Travel insurance at affordable premiums

A guide to what to do in case of a travel emergency




Contents

Introduction

Personal safety

What to do in the event of a natural disaster

Terrorism – be prepared

Injury

Theft

Summary




Introduction

A holiday, and the chance to travel abroad, is a time to enjoy yourself and broaden your horizons. On most of those occasions, that is exactly what happens. Unfortunately, however, there are times when things may begin to go wrong – with the potential for going very wrong indeed.

These are the travel emergencies for which you may need to be prepared. Having given them some thought beforehand and planned how you might begin to cope with them is likely to put you in a stronger position in dealing with the fallout.

Some of the emergencies might be reasonably familiar – even if you have not encountered them yourself. These might include the injuries, sickness and theft of your passport, baggage or valuables. Others, though might be rather more serious – life threatening even. These might involve assaults against your person, natural disasters, civil unrest or terrorism.

These are all risks for which you might want to turn to your travel insurance. But beware, not all policies are likely to cover all of these risks. So you might want to seek the reassurance of professional advice from a travel insurance specialist such as us at Bengo Travel.

To help put those reasons into perspective, this guide takes a brief look at some of the principal sources of travel emergencies:

  • threats against your personal safety;
  • what to do in the event of a natural disaster;
  • terrorism – and being prepared;
  • injury; and
  • theft

Under these headings, you might gain a greater understanding of the type of travel emergencies that might arise – and being prepared in advance, standing a better chance of successfully dealing with them.


Personal safety

One of the best ways of staying out of trouble, of course, is to avoid it in the first place. Street crime is prevalent just about anywhere you, travel, of course, and there are normal, everyday precautions you probably take even when walking your own streets at home.

When you are abroad, however, unfamiliar surroundings, foreign languages, different cultures and a propensity for other threats to your personal safety might make staying safe more of a challenge.

The risks are likely to be greater in some countries than others and a very useful resource for getting an immediate, overall assessment of the risks you are likely to face are published and constantly updated by the Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) in its website called Foreign Travel Advice.

Since this gives advice on maintaining your personal safety on some 225 countries around the world, wherever you are planning to travel is likely to be included.

The fact that some countries may pose a higher threat to personal safety may be expected, but some of the warnings given by the FCO may be more of a surprise.

Although it has been host to both the World Cup and the Olympic Games in recent years, for example, Brazil comes in for some particular warnings by the FCO. Those affecting your personal safety are:

  • the high levels of crime and violence, especially in the major cities;
  • nevertheless, crime and violence is a risk in many parts of the country and frequently involves the use of guns or other weapons;
  • carnival time (in January and February) attracts a particularly high level of crime;
  • theft is common, especially on the major public beaches;
  • theft of cars, from cars and carjacking – involving the threat of firearms – are also commonplace;
  • bank and credit card fraud is common and there is a rising tide of robberies at cash machines.

The advice given by the FCO in avoiding such dangers is straight forward and largely a matter of common sense. Avoid poorly lit areas at night, for example, and if you are accosted and threatened, be prepared to hand over valuables rather than resist your attackers – they may be under the influence of drugs and/or armed.

In the case of Brazil, places to particularly avoid are the shanty towns – known as favelas – which are to be found in every large city. Their inhabitants are poor and levels of violent crime are especially high.

None of these risks and threats are unique to Brazil, of course, but may be encountered in many other countries – where similar precautions may need to be taken to safeguard your personal safety.

In the event of any incident in which your personal safety is compromised, it is important to report the matter to the local police. If you are injured or have property stolen and subsequently want to make a claim on your travel insurance, a copy of the police report (or at least the incident number) may be useful in pursuing your claim.


What to do in the event of a natural disaster

Some natural disasters may be predicted to some degree of certainty and, where this is the case, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is likely to issue travel warnings – generally advising against anything other than essential travel.

Many natural disasters, however, happen with very little or no warning at all. Hurricanes, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes and tsunamis, for instance have a way of catching out even the most seasoned and expert observers.

Here are a few tips and suggestions about what to do – and what not to do – if you are caught up in some form of natural disaster:

  • almost by definition, all around you is likely to be chaos and confusion – probably easier said than done, but those are the circumstances where staying calm and level-headed is likely to keep you out of worst danger;
  • make a plan – you are probably not alone and by sharing knowledge and resources with others around you, there may be chances to improve your lot collectively;
  • the Trip Base Blog has a number of snippets of advice , with one of the most important being that you follow whatever local warnings and advice are given – you are going to be foolhardy thinking that you know better than the local emergency services;
  • when the chips are down and you need to move fast out of the way of an impending natural disaster to a place of safety, remember that only essentials need to be packed in the event of an emergency – trying to find and carry every item of your travel wardrobe is going to be dangerously time-consuming and give you unnecessary clutter to carry;
  • find out where you are likely to find essential items, such as water, food, a flashlight, batteries, any medicines you need and the nearest first aid kit;
  • as soon as reasonably possible – and when it is safe to do so – let friends or relatives know where you are making do;
  • at the same time, inform the British Embassy or Consulate of your whereabouts and safety – their telephone number having been something you noted before setting out on your travels, but if you failed to do so, make a note now of the FCO’s London number for requesting consular assistance, +44 207 008 1500;
  • you may also need to telephone your tour operator or airline to establish what, if any, arrangements are being made to evacuate you or whether special flights out of an area affected by a natural disaster are being arranged;
  • your travel insurance company may also have a 24-hour helpline for use in such circumstances and, in the fullness of time, once you are safely back home in the UK, you may want to think about making a claim for any loss or damage you may have suffered.

