Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Get adequate insurance

Thu, Dec 11, 2008

The Straits Times

By Cheryl Tan

The one time business consultant Alan Kok decided not to buy personal travel insurance when he and his wife went to Bangkok for their wedding anniversary recently turned out to be the time he needed it the most.

Stuck in the Thai capital for two extra days because of the demonstrations at the airport which forced it to close, his wife fell ill with food poisoning.

But all he could collect from the company's insurance was a meagre $50, which covered only a third of his wife's medical bill.

'If I had known my company's insurance, which covers my wife and I, was so inadequate, I would have made sure to buy my own,' said the 33-year-old, who was shuttling to and from Bangkok last month for business.

The wave of people stranded in the city due to the recent riots and the even larger wave of ticket cancellations from those who had booked trips there highlighted the importance of buying travel insurance.

Travellers often neglect to do this until the eve of departure and insurance companies say this should not be the case.

Travel insurance should be the first thing that people buy the moment they confirm their travel bookings.

'This will ensure they are covered for the loss of deposit paid if they need to cancel their trip due to unforeseen circumstances such as riots or natural disasters,' said Tenet Insurance divisional manager for personal insurance Koh Yen Yen.

Travel insurance premiums can cost anything from $24 to $365, depending on the type of policy, duration and location of the trip.

These policies usually cover overseas medical expenses, loss of baggage and flight delays.

While illness and airport incompetence may happen more often than riots and strikes, having travel insurance can come in handy when the unexpected happens, as in the recent airport shut-down in Bangkok.

While almost all insurers do not cover loss or damages in what they define as 'war activities', most include acts of terrorism in their packages.

However, they are not liable to insure if the attacks involve nuclear, chemical or biological warfare.

While most will just take a one-size-fits all package, customers should check the terms and conditions of their travel policy if they want specific risks to be covered, such as trip cancellation and curtailment, said Mr Pui Phusangmook, NTUC Income's senior vice-president and general manager of its general insurance division.

Travellers should also look out for advisories against travelling to certain countries issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

If they insist on travelling to these places despite the ministry's advice not to, their insurance company will not pay for any losses or injuries suffered overseas, said Tenet Insurance's Ms Koh.

But for those who choose to cancel, the insurance will pay for the non-refundable portion of a paid travel package, such as airline, hotel accommodation and cancellation charges.

To get around the hassle of having to buy insurance every time she travels, Ms Jennifer Ang pays $370 for an annual international travel insurance package with American International Group (AIG).
It is not being stuck in a country during a riot or violent situation that she fears, but the risk of a personal accident and a huge overseas medical bill.
The 39-year-old manager, who travels frequently, said: 'Losing my baggage is a small issue. It's not as if I've packed gold bars.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 9, 2008.

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