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Archive for March, 2009

EHIC expiry scare

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Britons are being advised to check the validity of their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) after the Department of Health warned that millions of cards have expired or are due to expire, thereby invalidating some holidaymakers’ travel insurance. By the end of March 2009 more than 3.3 million of the European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) will have expired,  ministers have said. “It is vital that UK residents holidaying in Europe carry their EHIC and take out adequate travel insurance to avoid having to pay out unnecessarily for medical costs that could be covered by a valid EHIC. Anyone travelling with an expired EHIC is putting themselves at risk, they will not be covered for basic medical care.”

The EHIC was introduced three years ago to replace the E111 and covers the holder for medical treatment within the European Economic Area (EEA). Some travel insurance policies are invalid without an EHIC. With around 25% of people travelling abroad without travel insurance, it is worth asking why?  One reason is a view that the EHIC will provide all the cover you need in case of requiring medical treatment abroad. Yes, up to a point, so do you actually need to take out travel insurance? Well, simply put, you need both if you are planning to travel abroad. One does not replace the other. First of all what is EHIC? The EHIC replaced the old E111 form in 2006 which is no longer valid. Do make sure you get your EHIC before you travel. Application forms are readily available from Post Offices and you can also apply online through the Department of Health website or by telephoning 0845 606 2030. EHIC is valid throughout the EU and a number of other countries, namely Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechenstein. Should you be suddenly taken ill or have an accident in any of these countries, then the EHIC will entitle you, in most cases, to free, or at a reduced cost, necessary medical treatment. Do remember, however, that an EHIC does not cover you for all the medical costs that you can incur or for your repatriation – it is not an alternative to medical insurance and to go abroad without appropriate medical cover, as provided by most travel insurance policies, is probably as close to playing ‘Russian Roulette’ as you can get.

Furthermore, an EHIC does not cover you outside the areas described and although the UK has mutual agreements with many countries, these arrangements don’t cover all expenses you can incur. You may have to pay thousands of pounds in medical costs, a prime example is the USA and Canada where medical treatment is expensive and, increasingly, there are many other countries that fall into this category. So we do recommend that before you travel that you always arrange travel insurance with health cover that is adequate for your destination. The FCO advises that the level of cover should be at least £1 million for Europe or £2 million for the rest of the world but most travel insurance policies now offer cover beyond these figures and £5 million is becoming quite standard and even higher figures are commonplace. As with all insurances where health cover is required, there may be restrictions because of a particular medical condition for example, which may result in a higher premium to be paid. At the end of the day though, what you are paying for is ‘peace of mind’ and that is why it is so important to make sure you get cover before you go.

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

Medical cover cut in Channel Islands

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

It’s not that surprising to find that the Channel Islands have doubled in popularity with tourists due to the weakness of the pound. More than 550,000 Britons travelled to the Channel Islands in 2008 and that figure is expected to rise in 2009. With enquiries up over 100%, the islands could be in for a bumper summer.  But beware. Britons travelling to the Channel Islands will no longer be covered for medical treatment should they become ill or injured, after a decision by the Government to end the reciprocal health agreement between the UK and the islands.

The Department of Health is warning Britons travelling to the islands, which include Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark and Herm, that from1st  April 2009, they must ensure that they have adequate travel insurance. The islands, which are Crown Dependencies of the UK, are outside the EU and are therefore not covered by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which covers the holder for medical treatment within the European Economic Area (EEA).

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

Lost luggage on the rise

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

The latest data from the Air Transport Users Council estimates that 42 million bags went missing in 2007, compared to 34 million the previous year and airline companies are shortchanging passengers on the millions of items of luggage damaged or mislaid every year. Up until 2004 passengers rights were governed by the Warsaw Convention.  It meant a passenger whose bag was lost would receive compensation according to how much it weighed. This was replaced by the Montreal Convention, which said that airlines were obliged to compensate passengers for how much they either lost or had to pay to replace the missing items. The Convention also said airlines were liable to pay up to £1,049 in compensation when luggage was “mishandled” – a term used by the aviation industry to cover luggage being lost completely or arriving late. But in many cases airlines either cut the compensation or will insist on passengers providing receipts for each item among the goods that have been lost. The AUC, which tries to mediate between passengers and airlines, has had 2,000 written complaints since the Montreal Convention was implemented. If mediation fails passengers are encouraged to pursue claims against the airlines in a small claims court.

42 million is a lot of lost bags and none of us can safely say these days that it won’t happen to me. Losing a bag can be a distressing experience, made worse by the generally poor customer service at some airport’s lost luggage counters and, if it happens on the outward journey, what do you do? Do you make do with the clothing you have in the hope that the luggage will arrive or buy replacements? Tough decision to make and is all very stressful at a time when you should be enjoying your holiday? There is no magic wand to wave here but you can help yourself by being adequately protected by having travel insurance cover in place before you go.

What travel insurance should provide in these circumstances is an allowance, usually based on each 24 hours the luggage is delayed, for you to buy essential replacement items, such as clothing and toiletries, for you to survive until your bags arrive. There will be an upper limit to this daily allowance and your travel insurance company will be looking for receipts for these items to accompany any claim you make. This still requires you to pay first and claim back later but at least it means you won’t be too much out of pocket. Do remember to obtain what the airlines call a ‘Property Irregularity Report’ from the Lost Luggage Section at the airport at the time your bags go missing. You will need to send this to your travel insurance company to substantiate your claim and they will also be looking for proof of when the bags were returned to you, so a signed and dated receipt will also be expected. If you don’t have these, then it is very possible that the insurers will not pay your claim. If your bags become ‘irretrievably’ lost, then the insurance company will need a letter from the airline confirming this and you will then be able to claim for all the lost items under the Lost Baggage Section of your policy.

