Travel insurance can cover everything, “from missed connections, loss or damage of sports equipment, injuries sustained in adventure activities, pre-existing medical conditions and even crime and terrorist attack,” explains Colman.
Even if one has a medical aid or a hospital plan in South Africa, when travelling abroad, including to neighbouring countries, additional basic medical travel insurance is essential.
“In many African countries quality medical services are private, charged in US dollars and require either upfront payment – or recognised proof of cover or ability to pay,” says Colman.
Something as simple as dental cover, for example, is also often overlooked. People regularly experience lose fillings, lost caps or teeth, or toothache while traveling abroad, “only discovering that these are not covered by their medical cover when it’s too late,” warns Colman. It is important to investigate whether dental cover while travelling is included in your medical insurance – or purchase the additional cover accordingly if it isn’t available. This is especially so as quality dental cover in many countries is either very hard to come by, or, again, requires upfront payment in foreign currency.
Travel cover, especially when travelling abroad, generally comes with travel and medical assistance. Most international travel insurance products, for example, provide 24/7 emergency numbers backed by qualified support teams. These teams are able to guide policy holders to the expertise and appropriate emergency facilities in the event of an incident. Travellers can also get pre-trip medical advice on vaccinations required for specific destinations, as well as where to access this medication ahead of travelling.
Travellers should also be aware of the specific risks posed by the adventure activities and excursions that they plan to undertake on trips. For example, if you are an amateur at hiking up the Andes or skiing – you could get seriously injured if you’re not fit, healthy or trained enough to participate.
“Be sure to understand that taking part in activities that you don’t do on a daily basis comes with risk – and then take the appropriate measures to manage the risks associated with these kinds of unusual activities,” advises Colman. And if you are taking part in sports or adventure activities, “be sure to check that the cover you have purchased does not exclude these. Match your cover to your risk,” advises Colman.
It is also important to check that travel cover includes the costs of being returned to South Africa to continue your treatment, especially should you need to be medically evacuated back home. “Travel insurance should also cover you if you are not medically fit to fly back home and are in serious need of a relative or friend to fly out to assist you” says Colman. In a worst-case scenario travel cover should also include, “repatriating your mortal remains,” she adds.
Most insurers SMS or WhatsApp travel policy numbers and policy documentation to clients’ mobile phones, along with the contacts of the local South African embassy and other support details in the destination country. It is critical that the policy numbers and details and emergency contact numbers are kept on client’s phones while travelling, alternatively keeping printed copies of your paperwork is also advised. “Medical establishments and other services will require all these details on admittance or ahead of providing services in foreign countries,” warns Colman.
It is equally important to purchase travel insurance for the ‘small things,’ which are not actually that small when they go missing. Lost passports, stolen money or credit cards, luggage, ski or golf equipment, cameras, phones and prescription glasses or lost even sunglasses, “can potentially inconvenience or ground a traveller,” cautions Colman.
The real value of travel insurance, however, lies not so much in getting the cheapest cover, “but in targeting your travel cover to the specific risks that you will encounter on each trip,” says Colman. A skiing trip to Austria, for example, represents different risks compared with a beach holiday in India. Advising on the risks specific to each destination and activity is where insurers excel.
Consumers should do themselves the favour of talking to established insurers, “working out, together, exactly, which covers they should purchase to give them sufficient peace of mind wherever they are travelling to this holiday season,” concludes Colman.