Bizarre activities covered by travel insurance

JANE E FRASER
Last updated 13:01 28/02/2014
Air guitar
Reuters
YOU'RE COVERED: Any injuries you sustain while playing air guitar will be covered by your travel insurance.

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It's good to know, when you're travelling, that any injuries you sustain while playing air guitar will be covered by your travel insurance.

Likewise stilt walking, cheerleading and dodge ball; vital elements of any overseas trip, I would have thought.

These activities are - seriously - listed in a travel insurance policy I was looking at this week, along with a number of pursuits I had to go and look up. (I discovered Tchoukball is an international sport, stoolball is a game once played by milkmaids and Capoeira somehow involves dancing and doing martial arts at the same time.)

Amusing reading, but there's room for a bit of humour when it comes to travel insurance, don't you think?

Hats off to World Nomads for attempting to make what is a very dry and complicated subject a bit easier to digest.

March is expected to be the peak time of year taking out travel insurance policies, according to the travel insurance comparison website comparethemarket.com.

Anything that makes the process a bit less painful is to be commended.

Common sense is not common enough

Along with a comical list of travel insurance claims World Nomads has received - ranging from a broken penis and an 'out-of-whack back' to someone who made a claim due to a 'police car gone wild' - the company provides on its website one of the best explanations of travel insurance I have seen.

Many travellers assume they are covered for anything and everything if they take out an insurance policy (just as many assume their Government will come and bail them out if they get into trouble) but that is not the case.

You have to read through mind-numbing fine print to understand the detail of any particular policy but a lot of it comes down to common sense, as highlighted by the World Nomads advice.

"Pretend for a moment that you don't have any travel insurance," the company says on its website.

How would you behave?

Would you leave your new digital camera on the beach while you went for a swim?

Natalie Ball of the insurance comparison site compareinsurance.com says claims for lost or stolen belongings are one of the most misunderstood and complained about aspects of travel insurance.

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Ball says people need to be aware that they will not be covered for actions such as leaving their phone in a restaurant or leaving a bag in the back of a taxi (how many have done that one??)

You are also likely to be on your own if you leave items in your hotel room or in a vehicle, unless they're locked in the boot.

To be covered, you need to keep your belongings where they can't be taken; in other words, look after them as though you don't have any insurance.

Don't be a goose

Pre-existing medical conditions are the biggest issue when it comes to what travel insurance companies will not cover, unless those conditions are declared and coverage is agreed up-front.

However, many travellers may be unaware that insurance companies will also reject claims that arise from being "off your face", as World Nomads puts it.

Excessive alcohol or drugs are quick ways to void a travel insurance claim; if you're not in a state to be responsible for your actions then your insurer doesn't want to be either.

World Nomads highlights the difference between accidents and stupidity, which covers a key element of travel insurance: whether or not the situation could have been expected.

Insurance is designed to cover you for unforseen events, so again it comes back to common sense and thinking about the situations you're putting yourself in.

"Trekking across the Arctic in a t-shirt is not conducive to picking up your pension," the company points out.

This also applies to travelling to countries that you have been warned against visiting, through government travel advisories.

You might believe the advisories are too cautious and shouldn't stop you travelling, but you need to be aware that they can negate your insurance.

I laughed at World Nomads' further advice that "feeling adventurous and being adventurous are two different things". The company gives the example of being attacked by a polar bear in Alaska.

If you were on a wildlife safari or trekking trip and just got unlucky, the company would pay up, "but if you were chasing the bear having had a beer too many the night before and you thought it would be a laugh...err... then NO, we wouldn't".

Bare basics

If you really can't be bothered reading the fine print of travel insurance policies, at least make sure you get the medical coverage right, as overseas medical costs can easily hit six or seven figures.

Make sure you declare any pre-existing conditions and go for unlimited medical coverage.

However, a list of the most common travel insurance claims received by Southern Cross Travel Insurance demonstrates the need for broad coverage if you don't want to be left out of pocket.

The most common claims come from losing jewellery, being bitten by stray dogs, falling off scooters, breaking teeth on hard foods, cuts from coral, surfing injuries and gastric flu... which covers pretty much every category, I think.

Have you ever made an unusual claim on travel insurance? Share your stories below.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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