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Travel Insurance isn't simple
5 February 2009
Each year, Australians make more than 5 million overseas trips. We’re the world’s most travelled people, and we take many hours planning our travel. So why are we so light-hearted about the sort of risks we might face in another country? Do you know what you’re covered for under your travel insurance policy?

The Insurance Ombudsman Service routinely deals with claims dismissed by travel insurers because the applicant was unaware they weren’t covered for specific risks.

In May last year, a woman was forced to return home early from her round the world trip after a debit card – which had been stolen from luggage missing at an airport for a day – was used to empty all her funds.

Her claim was rejected on the basis the luggage section of her policy excluded cover for loss of cash.

Another woman was due to travel on 23 September last year but on 7 September was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Her claim for the money involved in paying the cancellation fees was denied as the cancer was considered a pre-existing medical condition, which was not covered by the policy.

The difficulty with covering travelling Australians through a standard policy is that people don’t have standard holidays. They do things they wouldn’t normally do back home.

An adventure holiday, such as bungee-jumping, whitewater rafting and scuba diving, is now commonplace with young Australians.

Corporate travel also carries its uncertainties. Terrorism, political upheaval and natural disasters are now real risks. So how do you choose the cover that is right for you?

Most people buy their insurance through a travel agent when they are booking their holiday. But can you be sure the agent has sold you a policy that’s going to cover the unique features of your travel?

Corporate travel insurance provides benefits that travel agent policies don’t normally provide – for any or all of your employees.

These usually include cover for pre-existing medical conditions, baggage without depreciation, loss of money or deposit, kidnap and ransom, terrorism, loss of income, and evacuation due to political or natural disasters – many of which are an integral part of corporate travel.

Most retail or travel agent policies don’t provide those covers, and major civil disasters the recent earthquake in China and the cyclone in Burma show just how important such cover can be.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says travel insurance is a basic necessity.

“Every day our consular officers deal with human tragedies involving the death, injury or hospitalisation of Australians abroad,” a department report said. “Each year we handle over 20,000 cases involving Australians in difficulty overseas.”

The Insurance Ombudsman says travellers may be surprised to know many policies do not include items stolen when left unattended in a public place, or cameras, computers, mobile phones and jewellery, unless they are carried on the person. Then there’s the issue of property and cash left in vehicles.

If you haven’t checked your travel insurance policy closely, you may find that conditions, limitations and exclusions will turn a frustrating or harrowing experience into an extremely costly one.

Talk to us about your travel plans. And if you’re travelling on business, your standard “holiday” policy is probably inappropriate. You really do need the best possible cover for the circumstances you’re traveling under, so put us on your list of “must-do” travel preparations.
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