As the holiday season comes around, here’s something to chew on: if your trip doesn’t go as planned, do you also want the hassle of dealing with massive financial losses?
Here are some major travel insurance issues, which too many of us forget to think about.
1. Medical evacuation / repatriation can destroy you financially, if you’re not covered for it
Medical evacuation is often the first cost in a medical emergency. This is the cost to get you to the closest medical facility, from your point of injury. For example, if you break your leg while halfway up a mountain, you may need to be evacuated by air (rescue helicopter).
The cost for these services are notoriously high. In Europe, for instance, the cost can be upward of SGD$48,000.
A follow-up cost is often repatriation. This is to send you back to Singapore for treatment. If you’re in places like Europe or the United States, the cost to be treated there – without the subsidies afforded to their citizens – are prohibitively expensive. If you’re in a developing country, there may not be sufficiently advanced medical facilities to deal with your injury / illness.
These two costs often “pair up”. E.g. you’ll often be evacuated to a hospital for urgent care first, and then evacuated back to Singapore for further treatment.
While most travel insurance policies provide for this, many have a cap on medical evacuation and repatriation that’s way too low. You want to make sure the coverage for this is always more than sufficient. DBS TravellerShield, for example, provides up to $1 million for medical evacuation, and up to $50,000 for repatriation to Singapore.
If you need to be treated abroad for a time (you may have to be hospitalised for a few days before the doctors decide it’s safe to move you), DBS TravellerShield also gives you $200 per day ($300 for Intensive Care Unit) to cover hospitalisation costs. There’s also a pay-out of $5,000 for loved ones who want to come and see you while you’re hospitalised overseas.
2. Last-minute travel advisories may force you to cancel your trip
We live in an uncertain world. Factors such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or the outbreak of disease and civil unrest can result in travel advisories.
Once the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issues an advisory, cautioning you away from certain destinations, you can no longer be protected by insurance if you travel there. You’ll probably have to cancel your trip, due to the high risk involved.
If you made it a point to buy your travel insurance early, this isn’t a problem. There’s usually a pay-out if your trip is cancelled due to advisories (DBS TravellerShield, for instance, pays up to $15,000 for trip cancellation). This is important to cover costs such as non-refundable airline tickets, and hotel deposits.
If you don’t buy travel insurance, or you put off buying it until the last minute, you’ll have wasted all the money already spent on the trip.
3. There’s been a dramatic rise in in-flight thefts
Gone are the days when we could throw our bags in overhead cabins, and relax with a movie. Over the past few years, there’s been a significant spike in in-flight thefts.
Thieves now operate in groups, targeting lone travellers, or those on long-haul flights. When you sleep, watch a movie, or use the toilet, they’ll rifle through your belongings and steal them. Often, you won’t learn about it until you get to the hotel.
Theft aside, unexpected losses do happen. More than one person has left their smartphone in the cab, minutes after it drives away and leaves them at the airport. And while airlines have advanced tracking systems these days, the occasional luggage carrier still goes missing.
(They might find it two weeks later in another country but that’s no immediate help to you, is it?)
Travel insurance can at least provide limited protection, against these losses. For example, most travel policies can pay out at least $250 for stolen cash (up to $500 with DBS TravellerShield Premium or Platinum plans). Most policies also let you claim up to $500 per stolen item, and up to $1,000 for laptops.
(Try not to carry more expensive items, such as gold jewellery, when you travel).
4. Missing travel documents are a major pain
Travel documents do get lost sometimes. It could be the hotel’s house-keeping, which “tidied” your visa form right off the hotel desk; or it could have gone missing due to pick-pocketing or theft.
Getting a replacement passport from the Singapore Embassy isn’t difficult; but you don’t know how local authorities will react to the loss of, say, your travel visa. This can result in emergency processing fees, that are at least several hundred dollars.
DBS TravellerShield pays out up to S$5,000 for lost travel documents; more than enough to cover the administrative costs of most incidents.
5. You may need emergency dental work after an injury
Never forget that dental costs are covered separately from hospitalisation. They’re also a common – yet much overlooked – part of accidents.
For example, if you’re in a tour bus accident and hit your face, you could shatter your teeth and require immediate treatment. It may not be bearable for you to wait to get back to Singapore to seek treatment.
For this reason, always check for the provision of emergency dental care in your travel insurance.
(Note: this covers emergency dental treatment due to accident, not services like tooth whitening or a bad toothache. You can’t make an insurance claim for such services).
6. If you pass away while abroad, your family has to bear the cost of bringing you home
It’s unpleasant to think about, but ignoring it won’t change anything – in the event you do pass away while abroad, the body has to be returned home.
This is far from cheap. An undertaker has to be contracted in the relevant country, and the coffin and transport arrangements made. It’s not uncommon for the cost of mortician’s services, along with the casket, to reach sums of $20,000 or more. This doesn’t include the cost of flying your remains home.
If you have travel insurance, however, the cost of repatriating your remains can be covered.
7. Things can go wrong at home, while you’re abroad
A comprehensive travel policy should also offer home content insurance. If the entire family is on a trip, remember that no one is watching the house.
While most people only think of burglaries, you should look further than that. For example, some houses experience a power trip while the family is abroad. They’ll return to a refrigerator full of decomposed food. Even worse, gas leaks or electrical wiring problems* can strike while you’re abroad, which could result in damaging house fires.
Policies like DBS TravellerShield can provide home content insurance of up to $5,000.
*Don’t be too quick to assume you’ve turned everything off. For example, many electrical fires start with air-conditioners, as our habit is to put them on standby rather than actually switching them off.
Travel insurance goes beyond lost luggage and stolen passports
Check the terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy with care; they may look the same on the surface but can differ widely in coverage. Also, some aspects of travel insurance are easily overlooked.
For example, if you are staying at an Airbnb instead of a hotel, you may find that coverage for incidents such as theft are lower (it’s up to the insurer to decide on the level of risk).
Take some time to read the terms, and don’t just buy the cheapest policy.