Travel insurance is a good
thing, but it is not a panacea, and it is important to
understand what it will and will not cover.
Although the promotional
materials may seem to list a huge long list of risk the
insurance will cover you for, with only a few lines of
exclusions, do not assume that the risks you think you may
encounter will be included.
Here is a list - but a far from
complete list - of some of the things that you probably will not
be protected from when you buy normal travel insurance.
Travel Insurance Policies Vary
Travel insurance policies
vary enormously in terms of what they do and don't cover, what
they cost, and their intrinsic value too.
Don't assume that all
polices have the same coverages and the same exclusions.
Don't even assume that all coverages from the same insurance
company have the same coverages and exclusions. Instead,
you should check any insurance policy you're considering to make
sure it protects you in the areas where you feel you most need
Sure, travel insurance is
sometimes only moderately priced, and there's a limit to how
much time and effort it makes sense to invest in a $100 or $200
purchase. But you should evaluate insurance policies with
the care you'd give not to their $150 or whatever cost, but
rather with a care commensurate to the tens of thousands of
dollars of protection they may or may not provide you in return
for your premium.
Don't Be Surprised
You've probably heard horror stories of people who have been
caught without travel insurance. Ending up stranded in
foreign lands or bankrupted by hospital bills is no one’s idea
of a good vacation, and so most of us choose to purchase a
travel insurance policy, particularly for international travels.
We do this for the peace of mind from knowing that when we
travel we will be protected against the vicissitudes of life.
The problem comes when a
travel insurance policy fails to cover us. There are a
surprising number of things which fall between the cracks of
most standard travel insurance policies.
Below, we look at 10
things your travel insurance may not cover you for.
1. Swine Flu and Pandemics in
If you have
already booked your trip, it may be that your travel insurance
policy won’t cover cancellation due to a pandemic outbreak.
the insurance policy won’t cover the costs of cancelling,
or of perhaps cutting a trip short and returning home early (and do check as some policies
are covering it) you may still have recourse if you booked with
a credit card of if you booked through a tour operator.
Investigate all of your options.
2. Visa Refusal
The problem of visa refusal
arises when you have already purchased your plane ticket, or
booked your vacation, and you, or one of your party, are
a visa (if you need one prior to travel) and/or refused entry to
a country upon arrival (and this can sometimes - rarely - occur
even if you do have a visa).
Most travel insurance policies refuse to
pay out for cancellation of your trip in such cases, although
sometimes airlines will refund your ticket to you if you are
denied a visa subsequent to buying a ticket and prior to
commencing travel (in theory, if you need a visa and don't have
one, they won't allow you to board the flight to the foreign
country, because they'll be fined if they fly you to a country
you don't have a proper visa to visit).
you are eligible to travel to your destination before spending
money on your travel to and in the country you wish to visit.
3. Working Holidays
It isn't only young people
who may choose to take a year, more or less, to travel
and experience life. It is a great opportunity for anyone to see
the world, a good introduction to the world and its complexities
for younger people, and a lovely lifestyle break for adults.
It is common, particularly
for younger people, that a lengthy holiday becomes, at least on
occasion, a working holiday. Most people get some type of
travel insurance, particularly if traveling for an extended time
such as with this type of travel, but these policies usually
exclude covering any injuries which are work related, and
possibly may also exclude injuries, whether working for pay or
not, in situations involving manual labor, using power tools or
driving heavy duty machinery.
4. Closed Pistes or other
Weather related Disappointments
Skiing holidays have always
been a winter favorite and there is so much competition now in
the skiing industry that there are some very reasonable deals
But what if you arrive for your ski vacation to find
that the piste is closed due to no snow or avalanche conditions? Chances are you’re out of luck. Read the small print on your
policy and discover that most will not cover cancellation costs
or early returns under these conditions.
On the other hand, sometimes
some tour operators will include some form of weather guarantee
as part of a travel package - this is more common in sunny
climates, where sometimes you might see a promise of no more
than a certain minimum amount of rain during your visit.
5. Drunk Skiing (or other
Sticking to the skiing
theme, many skiers and boarders are not aware that if they have
a few drinks with their chalet lunch and then injure themselves,
or someone else, in a skiing or boarding accident, their
insurance policy is void and will provide them with no cover at
This means that the second
cheap bottle of wine with lunch could end up being pretty
The exclusion on such
activities most likely will extend to other types of activities
6. Hurricanes and other Weather
Everyone loves a winter
vacation somewhere sunny. The lure of the beaches of the
Bahamas, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico draw millions of
The problem is that the best bargains to
these resort areas also fall during hurricane season. T rip
cancellation insurance is worded very carefully in regards to
this and if you don’t read the small print carefully you may be
in for a surprise.
Most policies will cover you
for the cancellation costs of your vacation if your destination
is entirely shut down by hurricane. But if the resort or the
airport remains open, however terrible the conditions might be,
your insurer is likely to refuse to refund your money - which
could mean a very damp and very windy vacation for you.
