Everything You Need To Know About Travel Insurance in Singapore
We answer all your questions about travel insurance and why it's so important to get one on your next trip.
People are travelling more than ever, with flights becoming affordable and Singaporeans becoming increasingly affluent and sophisticated. But travel, whether for leisure or business, also comes with uncertainties and risks, and for this reason, travel insurance was invented as a way to keep you covered in case the absolute worst should happen on your adventure.
Travel insurance in Singapore is a specific market, and there are some things you need to know about buying it. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about travel insurance, including why you need coverage and what matters most when travelling.
What Exactly Is Travel Insurance?
Just as you would insure your car against damage on the road or your house and personal belongings from things like fire and theft, you should also insure your travels. Travel insurance is quite varied in what can be covered, but at the very basic level, it covers events like flight delays and cancellations, lost baggage, and accidents and personal injuries that may happen during your trip.
Travel insurance works just like other types of insurance and allows you to select a coverage or plan that suits your needs. A travel insurance company will insure your trip and belongings, give you a price for the plan, and lay out the terms and conditions for what is exactly covered under your plan. If anything goes wrong, the insurance company will pay out an agreed amount depending on what happened.
Travel insurance will cover you from the start of your trip to the end, and you can choose a plan to meet the needs of your journey. Usually, the cover is based on your itinerary, how many people you’re traveling with, and the items you’re taking with you, but every trip will be different and may require different coverage.
Do note, however, that travel insurance covers only trips like holidays and business trips. It does not cover medical tourism, which is when you take overseas trips to seek medical treatment.
Why Do You Need Travel Insurance?
Some people assume that they can travel without insurance because they think the stories they hear about other travelers’ bad experiences abroad couldn’t possibly happen to them. That’s a wrong assumption; there are many reasons why you should always be covered.
As we know, there is no way of predicting when we’re going to fall sick or get injured, so it is important to be covered for these unforeseen incidents. If you get sick or sustain any injuries during your trip and need to see a doctor or go to a medical center or visit a hospital, your insurance can cover the costs. And if you are in a remote area and need to be airlifted or transported to another hospital or even to another country, your insurance may cover the costs of that too.
Flight cancellations and rescheduling
You are counting on your transport to get you to your destination on time, and when your flight or bus, train or ferry rides are rescheduled or canceled, your trip can fall to pieces. If that happens, your insurance will help to recoup the costs partially or fully. And if you need to seek alternative modes of transport to get to your destination or head home, your insurance may be able to cover some or all of the costs incurred.
Luggage and belongings
Travel insurance can cover the belongings that you travel with, including your luggage and other smaller items such as watches, jewelry, and laptops. Incidents like theft and loss and damage of belongings are usually covered under travel insurance.
Not only does travel insurance cover you, but also anything when you accidentally hurt someone or damage their property. If you’re found legally responsible for injuring someone or damaging their property, your insurance may be able to cover you and pay out expenses such as legal fees. This does not include criminal acts or acts of malice, such as deliberately injuring someone.
Peace of mind
Just knowing that you have travel insurance will make your journey a lot less stressful. There’ll be no wondering about whether you’ll get another flight, worrying about costs if you end up in hospital, or whether you can afford to replace a laptop that’s been stolen. With all of that covered, you can truly enjoy your trip.
Types of Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a broad product, and there are many different types of cover out there. The type of travel insurance you buy depends on factors like how many people you’re covering, the length of your trip, where you’re going, or what activities are included in your itinerary. This is why you need to speak to a professional or carefully read the terms and conditions to compare the coverage options so you can get one to suit your specific needs.
Insurance by Frequency of Trips
The first thing to consider when choosing your travel insurance is whether you want to be insured for just one trip, or for multiple trips, possibly to multiple countries. Those who plan to travel frequently within one calendar year can consider annual cover, whereas a single holiday or business trip can be covered by a single-trip policy.
Single-trip travel insurance is designed to cover travelers for just one trip, which should be a round trip that starts and ends in Singapore.
Single-trip insurance is better suited to those planning a one-off holiday or trip as the insurance premium will be lower and specific to the country you are traveling to. This type of insurance will cover you for specific travel dates, unlike annual coverage, which will cover you for all trips within a calendar year subject to terms and conditions.
