Learn from these travel insurance tales to be better prepared (updated with GoBearTV episode 16)
Travel insurance provides most of the protection you’ll ever need when you’re on a holiday. It affords you with the peace of mind that lets you enjoy your trip without a worry in sight.
How do you find the right policy, when there are so many?
That’s where we come in. GoBear does more than compare travel insurances, we also break down the benefits and provide you with an unbiased score to determine which travel insurance might suit your need better.
Most of all, you don’t need to approach each insurer one at a time; just compare, pick the right one and click through to purchase your travel insurance in one seamless journey. We’ve even summarised the terms and conditions of each one, so you won’t be blindsided by the legal-speak.
You, however, are still in charge
Despite everything we can do in our power to help you choose the right travel insurance, you must understand the terms and conditions. Failure to read the fine print – or to pick the right policy – can leave you stranded just when you need the most help.
Surely, it won’t happen to you? Let’s be honest, life has a way of throwing the weirdest curveballs at you at the worst possible time. But if you are ready to learn some life lessons, these travel insurance tales will serve as the best lessons for your upcoming trip.
But first, let's start you off with our new season of GoBearTV as we explore some travel insurance tales that might seem all too familiar to you.
The above examples are somewhat exaggerated but in reality, this could happen to you. The following stories did happen, and can serve as a lesson for you to be better prepared for your next trip.
The high seas sickness
Alice S. is a 42-year old administrative assistant, who won two free tickets for a cruise. She brought her 19-year-old son, Alex, who was in good health at the time, along for the trip.
While the cruise operator did offer cruise insurance, the free cruise was from a tour operator that already provided free travel insurance. Alice decided to just rely on the free insurance, without checking the terms.
During the cruise, Alex contracted a virus. He was treated in the ship’s infirmary, for vomiting and nausea. As the day progressed, his condition worsened, and he developed a high fever. At this point, the medical staff on board called for him to be medically evacuated. Alex was taken by air to Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where he subsequently recovered.
About a week after the incident, Alice received the bill for the medical evacuation. The bill for treatment on the ship was a whopping $1,100 (which fortunately the insurance did cover), but the evacuation costs $8,400.
The complimentary travel insurance only covered repatriation of remains, which means they would have covered the cost of sending Alex’s body home, had he passed away. But that does nothing for the cost of medical evacuation.
After some negotiation, Alice was able to pay off the cost in instalments; but it made a serious impact on her personal finances.
Don’t assume all travel insurance is “more or less the same”. There can be significant differences between policies, as well as insurers. Check for medical evacuation costs, which can be astronomical.
The lost woodcut
Indulge a writer, if you will, with this personal story of noobness and loss.
A woodcut is a carved piece of wood, use for printing books (before we had printing presses). During a visit to an antique store in New York City, I purchased one for USD$4,500 (approx. SGD $6,000).
The person at the store asked if I wanted it shipped back. In fact, she insisted it would be safer. But I wanted to hand-carry it instead, as I was worried it’ll be damaged during the shipping process. Besides, I had bought the most expensive travel insurance, so I assumed it was covered.
During the flight back to Singapore, there was a one-day stopover in Istanbul. I stored the woodcut in my locked luggage. The next day, as I had time to kill before my flight, I left my luggage with the hotel before checking out; I would come back later to pick it up, on the way to the airport.
You know what happened next: at the airport, I opened my luggage to transfer the woodcut to my hand carry. That’s when I realised someone had been through the luggage, and I was missing my camera, my iPad, and yes…the woodcut.
When I made the actual insurance claim. I did get a pay out. But here’s where it went south for me - the policy specifically stated a limit of $500 for such lost items. That’s the most that I got, resulting in a loss of over $5,500.
Just because the policy says there’s “$1 million in coverage”, it doesn’t mean you can claim up to that amount for a lost item. There are stipulated limits, such as $250 for lost cash, or $500 for laptops, etc.
Read the fine print; and if you’re buying something expensive, have it insured specifically and ship it back. Don’t put it with your other items, and expect travel insurance to cover the full cost.
The free flight
Back in 2011, Wei R. was a 22-year old student who travelled to Cape Town with some friends at the end of a semester for a one-week holiday. Wei purchased travel insurance through his financial adviser, and was sure he was well-covered. His rationale? He’d previously made a successful claim when he fractured his elbow in Australia and had to be hospitalised there.
During the visit to Cape Town, Wei and his group were offered a free flight by a new acquaintance. A certified pilot, he offered to fly the group around the area in his privately-owned plane.
While landing the plane however, a sharp jolt caused Wei to slam his face into a hard corner of the seat in front of him. Wei lost three of his teeth and broke his nose, and was immediately treated abroad.
The resulting bill, mainly due to emergency dental care, came to about $2,970. When Wei attempted to make a claim, it was rejected. A little-known clause in many travel insurance policies excludes any coverage from resulting accidents if you’re not a fare paying passenger using aerial transport.
Always check the fine print or check with the insurer via its hotline before you go on any joyrides or activities. If you do intend to engage in such activities, the least you can do is ensure that you get a policy that has a comprehensive coverage.
Stay informed to stay safe
At the end of the day, as much as travel insurance can cover all the unexpected situations you'll encounter during your trip, you should always stay alert. Don't take unnecessary risks and enjoy your holiday in moderation. If, however, you'd like to live on the edge, take extra steps to ensure your travel insurance has a comprehensive coverage that includes such uncommon activities.