Find travel insurance that covers luggage damage or loss. (Credit: Getty Images)
Leslie will never forget the first time she and her husband travelled to Japan with their toddler. When the 3-year-old boy suddenly caught a fever, they had to take him to an emergency room. Fortunately, he was discharged a few hours later. The medical treatment they received was fully covered. Every time Leslie recalls this experience, she ends her story with this advice, "Get travel insurance."
According to a travel trend report by Mastercard Economics Institute, business flight bookings have exceeded 2019 levels.
In fact, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported an estimated 117 million international arrivals in January-March 2022 (in comparison, the first quarter of 2021 saw 41 million). UNWTO data indicates that Asia and the Pacific recorded a 64 per cent increase in tourist arrivals compared to 2021.
What does travel insurance cover?
If you are vaccinated and already planning your "revenge" trips, having travel insurance makes sense now more than ever. Not only does it provide protection while you travel, but it's also mandatory, as of June 2022, for visitors to Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and the Schengen Area comprising 26 European countries. However, as COVID-19 Alert Levels are constantly changing, always check with the embassy of your destination to see if it requires proof of travel insurance to process visa applications.
Trip insurance that includes COVID-19 coverage should be your top priority. Additionally, make sure to read the fine print to know precisely what coverage each policy provides.
Basic travel insurance covers what you have paid for the trip and includes provisions for baggage loss, travel delays and flight cancellations. Many airlines will offer this as an add-on when purchasing plane tickets online. Some travel insurance policies also provide a refund if you can't travel because you got sick or tested positive for COVID-19.
Check if your insurance provider has a global network of doctors and hospitals, especially in your destination country. (Credit: Getty Images)
How to choose the right plan for you
More comprehensive travel insurance plans include different benefits for medical care, personal accident coverage and death as well as emergency evacuation and repatriation coverage. Ask AIA about its available travel insurance policy that can cover your medical expenses if you fall ill or get injured during your trip.
Always check if your policy covers emergency evacuation – especially if you're travelling to a remote area. You may find yourself in situations where you cannot get the required medical treatment at your specific location and therefore need to be transferred to another city or country.
Some travel insurers cover COVID-19 and include other benefits like quarantine, travel cancellation and automatic extension of coverage due to the virus. However, not all insurers will cover COVID-related claims made by unvaccinated travellers. If you do get sick or injured on your vacation and need follow-up treatment once you return home, some policies will continue to reimburse medical expenses incurred for a limited period.
Don't wait until the last minute to buy travel insurance. (Credit: iStock)
When do you buy travel insurance
The sooner you buy your travel insurance, the better – although it is possible to get travel insurance at the last minute or even after you've arrived at your destination.
Check what your travel insurance doesn't cover before purchasing. This includes what the policy considers as pre-existing conditions. If needed, ask your insurance company what is available as a rider or add-on. Here are the typical exclusions:
- Pregnancy-related events
- Cosmetic or elective surgery
- Dental care
- Injuries caused by alcohol or drug use
- Natural disasters
- Injuries from extreme sports (mountain climbing, hunting trips, skydiving, ocean yachting)
A policy with multi-trip coverage may be more economical if you are a frequent traveller who takes more than two overseas trips a year. Upon finalising your travel plan, check the travel entry requirements. You can monitor it regularly until a few days before your flight to avoid unexpected changes.
Before purchasing insurance, check the insurance provider's reputation and customer service. (Credit: Getty Images)
What to look for in a travel insurance provider
Before purchasing a policy, do a background check on the insurance provider's reputation and customer service. Credible travel insurers will have this information for you.
24-hour hotline assistance
In an emergency, you must get hold of help immediately, which is not a simple task when you are in a foreign country. Think twice about purchasing a policy from an insurance provider with no international 24-hour hotline assistance.
Directory of hospitals or health centres
After her son's medical emergency abroad, Leslie now asks her insurance provider for the names, phone numbers and addresses of medical or health centres at her destination. It's prudent to download this information so it is readily available on your smartphone if you have no connection or Wi-Fi access. You may also want to pin the relevant locations on Google Maps.
License to operate in your country
The insurance provider must be licensed where you live. This will allow you to have legal recourse if a problem arises, like when your claim is denied.
Sample policy certificate
A good insurance provider will provide a sample policy certificate before any purchase. Take advantage of the opportunity to review if your policy covers COVID-19 and other specific things you want coverage for.
Will you be able to file a claim if you get into a road accident while driving? Will your insurance provider pay the hospital directly or do you need to pay the medical costs first and then reimburse them later? What is the time limit when filing claims? These are just some of the questions to ask yourself when sense-checking a sample policy certificate.
Travel insurance vs health insurance
Can you use your existing policy, like health insurance, for your vacation abroad? The answer is no – unless, of course, your policy explicitly says it covers overseas travel. Ask your provider if your policy has an option to add something like accident protection insurance that comes with worldwide coverage.
One last tip: don't be shy about asking your insurance provider or broker about any coverage limitations or exclusions. The last thing you want to worry about during your vacation is travel insurance. Getting all of this sorted ahead will bring you the peace of mind you deserve while on holiday.
International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. 2016. Guide to Travel Health Insurance. [online] [Accessed on 10 June 2022]
National Association of Insurance Commissioners. 2021. Travel Insurance. [online] [Accessed on 10 June 2022]
Insurance Information Institute. Should you buy travel insurance? [online] [Accessed on 10 June 2022]
World Health Organization. 2020. Health risks when travelling. [online] [Accessed on 10 June 2022]
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. Travel Recommendations by Destination. [online] [Accessed on 10 June 2022]
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Getting Health Care During Travel. [online] [Accessed 10 June 2022]
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. 2018. Your Health Abroad. [online] [Accessed on 10 June 2022]
Mastercard Economics Institute. 2022. Travel 2022: Trends & Transitions. [online] [Accessed on 10 June 2022]
World Tourism Organization. 2022. Tourism Recovery Gains momentum as restrictions ease and confidence returns. [online] [Accessed on 30 June 2022]