Travel Insurance

Red phone box

2 years ago I took out travel insurance for my travels. I think it cost me about 150 GBP for a year and I found it completely useless.

I was mugged in Saint Petersburg on my last trip there and getting a police statement is a bureaucratic nightmare. In many countries I have travelled the police are the very last people I want to deal with after I was imprisoned by the corrupt Russian police. This process can takes ages and can be costly (bribes). My schedule is usually pretty busy, so in many cases I can’t wait for a “investigation” to complete.

Another instance where I lost some stuff was the Tsunami. I actually bothered to get a police statement from a fucking crazy police chief who beat the crap out of some local in front of me. Later my mother called to say my Insurance doesn’t cover me for natural disasters. Actually I think locals stole my stuff, not so much the Tsunami, but that’s hard to prove.

So as I am about to embark on another expedition in South America, I investigated travel insurance again and this time I am reading the small print and asking questions.

Since I have a bunch of travelling experience I asked the insurer a few questions about an attractive policy.

Are my possessions insured if I get mugged? I have a laptop and camera equipment worth about 1000 GBP. If I get mugged and injured I will get 100 GBP. Of course I need a police statement as proof and must report the incident within 12 hours. In some counties police stations are closed more that 12 hours a day. My equipment is actually insured up to only a total of 500 GBP, with each possession worth a maximum of 250 GBP.

Of course I need to have the original receipts and recent valuations of each stolen possession. Insurers also take depreciation into account. For example, if your 1000 GBP laptop is one year old, in the insurer’s eyes it is actually worth 500 GBP. That’s right 50% depreciation a year. Also you’re only allowed one “mugging claim” per trip. Well, I’ve been mugged more than once in my last trip!

What happens if my laptop and equipment get damaged by luggage handlers? Sorry, fragile items are not insured.

Hijack, 30 GBP for each 24 hour period my vehicle is under hijack. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Cancellation is absolutely useless as every airline will make alternative arrangements or at least refund you if there is a cancellation. If there is a delay because of industrial action (most common case), you’re not covered.

Missed departure. If you vehicle breaks down you have to provide evidence the vehicle is properly serviced and maintained and the recovery was made my a recognized breakdown organisation.

10 GBP for each 8 hour travel delay. 1.25 GBP an hour. Is that what my time is worth?

Ok, the most important is probably medical. For this to work you must call the insurance before you get treated. In many countries calling the UK is very difficult. In the times I’ve been omitted to hospital, the last thing I want to do is to be negotiating my treatment with my insurer.

There are many cases where I am not covered for medical. For example if I injure myself doing “activity sports”. There are strange conditions for this. For example I am covered for up to 7 days of horse riding.

Insurance claims in my experience rarely pay out. When they do, they often minimise the damage. For example I had a computer struck by lightning. They sent me a crap computer which they thought matched the specs of the computer!

When insurers don’t pay out, you probably will not have the resources to take them to court. There also can be very slow to pay out. By that time you probably have had to cut your trip short. Most insurers only allow you to claim once you are back in the UK.

Is it worth it? I can understand how the insurers want to protect themselves from false claims and people not taking the proper precautions, but I think I’ve definitely hit some problems.

I am quite fit, but I still worry about crazy hospital bills. I would definitely not take out any insurance if I knew hospitals would be reasonable. In many countries like India they are reasonable. In fact in Russia & Australian/NZ there are reciprocal health agreements with the UK. But in some places I’ve travelled like Korea, expect 600USD charges for seeing a doctor and running a few tests.


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