Buying travel insurance can be an uncomfortable experience as you shell out for a service you hope and expect never to have to use. You know its a good idea to have it, and many tour companies even make it a requirement that you purchase appropriate insurance, but it still isn’t exactly how you’d choose to spend your money or your time. So Cascada has done some of the legwork for you and come up with a list of points to bear in mind; from general travel insurance tips and common pitfalls to avoid, to specific extras to consider for your adventure tour in Patagonia. Now you can relax and enjoy your vacation, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got the right coverage for you.
1. Read the smallprint. This is the golden rule but it’s so easy to bypass! It’s important to read the whole of the insurance policy before buying it, including the pages of exceptions and smallprint. It is boring, and it can feel a little morbid at times too, but it will add greatly to your peace of mind once it’s done. Many of the tips below rely on information hidden away in the smallprint, so don’t take anything for granted. Read it all once. Then read it again!
2. US citizens, check your health insurance. Some travellers have been caught out when placing claims for medical costs incurred abroad with their travel insurer. Most travel insurers require that medical claims are made through your primary healthcare insurer first, with any outstanding costs to be paid by the travel insurer. If this is something you’d rather avoid, there are a few companies out there that will agree to be your primary healthcare insurer during your vacation, so shop around until you find one you prefer.
3. Be honest about pre-existing conditions. Getting travel insurance with a pre-existing medical condition can seem more difficult and more expensive, so it might be tempting just to keep quiet. However, you should be aware that if you do need to claim on your insurance for a medical emergency whilst travelling, not only would you not be covered for your pre-existing condition, you may find you’ve invalidated your whole policy. This is the number one reason that travel insurance claims are denied. Honesty is the best policy, even if it means finding a specialist insurer.
4. Start your insurance from when you book your trip. Starting your insurance from the day that your vacation begins is a common travel insurance blunder. Whilst this will still mean you’re covered for any unexpected events while you’re away, it won’t cover you for anything that happens between booking your trip and setting off. If you have to cancel in advance due to an emergency at home, or if you or a travelling companion falls ill, you won’t be covered. Book your travel insurance when you book your trip and make sure it starts straight away.
5. Keep receipts and reports. If you need to seek medical treatment whilst travelling, keep any receipts, prescriptions and medical reports you receive. Likewise if you’re robbed or are the victim of crime make sure you get a police report as proof. It’s also a good idea to keep the proof of purchase of any expensive items you plan to take with you in case they get stolen and you need to prove you owned them in the first place.
6. Check before you trek. Some insurance companies don’t consider trekking and hiking to be an adventure sport, in which case you’re fine. Others might attach conditions, such as stating that you can only trek up to a certain height restriction. And others may even consider hiking an extreme activity that won't be covered unless you pay extra. Find out which one applies to your policy and make sure you don’t arrive at the W Trek or Paine Circuit without the proper cover.
7. If you add a ski stop, add winter sports cover. If you’re heading to Patagonia in September, a quick stopover in Santiago for a skiing day-trip makes a great last-minute detour. But in all the excitement of planning, don’t forget that unless you already have winter sports cover you’ll need to make sure you add it to your policy. Also, if you’re planning to go off-piste, bear in mind that some insurers count this as a separate activity.
8. Cover your extra adventures. Chile is a great place for an adventure, but activities such as a horse riding tour or white water rafting (depending on the grade of the river) might also require cover that isn’t automatically included in your policy. However, if the activity you’re planning isn’t the main purpose of your trip, you might not have to pay for extra cover. Check carefully to make sure you’re covered.
9. Consider connection cover. Since there aren’t any direct flights from the US, Australia or Europe to Patagonia, you might want to think about including missed connection cover as part of your travel insurance. This would cover any costs incurred if your first flight into Santiago or Buenos Aires were delayed, causing you to miss your onward flight to Patagonia. This kind of cover doesn’t come as standard but it does exist and may be worth the added investment.
10. Think about flight cancellation. There are many reasons a flight may be cancelled, ranging from bad weather to natural disasters, airline strikes or even an errant volcano spewing out ash. The level of coverage will depend on your policy, but as ever, the higher the premium the more likely you’ll be covered. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.
