If there’s something I always invest on when I travel, that’s a good travel insurance policy. In fact, I travel so much nowadays that I eventually decided to get a 365 days policy, so that I don’t have to worry every time I step out of town – not to mention, the savings are considerable. It comes down to little over $1.50 per day, and I believe that it is a good investment.
That’s why I cringe every time I hear someone saying he travels without travel insurance. It’s especially a backpackers’ habit, and there are various reasons backpackers refuse to buy travel insurance. The most typical one is that it is too costly and they are trying to travel on an extreme budget (I guess I am an unsuccessful backpacker, then!).
Yet, most people decide not to purchase travel insurance because the odds of something happening that requires that kind of assistance are extremely low.
But are they, really?
I could go mention a million nightmare stories I have heard from other travelers that would convince anybody to get travel insurance. Instead, let me tell you a few reasons why I always get travel insurance. But first, let’s get the basics covered and let me clarify what travel insurance is.
What Is Travel Insurance And What Should It Include?
The term travel insurance can actually be confusing, as it may refer to a number of different things. There are many travel insurance companies around, and picking one isn’t always easy. Some are quite reliable, such as Allianz Travel Insurance, for example.
Whichever company one may opt for, travel insurance policies should always be read and understood before being purchased, and a good way to go about it is via a travel agent, who typically sells that many that he can clarify almost all questions.
A good travel insurance typically includes health insurance, which means coverage for accidents and hospital or doctors’ visits while traveling. This means being able to go to the doctor if that food poisoning isn’t going away on its own.
Travel insurance should also include medical evacuation insurance, which means that if something happens during the trip and there’s no hospital nearby, the insurance will organize transportation to a major hospital.
Trip cancellation means that the travel insurance also covers for unexpected interruptions and changes to travel plans – ie when a natural disaster causes flights to be cancelled; or when a variety of reasons means we can’t go on that trip anymore.
Finally, a good travel insurance also has a baggage and property insurance which covers for thefts, loss or damage to luggage and gear while traveling. The most typical example of this is an airline not delivering luggage, or a phone being stolen while on the metro.
Now that we are clear on what travel insurance is and what it should cover, let me clarify the reasons I always get travel insurance.
Nine Reasons I Always Get Travel Insurance
Luggage actually gets lost…
… and although airlines say that they will deliver lost bags the next day, it takes more than that to get them back. That may be one of the most annoying things that can happen when going on holidays, but a good travel insurance provides coverage to replace the lost items.
I know the odds that an airline loses luggage aren’s so high, but trust me: it happens. Indeed, I don’t even know how many times Alitalia lost my bags or those of my family and friends. We almost take it for granted that our luggage will be misplaced – and the only thing we can do to protect ourselves is getting travel insurance.
Many of you may be wondering why I keep flying with the same company since I know that they regularly lose my stuff, and why I don’t pick another carrier. Guess what: that’s easier said than done. I live in Sardinia and my options are limited. If I want to go to get out of Europe, I usually have to fly via Rome Fiumicino and Alitalia is the only airline that takes me there.
The good news is that while there’s not many airlines that fly out of Cagliari, there’s excellent travel insurance policies I can pick from.
Stuff gets stolen
But a good travel insurance will protect against that. As a travel blogger, I almost always carry my precious MacBook everywhere. While not all travelers take their laptops everywhere, most carry at least a smartphone, and many go around with expensive cameras or a tablet. Besides, we all have ATM and credit cards in our wallets.
While I always recommend my readers to keep valuables locked in the room while out exploring, I know that theft can happen and that’s why travel insurance is necessary. For example, sitting down at a café, most of us take the smartphone out of the pocket and place it on the table: someone may walk by and steal it, and it would be gone in a matter of seconds.
And what about the time I was working as a tour leader and took my group to Chichicastenango Market, in Guatemala? I remember warning everyone not to take any valuables inside the market, but sure enough someone did and within a few minutes someone told me that his wallet was taken right out of his pocket. Thankfully he had a good travel insurance that assisted him to replace his documents and stolen credit cards.
Sometimes I forget my prescription medications…
… and I will need a refill. I have asthma. It is nothing major: I keep it well under control swimming, but I am on regular medications too. I should be used to packing my prescriptions, then.
The sad truth, however, is that whenever I pack my bags for a trip (which generally happens a couple of hours before my flight) I forget something – it can be a pajama when I am meant to sleep in a dorm; and even my asthma prescriptions. That’s when my travel insurance comes in handy, as it will help me locate the nearest pharmacy and get a prescription.
