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Archive for November, 2008

Latest travel advice to India

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

The Foreign Office has issued advice against all but essential travel to Mumbai until further notice.  “If you are currently in Mumbai, advice  is to stay indoors and monitor the media.  If you are in Mumbai and need immediate assistance please call (0091) 11 2419 2288.  If you are in the UK and are concerned about friends or family in India please call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 0000.  We understand that some flights to and from Mumbai have been disrupted.  You are advised to contact your travel agent for information. There have been a series of blasts in a number of sites around Mumbai.  Some of these have been in or close to five star hotels in the southern part of the city.  Reports suggest as many as 80 dead and up to 250 injured people.  We advise all British nationals in the city to stay indoors until local authorities advise that it is safe to go outside.We advise against all travel to, or through rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir other than Ladakh; all travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan (Northern and Western India), other than at the international border crossing at Wagah; and all travel in Manipur and Tripura (East and North East India). We advise against all but essential travel to Srinagar (Northern India) and Imphal (East and North East India). If you do travel to these areas then you should only do so by air. See the specific Local Travel section of this advice for more details. There is a high threat of terrorism throughout India.  Attacks have targeted public places, including places of worship and major festivals such as Diwali.  They have also targeted places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers, most recently in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.” This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Travel chaos in Thailand as Bangkok airport closes

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

British tourists in Thailand have been caught up in violent protests at Bangkok airport.  The Foreign Office has reported that access to the airport is limited and advises people to check with their airline or tour operator before they travel and warns of “the possibility of further violence”. The civil commotion erupted after anti-Government protesters forced Bangkok airport to cancel all flights. The protest is being organised by the People’s Alliance for Democracy, which wants to topple prime minister Somchai Wongsawat. They have said the airport would be shut down until he left office. The leader of a pro-government group in Thailand has urged supporters to march in Bangkok, raising the prospect of street clashes with anti-government protesters. An estimated 3,000 people at Bangkok airport have been stranded by the demonstration, which has led to shooting and bomb explosions with anti-government protesters, some masked and armed with metal rods, swarming into the airport overnight, forcing authorities to cancel all flights from the airport. Incoming flights have been diverted to other airports in the region. Thailand’s finance minister has said the protests could have a damaging effect on the economy, which depends on tourism as a key sector and is already vulnerable to global financial turmoil.

Should you become caught up in what is neatly termed, civil commotion or civil unrest, you need to be aware that most travel insurance providers include this as a general exclusion in their policies. The impact of this is that you may not be as well insured as you think you are. If in doubt, do check with your travel insurance company before you travel and look at your policy wording. Generally, medical expenses and medical repatriation will be included 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. So if you do plan to visit any of the Thailand, do check with your tour operator beforehand who may be able to offer alternative destinations away from the troubled areas. For the independent traveller, be wise and avoid those areas where a heightened tension exists.  This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in Ethical Travel Insurance.

Budget rise for Air Passenger Duty

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Chancellor Alistair Darling  pre-budget report to beat the credit crunch may have given away some money over the next twelve months but the ‘sting in the tail’ will be the increased taxes we pay in the longer term. Nor will travel costs will not be exempt, with the Chancellor announcing two new bands of Air Passenger Duty (APD) and an increase in charges. The changes will add £15 in tax to a flight to Australia from November 2009 and £45 from November 2010. Air Passenger Duty is currently levied at £10 on economy flights within Europe and £40 beyond, with premium seats taxed at double those rates. New charges will be levied across four bands from November 2009 – band A covering Europe, band B extending 4,000 miles to destinations such as Egypt, Bahrain, the Gambia and the US, band C taking in the Caribbean and band D for Australia and New Zealand. The Band A standard rate of APD will rise just £1 to £11 next November, but the Band B rate will rise £5 to £45, flights in Band C will carry £50 APD and Band D flights will carry £55 tax. Seats in premium cabins will be taxed at double these rates. APD will rise further in November 2010 – to £12 in Band A, £60 in Band B, £75 in Band C and £85 in Band D. Tour operator’s have described the rates from 2010 as significant. APD is a contentious area for many passengers because airlines are reluctant to pay back APD to customers who cancel flights.  By rights customers should have the APD portion of their flight tickets refunded if they don’t fly but airlines are now charging an ‘administration’ fee for the processing of a refund and ‘funny old thing’, this fee generally equates to the value of the APD refund.  This makes most customers not bother to pursue a refund which effectively increases the profit margins of airlines as APD is only paid to the government based on passengers flown.  It really is a ‘no win’ situation for consumers as travel insurance providers generally exclude APD from any cancellation settlement claiming that it is the responsibility of the airline to refund this element of holiday cost. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