11. Protect your kit. On a trip of a lifetime to Patagonia, you might plan to bring specialist equipment such as a good quality camera and a laptop for sorting through your photos. Ensuring that your valuables are covered for accidental damage, loss or theft can give you the peace of mind you need in this rugged environment. However be sure to check that value of your items falls within the value stated on your policy. If not, you can generally increase it as necessary before you leave home.
12. Know when your kit is not protected. Although most insurance policies will include some cover for accidental damage of your valuables, it often doesn’t apply to electronics suffering water damage. Don’t get caught out and ensure you know the gaps in your policy. When hiking, protect larger items such as laptops and large cameras in a dry box that will also cushion them from impacts, whilst smaller cameras and phones can slide into a specialised electronics dry bag.
13. Plan to replace lost luggage. When an airline loses your luggage there’s always some inconvenience whilst you wait for them to track it down. But when you’re itching to set off on your Patagonia trek, being without kit such as specialist hiking boots and warm clothing could put an end to your hiking ambitions altogether. Some insurance companies will reimburse the cost of buying new clothing and essentials if yours are delayed for over 12 hours, which might just save your vacation.
14. Don’t be caught out by a lost passport. If you should happen to drop your passport off the top of the John Gardner Pass, rushing to get an emergency travel document in time for your flight home is going to be stressful enough. You certainly don’t want to worry about how you’re going to pay for it. Many insurance companies have policies that not only cover fees to replace a lost or stolen passport, but also pay the costs of any travel arrangements that have to be changed as a result.
15. Be mindful of natural disasters. Natural disasters are not something that anyone wants to think about when planning their vacation, but the fact is that Chile’s dramatic landscape is the result of it’s location in an active earthquake and volcano zone. Cover for this kind of event is not included as standard on most policies so you might want to consider opting into a policy that does cover it. You’d then be protected in case of any resulting cancellations, delays or expenses incurred if you were evacuated.
16. Take advantage of multi-trip discounts. If you travel more than a couple of times a year you might benefit from a cheaper policy by purchasing multi-trip insurance, rather than buying new single-trip coverage each time. Just make sure that your policy is up to date and covers any additional activities that you’ll be doing as a one-off on your trip to Patagonia.
17. Know your maximum trip length. If you do opt for multi-trip cover, make sure that you’re fully aware of any restrictions on the length of any one trip within the year. Some companies limit coverage to trips that are 30 days or fewer, and might require you to take out extended trip cover for a longer visit. Consider this if you’re thinking of sticking around in Patagonia for a while, or exploring the rest of Chile and Argentina whilst you’re at it.
18. Shop around to find the best deal. Shopping around may take a little longer than just going with your regular insurance company but it is the best way to ensure you have all of the features you need and may even result in savings. A price comparison website is a good place to start but remember that not all insurers choose to be included, so you might also benefit from requesting some independant quotes. Calling a few companies to speak to their advisors is recommended if you’re not comfortable with the legal jargon.
19. Make a note of essential details. Remember to make a note of your insurance policy number and the emergency contact numbers of your insurance provider so you have everything to hand should you need it. That way you’ll easily be able to check what is and isn’t covered by phone if a situation arises while you’re away. It is also a good practice to leave a copy of these details with a contact at home in case you’re unlucky enough to store your copy on the laptop that gets broken or in the bag that goes astray.
20. Be persistent with your claim. If you do have to make a claim which is then rejected and you still think you have a case, ask your insurance company in writing to review their decision. Find out why the claim was denied. Is the smallprint ambiguous? Were you told something on the phone that eventually turned out not to be the case? If so, say so. Many claims that are initially turned down are later approved on appeal.
So there you have it, that’s Cascada’s advice on how to ensure you’re properly protected and won't get caught out. Do you think we’ve missed anything? Let us know your tips for getting the best travel insurance!
Travelling with Cascada Expediciones - Insurance requirements:
Medical insurance is mandatory for all our trips and we also strongly suggest you buy cancellation and curtailment insurance. If you do not currently have your own plan, here are some companies that sell insurance online. These companies offer different plans depending on your nationality:
World Nomads is designed specially to be unlike any other type of travel insurance by providing 100% of services online - no paper or fax. Just help yourself to everything from your nearest internet cafe while you are away! Traveller citizenship: Worldwide