Travel Insurance Explained

Wondering if you should opt for travel insurance on your next trip? We've come up with a quick guide to help you decide!

Have you ever fallen sick while on vacation? Or had your luggage lost by the airline?

Traveling to a foreign country for the very first time can be an exhilarating yet dangerous experience. Accidents can happen at any time and while the fault may not always lie with you, the consequences and subsequent expenses will be yours to bear. Travel insurance however, can provide you with a sort of cushion against the costs associated with travel related mishaps. So take a break from packing your underwear and read on for our ultimate, all inclusive, first class guide on travel insurance.

Family vs. Individual

Most travel insurance companies in Malaysia separate their packages into two distinct categories, family and individual. The premiums of these two categories are priced differently with the family package usually being significantly more expensive than the individual one.

The individual package offers coverage for one person aged 18 and above. Family insurance, on the other hand, is designed to offer protection to the insured person, his/her spouse and/or all of their children. There is generally no limit as to how many children the family insurance package can cover, so even if the insured couple has 20 children (gasp!), all of them will be entitled to some degree of coverage.

Wait! My wife and my children are covered, but what about my parents? If you’re planning a big fat family reunion holiday trip then you would most likely have to buy either an addition family package or multiple individual packages to cover all your immediate family members. Let’s face it, if there was a family travel insurance package that covered your entire bloodline, then all insurance companies in Malaysia would already have gone bankrupt.

Domestic vs. International

Bangkok? New York? Paris? Penang!?

This probably shouldn’t shock you but depending on where you plan on traveling, your travel insurance premium might actually be cheaper. But before we get into that, let’s define how travel insurance companies sort out their regions.

Domestic travel insurance covers all travel within Peninsular and East Malaysia. But before you get too excited, you should probably know that claims can only be made at least 50km away from the insured person’s place of residence. So if you live in Kuala Lumpur and plan on making a travel insurance claim for your vacation in Subang Jaya then the insurance company will not only flat out deny you, they’ll probably laugh at you as well.

International travel insurance covers travel outside Peninsular and East Malaysia. Most travel companies usually split their international regions of coverage by geographic location. For example, the company could consider all countries in South East Asia to be region A and all countries in Europe to be region B. Premiums for coverage in region A would be much different than coverage in region B, with B being the more expensive of the two due to distance.

In addition, the travel insurance company might also offer world-wide travel insurance coverage packages. But does this mean every single country in the world is covered? No! To minimize risk, countries that are currently experiencing civil war or any other forms of social instability will not be covered by the insurance company.

What Does Travel Insurance Cover You For?

1. Accidental death or permanent disablement

Example:
While touring Mexico, Tom was seriously injured in an unfortunate hit and run accident. He was rushed into emergency surgery but it was too late to repair the damage and he ended up paralyzed from the waist down.

If Tom is covered under Travel Insurance, can he make a claim?

Yes! Since the unfortunate incident that disabled poor Tom was a legitimate accident, he should be eligible to receive a one-time lump sum payment for his disability as well as coverage for all his hospital fees. In addition, if Tom has to cut his trip short because of his accident, his travel insurance company will also cover his lost hotel bookings and other travel arrangements.

When Tom returns to Malaysia, he will most likely need to attend several follow-up appointments with a doctor or physiotherapist. Unfortunately, his travel insurance package might not cover the cost of these appointments (because they obviously already gave him a huge payout!). However, if Tom has local medical insurance on top of his travel insurance, he might be able to make a claim through his medical insurance coverage instead.

What if Tom has both Travel Insurance and international Medical Insurance? Can he get paid twice for his disablement?

First things first, it is illegal to receive an insurance payout for the same item/event twice. This is called insurance fraud. As nice as it would sound, you cannot buy 10 different insurance policies, break your leg and expect to get 10 difference payouts for the same leg.

In the event that Tom has purchased both travel insurance and medical insurance with international coverage. His permanent disablement claim can only be made from the insurance package that was purchased first. So if he purchased his international medical insurance before his travel insurance then he can only claim his permanent disability payout from the former and not the latter.

2. Medical expenses arising from accident or illness

Example:
While Kate was traveling around Mumbai, she fell ill with a nasty case of food poisoning. Unfamiliar with the environment, she frantically searched for the nearest hospital for hours. Eventually she gave up and called an ambulance because she was in so much pain. But the pain she suffered was nothing compared to the agony on her face when she saw the hospital bill.

If Kate is covered under travel insurance, can she make a claim?

Yes! Her travel insurance coverage will not only cover all her medical consultation and drug costs but in the case of some travel insurance companies, also provide her with 24 hour telephone assistance. Rather than run out on the street in panic mode, Kate could instead call the insurance company’s helpline to get directions to the location of the nearest medical facility.

What if Kate got sick a few days after she returned home from Mumbai? Can she still make a claim?

Certain diseases like dengue fever for example, have an incubation period of a few days before symptoms start to show. Hence, it is entirely possible for Kate to have been bitten by a dengue mosquito in Mumbai and only start feeling sick when she already returned home to Malaysia.

Unfortunately, while Kate did technically get infected during her holiday, she will not be able to make any claims on her medical expenses. Since she’ll be visiting a doctor in Malaysia, her medical expenses are not classified as expenses incurred while traveling. Hence her travel insurance package will not cover these costs.

3. Unplanned Travel inconveniences

Example:

When Jake arrived in Shanghai, he realized that the airline had lost his baggage. Because of the unfortunately mishap, Jake ended up arriving to his destination with no clothes.

If Jake is covered under travel insurance, can he make a claim?

Yes! Travel insurance covers all incidences of travel inconvenience from lost baggage to canceled flights to overbooked hotels. If an unfortunate mishap has made your traveling experience undesirable, then your travel insurance should cover it (and turn that frown upside-down). 

What if Jake had to cancel his trip because he fell sick at the last moment? Can he still make a claim for his lost deposit?

You know what sucks more than falling sick while on vacation? Falling Sick just before you were about to leave on vacation. Not only are you robbed of the chance to go on your well-earned holiday, you could also potentially lose your hotel deposit and the money you paid for your flight ticket.

Fortunately, if you have travel insurance coverage, then you will be entitled to claim all your lost deposits. While you may not be sun tanning in Hawaii, at least you didn’t lose any money. Not so bad right?

Conversely, if you're interested in finding out what basic travel insurance doesn't cover you for, you can check out our previous article on the 7 Things Not Covered by Travel Insurance

I’m Leaving on my Trip Tomorrow, Should I or Should I Not?

Buying travel insurance is like rolling a dice. If you buy insurance and nothing happens, then you just wasted money paying a premium. However, if you don’t buy insurance and a random act of God happens, then you’ll be stuck smacking your forehead with your palm in disbelief.

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Agree or disagree with this post? Questions? You also have your word!

  • Caroline

    Which insurance is most affordable for a family of 3 for holiday to Vietnam for 7 days?

    Reply
  • Yeun Shiah

    I would like to travel to New Zealand and transit at Melbourne (stay for 30 hours), please advise what type of insurance plan suitable for 3 of us (all single).

    Reply