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CONSUMER - The A - Z of Travel Insurance

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Tina Leonard, Consumer Expert:
Travel insurance is worth buying when going on any trip, short or long. It doesn't have to cost a lot but does give you peace of mind.

Types of policies:
. Single trip insurance (short or long trips)
. Multi-trip (or annual) policies
. 65+ travel insurance,
. Backpacker travel insurance
. Business travel insurance

If you plan to take more than two trips per year, it may be better value to buy annual holiday insurance (a multi-trip policy) rather than separate single trip policies. If you have a health insurance policy, you may be able to get discounted travel insurance, from your health insurance provider. Do check this if you have private health cover as you may already be covered for illness and injury, and there is no point in buying double cover.

Who can you buy from?
You can buy travel insurance from insurance providers, insurance brokers, banks and travel agents. You may also have some cover under a private health insurance policy or credit card. Travel agents and tour operators generally sell travel insurance as part of a package and usually insist on you having a certain level of protection. You do not have to buy their policy though so shop around. Be aware that the travel agent may charge a small fee for checking your policy.

What you are covered for?
Travel insurance may cover you for some costs if you suffer loss, damage or delay of luggage, cancelled flights, delayed or missed departure, curtailments of your trip, loss or theft of money or passport and illness or injury. It will also cover you for medical expenses and personal injury or accident, hospital cover. Every policy will cover you up to different amounts so check the policy to find out the level of cover. However, be aware that most policies will NOT cover you for drug or alcohol related injuries. You can also buy add-ons such as wedding cover, if you are getting married abroad and will have lots of expensive items with you and because the bookings you have made are extra crucial.

Some things to look out for
While you will be covered for basic activities on a standard policy you will need extra cover for winter sports or extreme sports and also for golf equipment for example, so make sure you get it. General travel insurance will usually not cover you for sporting competitions either. However most policies will cover you for general activities such as horse riding or banana boating. To be sure check the terms of the policy before you buy.

If you need to cancel a trip or come home early due to an illness you have or that of a family member, your policy might not cover you unless you disclosed the existence of this illness before purchasing the policy, and they accept this. This may cost you more but will mean avoiding disappointment later.

If you are worried about losing your job but have booked and paid for a holiday, check that your travel insurance covers cancellation due to job loss, as sometimes cancellation is only covered by the reasons set out in the policy. Also remember to check the level of cover for cancellation; there is no point in having cancellation cover of €1,500 if the holiday cost €3,000.

All policies charge an excess before you can claim, which could be €70 or €100 so find out what this is. Some policies allow you to buy an 'excess waiver', for around €8/€10 which means you won't have to pay the excess charge if making a claim.
Remember that you usually have to report losses or theft quickly to the local police or the airline lost-luggage department. Check if you have to inform the insurer immediately. If so, keep the relevant contact numbers with you. Be aware that some insurers will not cover you for loss or theft of belongings if you have been negligent, so do be careful with your things.

You may also have some cover if you book your trip on your credit card. Check the terms and conditions of your credit card account.

If booking flights directly with an Irish airline (Aer Arann, Aer Lingus or Ryanair), you will be asked if you want to purchase travel insurance. Read the terms and conditions carefully first to see what the cover is. Beware the Aer Lingus site where you have to opt-out of travel insurance by clicking a box. This actually breaches a European Regulation.

Don't forget to also have a valid EHIC card with you when travelling in Europe. This is the European Health Insurance Card and will provide you with access to the public health system of the country you are visiting. You can get it free from your local Health Services Executive office or online at

Making a claim
The terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy will give you details of who to contact if you need to make a claim. Many policies also require you to contact the company's medical assistance / emergency assist line as soon as possible after the event, in order for your claim to be accepted. Make sure you keep all documents and receipts that support your claim. You should send in your claim as soon as you can, as there may be a time limit for making claims.

If you have an unresolved complaint against the insurance company go to the Financial Services Ombudsman

Cost examples* - There will be two graphics to illustrate the cost comparison.

It is important to compare and consider not only the cost of different policies but also the protection each offers. You should read all the terms and conditions carefully and ask questions on anything you are unclear on.

Single trip - 1 week in Europe - 2 adults & 2 children €37.50 €32.85 €62.02

Multi annual - 2 adults & 2 children €60 €119 €109

*No discounts applied such as private health cover.
*Amount of cover within policies vary