Are you going on an adventure of a lifetime? Or taking an exotic family holiday? Get expert travel insurance to cover you in all legal, medical and financial matters during your travels.

Understanding Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is simply a policy that is taken out to protect you, your family, co-workers or employees from having to deal with the financial implications of flight cancellations, political and weather related events, legal liability, medical expenses and theft or damage of personal belongings and luggage.

Just as a primary breadwinner would take out life insurance to ensure that their family is taken care of financially when they’re no longer around, a traveller would take out travel cover to ensure they’re taken care of while abroad.

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 70 can take out an insurance policy. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an insured adult, in which case they will automatically be covered as well and those over 79 will have to apply for seniors travel insurance. Some insurance companies allow insured individuals to extend their coverage to children up to the age of 25 provided they live at the same address and are full tiem students.

Why do you Need it?

While you might think many countries out there are likely to be safer than South Africa – travelling is an activity that carries a significant amount of risk. Whether this risk is a result of visiting a country with a high crime rate or political instability or, simply eating the local cuisine which simply doesn’t agree with your system, it is always a good idea to minimise this risk by taking out travel insurance.

We all know just how expensive a trip to the doctor can be here at home but, many other countries are just as expensive, if not more so. While travel insurance cannot take the place of appropriate medical aid, it can cover certain injuries and trips to the doctor’s office and save you from having to foot these bills when you’ve already spent so much on your trip to begin with.

While having travel insurance cannot stop unfortunate events like luggage theft or physical injury from happening, it can cover the expenses associated with these events and make sure you don’t return home with your life savings down to zero.

What does Travel Insurance Cover?

Travel insurance can cover anything from the cancellation of a flight due to a strike to the permanent or temporary loss of hearing due to an accident. Exactly what is covered and what is not will be detailed in your policy which is typically a lengthy document that specifies what will and will not be covered, your responsibilities, liability in various scenarios and how to make a claim, among many other things.

It is important to note your policy’s Limit of Liability which specifies the maximum payout that your insurance will pay on any valid claim. It is also crucial that you find and make a note of what your excess amount is. This can typically be found on your insurance certificate which also confirms that you are covered and tells you what you have paid for that cover.

Here are a Few Things that may be Covered:

  • Emergency and certain non emergency medical expenses
  • Inpatient and outpatient treatment
  • Repatriation for medical reasons for the insured and covered children or family members
  • Burial, cremation or return of an insured persons remains
  • Access to urgent cash if your cards and money has been lost or stolen
  • Lost or stolen flight ticket replacement
  • Travel and flight delays
  • Flight cancellations under a number of circumstances
  • Hotel stays and accommodation for companions in emergency situations
  • Lost or stolen documents and cards
  • Lost, stolen and damaged luggage and belongings as not covered by your carrier
  • Personal liability as a result of injury or death caused to a person or property
  • Permanent disability and personal injury up to your Limit of Liability

Where to get Travel Insurance?

When you hear travel insurance you’re likely to immediately think of the cover that you are provided by any airline carrier that you fly with but, this is only a small part of travel insurance and there are many other larger and more comprehensive insurance providers out there.

Many South African Financial Services Providers (FSP’s) offer travel insurance. This includes global brands like American Express and local banks like First National Bank. Although the travel cover offered by these FSP’s are not comprehensive, they usually cover the most critical eventualities and can easily be “topped up”. You also automatically get travel cover with certain credit cards, financial products and life assurance or insurance policies.

Many large insurance providers such as Hollard and Santam offer a range of travel insurance policies ranging from the most basic that mimics that offered by credit card companies to the most comprehensive cover that R50 million in medical cover.

Finally, there are also some online travel insurance providers and specialist travel insurance companies that offer cover to travellers as their core service. While these options are cheaper it is important that you review the policy to ensure that you are receiving the level of cover necessary for your particular trip. 

Types of Travel Insurance

  • Travel Insurance for Individuals – can be used by anyone from the single mom travelling for business to the corporate executive that’s making his annual trip to a speakers conference
  • Travel Insurance for Students – this type of insurance can be obtained by students travelling abroad for pleasure or to study, more specifically those who are travelling across the world in a group with a Schengen Visa
  • Travel Insurance for Families – the more people you need covered the better the insurance premium per person will be. Travel insurance for families is very affordable and is necessary given the higher number of travellers and therefore the higher the expenses and risks
  • Travel Insurance for Sportsmen – A more expensive form of travel insurance that allows the insured to partake in extreme or risky sports without losing cover
  • Seniors Travel Insurance – travel insurance for those who are aged 70 and above
  • Travel Insurance for Businesses – businesses are required to take out business travel insurance for their employees who travel abroad whether they are travelling for 3 days or 6 months

What to Watch Out for

When it comes to any form of insurance, the most important thing to do is read and reread your policy and certificate to ensure that you understand what you are and are not covered for. This includes what inclusions and exclusions exist, the proper process to follow if you experience any event that is covered by your policy and, how to get hold of your insurance company in an emergency.

You should also check your Limit of Liability which is essentially the maximum amount that your insurance company will payout, regardless of whether or not your claim is valid, and your excess amount. Excess refers to the amount that you, as the policy holder, will be liable for in the event that you make a claim. It may be worth noting that the lower the excess the more expensive your travel insurance policy will be.

You should also note the pre-authorisation instructions and payout limits which may, for example, require that you receive authorisation prior to receiving medical attention or incurring expenses exceeding R10,000.00 or that you contact your insurance provider 24 hours after being admitted to a hospital for emergency medical care. You should also not that certain expenses and, expenses that you cannot produce a receipt for will very likely be rejected when you make a claim.

Is Travel Insurance Worth it?

Just as having a decent car insurance policy in place to make sure you don’t end up filing for bankruptcy as a result of a motor vehicle accident you should have travel insurance to make sure your life savings don’t disappear overnight because of an unfortunate event.

From warning you about hazardous weather and political instability to covering the cost of flight cancellations and the resulting hotel stay, your travel insurance provider can become your best friend when you no longer have control of what’s happening round you.

Whether you’re travelling as a family for a few days to an island paradise or providing aid to displaced asylum seekers in a poverty stricken country – travel insurance is simply a must for all South Africans. Not only will it cover you in the event that your flight is cancelled or delayed or, if your goes missing but, it will spare you from having to pay medical bills as a result of personal injury and cover the costs of repatriation.

Top Tips to get the Best Travel Cover

  • Always get as many online insurance quotes as possible before choosing an insurance provider or policy.
  • Be honest on your travel insurance application. If you’re planning on perform stunts and dangerous water sports and sustain an injury or incur damages your insurance company will not be liable and this would defeat the purpose of getting insured in the first place.
  • If you’re travelling as a family always look for an insurance package that covers all family members as these will work out to be much cheaper than individual policies and will usually offer the same level of cover.
  • Business owners and managers should always negotiate insurance cover premiums for their employees as the more people you need to insure the better the offer from an insurance company should be.
  • Be wary of relying solely on the insurance provided by an airline or credit card provider. If you opt for this type of travel insurance always consider asking for “top up” cover to ensure you have sufficient cover for you and your family.
  • Remember that all insurance providers will have several levels of travel cover and it is up to you to decide how much cover and, which option, is best suited to you.
  • If not provided in your insurance quote, always ask for Limit of Liability and excess figures.
  • Cheap insurance isn’t necessarily better, always read through the inclusions and exclusions before making use of the costs of a policy to determine value for money.
  • Note that only South African residents who have a round trip ticket are able to apply for travel insurance and that trips to countries which are deemed to be of higher risk in terms of safety and security will cost you more.