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Archive for May, 2009

Do declare pre-existing medical conditions

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Most people taking out a new travel insurance policy are confused by the term pre-existing medical condition.  And it’s not surprising when medical conditions tend to be technically expressed, not always explained well and, if the condition is cured or controlled, often forgotten about over time. But this is just the area where holidaymakers get caught out because all policies will have clauses on whether certain medical conditions need to be declared before cover can be given.  This is so easily overlooked at the time of purchase, more so for those who have free annual insurance through premium bank accounts.

Travel insurance companies 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 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. 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.

Travel forecast for Bank holiday weekend

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Forecasters are predicting the hottest temperatures so far this year over this Bank Holiday weekend but whatever the weather, the usual Bank Holiday getaway is expected to cause gridlock on the roads and bustling air and sea ports. Airport operator BAA said 1.68 million passengers would pass through its seven UK airports in the period from Friday to Bank Holiday Monday. The AA has said that road journey times could increase by 50 per cent on Friday with a third more traffic than normal expected on popular routes. Congestion is expected on the M5 from the West Midlands to Exeter; the M6 from Lancaster to the Lake District; the M4, A40 and A48 to Wales and the A1 from Wetherby to Scotch Corner in north east England.Engineering works will also make train travel arduous. The worst day on the railways is likely to be Sunday when there are 38 separate engineering work projects taking place. Train routes and companies affected include the West Coast Main Line, South West Trains, Arriva Trains Wales, First Capital Connect, Northern Rail and the Southern train company.

For those opting to to take a short break this weekend, it’s worth remembering that the same rules though apply to holidays in the UK as they do elsewhere. So do make sure you are properly covered in case of emergencies. Travel insurance, for example, is not always thought of as a necessity if you take a break in the UK, being so close to home and under the safety net of the NHS should you have an accident but travel insurance covers much more than medical emergencies. Most people buy travel insurance for trips and holidays abroad but these policies do generally provide cover for travel within the UK, though do check the small print rather than assuming that this is always the case.

So is travel insurance that covers holidays in the UK worth considering? It can be very useful to have insurance should you subsequently cancel a trip, say for illness, as your holiday costs will be reimbursed subject to any excesses to pay. Your personal effects will probably be covered too, which is an important point to consider as theft and loss is not just confined to holidays on the ‘Costas’ – these things happen at home too. What you will almost certainly not be covered for will be for medical expenses as the NHS is available for such instances. One final word of advice though is do check the small print as many, if not most, insurers do require you to have proof of booked accommodation, or a campsite booking in the case of camping and caravanning, for a minimum stay of normally 2 nights away for the policy to be in force so the one night weekend trip away is definitely outside this definition.

This article is brought to you by travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Travel ban on Mexico lifted

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Could the worst be over for Mexico? After the near total shutdown in April over Swine Flu, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has lifted its advisory against all but essential travel to Mexico stating on its website that “Following a decline in the number of reported new swine influenza cases in Mexico since its peak on 26 April, we no longer advise against all but essential travel.”

This now means that tour operators can resume outbound holidays to the country. Thomson and First Choice have cancelled all outbound holidays to the beach resorts of Cancún and Cozumel until 22 May but, in light of the updated advice, are planning to begin operations to Mexico as soon as they can. Thomas Cook, which also flies to Cancún, has indicated they will resume flights on May 23. The reason for the delay is that before tour operators can resume flights, they will need to have confirmation of when hotels and resorts will be re-opening, as many were closed due to lack of guests and visitors during the country-wide swine flu epidemic.

