Money Talks: Time to buy holiday insurance: Belfast Telegraph

Posted on June 29, 2009 · Posted in Belfast Telegraph

 

Get insured

 

It is summer holiday time – which means it is also time to make sure you have your travel insurance sorted.

 

What a bore, you might think. But let’s consider some things that could go wrong.

 

Your child eats a chicken burger at dinner. The food has not been properly cooked. During the night they vomit and sweat heavily – you get scared and rush them to the local doctor or hospital.

 

It may be ok in the sense that there is nothing seriously wrong, but then you have to pay the bill. You will then wish you had been properly insured.

 

Much worse could go wrong. What if one of your family is rushed to hospital and has to be flown home? An air ambulance from America could cost £40,000 or more – and the British Embassy will not pay!

 

One of your group might even die – and flying the body home is a financial cost that makes your grief even worse.

 

Check the policy

 

It is good to be insured, but lots of people find their travel policy is worth less than they assumed.

 

A frequent complaint is that policies do not always cover missed connections. One family who wrote to me were on holiday in the Channel Island of Sark, flying into and out of Guernsey. A freak gale prevented their ferry making the return journey on time: they missed their flight home and had to pay a fortune for late bookings on the next plane back.

 

Never mind they thought, we have travel insurance. No, said the insurer, we specify in the small print of the policy that missed connections in the UK don’t count for a payout. Hang on, says the reader, the Channel Islands aren’t in the UK. Look again, says the insurer, we say in the small print that we treat the Channel Islands as if they are in the UK.

 

Similar experiences are common. They certainly do nothing for the reputation of insurers. But a common factor of many complaints is that the policies are sold by the airlines. Often these policies provide limited protection, which may not be relevant to your holiday and circumstances – and which is over-priced compared to an annual travel policy.

 

What to insure

 

Your insurance cover needs to include medical treatment and any extra cost of returning home because of illness or accident. You should also be covered if you injure someone else by accident or your property is lost or stolen.

 

Most people will also want insurance against missing their flights; getting stranded for days if there is a strike; or if they have to travel home urgently because of a family illness. These risks are often not covered in standard travel policies. Depending on which country you are travelling to, insurance covering the cost of legal action may also be sensible.

 

Some favourite holiday activities may be excluded by your policy, unless specially arranged: jet skiing and motor biking, for instance. Accidents caused by misuse of alcohol and other drugs are excluded by most insurers. If you lose belongings through carelessness you may also have to meet the cost yourself, despite being insured.

 

Where to get insured

 

Getting insured online, perhaps using a price comparison website, is very popular nowadays – and often saves large amounts of money. But it may not be the best option for travel insurance, where your requirements will often be very specific. A good insurance broker will obtain the right policy for you.

 

If you do decide to buy an insurance policy using a price comparison website, through the airline, or going direct to an insurer check the policy cover very carefully before confirming the purchase. Beware of ‘off the shelf’ policies that do not take into account your personal circumstances

 

To find an insurance broker you should go to the website of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association – www.biba.org.uk – which also has excellent tips on buying travel insurance.

 

Get EHIC

 

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC, previously called the E111) is very important for holidaymakers within the European Union – including the Irish Republic. It is free to obtain – you apply at a Post Office or on the internet, at www.ehic.org.uk – and this entitles you to free or reduced cost medical treatment across the EU and in Norway, Iceland and, with some exceptions, Switzerland.