Annual travel insurance cover is perfect for jet setters or those who travel a lot for business, and it can save a lot of time and money if you fall into one of these categories. Sometimes referred to as multi-trip travel insurance, this cover will protect you for the entire calendar year. However, there are usually stipulations on the length of each trip that you take within the year.
The cost of an annual travel insurance plan will depend on where you intend to visit for the year. This is because buying an annual travel insurance plan that covers travel to only Asia, for example, will cost less than buying a plan that covers worldwide travel. And if you buy a policy that covers only Asia, but you find yourself traveling to countries outside Asia, you will need to buy a separate policy to cover those trips, so that will cost you extra.
One-Way Travel Insurance
Most travel insurance policies cover travelers for a round trip, in which they start and end their journey in Singapore. But some travelers require one-way travel insurance instead, as they are traveling out from Singapore, but not heading back. They could be people who are migrating or leaving Singapore to return to their home country permanently.
One-way travel insurance usually starts covering travelers only shortly before they leave Singapore and shortly after they reach their first overseas destination, but allows for transits at other countries as long as the traveler does not leave the transit area of the airports in those countries. One-way travel insurance will cover travelers for incidents like accidents, travel delays, and lost baggage.
One-way travel insurance is not common in Singapore, but providers such as Income can cover you on a case-by-case basis. AIG also provides one-way insurance as part of its travel insurance cover.
Insurance by Number of People
The kind of insurance you buy also depends on how many people you’re traveling with. What you need will depend on your personal circumstances, whether the group is coming with you to every stop on your itinerary, and the individual requirements of each traveler.
Single-person travel insurance is a common choice for people who are traveling on their own or are unable to buy their insurance as part of other travelers in a group. It’s the best choice for those who prefer to take care of their own affairs, or perhaps have an itinerary that differs from the other people they’re traveling with. This is usually the cheapest option and you can choose a plan to meet your specific needs.
A family plan may be suitable for adults who are traveling together with their children. This is because a family plan covers everyone for the cost of one premium, which may work out to be cheaper than buying individual plans for everyone traveling together. The benefits that come with the family plan will be higher.
Some insurance providers allow an unlimited number of children to be covered under the family plan, while others limit the number of children covered under each plan.
If you’re traveling with some friends, colleagues or as part of a school group, this is an option to consider. Everyone is covered under the plan, and a discount is usually offered because there more people committing to it. The maximum number of people that can be covered by each plan differs between providers but can go up to 20 people a plan.
Special cases that require specific plans, or rider add-ons
Most travel insurance plans offered by providers in Singapore cover the same things such as trip cancellations, flight delays, accidents, illnesses and loss of luggage, which can be adequate to cover your trip. But if you require coverage for a specific requirement, such as if you are planning to engage in high-risk activities, if you are pregnant, or have pre-existing health conditions, you need to look into policies that will cater to your needs.
You want to go white water rafting on your holiday, but is it covered under your travel insurance? Read the fine print – insurance policies can vary between the kind of adventurous activities they cover. Some policies cover scuba diving for leisure up to a depth of 30m, but not skydiving, for example.
So if you’re planning a holiday involving adventurous activities, you need to look for a policy that will cover the specific activity you want to take part in.
Some insurance providers also offer optional riders for winter sports including skiing or extreme water sports including jet skiing. There are conditions attached though, such as that you must also be engaged in these activities at a non-competitive and not-for-profit level.
Insurance providers do not put an upper age limit on the travelers they cover, but senior travelers over the age of 70 are likely to receive lower benefits such as a lower amount of payout for medical expenses or accidents.
Pre-existing Health Conditions
Any pre-existing health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease will not be covered under most travel insurance plans, so if any medical emergencies were to occur during the trip due to these pre-existing conditions, the traveler will not receive a payout for that. Currently, Income and MSIG are two travel insurance providers in Singapore to offer plans that cover pre-existing health conditions.
Some travel insurance providers will not cover pregnant women. Others, however, will pay for things such as pregnancy-related medical treatment outside Singapore; or trip cancellations or interruption benefits if the pregnant woman is unfit to travel or continue with the trip.
