Buying a Travel Insurance before your Next Vacation

Buying a travel insurance is an insurance premium which you pay with the hope that you never get to use it. Whether you plan to travel abroad or within the country, if you take a travel insurance policy, it will definitely give you peace of mind and a sense of security. So don’t miss out on this important aspect during your upcoming travel planning and save yourself some sleepless nights and pockets full of money…

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Getting a well-covered travel insurance before your next vacation is as important as the trip itself as it covers your family and you against important unforeseen situations that you may face during your travel, especially if travelling overseas. Travel insurance typically covers two important aspects of any trip – any trip or travel inconveniences and medical emergencies.

For many of us in India, buying a travel insurance before our travel (unless mandated) is considered a useless expense and is often looked upon as an unnecessary hindrance. But one should realise that this insurance covers you against any travel adversities like last minute trip cancellation or delays, natural disasters or unforeseen political or terrorist situations at your destination, hospitalisation, sickness or loss/theft of documents etc.

For international travel, most travellers must ensure that they buy travel insurance, as most western countries mandates having a valid travel insurance at the time of visa application itself. Many countries have this as a pre-condition before anyone can visit their country. However, not many people opt for domestic travel insurance; it has not yet become a norm though it is always advisable to do the same for a smooth travel plan. Even though it is not mandatory, it is always a good idea to opt for travel insurance while travelling within the country as it saves the traveller from possible loss due to cancelled flights, loss of baggage and so on.

Though travel insurance covers health too but you need to keep this in mind that travel insurance is not a substitute for your health insurance taken in your home country. Travel insurance has a medical component that covers you against sudden illness, accident etc.; and the level of coverage will depend on your plan and provider.

In India, the market is flooded with travel insurance companies offering different plans. Now which plan is most suitable for you will depend on many factors, like your destination, the mode of travel, whether you are travelling alone or with family, the amount of valuables you are carrying and so on? However, you must buy an insurance policy that best fits the scope of the travellers such as having a higher health plan for seniors etc.

Insurance companies have different plans catering to different segments such as for senior citizens, students, women etc. If you are a frequent flyer, you even have the option of going for annual plan covering multiple trips. If it is your single annual trip, it is better to go for single trip insurance plan. Sometimes after doing all bookings like hotel, tickets, car etc. you may have to cancel your trip. There are plans where the insurer covers the trip cancellation charges. If you wish to avail this facility make sure your travel insurance covers the trip cancellation charges while buying the policy.

If you plan on adventure activities like ski diving, bungee jumping and other similar activities which have risk elements involved, you need to ask your insurance company to give you package covering any possible accidents in such activities. Mostly policies do not cover high risk adventure activities.

Hospitalisation and doctor costs are very high in western countries so while opting for a policy might feel like an unnecessary expense, do remember that in case of any eventuality, the cost borne by you will be many times higher. It is also prudent to inform the insurance company about any pre-existing medical conditions. You must also read and understand within the fine print about the list of diseases

covered under the travel insurance plan.If any member of the travel team has any pre-existing medical condition, make it a point to check and compare whether it is included in the policy. You can ask for separate cover paying additional cost.Read the document properly to understand all the minute details so that you do not miss out on any important clause. Some policies give you protection only for medical expenses incurred during travel while some may give you reimbursement for medical treatment continued in your home country. Be sure about the options and list of hospitals in the city or country you are visiting.

Make sure you are well aware about the claim procedure and company policies so that your claim is not rejected due to your ignorance or delay. Some policies require written report within a stipulated time along with documents. Check the exclusions so that you know what is approved and what is not. Also, check out the terms and conditions and exclusions, well before you sign the dotted line. Choose the plan with the least exclusions or the one which is best suited to your requirements.

And most important do not forget to check and ensure if your travel insurer is registered with the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI).

Tips for Buying Travel Insurance
1. Plan to purchase your Travel Insurance much in advance and ensure that your insurance covers the entire period of your travel.
2. Fill in the proposal form completely and honestly after getting the necessary medical tests done and always carry a copy.
3. In case you need to extend the period of cover, plan for it before the cover expires.
4. Go through the policy document properly and completely and make a note of the contact details of the agency or hospital servicing the claims.
5. Do not only go by the words of travel agent; do your own research and make an informed choice.
6. Buy policy from a reputed company or a recognized agent.
Expert Inputs
Swetank Shantanu, a Partner with a New Delhi based law firm ‘Legal Consultus’, explains the concept of travel insurance.
Travel insurance indemnifies the travellers from an emergent situation viz. loss of health and also in some cases loss of goods and baggage. The concept of travel insurance is prevalent particularly in the form of protection from accidents and accidental deaths. However, the option of travel insurance with respect to loss of baggage and health lies with the travellers.
As far as the Indian Railways is concerned, the facility of free travel insurance provided by the Indian Railways which was introduced in September 1, 2018. Travellers booking tickets from the IRCTC website or mobile application will have two options: Opt-in or opt-out. The insurance provided by the Indian Railways to passengers travelling on a valid ticket covers risks during the train journey.
Though it is not legally or mandatorily required to have travel insurance in India but it is always advisable to have travel insurance for simple reason that it provides sense of security and peace of mind in case of sudden exigencies while travelling.
In case of deficiency of service, one can always approach the court of law. Insurance policies are contractual obligations between the respective Insurance Company and the passenger/traveller. Hence, the terms and conditions of the policy have to be adhered with strictly by both the passenger/traveller as well as the insurance company. The passenger/traveller may approach the respective Consumer Court under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 for the redressal of his/her grievances against the insurance company. I may clarify here that it is the Insurance Company only that is responsible for policy issuance and claims settlement. So, going for travel insurance is the need of the time and that too carefully, after having done the homework.