I often lose things
Never mind losing a book, a head lamp, or a pair of socks while I am doing laundry. That happens and while it can be annoying (I want to know how a book ends!), it hardly disrupts any travel plans and no travel insurance company will ever cover it.
But losing a passport? That’s a wholly different thing.
And it can happen even to the most experienced travelers. For example, I forgot mine in a shop in Nicaragua moments before getting on a bus to Costa Rica. Luckily, I could trace it back and managed to retrieve it, but it would have been a nightmare had I not been able to do that.
A good travel insurance can also include passport loss coverage and that means helping in the process of getting a new one.
Volcano erupts… (and flights get cancelled)
… and airlines duck out when it happens. Airlines don’t refund tickets when flights are cancelled due to things such as natural disasters, strikes or terrorism attacks, and I only know too well. Thankfully a good travel insurance helps sort things out.
During my first trip to Argentina, back in 2012, first a strike caused the cancellation of one of my flights: I was meant to go from Buenos Aires to Trelew, but the flight landed in Bahia Blanca, about half way, when the pilot came out to announce that due to a strike he couldn’t go forward and passengers would have the option of either returning to Buenos Aires or land there, and make their own way to the final destination. My travel insurance covered the costs of the shuttle that took me to Trelew.
On the same trip (what are the odds of more than one flight being cancelled on the same trip?), a volcano erupted in Chile causing flights cancellation. That meant I had to change my itinerary, and give up on some places (and flights) altogether – because I simply could not make it to the destination in time. My travel insurance refunded me for that too.
If a flight gets cancelled or delayed, it is actually possible to claim compensation for flight delay or cancellation. Various companies help travelers get their money back in case of a cancellation, and even in case of a delay, and it’s much much easier to go through them than dealing directly with the airline, having to spend hours on the phone or emailing back and forth to just obtain what is – quite simply – within your rights as a traveler.
I am clumsy
This means that at times I injure myself. I trip, fall, bang my head – stuff like that. A good travel insurance helps me locate the nearest hospital or doctor, so that I can get medicated.
Sure enough, this is what happened when I traveled to Jordan in March 2017. I was on a 5 days hike from Dana, a lovely historical village, to Petra, the famous archaeological site. But on day 3 of the hike, following my guide, I walked through some bushes and a hard, wooden branch got right into my leg, causing a deep, painful wound.
I was in the middle of nowhere and had no choice but to continue walking, but the first thing I did as soon as I was able to get phone reception was call my travel insurance, which immediately sorted out a doctor’s appointment at the nearest hospital and paid for all the expenses, including the antibiotics I had to take to prevent any infection.
Long term travel means I may get sick on the road
And sometimes seeing a doctor is actually necessary. A good travel insurance will sort out doctors’ appointments, pay for any test the doctor may want to run and also cover the prescriptions.
I mostly travel to developing countries. Travel insurance is a must when going to these places, because not all hospitals are good, and the hygienic conditions are not always ideal. I use all precautions: I try to only eat street food that’s cooked in front of me, for example. But at times this just isn’t enough.
I remember one time in Mexico when I was actually thankful the toilet was right next to the bathtub – you can figure out why. I was so sick, I could not even hold down water, and had to call my travel insurance who managed to find a doctor that could come visit me in my room.
Another time, in Peru, I had a bad sore throat – in fact, it had been lasting for over a month. I eventually decided to seek the advice of my travel insurance, who recommended I get all sorts of tests to see if I had some sort of bacteria and sent me to the international clinic, where the doctors ran all sorts of tests and determined I had a staph infection, for which I needed strong antibiotics.
Some tour companies require travel insurance
I generally prefer traveling independently (and solo), but I occasionally go on a guided tour, sometimes even for a week or so. Most tour operators, and especially adventure ones that take travelers on hikes and other fun activities, actually require people joining their tours to purchase travel insurance, which normally has to include trip cancellation and medical coverage.
And some countries too
But there’s more! Some countries actually deny entry to travelers who don’t show proof of having a travel insurance. One of them is Cuba, and other countries are thinking of implementing this policy too.
Why I Always Recommend Buying Travel Insurance
I can hardly stress the importance of buying travel insurance. It’s helped me, my family and friends a bunch of time. The thing is, life is really unpredictable and for as optimistic as we want to be, we really can’t predict the future.
I always hope that I don’t need to use my travel insurance, but in case I do, I am glad I have it. It is a safeguard against the unexpected, and as a responsible adult I know it is worth having it.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to rely on your travel insurance?
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