First-class insurance the best way to ensure a safe holiday
The cold snap of weather has many of us thinking ahead to summer holidays. Going without travel insurance isn't an option, advises Sinead Ryan, but it's possible to do it for a lot less than you might think
You've found the resort, bought the sun-cream and packed the bikini. All that's left now is to dream about sun, sand, sangria… and buy your travel insurance.
It's the least romantic bit, but a necessary evil. Going without isn't an option but there is plenty of competition in this market and it is possible to do it for a lot less than you might think. Here are our top tips:
Don't rely on your private health insurance alone. While it may have medical benefits while you're abroad, it won't pay for your lost bags, delayed flights or an urgent trip home. However having health insurance will reduce the premium you pay for travel cover, and most policies factor in the discount when you buy, so make sure you tell the insurer.
All EU citizens are entitled to apply for a European Health Insurance Certificate (EHIC), the old E111 form. It is free (www.ehic.ie) and lasts two years.
You probably will be over-insured but there's no getting over that. There is crossover between health, EHIC and travel insurances, but they all play a part.
A basic policy should cover you for:
Q Emergency medical expenses.
Q Personal liability: being sued for accidently injuring another person or damaging their property.
Q Lost and stolen money or personal property.
Q Recompense for cancelling or cutting your trip short due to an insured reason.
Q Missed flight due to an insured reason.
There may be optional or standard extras, such as volcanic ash cover, winter sports, hijack cover (yes!), and myriad other things that can go wrong. All policies include stamp duty of 5pc.
If you are over 65 or 70 or have a pre-existing medical condition you may find serious difficulty in getting an insurer to cover you at all. Some will refuse point blank, deeming this older age group to be too risky, irrespective of their individual health. Others will need to apply for specialist cover. Sometimes, a reassuring letter from the person's GP that you are fit to travel is required; in other cases, you may need more underwriting, medical information, and even then will be charged a loaded premium. If you waive your right to be insured for a condition (e.g. stroke), then the policy may cover other events, but nothing related to that, for example.
Multi vs Single Trip
Buying multi-trip annual cover is often cheaper than individual policies for each holiday you take. Costs can be less than €50 p.a. (see table), and the whole family is included. It's worth getting a quote and is less messy than buying each time you fly.
Submitting a claim
Q If you suffer an incident, such as a medical emergency, ensure you retain all documentation and receipts from the hospital. It is vital that you call the insurer as soon as possible (they will have an emergency 24/7 number on the policy) to ensure that you are going to be covered where you are sent. If you are in Europe, have your EIHC card at the ready - you will be treated in any public hospital for free.
Q If your belongings are lost or stolen, report the loss to the local police station as soon as possible, asking them to complete a report which you must keep to confirm the incident.
Q Always have a copy of your travel insurance certificate, the policy number, emergency assistance and claim number before you travel.
Q Check the excess. This is the part of any claim that you pay. With some insurers it's per claim, with others it applies per person. The higher the excess, the lower the premium, but you're taking the risk.
Q Buying online can offer a discount. It's often cheaper, especially compared to buying from a travel agent.
Q Compare like with like. A cheaper policy may not cover all the items a more expensive one does.
Q Always take the company's emergency number with you; you might invalidate the claim by taking action yourself rather than checking their policy, especially when it comes to medical treatment.
Q Airlines have a legal responsibility to inform you of delays and cancellations and you may well be covered for these under The Montreal Convention. The regulator in Ireland is the Commission for Aviation Regulation which runs a consumer friendly website called www.flightrights.ie.