I know, I know… This is not the most exciting of topics to get the travel juices flowing. But one which can have far-reaching consequences if ignored, as the recent Covid-19 pandemic showed us.
What we sadly found out is that all Travel Insurance is not created equal. So make sure that your insurance does what you expect it to.
As tour operators, we understand how it can happen that our clients can be on a safari without adequate travel insurance. You have already spent a lot of time planning your fairly expensive safari. So the last thing you want to do is to add another, far less enticing expense on top of that. So you put it off and somehow it doesn’t happen. Or you assume that you are covered either by your credit card company or by your health insurance. Then you find that you are not…
It scares us legless, but we can see how it can happen…
Why you need travel insurance
We might think it’s blindingly obvious why you need travel insurance. And hopefully, after Covid it is! The two main reasons why you need it are:
- Possible medical expenses and repatriation expenses
- Possible cancellation and curtailment
Everything else in a typical travel insurance is ‘nice to have’ but not absolutely critical.
1. Medical Expenses
Yes of course it is highly unlikely that you will need extensive medical care in Africa. But it does happen! Clients have been involved in car accidents. They have tripped on a step and injured their leg. They could have a heart attack or stroke. All of these things can happen anywhere in the world! Sometimes they happen in a remote area where medical evacuation by helicopter is the best option… Unless you have specific medical health insurance that covers you worldwide, any medical costs and medical evacuation are for your own account. And most people don’t have that comprehensive insurance.
Also remember that the standard of medical care varies extensively in Africa. Yes, you can go to a local clinic or public hospital where you wait for hours to be seen. But realistically you want to be taken to the best private hospital nearby. Knowing that these costs will be covered by your travel insurance (often without you having to pay the hospital and claiming it back).
Covid-19 – please ensure that your travel insurance covers you for the very unlikely event of you having Covid-19 on holiday. It is unlikely to cover you for extra nights accommodation. But it should cover you for any interruption to your existing itinerary because of illness. But ensure this.
2. Cancellation and Curtailment
What if you have to cancel your trip before you travel because of illness, or the illness of a loved one? If this is close to the travel date, then you could find that you are in the 100% cancellation fee zone, i.e. you pay for the whole holiday. But cannot enjoy it.
What happens if you are on holiday and you are injured and have to return early. Or a close family member suddenly becomes ill and you need to return home. All perfectly possible scenarios.
In Africa, cancellation charges are much more severe than in many destinations. This is due to the small size of the camps and the long time between booking and travel. (Most safari camps cannot resell rooms if they are cancelled only a couple of weeks prior to travel.) So here it is very common for safari camps to charge 100% cancellation fees 30 days prior to travel. (This could be even longer for some safari camps). So any of these scenarios is likely to cost you a lot of money…
Note: Please note that illness or death of only defined close relatives eg spouse. child. parents etc are considered a reason for cancellation or curtailment. Some people naturally assume that a grandmother or a close aunt would classify as a reason for travel insurance to pay out. But this is not usually the case, unless you purchase ‘”Cancel for any reason” insurance which is not always available in every country. And is very expensive.
Covid-19 – Please ensure that your travel insurance covers you if you fall ill with Covid-19 just prior to arrival and cannot travel. Some cheaper travel insurances now exclude this. So check the small print!
Of course I can go on about the many other benefits of travel insurance. Such as compensation for flight delays, claiming for lost luggage or lost items etc. But frankly these costs are nothing compared to thousands spent on medical fees or the loss of your whole holiday cost.
Frequently Asked Questions and Pre-conceptions
“My credit card will cover me”
Really? Are you sure about that? I cannot comment on each credit card around the world. But usually paying for your trip by credit card covers you in a very basic way. If you want more comprehensive coverage, then you have to pay extra, i.e. get their travel insurance.
Obviously some premium credit cards do bestow extra benefits such as insurance. But don’t just assume, as some of our clients have done. You need to investigate what you are covered for.
You will also be asked by your tour operator to provide details of your travel insurance. So you will need to find this out around about the time of booking.
“I have worldwide health insurance”
Many people who travel frequently for work do have worldwide health insurance which does take care of one aspect of travel insurance.
So now you just need to decide whether you are comfortable potentially losing the cost of your holiday if you cannot travel.
I cannot answer this for you as it will depend on your attitude to risk. All I ask is that you acknowledge that you are into major cancellation charges from when you pay the final balance approximately 2 months prior to travel and this increases to 100% cancellation charge when it is 1 month prior to travel.
By the way, these timings are NOT set by the greedy tour operator. It is set by the end supplier such as the safari camps (most safaris are booked months in advance. Not last minute so they argue that they are unlikely to be able to fill a cancelled room even if it is 3 weeks prior to travel).
“It’s so expensive”
Yes we appreciate that some travel insurance products are expensive. For example, insurance which lets you cancel for any reason is often 6-7% of the total cost of your trip. But there are usually a range of options available so it’s worth shopping around. Sometimes you can get a more cost effective insurance if you opt for full medical coverage with a limit on cancellation charges i.e. not the whole cost of your holiday.
“I’ll arrange it nearer the time”
If you are going to buy travel insurance (and most tour operators will insist on proof that you have travel insurance) then you should really do it at the time of booking. That way you get the maximum benefit from it as you are covered for unexpected cancellation from when you booked the holiday e.g including the deposit.
Wouldn’t it be galling if you had planned to buy it, but not got around to it. And then your son breaks his leg falling off a bicycle (or something similar).
Don’t just tell us that you have travel insurance. Please give your full travel insurance details (or other insurance covering you for travel) to your tour operator. Prior to travel! We have had situations where both clients in a booking have been involved in an accident and unable to give us details of their insurance.
We have had to make the call as to whether to give the go-ahead on a private charter evacuation from one country to another. As you can imagine, we cannot give this level of financial go-ahead unless we have the nod from the Travel Insurance Company. Or your designated next of kin.
If your next of kin are in another time zone/not answering the phone, then this could be potentially life-threatening. (In this scenario, we were able to get the information in time and the evacuation went ahead but…).
It’s simple really – GET TRAVEL INSURANCE!
The bottom line is you need to be insured against the potentially very high cost of medical expenses AND cancellation charges. And you need to tell your travel specialist your full travel details.
This blog is courtesy of Cedarberg Africa
Cedarberg Africa is a travel and safari company specializing in Southern and East African tailor-made itineraries. As we have special rates with all the hotels and game lodges, booking through us will cost no more than booking direct, and sometimes less. So our expertise and knowledge comes at no extra cost to you!
Feel free to contact us if you want us to plan the perfect getaway for you.