inside the house (i.e. are in another country). You will probably have to cover some kind of excess for this, though, which is likely to be quite high – so this option isn’t really viable unless the item was really expensive.
If it was less than 90 days old and bought on a credit card, you may also be able to claim your money back on an item through the card’s Purchase Protection. Check out this blog from Money Saving Expert for more information on what is covered by your credit card, if you have one.
However, it’s clearly a lot easier just to get good travel insurance (and then you also won’t annoy your parents if they’re the ones whose contents insurance or credit card is how you end up claiming).
If you follow all this advice then you shouldn’t go wrong with your insurance! It may take a bit longer than just going on a comparison website and buying the first one that comes up, but if you actually need to use the policy it’s definitely worth taking a bit of time over it. Don’t forget, you will usually have a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period after purchasing your insurance, so if you change your mind then that’s OK. Read through your documents carefully to check you haven’t missed anything and to ensure you are happy with what you are paying for. And after all, you can never guarantee that everything will go exactly to plan – that’s what insurance is there for!
I found this article from Money Saving Expert very useful in researching for this blog, so head there for a more general overview.
Got any other tips? Feel free to share them in the comments!