The easing of the FCO travel advice is good news for another reason.  Such advice is critical in maintaining travel insurance cover for holidaymakers which can be invalidated if the FCO warn against all but essential travel. Holidaymakers need to be aware that most travel insurance providers cite travel against FCO advice as as a general exclusion in their policies.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Travel to non-euro countries on the up

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

What a difference a year makes!  With a backdrop of economic uncertainty and a pound that has slumped in value, British holidaymakers appear to be avoiding the eurozone in their droves in favour of long-haul destinations and non-euro countries. Thailand, the USA, Turkey and Egypt have seen a huge increase in bookings whilst traditional destinations such as Spain, France and Italy have seen their market share fall, hardly surprising with sterling having fallen 13% since May 2008. Nor have global fears over swine flu deterred holidaymakers with travel companies reporting increased demand for long-haul holidays in recent weeks.  Where once it was the Spanish Costas, it is now the Egyptian resorts, such as Sharm-el Sheikh, that head the destination leader board of choice.

Wherever you decide to go on holiday this year, don’t forget to take out travel insurance to cover the holiday money and belongings you take abroad. Pickpocketing and theft is fairly commonplace these days so it pays to be protected.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Difficulties abroad – who to turn to?

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

People often ask what they should do if they get into difficulties abroad and who they should contact. A comprehensive travel insurance policy is there to give you that ‘peace of mind’ in the event of a medical emergency, airport delays and loss of personal belongings but, when abroad, you may become the victim of an incident and you need to know who to turn to in your hour of need. If you are on an organised holiday, then the tour operator is likely to have a resident representative at the resort but more people are now opting to be ‘independent travellers’ and when things do go wrong, you need to know what to do in an emergency.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London provides excellent advice for travellers and you are strongly advised to log on to their website at www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country before you go. They can also be contacted by telephone for country advice on 0845 850 2829 (24hrs, 7 Days a week). Similar levels of advice to non-UK nationals can be obtained from their respective Consulates, Embassies and High Commissions though the FCO website is also a source of good general travel advice to anyone travelling abroad.

For UK nationals travelling abroad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will do everything they properly can to help British people in difficulty abroad. If you get into difficulty or trouble, you can contact British Consular Staff in the country you are visiting who may be able to help. If you are in the UK and need help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad you can contact the FCO Consular Assistance team on 020 7008 1500 or email them at consularassistance@fco.gov.uk

It’s always worth getting travel insurance cover and checking you have the address and telephone number of the local British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate before you travel. Your rep/local guide, hotel/guesthouse or local police are likely to have this information. The UK consular operation covers most countries but not all and in these countries, you may be able to get help from the consulate of another EU member state. Also, Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada may provide certain consular services to British nationals in countries where the UK is unrepresented.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Travel company failures up in 2009

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

The fear that more travel companies are facing financial difficulties has been confirmed by the latest data on the subject, this time from respected accountancy firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers. It appears that in the first quarter of 2009, 27 travel companies collapsed compared with 11 in the same period in 2008. The figures look starker when compared over the last 12 months with some 78 companies failing, up from 49 in the previous year. It is likely to get worse before we see light at the end of the tunnel.  The latest casualty is the accommodation-only specialist, Xcapewithus Ltd, which has just gone into administration, affecting up to 10,000 holidaymakers. The Majorca-based company has blamed currency fluctuations, particularly the high cost of the euro, for its demise. The company did not hold an ATOL and was not an ABTA member, which means that holidaymakers who have made bookings using anything other than a credit card has little chance of obtaining a refund.

Holiday makers are being strongly advised to protect themselves against the threat of airline and holiday firm failures. The nightmare scenario for any holidaymaker is being stranded when their airline or tour operator goes out of business.  Although it isn’t an everyday occurrence, these situations do happen with little or no notice so it is important to ensure that your travel organiser can provide sufficient evidence of security for the refunding and repatriation of customers in the event of insolvency.

So how do you you protect yourself when an airline or tour operator goes bust?  Who or what is out there?  Some insurers offer Passenger Protection Insurance sold separately or Dynamic Packaging Protection as part of a travel insurance policy but always check the small print if this is offered because these are quite often restrictive in their cover.  You can reduce the risk further by organising your travel through companies and agents covered by ATOL or who hold bonding through an approved body, such as ABTA or AITO.

ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser’s licensing and is a protection scheme for flights and air holidays, managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and protects the customer from losing money or being stranded abroad when a tour operator goes bust.  All licensed firms have to lodge bonds with the CAA so that, if they go out of business, the CAA can give refunds to people who can’t travel and arrange for people abroad to finish their holidays and fly home.

And ABTA?  Members of the Association of British Travel Agents are required to provide financial protection for their customers which means that you can book your holiday knowing that if an ABTA member fails financially while you are on holiday, you can continue your holiday as planned.  If your holiday has not started, then you will receive a full refund or be given help to make alternative arrangements for the trip to proceed.

Likewise AITO, or Association of Independent Tour Operators to give it its full title, require their members to protect their customer’s money in the event of an AITO member going into liquidation.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Accidents can be costly

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Instant decisions can sometimes be costly. With the Summer approaching, and many looking forward to holidays and gap years, it is is timely to note that recent research into the 18-35 year old age group shows that 2 out of 3 went bungee jumping on the spur of the moment without checking that they were covered by some form of insurance. Likewise 1 out 2 did the same when it came to jet-skiing, scuba diving, mountaineering and rock climbing and 1 in 3 when it came to snow sports. With the cost of medical treatment, such as a broken leg coming in around £5-7,500 and that’s just in Europe, rising to a colossal £24,000 in the USA, then it pays to be properly covered when you go abroad on holday. Don’t forget though, that travel insurance policies do have exclusions so do check that what you want to do on holiday will be covered and do check that comprehensive medical and repatriation cover is included. An air ambulance (from Canaries) could cost you £12-16,000, for example, whilst you will need to stump up with £4-5,000 for a week’s stay in hospital in Greece. Make sure you understand exactly when and where cover is given. For diving, check the maximum depth covered and for winter sports check whether off-piste is covered. This also goes for 3rd party liability, for example, if there is any chance you could collide with someone else or someone else’s property or equipment while enjoying your sporting activity. This is particularly important if you are taking part in winter sports. Finally, if you find yourself without cover, ask the organisers of the activity to provide cover or consider the purchase of top-up cover if you are involved in hazardous activities and have only basic travel insurance.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Swine flu travel advice – 1st May

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Several tour operators have cancelled flights to Mexico and it is recommended that you check with your tour operator if you have booked a holiday to this destination. Cases of swine influenza have been reported in Mexico City and a number of other locations across the country.  Travellers should consult a doctor immediately if they show signs of flu-like symptoms. The Mexican Secretariat of Health has advised people to avoid large crowds, shaking hands and kissing people as a greeting.  Maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other persons and frequent hand washing may decrease the risk of exposure.  The Mexicans have closed educational establishments across the country.  Museums and other public venues and events have been closed or postponed. On 29 April President Calderon announced that the 1 May public holiday would be extended until Wednesday 6 May.  All Government offices during this period will be closed.  The President advised the population to remain at home.  All bars and restaurants in Mexico City have been ordered to close until 6 May.

The Foreign Office continues to advise “against all but essential travel to Mexico.  Routine Consular and all Visa Services at the Embassy in Mexico City have been suspended until further notice.  British Nationals in Mexico, who have an urgent consular issue should call the Embassy on (01 55) 5242 8500 for assistance. British nationals resident in or visiting Mexico may wish to consider whether they should remain in Mexico at this time.  British Nationals should continue to follow local advice on precautions to take to avoid exposure to the influenza.”

If you are looking for advice on how swine flu might affect your travel plans to other countries, you should consult the travel advice on the FCO website for the country concerned. If you are overseas and are seeking specific advice on the country in which you are located, you should also regularly check for the latest FCO travel advice. If you are travelling to an affected country you should consult your usual healthcare provider for travel medical advice and further guidance if you have specific concerns

The article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.