French strikes cause travel delays

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Is this the beginning of a ‘winter of our discontent’ but this time across the channel?  The 4 day walk out by Air France pilots resulting in hundreds of international and domestic flights being cancelled over the weekend may be a foretaste of more travel disruption in the run up to Christmas. For instance, British holidaymakers heading to France this week now face further disruption as transport and public sector workers protest against labour reforms proposed by President Nicolas Sarkozy. The disruption has spread to the railways with train drivers from two separate unions planning to walk out in protest at the possible alteration of working hours. A second strike by drivers represented by four more rail unions will begin on the evening of November 23. Disruption is likely to be widespread across France’s domestic services. A previous 24-hour strike by national rail service SNCF on November 6 led to the cancellation of half of all scheduled regional trains and a third of all high-speed TGV trains. Although, Eurostar has said that its services were still expected to run as normal, those planning on onward journeys using French public transport should be prepared for delays and disruption.. Travellers to France are advised to check with their travel provider before setting off for the latest news and to check that their travel insurance policies provide adequate cover for missed departure, travel delay and abandonment.  This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Travel cover concerns

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Two thirds of British holidaymakers have admitted that they will now be spending less on their holidays due to the credit crunch. This has prompted the Foreign Office to voice concerns that people will opt out of getting comprehensive travel insurance, adding potential financial ruin to the trauma of experiencing a serious problem abroad . Currently, one in four Britons go on holiday without insurance and risk having to spend thousands in repatriation costs raising concerns that this figure will rise. As one travel industry observer has noted, “it’s a false economy to do without travel insurance and it should be regarded as a holiday essential. It’s just as important as packing your passport.” Travel insurance premiums vary greatly, as does the cover provided but, relative to the overall holiday costs, it really is a small amount to pay for the ‘peace of mind’ it gives.  But do beware falling into the trap that seeking out the cheapest insurance deal is ok for all situations.  The old adage that ‘you get what you pay for’ can also apply to low end insurance policies. You do need to check that what is being offered will provide you with the cover you need. When looking for cheap travel insurance, there are some simple rules to apply. Do your homework. Firstly, know what you want. Are you looking for a policy to cover you for just one trip or if you are going to travel more than once, then why not consider an annual multi-trip travel insurance policy instead? That could save you money over the year. Then read the policy schedule. Most internet sites are good at giving an instant quote – that is what they are designed to do but fewer provide easily accessible information to indicate what the policy covers. At the very least, you should look at the policy schedule. This is the table that shows the level of cover against various risks. Choose a policy that satisfies your needs. The areas that cost the most in a travel insurance policy tend to be cancellation, personal effects and medical cover. If you are booking long in advance, then cancellation cover is a must (normally around the £3000 figure is sufficient) as this safeguards you if you have to cancel because of, say, a close family illness or being called for jury service, to name but two examples. If however, you are taking a last minute holiday, then perhaps cancellation cover is not as necessary so you could reduce your premium considerably by choosing a policy with limited or no cancellation. Likewise, reducing your baggage cover can see your premiums nose dive. When it comes to medical cover, the FCO recommends a level of £2 million as being more than adequate, so perhaps you don’t need to buy the policy that offers £10 million. Next check the small print. Very few of us take the time to read the small print but the ‘devil is in the detail’ for sure. Ask yourself some key questions. Is where I want to travel covered by the policy, for example, is Egypt in Europe or Rest of the World as definitions do differ from company to company? Am I covered if caught up in a terrorist incident? Do I need to produce a police report if I have money or personal effects stolen? What about hazardous activities? Am I covered to bungee jump on my trip for instance? Make a list of simple questions relating to your trip and then check the policy. So is there such a thing as cheap travel insurance? Most definitely there is but the simple rule of thumb is that the cheaper the policy, the more restrictive it is likely to be. But you can help yourself by knowing what to look out for and wherever possible tailoring your insurance to your exact needs and that way make your travel insurance cheaper.  This article is brought to you by travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Air France travel chaos

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Hundred of  of Air France flights will be cut this weekend as pilots began a four-day walk out late last night in protest at proposals to raise the age of retirement age for French pilots from 60 to 65 years. The strike is expected to end on Monday night. The airline has guaranteed compensation to any customers affected by the disruption and passengers affected by the strike should contact Air France on +33 1 5702 1055 or visit www.airfrance.com for the latest flight information. Passengers will face long delays as Air France has announced the cancellation of around half of all its medium-haul and long-haul flights. Around a fifth of services at partner airlines Brit Air, CMM, CityJet and Airlinair will also be out of operation.

