Here at World Vegan Travel, we are rather a strange lot because we are passionate about travel insurance. That might seem a strange and boring thing to be passionate about. It’s not because we love paying money for insurance, love insurance, or even that we are insurance experts, but through our travels throughout the world, we have seen when travel insurance will help and when it won’t. This was even the case before COVID19 and now with COVID19, we have an extra layer of complexity. We now need to think about possible changes in borders, changing quarantines and boosters, and more.
As tour operators, we don’t sell travel insurance but we do spend time thinking about how our travelers can protect themselves, the cost of their trip, their health, and their belongings. As tour operators, we are unable to refund our travelers’ money if they need to cancel just before the trip starts and medical bills are also the responsibility of the traveler as well as many other situations.
It’s now been more than a year since the pandemic started and the travel craziness has stopped and has been replaced by a cautious uncertainty. While travel insurance has generally caught up with COVID19 now and covers for it, we would advise you to really look carefully at these terms and conditions and consider every possible scenario.
With that in mind, we have put together a number of questions that you should make sure you have the answer to before buying an insurance policy.
But before we get started:
A word of warning about cheaper or more backpacker insurance policies like World Nomads or Safety Wing.
Personally, I love these insurance policies but I don’t think they are the best to get just because they are so easy to book online, the price is so low and they are so convenient.
It’s these kinds of insurances that give people the opportunity to travel on a budget (think Digital Nomads or people on a GAP year). They are really good for providing long-term coverage at a low price but the coverage often does not cover trip cancellation and there are relatively low limits for things like a trip interruption, medical only has a 250,000 USD limit and medical evacuation has a max limit of 100,000 USD. To get a sense of what medical evacuation COULD cost, then check out this post from an insurance company. In a bad-case scenario, you could find yourself many thousands of dollars out of pocket.
Talk to someone before you purchase
We also recommend that you talk to a travel agent or speak directly with a salesperson of a few different insurance companies and ask them to answer the following questions. Looking through all the long insurance wording is very challenging to a layperson and even a website that is well set up and has a lot of great information well laid out, we are willing to bet money that it will be hard to get the answers to these questions from the brief overview of the insurance.
Credit card insurance
Premium credit cards often come with travel insurance but there will in all likelihood be some limitations with the card and we invite you to speak to them directly and ask them the following questions. Check their coverage carefully as there may be some big omissions. For example, my Amex Platinum card will only cover trips up to a maximum of 15 days! If my trip is 20 days and I fall sick? I’m on my own.
Be prepared… It is unlikely that even the best and most expensive travel insurance premium will cover everything.
Now, we really don’t want to suggest to you that you will find ACTUALLY find an insurance company that will be able to cover you in every single possible scenario. That is not the purpose of this blog post. An answer of ‘no’ will just be a helpful data point for you to decide if you are prepared to cover this cost should this scenario actually occur. If you learn that an insurance company will only pay 10 days accommodation in case you cannot return home due to a COVID positive test then you will know you will have to pay for the other 4 days. That might be about 400 Euros which will probably not bankrupt you and you’ll be ready.
So, without further ado, here are the …… questions you should KNOW the answers to before you take out a travel insurance policy in 2021 (and probably beyond)
If I test positive before leaving my home country and I am unable to catch my flight and meet my group / use my booked travel services, what will my coverage be?
If you need a negative test to get you on the plane and into the country of destination but you test positive, you will not be able to travel for 14 days. In many cases, you might lose hotel bookings, the cost of the group trip, and maybe even your flight costs. For many people especially those doing luxury travel, this could mean a loss of tens of thousands of dollars. You want to make sure that this huge cost will be covered in the event of a dreaded positive test result.
Extra follow up questions if you are traveling with others:
- What if one of my parties tests positive and the others do not?
- What if I test positive and my underage child tests negative?
I am not vaccinated against COVID19 and do not want to be vaccinated. If the country I am going to changes its entry requirements or my home country changes its requirements for returning residents or I can’t enter many establishments like restaurants or hotels due to my lack of vaccine, can I cancel my trip and will I be covered?
This one is self-explanatory. Your decision to not get vaccinated could have a big impact on your trip if the rules change and might mean that you can’t travel at all. When you booked your trip (and bought your insurance) you might not have needed a vaccine to enter the country and to eat in restaurants or stay in hotels, but as we know, these rules can change and if these rules change at the last minute, you will not have time to get vaccinated (even if you suddenly change your mind). If you get Cancel For Any Reason (CAFR) insurance, you might be covered.
If you are unvaccinated, and you want to travel, you should be prepared for possible changes in border rules.