Update : as has
been vividly demonstrated to millions of people in April 2010
who fell victim to the Icelandic volcano eruption and
consequential flight cancellations throughout Europe, weather
and other 'acts of God' can have extended and costly
Far flung romances are not
unheard of. Lying by a pool all day in the hot sun,
downing margaritas, and dancing ‘till sundown, means that a lot
of tourists lower their guard when abroad. Sadly, many of
them pick up something far nastier than just a few souvenirs.
A sexually transmitted
infection, or an unwanted pregnancy, may be an unpleasant
surprise, and if you are still abroad, your travel insurance may
not cover testing and treatment, and if your regular medical
insurance does not cover you when you are out of the country (or
only to a very limited extent) you may find yourself with
This leaves you in a
situation whereby you either have to wait until you are back
home or seek private medical advice.
8. Adventure Sports
It is amazing how a
mild-mannered accountant can turn into Tarzan when abroad. The
range of opportunities for people to have adrenalin thrilled
experiences seem to increase as the temperature climbs higher. Someone who would never cross the street against the light at
home is found hurling themselves off bridges with just a bungee
cord on their ankles in Australia and New Zealand.
Most travel insurance will
not cover any injuries incurred during adventure sports. If you
think you will be undertaking any extreme experiences you are
well-advised to seek out a specific travel insurance policy that
covers adventure sports – otherwise you really may be throwing
yourself off a cliff.
9. Security Threats and
Part of the modern world we
live in is that security threats and terrorist attacks are on
the increase, as is the fear of such things and occasional
over-reactions to imagined rather than real terrorist events.
These can often impact on people’s ability to
travel. As flights are cancelled, planes re-rerouted or airports
closed your travel plans can be greatly altered.
Most standard insurance
policies do not cover the costs of purchasing new tickets,
rerouting existing tickets, paying for accommodation or
subsistence costs due to delays to your journey that relate to
various different terrorist type activities. These costs can
add up quickly.
Specialist insurance is
available, which can be purchased on top of your existing
insurance policy, and will cover the above the circumstances. Or
you could choose to try and sleep on the airport floor.
9.1 Political and civil
unrest and commotion
Related to security threats
and terrorist attacks is what happens if you are in - or
planning to go to - a country that suffers massive civil
disorder, strikes, chaos, demonstrations, and disruptions of all
For example, Thailand has
had a series of political problems. So too has the
seemingly idyllic peaceful nation of Fiji. And, most
recently, Egypt (and, it seems much of the Middle East) has
suddenly found itself overwhelmed with citizen protests against
the governments in power.
In other words, these types
of risk are real and far from impossible to experience.
Will your travel insurance
cover either the costs of cancelling or rescheduling travels in
such cases, and/or the costs of changing your travels or
possibly coming home early?
10. Evacuation vs
Evacuation insurance covers
the cost of getting you somewhere that you can receive medical
attention should you injure yourself in a foreign country. In
practice this means you will be transported to the nearest
large hospital in order to receive treatment. This does not mean
you will be transported home to receive treatment. That is
If it is important to you
that you be transported to your home in order to receive medical
attention in your own country (and your own language) then you
need to ensure that your policy covers you for repatriation and
not just evacuation. One word can make a very big difference to
the care that you receive. Read the fine print whenever you buy
travel insurance policy and ask questions before you travel.
Note also that your
family travel insurance may or may not cover the costs of a family member
traveling with you on such flights.
Medical evacuation insurance
can sometimes be insufficiently provided in many insurance
policies. If you're going to be somewhere - for example,
diving off the coast, or a cruise going to remote areas - where
you might need a twin engined medium/long range helicopter to
fly out to collect you and take you to a hospital, you can
quickly find the Medevac costs reaching significantly into five
How to Get the Cover You Need
If there are specific travel
risks you're concerned about and if the travel insurance
policies you're looking at do not cover these risks, you can
always go to a regular insurance broker and see about getting a
special policy - or perhaps a rider added to your home or other
existing insurance policies - to protect you from this extra
How to Shop for Travel
As you might expect, there
are now excellent insurance shopping services available on the
Simply plug the parameters
of what you're looking for into either (or both) of these two
website shopping services, and you'll be presented with a list
of potential insurance policies and premiums for you to choose
www.InsureMyTrip.com offers comparisons between 100 different
policies offered by 18 different insurance companies, and you
can match this information alongside any additional insurance
policies offered by your travel agent or tour operator and make
the best decision accordingly.
A similar insurance shopping
service is offered by
Read more in Parts 1 & 2
Part 3 of a series on
Travel Insurance - please
Insurance - Yes or No
2. What type of travel
insurance do you need
3. Ten things your travel insurance may not cover
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12 Jun 2009, last update
21 Jul 2020
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.