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Why take the risk? Get covered for wintersports.

December 7th, 2011

As British holidaymakers prepare to head for the slopes in 2012, Foreign Office figures reveal that almost a third of people in the UK admit to not taking out travel insurance for their winter sports holidays. In addition, less than one in five people (16%) say they always read the small print of their travel insurance policy before going skiing. The Foreign Office regularly issues warnings to skiers and snowboarders that they risk huge medical bills if they don’t properly cover themselves by taking out travel insurance.  Their data highlights the average cost in Andorra for a leg injury and repatriation to be £6500 rising to a whopping £28,000 for the same injury in Canada.

Everyone appreciates the thrills of Wintersports but not everyone appreciates the dangers that are associated with it. The Ski Club of Great Britain has reported in the past that more than half of British skiers take to the slopes without a ski helmet, despite the risks of sustaining a serious head injury. Head injuries account for almost a quarter of all ski injuries sustained on the slopes. Research in Canada and Sweden has also found that snowboarders are up to four times more likely to have an accident on the slopes than skiers, while men are more likely to get injured than women.

Alarm bells should be ringing here, not just against the rise in the accident rate on the slopes but also that a high number of people are still going abroad without any travel insurance. Whether this is just forgetfulness or a desire to live dangerously, it is 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 provided by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Travel insurance or EHIC or both?

December 2nd, 2011

With over 25% of holiday makers not taking out any travel insurance, then one reason often quoted is why do I need it when I already have a European Health Insurance Card, better known as EHIC? 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 NHS website. 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. As the NHS website points out, “the EHIC is NOT an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or the cost of things such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property”.

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 £1million for Europe or £2million for the rest of the world but most travel insurance policies now offer cover beyond these figures and £5million is becoming quite standard and even higher figures are common. 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.

Thomas Cook woes worries holidaymakers

November 24th, 2011

Those who have booked an overseas package holiday with Thomas Cook should be fully covered by the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Atol) scheme.  This means that, even in the worst case scenario that the company were to close when holidaymakers are away, customers on package deals are flown home without incurring extra expense.

Those who have paid for but not taken a holiday will be entitled to a full refund.  ABTA also provides a similar scheme for those who have booked package deals that don’t include a flight, such as winter cruises.  But “independent” travellers, who book flights, accommodation and other services separately, don’t have the same protection.

In addition, customers are always advised to pay for holiday and other big-ticket items on a credit card or Visa debit card.  Under the credit regulations, card providers are obliged to offer a refund if a customer has paid for goods or services that are not delivered, provided the value is between £100 and £3,000. This would cover cases where the holiday company has gone bust.

Some travel insurance policies provide protection but you need to search around.  Known as Dynamic Packaging Protection, these policies will pay out up to a specified amount for costs not covered by schemes such as ABTA and ATOL and is well worth having. Travelandinsure.com offers such protection on its Gold policies.

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

Going skiing – get the right travel insurance cover

November 17th, 2011

The leaves may still be on the trees (just) but some snow has fallen in the Alps. Yes, the start of the new ski season is just around the corner and, after the better than average snow conditions over the last two years, we can only hope that the shortage of snow so far is only a temporary blip and the that this season will be another to remember. But will it be for the right reasons?

Each year thousands take to the slopes for the first time but some, unfortunately, will return with an injury. And it’s not just first timers as the more experienced take on new challenges, on and off piste, the wipe outs just tend to be more spectacular. That is why it is essential to have the proper ski and snowboard travel insurance to provide the necessary cover on and off the slopes.

So what should people be looking for? Most travel insurance providers offer good cover for intermediate and beginners. This is the vast bulk of the market. Yes, accidents do happen but they are more likely to be in a controlled fashion, by that we mean on well groomed pistes and with assistance and help on hand. The problem area is when the skier or snowboarder gains in confidence and skill and wants to seek greater challenges and with it more thrills. This, generally, means tackling ever more severe slopes but also to venture into what is loosely termed ‘off piste’. This is where the unwary can very quickly become unstuck and we are not talking about the snow conditions.

Most travel insurance policies will have restrictions on ‘off piste,’ such as ‘only with a guide’ or ‘only within a specified resort area,’ so when seeking that ‘adrenaline rush,’ it is important to know what you are getting yourself into first. What’s more, the increasing popularity of ‘half pipes’ and ‘free style’ means that the potential risk of injury has increased as more and more people are attracted to this immensely enjoyable leisure activity. To make sure you are properly covered for these more extreme sports activities, it is essential that winter sports insurance is obtained that offers protection to this level of activity.

The more expert you are, the more likely you will need more specialist cover than provided by the usual high street provider. Mountain rescue and medical costs are expensive and, if this requires repatriation, then the costs mount up rapidly. It’s probably too late, as you are being strapped to the rescue sledge, to wonder whether the travel insurance you bought before the holiday is going to cover you. Know before you go.

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

Ten top tips for your Gap Year

August 23rd, 2011

Planning a gap year? Then here are a few useful tips to make sure you get the cover you need.

