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Travelling overseas?  Make it hassle-free

Travelling overseas? Make it hassle-free

22 May 2017 | 12:54 AM

For summer vacation, a young Indian couple, Rahul and Seema, were travelling to Malaysia along with their kids, Karan and Meera, for 15 days.

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Anand Roy

For summer vacation, a young Indian couple, Rahul and Seema, were travelling to Malaysia along with their kids, Karan and Meera, for 15 days. After a week-long stay in Malaysia, the family was set to drive to Kuala Lumpur. In transit, Meera, a chirpy little kid suddenly had symptoms of appendicitis and required immediate medical attention.

Her parents rushed her to the nearest hospital, where Meera underwent a surgery. While the process was on, the nurse inquired whether they were carrying insurance papers. Unfortunately, the family had decided not to buy a travel insurance policy to save a few thousand rupees. When it came to paying the hospital fee, Rahul realised that they were short of cash and the credit card had its own limit.

Finally, they had to call their family members to settle the payment.

The family incurred an expense of around Rs 4 lakh, which could have been saved if they had bought a travel insurance policy.

While I have my sympathies for the family, I can’t help but recall the old saying: Penny-wise, Pound-foolish!

Summertime calls for a relaxed vacation and we indulge in travelling to exotic places abroad. While we carefully plan the itinerary and budget the expense, we forget to account for overseas travel insurance. The all-purpose emergency coverage is paramount and must be our priority while planning a trip to mitigate any hazards. Availing travel insurance is a simple and safe process. A travel policy covers you in case of unforeseen circumstances such as medical emergencies, flight delays and baggage losses.

Just as we wouldn’t buy a car without car insurance or a home without home insurance, we shouldn’t go on a trip without travel insurance. As you can see from the above illustration, a travel policy helps us to minimise financial risks and avoid mental stress in a foreign land, where help may not be easily forthcoming.

Most general and health insurance companies in India offer overseas travel insurance. A comprehensive international policy offers multiple potentially lucrative benefits (see box). You can also opt for a specific policy that fits the purpose and duration of your trip, age and travel status (single or in a group). Based on these factors, you can choose family, corporate, senior citizen, student, single-trip or multi-trip travel insurance. Each of these comes with distinct features catering to all age groups, from a six-month-old infant to a 70-year-old person. Hospitalisation and medical expenses are covered in most policies, though in varying degrees.

A travel insurance policy should ideally cover 5-8% of your entire travel cost. However, it would be prudent to buy more cover if you are travelling to high-risk countries or to places with high living standards. Similarly, the extent of cover would also depend on whether your overseas trip is for sightseeing or business. Extreme or adventure sports, a relatively new category, would require a special or add-on policy at much higher premiums. This plan comes to your rescue if you meet with an accident while skiing in the Alps or mountain-climbing in Peru. Insurance will offset the steep cost of transportation to the hospital by helicopter and the ensuing treatment.

While travel insurance is not compulsory in all countries, it is mandatory for tourists visiting the Schengen Area — the 26 European countries that have done away with passports and border controls for their citizens. You need insurance if you are above 60 and travelling to the US, Canada or Australia. It is also advisable to have adequate insurance coverage if you are visiting the UK, where certain healthcare costs are prohibitive. With the rise in accidents and illnesses, many countries are making travel insurance compulsory.

Overseas travel insurance can be purchased for a day or anywhere up to six months, though 30, 45 or 60 days is the norm per trip. A single-trip policy is ideal for a one-off holiday or business tour, while a multi-trip plan of one-year duration is perfect for frequent travellers. Both policies are flexible, cost-effective and allow you to travel in peace. But, remember, most policies do not cover everything such as pre-existing conditions, including HIV or AIDS and mental disorders, criminal acts, missed connecting flights, and emergency situations arising out of terrorism or suicide. Read your policy carefully and make sure it covers your specific requirements.

In most cases, a policy can be extended by another six months.

However, insurers may refuse an extension if a claim has been filed during the original tenure of the policy. So, whether you are going to laze around on Bondi Beach in Australia or brainstorm in a New York high-rise, it is recommended that you buy sufficient cover the first time, to avoid the hassle of topping up your plan later.

Bottom line: Buying overseas travel insurance will save you exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses and, more importantly, solve your cash or credit card limit problems. It’s a small price to pay for a memorable and hassle-free holiday or business trip.

The writer is Head — Sales & Marketing, Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd. The views expressed in this article are his own

Benefits of travel insurance

  • Emergency medical expenses during travel or stay abroad
  • Emergency medical transportation to India
  • Repatriation of mortal remains
  • Dental expenses following an accident
  • Compensation following accidental injuries
  • Cost of loss of traveller’s checked-in baggage
  • Reasonable expenses incurred for obtaining a new passport
  • Expenses on emergency purchase of consumables due to delays in handing over passenger’s checked-in baggage by the carrier for more than 12 hours
  • Flight delays
  • Travel and accommodation expenses incurred due to missed departure
  • Hijack distress allowance
  • Any travel expenses incurred in sending a substitute employee following the covered sickness/accidental injuries of the insured employee
  • Any legal liability that may fasten upon the traveller, if he/she causes any bodily harm or property damage to any third party while on an insured trip
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