It is now a regular feature in our every day lives that staff with a grievance will target weekend travel and the busy holiday periods to put pressure on their employers. Whether this industrial action is justified or not, it will be the traveller who suffers and long queues at check-in desks are now becoming the norm and not the exception. Whilst we cannot totally avoid being affected, apart from electing never to travel of course, we can limit the financial loss by taking out adequate travel insurance which will provide financial cover and compensation if caught up in airport holiday chaos. To start with, all travel insurance policies should have a travel delay section, generally to pay a fixed amount for each 6, 12 or 24 hours delay experienced. This is what is termed as a benefit so does not require receipts to claim but you will need a note from the carrier or airport to confirm the number of hours delayed. Secondly, most travel insurance policies will have a section for Abandonment. This is just another term for cancellation which permits the traveller, once they have experienced the required number of hours travel delay, to cancel their flight and holiday in its entirety and claim back the costs. Whether you choose this option will depend on many factors, such as the length of your trip away, how long the delay will be and personal preference but it is a very valuable addition to have in any travel insurance policy. One word of warning, all travel insurance policies will have a clause that excludes any claim from being paid if the strike had been known about before the flight and holiday had been booked so it always prudent to check before you go firm on any travel plans. With travel insurance now very competitively priced, particularly when purchased over the internet, who can really afford to travel without any cover at all? It is probably a risk not worth taking when faced by a constant threat of more strikes, stoppages and delays.  This article is brought to you by travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Not all credit crunch gloom

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

As the pound continues to fall against the major currencies, it is not all doom and gloom.  Incredible as it may seem, some countries have actually become cheaper to visit as a result of the global financial turmoil and now offer better value for money than the more traditional European and USA holiday destinations. While the pound has fallen sharply against the dollar and the euro in recent weeks, it has strengthened by almost 20 per cent against the Australian dollar and South African rand since the summer. This means that hotels are cheaper and so is food and drink, on average up to 50% cheaper than their equivalents in Spain. With oil prices falling, further cuts can be expected in fuel surcharges, bringing down the price of long-haul flights making both Australia and South Africa as ‘the’ destinations for 2009. Wherever you decide to go on holiday this year, don’t forget to take out travel insurance before you go. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Winter resorts opening early

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Could this be a record year for snowfall? Ski resorts across Europe and North America have opened early this season, up to a month earlier than normal.  The Italian resort of Bormio opened at the beginning of November with resorts in Switzerland and Austria to follow.  For those venturing across the Atlantic, then California and Utah are both reporting record dumps of snow.  Closer to home, the Scottish resorts of Cairngorm  has also seen some early flurries and was briefly open at the start of November. For those tempted for a pre-Christmas dash to the slopes, conditions have hardly been better but before doing so, take heed of the advice from tour operators and specialist winter sports providers and don’t forget to take out adequate insurance. Recent surveys still show a high number of people going abroad without any travel insurance at all. Whether this is just forgetfulness or a desire to live dangerously, it shows that many people view travel insurance as an extra expense which can be added or deleted depending on the holiday budget. But with price of travel insurance premiums, particularly on the internet, being relatively cheap – you can find a week’s Winter Sports cover to Europe for under £10, it does seem to be an unnecessary risk to take. It is not necessary to pay through the nose these days and if you are prepared to surf the net then there some excellent deals to be had. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

If in doubt, declare it

Friday, November 7th, 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 the condition is 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. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Don’t lose your passport

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

A passport is your most important travel document. With it, the world is ready to welcome you. Without it, you won’t even get on a plane out of the country. So says the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and they are the experts after all. Everyone needs a full, ten-year passport to travel abroad. Leave as much time as you can between applying for a passport and when you need to use it – the time taken to issue one can vary and there’s a bit of paperwork to organise. In the UK, you can get advice from the UK Passport Service website or call them on 0870 521 0410 (lines are open 24 hours a day). Check your passport well in advance of any trip you’re planning to take. Quite a few countries will require that your passport is valid for at least six months before they let you in. If you need to replace your passport when on the road, contact the nearest British Consulate in the country you are visiting. Do also check visa requirements with your travel agent or contact the Consulate or Embassy in the UK of the country you plan to visit, well in advance of your trip. The bottom line is that your passport is a valuable item so it pays to treat it as such and, when abroad, keep it in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy with you. If you do lose it, do remember that most travel insurance policies will cover the cost of a new passport and even pay for travel and accommodation costs if you need to get an emergency replacement from the nearest consulate, so don’t leave home without it, and your passport too! This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.