However, even if the mother-to-be is covered, there are still certain conditions to be met. Some providers will not cover pregnant women in the first trimester of pregnancy, while others will cover a pregnant woman only if her expected date of delivery is more than 12 weeks before her planned return date.
Rental car excess
Going on a driving holiday with a rental car? You may be a careful driver, but factors like unfamiliar terrain or road conditions can cause accidents and damage to your rental car. If you get a travel insurance policy with rental excess coverage, the policy will cover rental excess that you need to pay to the car rental company for the damage. Rental excess is included in some policies, while other policies require you to opt for it as an add-on.
Are you traveling overseas for specific events such as a wedding photoshoot? Some insurance providers offer riders that will cover the loss or damage of your wedding gown for example. Or are you traveling to play golf? Some insurance providers offer a golf rider or even a separate golf insurance policy that will cover you for any injuries sustained during a game anywhere around the world, cover your equipment and even pay out if you were to score a hole-in-one and need to treat everyone present to a round of drinks.
There are even add-ons like the Pet Care rider, which will make a payout should your flight back to Singapore be delayed and you incur additional kennel or cattery fees for your pet.
Risks Covered by an Insurance Plan
Insurance cover for travel encompasses a wide range of things, compared to your home insurance or medical insurance. When you’re completely covered by travel insurance, this takes care of all aspects of your trip that could go wrong and potentially cost a lot of money. The following are the main categories that are covered, but there are much more available depending on your policy.
Accidents, injuries, and illnesses can happen while you’re traveling, resulting in the need to seek medical treatment, or maybe even surgery and a lengthy hospital stay overseas. But what’s worse are the costs that can be associated with seeking medical treatment overseas.
According to the International Federation of Health Plans, the average cost of staying in a South East Asia hospital for a day is about $800, and this figure jumps quite a lot, at about $3,300 for New Zealand and $5,700 for the US. These costs could be financially ruinous, so cover from a travel insurance policy is essential. Your policy will pay for the costs of medical, surgical, hospital and dental treatment up to the limit in your policy.
If you need to be transported to another hospital in another area or back in Singapore, your policy will also pay for the transport up to the limits stated.
According to travel website Tripzilla, the top 10 cities that Singaporeans visited in 2017 included London, Bali, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Phuket. Each of these cities and their corresponding countries come with their own unique health and safety issues, and so choosing the right travel insurance to suit is imperative.
Trip Cancellations and Reschedules
No matter how well you plan, travel is full of uncertainties. Bad weather could lead to flight delays or cancellations, for example. Even things like you or your travel companion falling ill, the death of a family member, or natural disaster in the country you are heading for could lead to trip cancellations. Some insurance providers even cover trip cancellations due to haze. If you have already paid for your air tickets or hotel bookings, your travel insurance will reimburse you for these costs.
Travel Agent Insolvency
The travel industry in Singapore is in a state of flux, and travel agencies have been known to fold suddenly, taking along with them deposits and other fees paid by travelers for tours, hotel bookings or flights. Travel insurance can cover that and compensate you for the money you paid to the travel agent, up to the limit stated in your policy.
Loss or Damage of Personal Belongings
Even when we watch over our luggage or personal belongings, they may still get stolen or damaged, or check-in luggage may get lost. Your insurance policy may replace, repair or pay a cash equivalent for your lost or damaged baggage and personal belongings.
How much your travel insurance pays out to you depends on the plan you buy, up to the limit set by your plan. Note that there may be sub-limits for different personal items, such as laptops, watches and jewelry and other items.
If your baggage were to be delayed for a certain number of hours as stipulated by your policy, you can also claim compensation for the inconvenience.
The risks mentioned above are the most common, but there are extras that your international travel insurance will cover you for. This could include repatriation, which is the cost of flying your body and belongings back to your home country, should the absolute worst happen. Other costs might include lawyer or interpreter fees if you break a local law and need help from an official. Most policies will also make a payout should you be kidnapped, taken as hostage, or even in terrorist situations.
These are rare examples but often covered in policies, even if the chance of them happening seems quite unlikely.
