The Costly Error Many South Africans Make Before Traveling

travel insurance

Holidays are about endless snowy ski slopes, crystal-clear waters, glistening beach sand, heart-thumping bungee jumping and scenic hikes on snow-capped mountains. The last thing you want to think about is what could go wrong. However, ignoring the risky aspects of travel and not planning accordingly is one of the biggest rookie travel errors many South African holidaymakers make. And it’s costing them dearly.

Why travel Insurance is vital

Many jet-setters see themselves as people who like to ‘live on the edge’, but that approach could cost you every last cent of your savings… and then some. Travel insurance is essential because it is designed to protect travellers from unforeseen changes leading up to your departure and throughout your holiday.

“Travel insurance provides peace of mind surrounding events that travellers cannot control, but which can be a huge hit financially,” says Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Travel Group General Manager of Marketing and Product.

“It protects the cost of your trip if you have a travel delay or are forced to forego your flight. It removes the possibility of unexpected expenses related to delays or lost and damaged luggage, and it ensures that your health and wellbeing is looked after when you need medical attention during your holiday,” Garrett explains.

The best time to take out travel insurance

Another serious error is, even when holidaymakers purchase travel insurance, it is left to the last minute.

“Travel insurance definitely isn’t something that you want to leave to the last minute, even though you can still take it out up to 24 hours before your departure,” says Garrett.  “There is a lot that can go wrong leading up to your flight, never mind that the later you purchase your travel insurance, the more expensive is it likely to be.”

Travel experts suggest the sweet spot when it comes to getting the most affordable, benefit-packed travel insurance package is within two weeks of paying for your flight. That is true even when you book your tickets months in advance.

Choosing the right insurance product

Many people are under the impression that there are only two types of travel insurance: basic and comprehensive. That isn’t the case. Insurance providers have a range of individual travel insurance options and add-ons for different groups and types of traveller.

For example, Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC), a trusted local travel insurance provider, offers basic and comprehensive coverage as well as special cover for senior citizens, youth travellers, those who are emigrating and those who are travelling for business purposes. Be sure to shop around for quotes, as you’ll be much more likely to get a great deal this way.

Read the fine print

Know what you’re covered for. So many travellers take for granted that their travel insurance package covers them in any event or accident before and during their travels, but that is seldom true.

Read the contract fine print to make yourself aware of any exclusions and conditions that could affect your decision to sign on the dotted line.

For example, you may assume that all activities and sports-related injuries or accidents will be covered on your policy. Holidays are about adventure and trying new things, after all. But many holiday activities and sports, including rugby, mountaineering, boxing, BMX riding, motor racing and sky diving are flagged as ‘high risk’ by travel insurance providers and aren’t covered. Some insurance providers will be willing to include certain ‘high risk’ activities in your policy, but only if you take out additional ‘sports cover.’ While it will cost you extra, if these activities are almost certain to be a part of your trip, doing so could save you thousands!

According to TIC, a female client travelled to Everest Base Camp in Nepal and suffered a High Altitude Cerebral Oedema at Lobuche, a village 4,940 metres up. Her claim came to a total of R150,000. Fortunately, she had taken out a TIC Comprehensive Policy with a Sports Extension for mountaineering.

And, don’t be quick to assume that you can cancel your flight without good reason just because you have travel insurance. There are often conditions that come with cancellations. For instance, if you are forced to cancel your travel plans due to a sudden illness, you may be required to provide proof of the illness in the form of a doctor’s note. Pay special attention to the Cancellation and Curtailment section of your travel insurance policy so that you understand the exact perils insured.

You’ll also want to read through the fine print to familiarise yourself with the insurance provider’s claim procedures, what supporting documentation you’ll need when lodging a claim, and any time limits and restrictions thereof.

It is vital that you know precisely what you are covered for and how to put your insurance to good use in order to prevent any nasty surprises and serious monetary consequences while abroad. Don’t hesitate to ask your travel agent questions before signing your policy.With the right travel insurance policy in your hands, you can enjoy your holiday without stressing about the unpredictable. And peace of mind is worth every cent.

Thanks for reading and for your interest in South Africa. Content is produced in collaboration between iAfrica’s editorial team and partners — including nongovernmental organizations, private sector stakeholders, agencies and institutions. If you are interested in sharing stories to shine a spotlight on a particular issue, please email i-news@africa.com. We look forward to hearing from you.