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Archive for January, 2008

Why it pays to value your valuables!

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Picture the scene, you get home after the perfect holiday and open your suitcase and unpack.  Only then do you question, “Where did I put the camcorder? I’m sure I packed it alongside the souvenirs or did I?” “Not to worry, I’ll claims against the travel insurance”.  But this is where it can all come unstuck because most insurers put restrictions on items, such as photographic equipment, and lump them under the disarming term, ‘valuables’.  And it doesn’t stop there as this term includes many other articles, some which you would expect to be looked upon as a valuable item, such as jewellery and watches, but can also include such everyday items as spectacles, sunglasses, mobile phones, MP3 players and more.  You name it, and if it is an attractive and fashionable item, then you can bet that, for insurance purposes, it will be grouped into the valuables definition.

It doesn’t stop there because your money, travel documents, passports, credit cards will all also come under the stricter care rules that are applied to ‘valuables’.  So returning to the camcorder, most travel insurance policies will not pay up if it looks like negligence on your part.  For example, valuable items packed into your hold luggage are rarely covered because theft from unattended baggage will invariably be excluded.  If you can prove that the items were with you or locked in your hotel accommodation then insurers will probably pay out but they may ask for further information, such as the circumstances of the loss or theft and a police report or hotel report to back up your story.

Highly valuable items, such as money and jewellery, will always be expected to be locked away in a hotel safe or safety box when not on your person; inside a locked suitcase inside a locked hotel room is rarely good enough for the travel insurance company.

 This is why it pays to look at the small print of your policy before you travel, if only as a last minute reminder about the extra care needed to look after your valuable items.  No-one wants to lose these items in the first place but it is doubly painful to find that they are not covered when you come to claim because simple safety precautions were not followed.  A final point to remember is that if your travel insurance does not cover it, then some household insurance policies cover ‘all risks.’   This means that personal belongings could still be covered but travel insurance providers will still apply the golden rule that the articles must be properly cared for whilst on holiday.

A riotous holiday may not always be in your best interests

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Riots, civil unrest, civil war maybe!  The New Year headlines are full of commotion in Pakistan and Kenya and even the odd national strike nearer to home.  All are reminders of what can happen unexpectedly on holiday.  What can start as a normal holiday break can quickly deteriorate leaving holidaymakers isolated, often helpless and in some cases endangered through no fault of their own.

The term ‘far away places’ normally conjures up visions of palm tree beaches in sultry exotic locations but the true fact is that cheap long haul air travel has opened up the globe as never before.  Whilst this is good news for all holiday makers, at the same time it comes with an increasing risk of being mixed up in local strife and disturbances. Whilst the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be giving out important travel advice and, in extremis, will have contingency plans in place to extract British nationals should it ever be deemed necessary, as occurred in 2006 in the Lebanon, most of us will have to rely on tour operators and local representatives to look after us when on holiday.

This is where a good travel insurance policy comes into play because when it all starts to go wrong on holiday, you need to have something to fall back on to get you out of trouble.  But please be aware that most travel insurance providers will have general exclusion clauses when it comes to civil unrest, disturbances, terrorist acts and war so it does pay to check your policy wording. Generally, medical expenses and medical repatriation will be included within your travel insurance policy but if you want to be covered for all eventualities then you will have to pay an increased premium for this.  Thankfully the chances of being caught up in these types of incidents are still very slight, and even when they do strike, they tend to be away from the main tourist destinations.

A little preparation before you depart in noting down the latest advice from the FCO or tour operator is always a wise precaution and, in the event of being caught up, it is still possible to keep abreast of developments when at your holiday destination if you have access to the internet or television and most holiday resorts should have this.  Tour operators should also be providing their own advice as will the FCO through its website www.fco.gov.uk.   But as the title suggests, whilst you might have a riotous holiday and come back safe and sound, never underestimate that it’s the riot in riotous that can easily catch you out and that’s when it’s time to sit up and take note of what is happening around you.

Pre-existing medical condition – Declare or not?

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Most people taking out a new travel insurance policy are confused by the term pre-existing medical condition and it is an area that the insurance industry is currently trying to address and simplify.  After all, medical conditions tend to be technically expressed, not always explained well and, if cured or controlled, often forgotten about over time.

So why do insurers make such a song and dance about it?  Well put simply, insurers argue that the medical cover provided by a travel insurance policy is there for emergency cover and is not a substitute for private medical insurance.  There are specialist products on the market for private health care and all that travel insurance is covering for is the unforeseen medical emergency that might occur whilst on holiday and provide for hospital care in country and repatriation if required.

Once back in the UK, patients can then use the NHS or individual private health care plan they may have in place.  This allows travel insurance policies to have lower premiums than their private medical insurance equivalent though these premiums do vary considerably by area visited and the much higher medical costs in the USA will see North American destinations more costly than elsewhere.

What travel insurance medical cover does have in its favour though is the wide network of specialist medical assistance companies to call in when an emergency does occur. The big question will always be “will I be covered if I have a medical history and what does that mean exactly?”  All policies have similar interpretations but you should read the medical section of a policy before taking out that travel insurance.

A medical history of heart, kidney, respiratory conditions or cancer should be always declared and this may very well be expanded to the medical history of close family members and travelling companions.  The reason for this is to allow the insurance company to see what the potential risk is of you cancelling or curtailing your trip or falling ill whilst abroad.  An insurance provider may well decline you insurance at this point or may offer to cover you for an additional premium or may even insure you but void any subsequent claims if related to the declared condition.  Certainly you will not be covered if you travel against the medical advice of your doctor and there will be strict rules on when you can travel if pregnant.  So do you need to declare?  Yes, you do though not all declarations will result in a higher premium but provided you have done so and the insurer has provided you cover, then it will greatly simplify the process if you ever have to make a claim.