Terrorism – be prepared

It is a sad reflection of our times that terrorism is on the increase. Of course, there are known hotspots – and official FCO travel advice against visiting these should not be ignored – but terrorist acts and incidents may occur in practically any country you are visiting.

Unfortunately, terrorist attacks may take many different forms, such as:

  • bombings;
  • shootings;
  • suicide attacks;
  • kidnappings;
  • hijacking;
  • piracy at sea or attacks on commercial flights; and even
  • the possible use of biological, chemical, nuclear or radiological agents.

How might you prepare against such a wide range of potential threats?

  • the British Red Cross and every official agency stresses the overriding importance of vigilance – attacks typically occur in crowded public place, so if you see a suspect package, vehicle or behaviour, leave the scene immediately and inform the appropriate authorities;
  • extra vigilance may be needed around religious festivals and public holidays, where large numbers of people are likely to congregate;
  • think about the roads and paths you are using and keep in mind possible exit routes in the event of an emergency or incident;
  • in some parts of the world, you might represent an individual target, so avoid routines that might make you even more conspicuous and vary the routes you use and the transport you take;
  • social media may be a two-edged sword – on the one hand it is a useful way of keeping friends and family informed about your whereabouts and well-being, but use it with caution and circumspection so as not to draw attention to your plans or itinerary;
  • always let your travelling companions (or even hotel staff you can trust) what your plans are for the day, where you are going and when you are likely to return; and
  • make a mental note of police stations, other official or government buildings and hospitals along your route in which you might take shelter in the event of a terrorist incident.

Being prepared may also be a question of being adequately insured. On that score, remember that many travel insurance policies specifically exclude acts of terrorism or civil unrest. For reassurance that you have the cover you may need, therefore, you might want to consult a specialist travel insurance provider such as ourselves to discuss your cover.


Injury

One of the single most important reasons for having travel insurance is the risk of an injury or other medical emergency during your travels.

For those accustomed to a free National Health Service (NHS) in Britain, the cost of even quite straight forward medical attention may be surprisingly expensive overseas. Depending on your location when the emergency occurs you may need special transport (evacuation by helicopter, for example) just to get to a medical facility. When your condition has stabilised a little you might also need to be repatriated to the UK or a family member flown out to accompany you whilst you are undergoing treatment.

All of this may amount to a very considerable cost – potentially involving many thousands of pounds.

It is important, therefore, that you check the limits of the medical cover included in your travel insurance and ensure that you have sufficient cover for any eventuality. This may depend on the activities or sports in which you plan to participate during your travels, so it is equally important to ensure that your travel insurance extends to all of the pursuits in which you will engage.

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions , these are unlikely to be covered by a standard travel insurance policy and you may need to consider arranging special travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Naturally, these policies are likely to attract a higher premium, since the risks to which the insurer is exposed are higher.

It is likely to be a dangerously false economy, however, simply to hide or fail to disclose any pre-existing medical condition when arranging your travel insurance. As the Money Saving Expert points out, a failure to disclose your medical history fully and accurately might result in your insurer rejecting any claim you subsequently make – and instead leave you with a very considerable medical bill.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The EHIC may be obtained free of charge and currently gives you access to free, publicly provided emergency medical services throughout the European Union. As the NHS website advises, however, the EHIC is no substitute for your own private travel insurance – it needs to be regarded as an additional supplement.

A further consideration with regard to the EHIC is the longer-term impact and its continuing validity following the UK referendum vote for a “Brexit” from the European Union. At this stage it remains unclear whether the card, and the public health services it provides, will continue to be valid upon the UK’s exit from the European Union.

A story in the Independent newspaper on the 1st of April 2016, revealed that Brexit is likely to put in jeopardy the current EHIC scheme .


Theft

Compared to some of the other risks and perils, the theft of your luggage or personal items might not seem to rank as much of a travel emergency.

Nevertheless, the loss or theft of your baggage, items of particular value, your cash or passport may result in considerable additional expense in replacing them and may add further expenses to the cost of your holiday.

The amount of cover you arrange against the possible theft of items depends, of course, on the amount you are prepared to pay in travel insurance premiums – the higher the amount covered, the more expensive the premiums are likely to be. If you are under-insured, your insurance is not going to provide the wherewithal to replace such items – if you are overinsured, you may be paying for more insurance cover than you need.

Therefore, you might want to consider whether your insurance provides cover for stolen articles on a new for old basis or after the deduction of an amount for wear and tear or general depreciation – the latter naturally cheaper than the former.

When considering the cover for theft included in your travel insurance, you might want to ask:

  • the total amount insured;
  • whether there are separate limits for single articles, valuables and delayed baggage;
  • the time-frame in which any theft claim may be made;
  • are cash, travellers’ cheques and credit cards also covered;
  • in the event of the theft of your passport, does the insurance cover any additional accommodation or travel expenses you might incur;
  • does your winter sports travel insurance cover the theft of your own or hired skiing or other winter sports equipment;
  • does your winter sports travel insurance provide cover for days when the piste has been officially closed or for any additional accommodation expenses you might occur because of an avalanche preventing your access to or departure from your ski resort;
  • do you need purchase receipts when claiming for items that have been stolen; and
  • what excesses apply to your travel insurance policy – and whether the amount of excess varies according to the type of claim being made.

Summary

By their very nature, of course, travel emergencies are unexpected and unpredictable events.

Some pose considerable threats to life and limb – whether through street violence, natural disasters or terrorist acts.

Being vigilant and being prepared for the worst if it happens are keys to safely and successfully dealing with any such incidents.

If you are caught up in any such emergency, it is also important to have the reassurance and security of adequate compensation for any loss or damage you suffer. The extent to which this is offered may vary widely from one insurer to another, so you might want to make to consult a specialist provider when arranging your travel insurance.