Tip 1 Emergency Medical Expenses covers emergency treatment and to get you back home if necessary.  Make sure you have this cover, if nothing else.

Tip 2 If you have a medical condition(s), do tell the Insurance Company as they may decline any claim if you don’t.

Tip 3 Check the amount insured for cancellation is enough. Some Gap Year trips can cost a lot more than the insurance cover provided.

Tip 4 Check you have cover for an Airline going bust and if the Foreign Commonwealth Office warn travellers to not go to a country you are planning to visit.

Tip 5 Get a policy that provides Personal Liability cover, just in case you accidentally harm someone or something and make sure it does not exclude harming a travelling companion under the Personal liability section and also that it does cover damage to accommodation.

Tip 6 Get Gap Year insurance that covers working/volunteering and watch the small print as some will cover working but not if being paid, and some cover work but exclude many types of job.

Tip 7 Pick the highest grouping of the sports or activity you think you might do or choose a Gap Year Policy that covers all unplanned sports and activities.

Tip 8 Check how much kit you’ve got, and then check the cover provided under personal effects. Many items could be excluded, especially electrical items e.g. laptops, camera’s, etc.

Tip 9 Buy Gap Year and Backpacker Insurance when you book your flight/trip so you are immediately covered if you have to cancel due to illness.

Tip 10 Take two copies of your insurance documents. Leave one at home, take one with you and maybe scan into an internet document safe.

Tip Plus one! For parents A family annual multi-trip policy is for short trips, usually holidays and generally under 31 days for each trip and so is not suitable for extended period away. Children may have to be under 18 and many have travel restrictions.

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

4UK tour operator folds

August 3rd, 2011

A tour operator with 12,000 UK holidaymakers currently abroad has gone into administration. Brighton-based Holidays 4 UK, which also traded as Aegean Flights, sold packages and flights to Turkey.Administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) would be responsible for getting home those already abroad – as long as they had booked flights as part of a package holiday. These people are covered by the CAA’s Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Scheme (Atol).

The administrators said passengers booked with the company on future flights, should not travel to the airport and should refer to the CAA for more information. The administrators added the Atol scheme may also reimburse passengers who booked a package holiday and had not yet travelled. Passengers who booked through a travel agent were advised to contact that agent in the first instance.The Atol website at www.caa.co.uk is being updated regularly to provide details of return flights for passengers currently on holiday. Passengers who did not book through an agent but booked with the company are advised to check the CAA website for more information on return flights if they are currently on holiday or for information regarding refunds.

Under the Atol scheme, most of the 12,000 already abroad will be able to carry on with their holidays and then be able to get flights home. It is thought Holidays 4U had about 40,000 to 50,000 forward bookings and was licensed to carry 66,000 passengers during the July to September 2011 period, and more than 100,000 a year.

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

Gap year tragedy

July 5th, 2011

The very tragic news from Thailand, where three young British men were killed in a bus crash, just days after flying out to begin their long awaited gap year travels, is an unwelcome reminder to us all that, as well as the undoubted life enriching experience that a gap year gives to most people, there will inevitably be some level of risk attached.   That is no reason not to take a gap year because similar accidents can and do happen closer to home but gap years do generally involve extended travel to remoter parts of the globe and thereby lies the problem.

According to the FCO, over 200,000 people in the UK, of all ages, are now taking gap years or sabbaticals abroad with India, Peru and Tanzania currently the most popular places for gap year placement.  The FCO offers very useful advice on their website at www.fco.gov.uk/travel and they do keep up to date travel advice information on most, if not all countries.

What is still surprising though is that 25% of all travellers go abroad without adequate travel insurance but why take this unnecessary risk?   Although travel insurance will not prevent something happening to you, it can certainly help to reduce some of the stresses in the aftermath.   Medical expenses including repatriation, loss of baggage, legal assistance, and curtailment are just some of the essential benefits that come with most policies and it is now possible to buy tailored policies from specialist providers to cover almost every combination of gap year.

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

Volcanic ash cloud: travel advice 24th May

May 24th, 2011

Here is a summary for Tuesday 24th May of the flight disruption caused as a volcanic ash cloud spreads from Iceland to British airspace, causing a number of airlines to put scheduled departures on hold across Scotland and northern England. For the latest information, passengers are advised to check with their airline before departure.

British Airways has announced it will not operate any flights between London and Scotland before 2pm.

BMI has cancelled flights between London Heathrow and Aberdeen; Manchester and Aberdeen; Norwich and Aberdeen; Leeds Bradford and Edinburgh; and London Heathrow and Stavangar.

EasyJet has cancelled all flights to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen between 5am and 1pm today. Passengers flying to or from Newcastle, Belfast, Liverpool or Manchester are advised to check with the airline before travelling.

Flybe has cancelled all flights between Aberdeen and Birmingham, Manchester and London Gatwick; and between Inverness and Manchester and London Gatwick.

Ryanair has been ordered by Irish authorities to cancel all flights to and from Glasgow, Prestwick, Edinburgh or Aberdeen until at least 1pm.

