Travel insurance

                     …is easy to buy but policies can be really difficult to understand.

To safe you lots of money and distress please read this now.

There are so many types of coverage and policies, and prices vary so drastically that it is difficult to make the right choice. Insurance companies know that often people don’t bother and just don’t read the policies. DON’T just get the cheapest policy.

To determine what type of insurance you need for your trip, you should also first find out what coverage you already have. Find out the details of your health insurance, because your health insurance company may reimburse you for medical expenses abroad.

Medical expenses, cancellation of flights, and lost baggage are just some of the things that go wrong on your trip. They can all cost a lot of time, money and stress if appropriate travel insurance is not in place.


The kind of work you are planning to do often determines the type of health coverage you should get. To sort through the maze of available policies, you should first determine your needs. How long will you be volunteering and what will be your primary activities? There are many specialized policies available and also policies that include the injuries caused by the direct contact with wild animals. If you are planning to go hiking, mountaineering, or you will spend a lot of time in the jungle it might be a good idea to get comprehensive health coverage that includes Air Ambulance and Emergency Medical Evacuation.

If you are planning a trip to a tropical country where many infectious diseases might be present, you might want to consider a type of coverage that includes doctor’s visits and medication in addition to medical emergencies. While if you are travelling to a country with few health threats, you might want to consider a policy that only covers medical emergencies such as hospitalization.  I have travelled in tropical countries, and had to see a doctor for minor health problems.

Sometimes your insurance does not cover doctor’s visit, you can go to a clinic that is part of the public health system, where treatment is usually very affordable. But if you prefer seeing a private doctor or a specialist while travelling, the cost for treatment might go up significantly, and it might therefore be better for you to choose a policy that includes doctor’s visits as well.

A little checklist

  • Determine if your current health insurance covers any medical needs abroad (especially if it covers injuries caused by your work with wildlife).
  • Check on a foreign government’s requirements for incoming volunteers.
  • Check out the difference in travel protection purchased through a travel agent and a travel insurance company.
  • Check out other services the company offers: medical transportation, accident insurance, emergency medical/dental benefits, accident medical expenses, in-hospital indemnity legal referral, medical emergency evacuation, repatriation in case of death, and a 24-hour emergency assistance hotline in your mother language.
  • Purchase health insurance through licensed or state-approved companies.
  • Read all the fine print, since this is where you really find out your actual coverage.
  • Clarify the often vaguely described details.  If in doubt, call the company before signing up and make sure that all your questions are answered.

Don’t forget to take your insurance details with you wherever you go,


make photocopies and leave them with a friend or family back home.

Insurance Advice from the Association of British Insurers:

  • If you had a medical condition before your trip and did not inform the insurance company, your travel insurance is unlikely to pay for medical treatment or the costs to get you home. If you want to be insured for the condition, tell the insurance company before you go and they will advise you if they can cover the condition or not.
  • Policies will often pay for you to cancel your trip or come home early if a close relative becomes ill. If you know of a relative's condition before the trip you must tell the insurance company before you travel so they may decide if they will cover this or not. Check carefully to see who the policy calls a 'close relative', as policies can differ.

Doing Something Risky?

If you are likely to be engaged in risky pursuits during a placement arranged by a gap year company, they should advise you to check that such activities are included in your insurance policy.

  • But it may be that you will wish to repeat the experience or try other risky activities while travelling independently either before or after your placement. Most policies do not cover you for doing dangerous things like riding a jet-ski, diving or bungee jumping unless you have told the insurance company before you go and they have agreed to cover you. The best thing to do is to check your policy before you travel to check that it covers all the activities you hope to experience on your travels. If you are unsure, contact the insurance company and ask.
  • Gap years should be fun and spontaneous and it may be that you may decide to participate in a dangerous activity that is not on your list. In this case see if you can obtain cover locally – your gap year company may be able to advise you even if you have completed your time with them.

Be careful with your possessions – don’t leave your things where they’ll get stolen

  • Don’t rely on your insurance. They may not pay your claim if you have not taken enough care in looking after your things. Always act as though you do not have insurance, and look after your possessions.
  • Check the limits on your policy for individual items and money. If you are planning to take expensive items such as cameras, jewellery and other valuables with you then you should check the amount covered. If you cannot afford to lose an item, leave it at home!
  • Don't leave your possessions where you can't stop someone taking them, and don't leave items in a locked car where passers-by can see them.
  • Always keep money and valuable items with you or locked in a safe

Get proof of your loss

  • Always keep receipts to help you prove your claim.
  • If something is stolen or you lose it, always report it to the police, and when travelling independently your hotel/hostel and carrier as soon as possible and get a document from them to prove that you told them.

Remember the helpline

  • Every travel insurance policy has a 24-hour assistance helpline. The helpline can provide you with a lot of help and advice, so be sure to call if you need it.
  • If you have a medical problem abroad, most policies require you to call the helpline to make sure any medical treatment is covered and will be paid.
  • If you are still on your gap year placement, ask your gap year provider for help. They should have details of your policy and will have experience of helping people with the necessary procedures for making an insurance claim whether it be for health reasons, lost property or adding to your policy.

Useful Background Information

  • The cost of claims is disproportionate as shown below:
  • Most common claims (%) Cost of claims(%)
  • Medical expenses 33% 50%
  • Baggage & money 30% 10%
  • Cancellation 28% 36%
  • Others 9% 4%

Copies of Documents

Leave a copy of your passport, your insurance and any other important documents you may need to refer to with your parents, guardian or reliable friend at home. E-mail a copy to yourself and take an additional copy with you, which you keep separate from the original. In this way should you lose your documents abroad the situation can be quickly recovered.

Insurance companies don’t want you to get a nasty surprise if you have to make a claim:

  • If you are in doubt about whether you should mention anything to your insurer, tell them.
  • If you are not sure what is covered, ask them.
  • Remember - it is always best to read the policy when you receive it... You will be amazed at how much good stuff is in it!

The information in this section is taken from a briefing given by Association of British Insurers in September 2005 (

020 Fauna

useful Travel Insurance Links

Bikini Travel Insurance 

Aimed at women (& their families). "Cover developed for women by women".

Essential Travel

Policies provide emergency medical expenses including emergency assistance service; policies are very flexible and provide cover for trips up to 12 months in length. Essential Travel's backpacker travel insurance policies allow you to work while on your trip.

World First Travel Insurance

Offer a wide range of policies including single and annual multi-trip, backpacker and cruise cover.


Offers one of the most extensive product ranges in the industry providing low cost travel.

Travel Insurance Medical

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ERV offers travel insurance for German students.

HanseMerkur; Ergo

Worldwide coverage for Germans

World Nomads

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Square Mouth

Instant travel insurance quotes, compares hundreds of products from the top providers.

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