Other benefits provided by a travel insurance provider
All insurance companies will provide an emergency travel hotline which travelers can call in the event of an emergency, such as if they require referral to an embassy, an interpreter, a medical appointment or are admitted to the hospital. All you have to do is call the number provided by your insurance company and state your policy number.
Possible Exceptions to Your Travel Insurance Cover
Travel insurance has been designed to cover you for most things that can go wrong, but there are some exceptions to this rule. Always read the fine print that comes with your insurance, so you know exactly what is covered and what is not. Most policies will not cover claims for loss or liability caused by things such as:
- Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- Failing to take reasonable precautions to protect yourself and your belongings, or being negligent of your belongings like leaving them unattended in a public area;
- Travelling to or through a country that has been officially considered a danger such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Sudan or Syria. Check if Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel advisory against going to the country that are you planning to visit. If a travel advisory has been posted and you still carry on with your trip, your travel insurance policy will likely become void;
- Bre-existing medical conditions unless you specifically buy a policy that covers such medical conditions;
- Illegal or unlawful activities
When should you buy your travel insurance?
You should buy your travel insurance as soon as you book your air tickets and accommodation. This is because you will be covered once you purchase the policy, and you can make claims if your trip is canceled or postponed due to reasons like the travel agency folding, or if you fall sick after buying the policy and cannot travel.
How to Claim Your Travel Insurance Policy?
No one ever hopes to make a claim on their travel insurance, but mishaps do happen. If your bag has been stolen and all your cash and passport is gone, or you find yourself in the hospital with an injury sustained on holiday, what is the next step?
You should always have the details of your insurance provider on hand so that you can immediately report a situation. Most insurers will have a stipulation that states incidents can only be claimed if they’ve been reported within a specific time frame. In the case of medical emergencies, there are some medical procedures that might not be covered, so you’ll need to know ahead of time.
Also, make an official report with the necessary authorities as soon as possible. For example, if you get robbed, make a police report as soon as possible. There are also time limits to make your report to the authorities.
Make your claim from your insurer as soon as possible because there is a time limit and you should give yourself some breathing space should your insurer require you to provide more details.
Make sure you read your claims form and fill it in properly, and with all the supporting documents that you are required to provide to avoid delays in the claim process.
Commonly required supporting documents include letters from the airline to prove flight delays or diversions, original medical bills, medical reports, police reports for accidents, muggings, theft, kidnap and hostage cases and photographs of damaged items that you wish to claim for.
The key to a good insurance claim is documentation and communication, so remember this every step of the way.
How to Find the Best Travel Insurance?
Looking back 20 years or more, travel insurance just wasn’t as common as it is today. According to an article published in Today Online, more Singaporeans are getting travel insurance than ever before and also being pickier about their options. This includes choosing specific coverage for things that others might not be concerned about on a standard trip.
Thankfully, with the emergence of many new travel insurance options, it means there are better quality coverage choices you can go with.
Nowadays, travel insurance can be bought online directly from the insurance company, or through other channels such as your insurance advisers, your travel agency or even your bank. But the best approach is to go to a comparison website such as www.gobear.com/sg, which will search 25 travel plans from 11 insurers in Singapore and allow you to compare the plans using Gobear’s unbiased comparison rating. You will also get all the latest promotions in one place.
To use Gobear’s website, first select whether you need a single-trip plan or an annual plan; whether you’re buying this for yourself or for a group of travel companions; where you are headed for and your dates of travel. Gobear will present you with a list of insurance plans from different providers that suit your need.
From the results, choose the plans that suit you, and compare them side by side.
GoBear also lists reviews of the insurance companies by real users, so you get an idea of the level of service provided by these companies.
And when you have decided on the plan that’s suitable for you, just click the green button, which will take you to the insurance provider’s website to buy your insurance plan.
This type of comparative service is the best way to see what more providers offer, rather than just buying a policy from the first insurance company that comes to mind because that policy may not be the best one to suit your needs.
Healthcare in countries popular with Singaporeans
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) advises travelers to buy comprehensive travel insurance that includes medical evacuation in case you encounter any unexpected emergencies. It cites the cautionary tale of how a healthy Singaporean visiting China was suddenly struck by a brain hemorrhage. He was hospitalized for two weeks in a critical condition, incurring a daily bill of S$1,000. When he was eventually allowed to be medically evacuated back to Singapore, the flight evacuation costs almost S$60,000.
