There are some things you should look out for when buying travel insurance. Here's a guide to help you choose a policy that's right for you.
Cheap isn't always cheerful
There are some cheap policies out there that give you good coverage for the price. But if you want comprehensive coverage, like unlimited medical expenses, or if you want to travel with expensive jewellery or electronics, you shouldn't be opting for budget cover.
If buying online...
It’s always best to pick a well-known and trusted company. If you’ve never heard of the company before, do a little homework before you buy.
Baggage, documents and funds
You won’t be getting very far without your luggage, money and passport. It’s worth checking to make sure your insurance policy actually covers these things. It's also important to check the limits and understand what is excluded.
Buy your insurance when you buy your flights
People tend to leave things to the last minute but the sooner you buy your travel insurance the better. If you wait until the day before you fly out to buy travel insurance you could wind up losing deposits or spending more money because something unexpected happened during the intervening time that disrupted your plans. You can't get backdated cover. For example, you're unlikely to be covered if you purchase travel insurance a few days before you fly to Hawaii after watching a news story on TV about a volcanic ash cloud that’s likely to delay the flight you booked two months ago. If you bought travel insurance the same day you purchased your flights, you would likely be covered for cancellation, delays or having to abandon your travel plans altogether.
Check the limits
There will be a limit for each single item you claim for. It pays to bear that in mind if you are planning on bringing an expensive camera, luxury bag or pricey laptop. If you are travelling with these items it’s important you check you'll have adequate cover so you're fully covered if they are lost, damaged or stolen. If the policy’s single valuables limit is $500 and your $1000 smartphone gets stolen, you will feel short-changed at claim time.
Check the excluded activities
Some activities are considered too risky to insure. Things like mountaineering, rock climbing, scuba diving, sky-diving, driving a moped and skiing off-piste are some of the activities that many insurance companies exclude. Cruises are often excluded. Some insurance companies don’t insure cruises full-stop, or they'll ask you to pay for an add-on to your policy. Tower insurance travel policies include overseas cruises in the base cover.
Does the insurance company have reach?
Are you able to contact them 24 hours a day, seven days a week? In a medical emergency, your insurance company should be there to get you the best treatment possible and answer any questions you may have. If your flight has been cancelled and you need to arrange a new one urgently you’ll want to be able to get in contact with someone as soon as possible. Before you leave, take note of your company's emergency contact number and put it in your phone so you've got it when you need it.
Most backpacker-friendly budget policies don’t cover pre-existing health conditions, for example: heart problems and sleep apnoea. Disclose any pre-existing health conditions and pay a little more for a policy that provides you the cover. If you get a policy that doesn't cover your pre-existing condition and something happens while you're away as a result of it, you won't be able to claim. You should keep this in mind if you are:
- over 65 year’s old
- have asthma
- have any illness or condition that is an ongoing problem
Make sure your cover kicks in as soon as you leave your home until you return. For example, if you need cover from when you leave your hometown of Oamaru for your flight to Fiji from Auckland airport, you need to select a policy that also covers the New Zealand portion of your trip.
Read the policy wording
Knowing what your insurance covers can help give you peace of mind to relax and enjoy your trip. If in doubt about anything, ask your company’s customer service representatives.