If I am unable to fly back home due to testing positive what will my coverage be? Hotels, rebooking flights, meals for the 14 days while isolating, etc
While it is extremely unlikely this will happen, you should be aware of this. In most circumstances, if you test positive you will need to isolate for 14 days, and for most travelers, this will be in a hotel or Airbnb. Most insurers will give you some sort of daily budget which will probably be fairly reasonable, but if you were not covered for this, you might need to pay for 14 nights of accommodation and a new flight. It’s worth knowing the answer to this important question.
Follow up questions:
- What if one of my party tests negative and one test positive?
- What if my child or someone that needs to be cared for by me tests positive and I test negative?
How will I be covered should I be unable to travel due to border closures or travel advisories either to the country I am traveling to OR from my home country to the destination country?
While we hope this era of drastic complete closures is over especially for those that are vaccinated, it is by no means off the table especially as we have not gone through a whole winter with a vaccine program in place so it is worth asking this question. If your government suddenly advises against travel to a certain destination does not mean that your insurance company will payout. You should make sure you will know what will happen in these situations.
How will I be covered if my flight is canceled by the airline and I am unable to meet the group tour on time?
If you have dates that you must travel for (like a wedding, a group trip, or your nonrefundable hotel booking) then any cancellation by an airline could have severe implications for the whole point of your trip. If your trip is worth a lot of money, you will want to protect it.
Will I be covered for medical expenses incurred due to COVID19 and will medical evacuation be covered?
This question is probably the one you were probably going to ask anyway. If you do test positive and need treatment will the cost of this be covered? Also, consider that if you are traveling to a place that might require emergency evacuation and a long stay in ICU could go beyond the limits of a cheap policy.
Follow up question:
- On average, does this policy cover against all claimed medical costs in the destination I am going to in even the most serious of COVID cases?
The total cost of my trip is _______. How much of this will be covered if I have to cancel my trip due to not being able to make the trip due to reasons deemed acceptable to the insurance company?
This one is a great general question to ask. If the cost of the trip is 20,000 USD and you only have trip cancellation insurance for up to 5,000 USD, you could be severely out of pocket if you cannot make the trip.
Is the ‘fear of travel’ covered?
Perhaps there is a spike in cases in the destination where you are going or perhaps you just got cold feet! There are many times that people cancel their trips but ‘fear of travel’ is not generally considered one that will be covered by insurance companies. Some policies will cover this and it is called CAFR (Cancel For Any Reason) but you will need to seek it out, it probably won’t cover 100% of the cost AND the premium will be much more.
Will I be covered if I need to be tested for COVID19 due to displaying symptoms?
If you start developing symptoms of COVID19 the responsible thing to do is to get tested as soon as possible. Now where you are going probably has multiple testing sites with low-cost tests and you might even have free tests so why ask this question at all?
In a small number of cases, you might have to have a doctor come to you and take a test. An example of this would be a safari camp. If you display symptoms you might need a doctor or a nurse to fly out to your safari camp and take the test which might cost several hundred dollars.
What will I need to pay for ‘upfront’ and what will be paid by the insurance company directly?
This is a very good question to ask. Many insurance companies will ask you to pay upfront and to put a claim in later for small things and in case of serious medical issues, they will take over and pay directly. It is strongly advised that you contact your insurance company before you buy a replacement for that very expensive camera that you just had stolen (they might need a police report to submit with the claim) or if you have any medical issues at all (they will want to be included in all medical treatment decisions and will only cover things deemed necessary). There will be no helicopter evacuations unless THEY deem it necessary.
You should not assume that your insurance company will cover everything especially that fancy private room at that fancy hospital you just got admitted to. Contact them as soon as anything happens to maximize your chances of being successful in your claim.
We want to give you two more questions that are NOT COVID-related, but you should probably know the answers to them anyway!
Do you cover pre-existing conditions?
If you have pre-existing conditions, then you really need to know if your insurance company will cover it and if they don’t, what is the likelihood that whatever this pre-existing condition is, will you need lots of expensive care.
How much is the deductible?
There is nearly always a deductible. An amount that you will pay out of pocket before you will get any money back from the insurance company. Usually the lower the deductible, the higher the premium.
So, we think that’s it! If we have missed any glaring questions that you should ask then please reach out and let us know so we can add them here.
Shopping for any kind of insurance is always worrying especially if you start considering worst-case scenarios and it would be easy to just throw up your hands and decide to just stay at home. For us, getting through the doom and gloom feeling of getting insurance and knowing exactly how you will be covered should you run into problems on your trip is replaced with confidence once you have signed and paid for your insurance policy, which is then replaced with that feeling of joy when you actually get to your final destination and enjoy your first trip in a REALLY long time.