Unfortunately, the Singaporean had not purchased any travel insurance and his family had to foot the entire hospital bill as well as the cost of medical evacuation, both amounting to S$74,000.
If you do not have suitable insurance, says MFA, you or your family and friends will be required to bear the burden of these expenses, which can be extremely costly.
The costs of healthcare can vary from country to country, so it is important to get coverage that is adequate for the country you’re planning to travel to. Here is how healthcare works in some countries that are popular holiday destinations for Singaporeans.
If you were to require medical attention in the United States, the good news is that the country has excellent hospitals and research centers, such as Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital.
The bad news is that healthcare expenses in the US can be shockingly high – US healthcare is, after all, among the most expensive in the world and people have been made bankrupt over medical bills there. The reasons for the high costs have been attributed to factors such as the inflated prices of drugs, hospital services, diagnostic tests, doctors’ salaries and costs of managing medical services administratively, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2018.
Healthcare facilities in the United States are largely privately owned and a large portion of Americans are covered by health insurance, either by purchasing it on their own or are covered by their employers.
So, if you are planning a trip to the US, it is important to choose a travel insurance plan with a comprehensive coverage if you were to need any healthcare services while you’re there and do not want a financial disaster on your hands.
If you fall sick, there is a wide range of public and private hospitals, urgent care clinic and specialty clinics in major cities. There are also pharmacies, or drugstores, found almost everywhere, and common, over-the-counter medications are also available in grocery stores and petrol kiosks.
Healthcare in Japan
Among a lot of countries, Japan has one of the highest standards of healthcare in the world. All residents of Japan are required by law to have health insurance coverage, under which, they pay 30 percent of their medical expenses, while the government pays the remaining 70 percent. Medical fees are strictly regulated by the government to keep them affordable.
As a visitor, however, you will have to pay all medical expenses out of pocket. Even though the government keeps medical costs affordable, your bill could run into high figures if you were felled by a serious illness.
Another important reason to have valid travel insurance is that some clinics or hospitals want to see proof of insurance before they will render treatment.
If you require medical attention for minor ailments, look for a primary care clinic called Naika, which can be found in every city neighborhood or town. You do not need an appointment but you need to check their opening hours as some close for a few hours in the afternoon.
Some hospitals accept credit cards, but clinics may not; so, make sure you have cash on hand.
Most clinics and medical centers do not have English-speaking staff, so try to get your hotel or your travel insurance provider for help. (Another reason to buy travel insurance!)
Tokyo does have a few clinics that have English-speaking doctors and staff to cater to the expat community, but the medical costs will be higher there.
Healthcare in Australia
Australia is a very safe country for traveling, healthwise, and hospitals and medical centers offer a high standard of care. The healthcare system consists of private clinics and hospitals and government-funded public hospitals.
Australians are covered by the Medicare system, which gives access to free or subsidized treatment by health professionals such as doctors and specialists, and free treatment and accommodation in public hospitals.
Medicare is extended to overseas visitors from countries such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with the Australian government. Under this agreement, visitors from those countries can access free or subsidized essential healthcare under Australia’s public healthcare scheme.
Unfortunately, Singapore is not among those countries. So if you need medical attention during your stay, you will be charged for all hospital, ambulance and doctors’ fees as well as medication. If your medical situation is serious, the costs can be considerable.
In an emergency, go to the nearest public hospital emergency department, where you will be treated as a private patient.
Common over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers, antihistamines for allergies, and skincare products are widely available at pharmacies or chemists throughout Australia.
An Essential Part of Travel
Travelling can be stressful, but it doesn’t need to be so when you have the right coverage. Travel insurance is a smart choice for any type of trip you might be taking, and you would agree that having peace of mind while traveling is the best thing you can take along with you.
The best travel insurance policy for you is not the one that costs the least or the one that promises you fancy benefits. The right travel insurance caters specifically to your needs, so learn as much about the different policies as you can.
And, never wait until the last minute to buy your insurance.