But don’t let the thought of losing your luggage overly worry you. Just get the required paperwork, know what you can claim for and get on with your holiday. After all, ‘worse things happen at sea’ as they say, but that I suppose not what you want to hear if you contemplating going on a cruise!

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

Not so jolly hockey sticks

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Now you know! The European Commission has been forced to reveal the contents of the confidential memo to airlines outlining which everyday objects were considered a potential terrorist threat. But what’s the point of such a list if it was too secret to tell the general travelling public? The European Union’s Court of Justice has now agreed that it was ridiculous to have a list which the public could not access. The Commission has now published the list of 11 items banned from passenger aircraft cabins. It revealed sports and leisure equipment such as skateboards and lacrosse sticks were specifically banned as they were considered “blunt instruments capable of causing injury”. The complete EU banned list is the following: baseball bats, clubs or batons,cricket bats, golf clubs, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, kayak and canoe paddles, skateboards, snooker cues, fishing rods and martial arts equipment. All these items will have to be placed, unsurprisingly, in hold luggage.  But don’t think that, if it’s not on the list, then it’s ok to go in the cabin.  BAA has made it clear that the ubiquitous tennis racquet may be consigned to the hold too as it may contravene hand baggage size limitations.

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

Cheap travel insurance – value for money?

Monday, March 9th, 2009

A common pitfall when buying travel insurance  is to take the easy option and sign up for the insurance package offered by your tour operator or to buy through a no-frills airline website. Not only do you risk spending over the odds if you do it this way but you could be buying a mediocre policy that doesn’t provide adequate cover and isn’t best suited to your needs.  So can you find a better deal yourself by searching the internet?

More and more of us are doing our shopping on the internet. We do so for the convenience but the main reason continues to be the innate desire to find the best deal but, and it’s a big but, there are a lot of travel insurance websites to choose from out there.  So you do need to be ‘savvy’ in your search and the increasing number of price comparison sites can often be a hindrance rather than a help. Why is that? Well, simply these sites highlight the ‘headline grabbing’ figure, not to mention that many only show insurance providers that pay them a commission, so the consumer is often given a confusing and false picture.

So can you find ‘cheap travel insurance’ on the internet? Most definitely, yes, but 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.

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 do you need to buy the policy that offers £10 million? This is another example of ‘gold plating’ a policy which will attract a higher premium.

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.

Latest travel advice to Paksitan

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Following the attack on the Sri Lankan Cricket Team, the Foreign Office warns against all but essential travel to Lahore. Elsewhere in Pakistan, its advice is extensive. Travellers are warned against all travel to vast areas on the north, including Peshawar. Extreme caution should be exercised in Karachi, Rawalpindi and the Central Punjab Province, while Britons are advised against using the country’s entire rail network. “Terrorists continue to target Western, including British, interests and individuals throughout Pakistan,” reads the warning on the Foreign Office website. “We believe that there is a heightened threat to Westerners in major cities.”

Full FCO travel advice dated 5 March 2009 is as follows:

“We advise against all travel to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Northern and Western Balochistan and much of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) including the Frontier Regions of Peshawar, Kohat, Tank, Banu, Lakki and Dera Ismail Khan.  We advise against travel to the city of Peshawar and districts south of the city.  We advise against all travel to Swat, including travel on the Chitral road via the Lowari Pass.  In these areas there are ongoing reports of military or militant activity, and the risk from lawlessness and kidnapping is most severe.  We also advise against using the rail network across the whole of Pakistan.”

“We advise against all travel to DI Khan, Kurram Agency, Orakzai Agency, Hangu, Kohat, Bannu Peshawar and non essential travel to Quetta. Extreme caution should be taken when visiting Karachi, Lahore and Central Punjab Province. All these areas are prone to sectarian violence.”

“There is a high threat from terrorism and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan. There has been a series of attacks, mainly suicide bombings targeted predominantly at the authorities but occasionally also at locations frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. We believe there is a heightened threat to Westerners in major cities.  The Pakistani authorities are also concerned about the threat to foreigners of kidnapping.”

“If you are intending to travel to Pakistan, you should follow the developing situation in the news media and consult FCO travel advice regularly. You are also strongly recommended to register with the British High Commission.  You may wish to seek local advice on the latest situation from the Security Section of the British High Commission in Islamabad or the British Deputy High Commission in Karachi. We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and ensure that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.

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

Check travel advice before you leave

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Not many people will have been aware that, up until the end of February, Madagascar was the only country in the world, apart from Somalia, that the Foreign Office were advising Britions  not to travel to, giving it a higher risk factor than Afghanistan, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Although Madagascar is not on most tourist routes, the recent political turmoil on the Island does show that, whilst most holiday destinations are generally strife free, it still pays to check out where you are going before you travel.

The best place to do this is by checking with the Foreign Office which has up to date advice on all countries and to log on to www.fco.gov.uk/travel is a wise precaution, particularly if you plan to travel to parts of the world off the beaten track. 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 travel abroad, do look at your itinerary and 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.