Travel insurances

Useful or dispensable?

Whether travel insurances make sense depends on the destination of your vacation. Some risks are better covered by private insurances.  

When someone makes a journey, he has a story to tell on his return - especially when something didn't go as planned. A lot can go wrong, even before departure. For example, when flight and accommodation are booked or paid for long before departure and then one of the travellers gets so sick that he can't commence the trip. Or someone has an accident during the trip and has to stay at a hospital on-site.

Cancellation, medical help

Those examples represent the two most common cases that are covered by private travel insurances: Cancellations are most frequent and single payments for medical assistance are most expensive. So it makes sense to have a private insurance for these two risks, right?

Last minute, overseas or city trip within the EU

No, if you book a last minute trip, you do not need a complete package with cancellation insurance. Furthermore, if you plan a city trip to Switzerland or Germany, your e-card might as well be sufficient.

On the other hand, there are destination where a travel health insurance is obligated or highly recommended - USA, for example, where medical treatments in hospitals are very expensive.

Insurance coverage: modular structured offers

If and in which form a travel insurance makes sense largely depends on type and aim of your journey as well as on your personal circumstances. One advantage of travel insurances is that they are offered as modules. This means that you can choose your insurance coverage based on where your personal risks lie. If you plan, for example, a very expensive journey, the module "trip cancellation, interruption or rebooking insurance" would prevent you from bad experiences.

"No more desire" is no reason for cancellation

Read the conditions carefully: In most cases, you can only cancel your trip under specific conditions like termination of your employment relationship, accident, (severe) illness of yourself or a family member, pregnancy or dissolution of partnership or marriage. Regarding class trips after graduation, which are often booked long before the departure, the failure to pass the final exam has to be explicitly stated as a sufficient reason for cancellation.

Cost reimbursement in case of illness or accident

The most important protection for most travellers is without doubt a travel health insurance. If a hospital stay becomes necessary, it can get very expensive. Persons who suffer from chronic disease have to be careful as insurers often limit their services for them.

Medically necessary or just appropriate?

The concern to wake up in a hospital abroad and having to stay there for weeks, where nobody understands you, can be released by the module "repatriation". Read carefully if the return transport is only possible if a medical need is given or also if it is appropriate. Caution: Regarding long-term stays abroad (e.g. au-pair, studying or working abroad), special coverage is necessary. Foreign travel health insurance usually only apply for a limited travel duration.

Travel accident insurance or private leisure accident insurance

Travel accident insurances cover rescue and repatriation costs as well as in case of disability due to an accident. However, pure travel accident insurances tend to exclude a lot and the coverage level is rather low. Common transport accident insurances, often offered by credit card companies, on the other hand only apply in case of damages caused by accidents that occured during the usage of a vehicle. It is advisable to conduct a private leisure accident insurance which not only has a higher coverage level but also applies worldwide, year-round and for all kinds of accidents.   

Travel liability insurance

This type of insurance becomes insufficient if you already have a household insurance that includes liability. Before travelling overseas, check if the insurance applies worldwide and if not, request an extension at your insurer.

Baggage insurance

Baggage insurance is popular among travellers, but our experience unfortunately showed that the module "baggage insurance" is insufficient in most cases: really valuable goods are often uninsured. In order for the insurer to refund in case of theft or damage of your luggage, you need to fulfill a lot of requirements.

If you want to insure technical equipment, watches, sports equipment or other goods that are of value for you, you have to carefully examine your due diligence obligations and ask what exactly the insurer means by "safe custody". Usually, the criteria for storage in a car are very strict - parking the car in a secured public parking area often is not sufficient.

Partly covered by the household insurance

Household goods, including all movable goods, are partly covered by the household insurance. Caution: Check the conditions carefully!

Automobile associations, credit cards, alpine and leisure clubs

Look closely what kind of insurance coverage your credit card respectively its contractual partner offers. In most cases, they also substitute in case of stolen or damaged luggage but also for other problems during a trip. The same applies to your memberships at automobile associations, alpine or sports or leisure clubs. Pay attention to (too low) coverage levels and (regional) limitations.

Insurance consultants

Travel insurance coverage are offered not only by the specialized providers Europäische Reiseversicherung and Allianz Global Assistance, but also by many other insurances. Ask your insurance consultant or broker if maybe any loyalty offers for steady customers exist.

Offers of travel agencies

Since it has got about that online booked journeys are not always the best option, many consumers seek personal consulting at travel agencies which also offer travel insurances. It is helpful to look for further information on the Internet, because at least regarding large providers it is possible to enter specific travel conditions (destination, number and age of travellers and so on) in order to get concrete and comparable offerings.