Aer Lingus said it had cancelled 12 flights between Dublin and Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen; Shannon and Glasgow; and Cork and Glasgow.

KLM has cancelled more than 30 flights to and from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Newcastle.

Loganair, which mainly operates within Scotland, said it had scrapped 36 flights due to depart between 6am and 1pm, but is still operating inter-isles flights in Orkney.

My flight has been cancelled. What should I do?

There are currently no restrictions on UK airspace. You should check the airline or holiday operators website for the latest news. For those who have booked a trip to Iceland, check with the tour operator or airline for the latest travel information.

Under EU rules, airlines must compensate passengers up to €600 if their flight is cancelled or heavily delayed, unless the situation has been caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.’  The ruling that outlines these rights is Regulation (EC) 261/2004 and it applies to all flights wholly within the EU/EEA or Swiss region, or departing an EU/EEA or Swiss airport, or arriving in the region and run by an EU/EEA or Swiss airline.

In the case of the volcanic ash delays, the airlines may claim ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and should be able to avoid paying compensation. However, this does not remove their duty of care that is also detailed in the regulations. The rules state that they must provide passengers with accommodation, meals and refreshments and transport between the airport and accommodation. Airlines are breaking the rules by shirking this obligation.

If you are travelling as part of an ATOL covered package, your tour operator will be able to advise on your total travel plans. It is the responsibility of the tour operator to cover all costs should air space be disrupted. Those travellers still in the UK are entitled to refunds or transfers, and for those stranded overseas will be kept in accommodation at the expense of the tour operator.

What are my rights?

The former Air Transport Users Council, now part of the Civil Aviation Authority, says: ‘Regulation (EC) 261/2004 requires airlines to offer you meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation as appropriate whilst you wait for a rearranged flight. They should also cover any transport costs between the hotel and the airport. There are no time or monetary limits on the provision of this assistance.

‘If your airline has not provided assistance, and you have had to arrange it yourself, our advice is to keep your expenditure to a minimum, make sure you get receipts and claim reimbursement from your airline when you get home.’

How do I reclaim if I’m delayed?

In order to reclaim ash flight and accommodation costs off your airline you will need to write to them, referencing the regulations and their responsibilities and including as many receipts as possible.

You should tell them that under Regulation (EC) 261/2004 Article 5 you are entitled to be reimbursed or re-routed under Article 8 and also offered assistance, including accommodation, meals and transport under Article 9.

You should also state that under Article 5, airlines are able to not pay compensation in accordance with article 7 in the case of ‘extraordinary circumstances’, but crucially that this extraordinary circumstances clause does not apply to the entitlement to assistance under Article 9.

Your expenses should be reasonable – you can’t treat yourself and expect to get compensated. You are also unlikely to get a refund/compensation if you abandon your flight/any help offered and try to navigate your own way home.

What about insurance?

If your airline refuses to pay out you should check your travel insurance policy to see if you can claim. Look for natural disaster and weather related clauses and understand what is covered in the policy. This covers you for things such as loss of travel arrangements, cost of new travel arrangements and travel delay.

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

New Icelandic volcano threat

May 23rd, 2011

The first ash from the newest Icelandic volcanic eruption is expected to reach the north-west tip of the British Isles this week with the Civil Aviation Auuthority saying disruption is likely for travellers. There are currently no restrictions on UK airspace. Travellers should check the airline or holiday operators websites for the latest news. For those who have booked a trip to Iceland, check with the tour operator or airline for the latest travel information.

What are your rights is this happens? Most airlines would offer customers a choice of a refund or a free transfer onto another flight when air services resume. According to the Trading Standards Institute, passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled due to the volcanic dust blown over to the UK from Iceland will have the same rights under the Regulation 261/2004 Air Passenger Rights. They are entitled to a refund or re-routing if the flight is cancelled or delayed by more than five hours; if re-routing is offered from an alternative location, the airline must cover the cost of transfers.

Passengers on flights delayed by more than two hours are also entitled to meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation if necessary, transport between airport and accommodation, two free telephone calls, faxes or emails. In cases of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ like this, which are beyond the airlines’ control, consumers are unlikely to be entitled to further compensation. Passengers should also check their own travel insurance as they may be entitled to more under their individual policies.

Although the regulations apply in all cases, not all travel insurance policies will pay out additional sums in the event of a volcanic ash cloud.  With regard to claiming for delay or cancellation through a travel insurance policy, the advice is to contact your insurer and clarify what options are available to you.  If insurance polices do cover this scenario then it is likely that the typical rules for making a claim for delayed departure apply. Travellers would be able to claim after they are delayed for 12 hours or more and to ensure their claim has the best chance of being processed successfully should obtain written confirmation from the airline of why the flight was cancelled.

Travellers with insurance policies should read the wording carefully to see what they are and aren’t covered for and also look at the procedures for making a claim as they differ from insurer to insurer.

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

Taking a holiday this Easter?

April 19th, 2011

This year, the combination of Easter, the Royal Wedding and the May Bank Holiday has offered the perfect opportunity for an extended break. For those opting to to take a holiday or trip away, 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.