This week has seen a highly publicised story about an Aussie who stopped and had a short holiday in Thailand on the way back from the UK. Unfortunately her short holiday also included an accident involving a motorbike she was driving.  Today she is still in hospital.  Yes, she had travel insurance but it is not paying for any of the medical coverage required. The question is how can someone who bought travel insurance coverage not be covered for a medical emergency?

When you book discount or cheap airline tickets, buy discounted business class or premium economy tickets thinking the upgrade your airline tickets will be great, the low cost ticket for flights scenario kicks in for your holiday plans. Many people start looking at saving money and elect not to take out travel insurance to protect their loved ones, themselves, their belongings, even their jobs, in the event of an unexpected accident or delay.

In some cases, even having travel insurance will not be any good to protect you from huge hospital bills in the event of an accident or ‘incident’ that most people would consider covered. It comes to ‘buyer beware’ in some cases, and knowing your travel insurance policy before you travel and before you need to make a claim against your travel insurance policy.

10 reasons why your travel insurance provider may not cover your claim:

  1. You are operating outside the law. Insurance companies do not cover illegal activities. This includes travel insurance companies.  Many countries require you to have a license for the country to be able to operate a motorbike or motorcar. Vietnam is a prime example of this law… you must have a VN drivers license to legally operate a motor vehicle. Other countries, like Thailand will accept a foreign license, provided you are qualified – read licensed – in another country to operate the equipment. Eg . a Motorbike license, a car license, a truck to certain tonnage. Know how to drive a motorbike does not make you a licensed driver. Do rental companies accept you without the proper license? Absolutely…they are not the police so do not always care. Some may warn you about the police, but few rarely warn you of your risk of non-coverage by your insurance company. If you as a passenger are required, by law or instruction of the driver/pilot to wear a seatbelt, then an accident/incident where you are not wearing the seatbelt would potentially see your travel insurance claim denied.
  2. Sports activities in a competition.  Should you compete in a marathon while on holiday or a school competition? Many companies have blanket travel insurance exclusion clauses to exclude professional and amateur sport activities when it is in a competition or training for competition, even if it is school related.
  3. Drinking or drug related activity. Car crash or injury because you are drunk or stoned? Don’t expect any coverage from your travel insurance policy.  This could be due to not showing ‘common sense’ while under the influence, for example falling down stairs while drunk.
  4. Civil unrest and war….. Yes if you are caught up in an act of war, even if just started when you entered the room or country you may not be covered. Likewise if you are denied boarding or de-planed due to changes of government policy you are not able to claim against your policy for flight delays or disruptions.
  5. Causing your own death voids the policy.  Committing suicide is not a ‘payable’ benefit, likewise self induced drug overdoses are not covered.
  6. Your tour operator, travel agent, airline or other service provider becoming insolvent. If they are not able or willing to carry out any part of their services to you may not be covered. This is a huge issue in Australia, which recently removed consumer protection for purchases through travel agents via the TCIF. **Future.Travel offers insolvency protection for our agency services with our opt-in travel insurance.
  7. Traveling to uninsured countries. Travel insurance has limitations. One limitation is that it may not provide global coverage. Some discount flight tickets with optional travel insurance cover you for only one destination, the one connected to your cheap flight ticket. If you are flying to an excluded country for your policy you will not be covered. For example many travel insurance policies will not cover travel to North Korea or the USA.
  8. Any claim resulting from a tropical disease.  This non-coverage kicks in when it is determined your illness could have been prevented or minimized via having a proper vaccination for the illness prior to or during your travels.
  9. Claims relating to frequent flyer travel are not covered by travel insurance. This small print item basically says if you paid nothing for the travel in terms of legal tender, then you may not be eligible for a refund for flights, hotels, tours which were arranged via the use of a frequent flyer programme.
  10. You are having a horrible trip that is not at all to your liking. This is actually a fairly often requested excuse for wanting a refund via travel insurance. It is not a viable claim, nor is I changed my mind about the trip, I can’t get time off from work, etc. A change of heart is not an acceptable reason for a refund.

For those who just want to have fun… remember the lady from the UK, from the beginning of this Future.Travel eBlog, whose short stop over holiday to Thailand turned into a financial nightmare. All could have been avoided if she had fully understood the ‘rules’ of her policy. Quite possibly she would not have taken the motorbike out for a ride. For travellers anywhere, and particularly in Southeast Asia, don’t ride a motorbike or drive a car unless you are 100% sure you are legal to drive in both your home country and your visited country. If the law requires you to have a license for a motorbike in your home country you can bet your insurance company will also require it to cover you.

Should you take out travel insurance?? Absolutely!! Make sure you understand who is covered, what is covered, where it is covered, and why it may not be honoured (the exclusions). Travel insurance does work, it saves lives, and prevents some heartaches. You just need to know what is covered and what you need to avoid to stay inside the policy rules.