WHEN it comes to travel insurance Dermot Goode, insurance expert and founder of www.totalhealthcover.ie, believes Irish travellers are far too casual about what level of insurance they are purchasing.
The first thing to get if you are travelling in Europe is a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). All Irish residents are entitled to get healthcare through the public system in countries of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland if you become ill or injured while on a stay there, but you need to have the EHIC card to access those services. You can apply for the cards at www.hse.ie or at your local health office. Each family member , including children, will need their own card.
But you should still get additional insurance before you travel. If you have private health insurance it will normally include a certain amount of cover for illness and injury when you are abroad. Check your policy to see exactly what you are covered for and also for how long. Be aware that when you tick to say you already have health insurance, and then get a discount on your travel cover, that is because the travel insurance underwriter is presuming you are covered to a certain level.
Goode recommends picking up the phone to your chosen insurer before you leave Ireland, rather than trying to wade through policy documents to check your coverage.
“The insurance company will be happy to talk you through any questions,” he said. “The calls are recorded and you will know exactly what you’re covered for.”
Tell your insurer where you are going and what you intend to do there. Be specific, an afternoon of horse-riding should be fine, but if you are planning your trip around sport or hazardous activities you need to get the right policy for that.
There are additional cover options available for holidays that have different insurance requirements. Skiers and snowboarders should look for winter sports/ski cover which will provide extra protection against loss or theft of equipment or lift passes and cover for mountain rescue. For travellers heading away for more than a holiday, backpackers policies offer cover for longer trips.
Travellers on cruise holidays also have additional cover requirements in case of cancellation or curtailment, loss of baggage or property on a leg of the trip and emergency medical expenses.
Additional cruise insurance can cover you for these situations and if you are unable to arrive on time at a port due to an insured reason. When looking at cruise insurance, check that your policy covers medical cover on board the ship and emergency evacuation/repatriation in the event of an emergency, as these costs can add up to a considerable amount.
Goode’s advice: “Never assume you are covered, get clarification from the insurer beforehand”.
Your insurance is not just for medical emergencies; you also need to check your cover for anything else that might happen, such as damaged or lost luggage, cancelled flights or loss or theft of money or passport. The big thing to check here is the level of excess on the policy. A small saving between the cost of a basic or more expensive plan could be as a result of a large excess in the event of a claim.
When looking for holiday insurance, consumers usually buy online or turn to a company they already have a relationship with - either their bank or another insurer. It is worth checking with your home, car or health insurance provider as they may offer you a discount.
Goode recommends consumers compare different policies but suggests VHI multi-trip as a good option if you think you will make more than one trip abroad in a year. It is available to anyone, not just those with VHI health cover. He also gives blueinsurance.ie the nod.
Travel agents, airlines and tour operators frequently offer travel insurance but don’t forget, you may get better value by buying your travel insurance separately. Shop around.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) offer advice about travel insurance at www.consumerhelp.ie.
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