Basic coverage is not very expensive

When you need basic insurance coverage for a two week family trip to Cuba because an additional travel liability insurance is not necessary due to your household insurance and other performances like baggage insurance would be nice to have but actually aren't necessary, it is sufficient to get the basic package of e.g. Allianz Global Assistance for 70 euros for parents and up to five children.

Basic travel coverage policy

The Europäische Reiseversicherung offers a more extensive and also more complicated basic travel coverage policy that also covers baggage insurance and helpful modules like "help regarding detention and threat of detention" for approximately 95 euros. This protects you against really bad experiences.

Contact your insurer immediately

In order for your insurance to be sufficient in case of need, you have to get active: As soon as something relevant happens, you need to contact your insurance company. Don't forget to pack all important documents to take along on vacation - but don't put them in your check-in luggage. Almost 2.5 percent of all check-in luggage pieces got lost in 2011 according to the aviation service provider SITA - worldwide approx. 640.000 pieces.

European Health Insurance Card

The e-card abroad: The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) on the reverse side of the e-card is valid in EU Member States, EEA states and in Switzerland. For journeys to Bosnia Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, you have to get an international social security certificate from your employee or insurance company. The certificate can be exchanged against a valid medical certificate at your destination.

The following is insured: The EHIC can - like in Austria - be used for treatments in public hospitals and at panel physicians of the domestic social security. Regarding treatments at optional or private physicians and private hospitals, up to 80 percent of the expenses are refunded based on Austrian tariffs.

The following is uninsured: The EHIC is no full service insurance, it only covers surgeries and treatments that are necessary based on medical reasons! Costs for rescue and repatriation are not covered.

Acceptance of the EHIC: Especially at coastal areas of the Mediterranean it can happen that only private doctors or private hospitals are available, which don't accept the e-card. You can either insist on being brought to a hospital that has a settlement with the public social security or you have to act as if you were in a country without an EHIC agreement.

Countries outside the EHIC area: You have to pay all expenses for doctors or hospitals yourself at first. Keep the bills! When you're back at home you can submit them in order to get a refund based on Austrian tariffs. Depending on your destination, this refund might be less than your actual expenses. In this case, a private travel health insurance is highly recommended.

What you should take along

Regardless of whether you conduct comprehensive travel insurance or just single modules as you already have private accident / health / liability insurance: In case of damage you need to immediately contact your insurer in order to discuss the further procedure. The following documents are therefore important and should be in your luggage (besides your passport and e-card):

  • emergency number of your travel insurance company
  • emergency number of your household insurance company for cases of liability or theft / damages
  • emergency number of your private accident or health insurance company
  • policy numbers (note those on a piece of paper)

You should put these documents in your hand luggage and, if possible, separate them from your purse and passport as these items attract pickpockers.

Transport evidence in your hand luggage

During your return, you should carry all pieces of evidence like photos, records, medical bills, confirmations of reports or written testimonies in your hand luggage. Submit copies to your insurance company.

Check list travel insurance

Is the e-card valid at your destination? How good or bad is the general health care and infrastructure there (keyword "repatriation")?

Do you already have insurances that cover travel, such as

  • household insurance
  • private accident insurance
  • private health insurance
  • credit card with insurance coverage
  • insurance coverage due to a membership at a automobile association, clubs...?

Under which circumstances do these insurances apply: regarding credit cards only if the trip/rental car/accommodation was fully paid for with the credit card; regarding club insurance only if the damaging event happened during club activities. Are there any geographical or personal limitations, e.g. only valid in Austria or for the card holder?

For what kind of risks do you need/want coverage? In most cases, single modules (cancellation, illness & accident, repatriation, baggage) or packages with more or less extent are offered - only take what you really need!

Who has to be (co-)insured? Life partners and spouses are by now seen as equal, in most cases a common residence is not required, but read the exact wording of policy/terms & conditions/credit documents carefully. Family packages often cover accompanying friends of your own children as well.

When do you have to conduct the insurance? At the same time as you book the trip, within a specific period,...?

Is there a deductible? If yes, how high is it and do the single modules pay off then?

How often do you travel? If you travel a lot, you should consider a year-round travel insurance. For families (two adults, up to five children) the basic option costs about 88 euros (Europäische Reiseversicherung).

Travel insurances: summary

  • Common risks. The most common cases regard cancellations, while medical treatments are the most expensive ones.
  • Individual insurance. Various modules and packages are offered. Only take what you need, based on your destination and personal circumstances. Build upon existing policies like a private accident insurance instead of taking insufficient travel insurance packages.
  • Coverage levels and exceptions. Carefully look at provided perfomances and coverage levels. Not everything that sounds good actually is sufficient in case of need. Watch out for limitations and exceptions.

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