I keep hearing about travel insurance but have never bought one. I was not even sure if I need to buy Travel Insurance for short trips. I know that for certain countries you need to buy travel insurance to get a Visa but then there are quite a few nations where travel insurance is not mandatory for the visa process. As an ardent traveller I was therefore left with an unanswered question – Does one really need to buy travel insurance, especially while travelling to countries where is not necessary? So when I got an opportunity to talk to an insurance expert Dr Nirmala P.A. National Manager – Health Underwriting (Bharti AXA General Insurance that has just launched its SmartTraveller insurance product for individuals, families, students and frequent travellers) I bombarded her with questions that she kindly and very patiently answered. Here is the summary of my Interview with her.
Why Travel Insurance?
While there are several reasons for travel insurance, the primary ones are
1) Huge magnitude of expenses in case of medical emergency abroad: Even the most meticulous travellers cannot rule out a medical emergency abroad. In case of an injury that requires hospitalization (A bad fall or slip that leads to multiple fractures or a deep cut that needs stitches or a heart attack for a middle aged traveller), a single day of hospitalization in a US hospital will cost you anywhere between 2 to 3 lakh rupees a day. So you can only imagine what the bill is if someone needs to spend over a week. If you throw in surgery that is necessary in case of some life threatening conditions (e.g. heart attack, multiple fractures etc.) the bill can spiral to as much as a crore. What’s worse is that if you do not have the necessary funds, denying or delaying treatment could cause permanent damage. Even less severe medical emergencies cost a lot. A dental emergency could cost you an upwards of Rs 80,000 not just in the US but also in a country like Singapore. If an insured has to be brought back to India for continuation of the treatment travel insurance also assists in evacuation back to home country.
2) Assistance and support for nearly all kind of travel emergencies: Apart from medical emergencies there are a host of other issues a traveller may face. This could include being stranded at an international metropolis on account of bad weather and shelling out a lot to manage food and stay. It could also be arranging for emergency funds on account of having lost one’s baggage. Bharti AXA GI SmartTravel insurance offers support and assistance for nearly all kind of travel emergencies over and above medical emergency assistance.
* Financial Emergency Assistance – Arrangement for emergency cash to be made available to the Insured in case of loss of travel funds due to theft, mugging, robbery and dacoity.
** Personal Liability – compensation of liability towards damages paid / payable to a third party resulting from death, injury or damages to health or property caused involuntarily by the insured.
*** Compassionate Visit – Reimbursement of round trip and stay expenses of the immediate family member to visit the Insured if he/she is hospitalized for more than seven consecutive days. Reimbursement of return fare of the Insured to visit the native place in case of the immediate family member ( spouse, dependent children or parents) being hospitalized for more than seven consecutive days in India or in the event of death.
**** Bail Bond – Provides for payment of Bail amount on behalf of the Insured if he/she is arrested or detained by Police or Judicial Authorities, for any bailable offense whilst on the trip abroad.
3) Travel insurance is economical: Not only is travel insurance quite extensive and reliable but also very economical. It costs just 1% of your entire trip expense. For example Bharti AXA GI’s SmartTraveller offers travel insurance for a 2 week trip to USA for a family of 4 in the range of INR 1800-2200 with a cover of up to half a million dollars. A week’s trip to Europe with a 100,000 Euro cover for a person aged 40 years or less costs just INR 606. A week’s trip with a $50,000 cover to Singapore for a person aged 40 years or less costs just INR 349. Travel insurance for domestic travel is yet to gain ground in India. In either case you must buy travel insurance before your travel. To buy it mid-way through your travels, you would need to buy it from a local provider, which usually works out to be far more costly than buying it from India. Cost of travel insurance depends upon the destination and the duration of travel. World travel that covers the whole earth obviously is the costliest. Some countries like USA and Canada come at a premium as the medical costs are higher there.
4) Online purchase of Travel insurance is convenient, quick and simple: Travel insurance can be bought in a matter of minutes and even on the day of one’s departure. Also comparing of travel insurance to select one suitable for a traveller’s needs is equally easy with a host of online tools.
Even though travel insurance is mandatory for certain nations like Schengen countries and isn’t mandatory for many I strongly recommend buying travel insurance irrespective of your travel destination since a traveller can face any of the discussed emergencies anywhere across the globe.
How do you choose the right Travel Insurance product?
Some of things that you should keep in mind while choosing a travel insurance product include:
- Look at the cover, especially the medical cover, that you need. You can insure yourself for anywhere between 50,000 – 500,000 USD. Consider your age, medical condition and other risks to decide what coverage would be enough for you.
- Look at a insurance provider who has a good network, so that help is available easily in your destination. For example Bharti AXA insurance comes with a wide network of AXA Assistance and has call centers in almost 200 countries that can help you locally for all your needs. Look at the network presence of your insurance provider in the destination you are headed to.
- Match your travel needs with the travel insurance products. If you are a frequent traveler pick up a product that covers multiple travels. If you travel with your family, pick up a product that offers a family pack. If you are travelling to riskier locations with say costly equipment, you may want to get a higher coverage on your baggage.
What do I need to do to buy Travel Insurance?
All you need to do is go online or go to an insurance agent near you and give the details of your travel. Typically you would need to provide your travel dates, your travel tickets and your passport details to buy travel insurance, usually as part of a form.
It is as easy to buy travel insurance as it is to buy a travel ticket these days. For example check this link on Bharti AXA site to buy a SmartTraveller insurance.
Countries where you must buy Travel Insurance to travel
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
How do I claim Travel Insurance while Travelling?
For different types of claims the processes are different. I will take two examples to explain this.
In case of medical emergency, you need to call the toll free number provided by the insurance company immediately so that can you can receive help with hospital coordination. They can guide you with the cashless process or the reimbursement process depending on the travel insurance product you have picked up.
In case of a loss of baggage you need to file a complaint with the airlines, while in case of loss of passport you need to file an FIR with the local police station within 24 hours of loss and share that with the insurance company.
It is very important that you keep you insurance details handy. Since there is always a possibility of losing the document, keep a copy safe either with your luggage or in your e-mail box or with a family member back home. In nutshell, in case of emergency you should be able to retrieve the insurance details so that the insurance company can help you.
What is Bharti AXA SmartTraveller ?
SmartTraveller is a special travel insurance product for Individuals, Families and frequent travellers through a variant – known as Annual Multi Trip International travel insurance plan. These cover geographies including U.S.A & Canada, Schengen (enlistment underway); Asia excluding Japan and Worldwide including Japan. The product is also meant for Students in the age group of 16 to 40 years, covering U.S.A and Canada and rest of the world.
Every time you travel, you have to buy a new insurance policy. This means one more step added to their travel list that needs to be repeated with every travel. With SmartTraveller, you can buy an annual insurance instead of buying one for every trip or you can buy single policy for the family travelling together rather than buying one for each travelling member.
Thank you Dr Nirmala for helping dispel some myths about travel insurance. I will make sure I buy travel insurance for all my overseas trips henceforth.