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Travel Insurance Tips For The Inexperienced Singaporean Traveller

“Aiya, don’t need buy insurance lah. Where got so suay one?”

Sound familiar? It probably does because at some point in our lives, we know someone who has uttered this phrase, or we ourselves have dismissed the need to purchase travel insurance.

Rather than seeing it as yet another expense item for our trip, we ought to think of it as purchasing peace of mind in the event of a (very improbable but possibly expensive) misadventure instead. After all, kee chiu if you put more faith in an activity with much lower odds called “Toto”.

If you’re a newbie when it comes to travel insurance, read on to find out what you should look out for so that you don’t get option paralysis when choosing a travel insurance plan.

1. It’s not always about the price

As there is no one-size-fits-all plan for everybody, it’s key that you decide what coverage is non-negotiable, what is good-to-have, and what is unnecessary. Don’t just click “buy” on the cheapest policy you come across – this may be a bare-bones cover that only indemnifies you against losses on baggage and travel cancellation, with no medical coverage.

For example, if you have a pre-existing health condition that you’ve been diagnosed with or received medical treatment for, look for a plan that explicitly covers pre-existing conditions. It’s gonna be ex lah, but bo bian – it’s better than gambling with your health and wallet.

2. Don’t skimp on the important coverage

While everyone’s needs may be different, there is no denying that medical expenses should be at the top of everyone’s list. In a foreign country, getting medical treatment for an unfortunate event is already stressful – don’t make the potentially whopping bill another stressor. Depending on the strength of your travel destination’s currency, and the cost of medical treatment for foreigners there, you may want to opt for a plan with a higher medical expense limit.

That’s not all. You should also ensure that emergency evacuation and repatriation are also included in your travel insurance. These are all expenses that could potentially bankrupt you if you don’t get insured (yikes).

3. Don’t be lazy – read the fine print

…so that you know what you’re covered for. Even so, do you know for sure what you’re not protected against? Don’t wait until the point of claim submission to get the shock of your life. Always check the fine print and the loooonggg list of exclusions to see if any of these are relevant to your circumstance. That way, you can plan for it accordingly (more on that below).

Exclusions that are common to most insurers include pre-existing conditions, lost or stolen cash, alcohol or drug-related incidents, or you not exercising undue care (insurance speak for “why you so careless?!”) to secure your belongings.

4. Participating in extreme sports? Purchase an add-on

Planning on skydiving over Queenstown or bungee-jumping from Victoria Falls Bridge? Extreme sports are often not covered in travel insurance due to its inherently hazardous nature, but mai kan cheong adrenaline junkies. You can always purchase an add-on to the basic plan. Just make sure that whatever exhilarating activity you plan on doing is already covered, and don’t anyhow last minute add on something that’s not insured.

5. Single trip or annual policy?

For most of us, ahem, common folk, purchasing single-trip policies makes more sense as we only make an odd trip here and there. For those who can afford to travel more than three or four times a year (ugh, we’re secretly jealous), you should definitely be looking at annual plans instead. Most of these plans start upwards of $200 per year depending on countries covered and coverage level, and judging by the average market premium of $40-50 for single trip policies, you need to have at least five or six trips planned per year for it to be bang for your buck.

6. Understand how to file a claim

Buying the correct travel insurance plan is just half the work done – the other half comes from knowing what to do when you plan to file a claim with your travel insurer. After all, not having adequate supporting documents is one of the top reasons why claims get denied.

Most insurers have a dedicated section on their website that guides policyholders on what documents to prepare for each type of claim, so just run a quick Google search before you jet off to your next destination. Here are some of the most common claims:

  • Medical expenses: Original medical bills, medical report from the doctor and police report (if it was an accident).
  • Loss or theft of personal belongings: Make a police report and list down everything that was stolen and each item’s corresponding value. Do ensure that the report is in English. Meanwhile, start digging for original receipts or invoices of items on the list.
  • Travel or baggage delays: Obtain a written confirmation from the airline on the delay specifying the flight number, delay period and reason for the delay.

7. Look for 24/7 assistance

Nothing’s worse than being put on hold or not having any immediate avenue to reach out to when you’re in crisis mode in an unfamiliar and foreign land. Most reputable insurers now offer 24/7 assistance, so have that hotline number recorded somewhere accessible or let your loved ones know to call this number for assistance if you’re unable to do so yourself.

Safe travels and bon voyage!

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