Ready, get set, and...oh no!

It is not surprising that thousands of Indians travel abroad every year and the number is rising annually.

By Sudhir Menon        Print Edition: January 11, 2007

Foreign travel, be it for leisure, business or to study aboard, is always exciting. But to make the most of the trip, one has to make sure nothing goes wrong and the unexpected could play party pooper. Short-term visitors, those on business or visiting friends or family, are especially vulnerable since they can be lulled into a false sense of security by presuming that their regular medical policies provided by employers in India will cover them. That is not true since most insurers of regular policies explicitly exclude foreign travel.

Today, Indians and NRIs are found in almost all corners of the globe, with nearly two million people of Indian origin settled in the US alone. Therefore, it is not surprising that thousands of Indians travel abroad every year and the number is rising annually. Preparing for a foreign trip involves rigorous planning; visas, documentation, foreign currency, travel itinerary and in case of many travel destinations the need to invest in buying travel insurance. Because of the high initial cost of such insurance policies for travelling abroad, some people cut corners and try to save a few rupees by avoiding travel insurance wherever possible. According to industry sources, out of every 10 international air travellers booked, only two or three are insured. Given the risks involved in foreign travel, along with the high cost of medical services abroad, it makes a lot of sense to insure oneself against the worst-case scenario.

Take for instance students going to the US. Many find it intriguing that although universities provide insurance plans that cover them after they register as full-time students, they may not be covered when the school is not in session. And, it is uncomfortable to be in a foreign land and find oneself unwell with no support and not enough money. Usually, travel insurance provides cover for all discomforts on the journey and today there are specialised products available.

With the changing demands and needs of travellers we have come up with products that are tailored to suit the different needs of travellers and it varies with the destinations that they travel to. For instance, we were the first to notice a policy for senior citizens when they need travel abroad. Likewise we have tied up with airlines to offer packaged policies to suit travellers to specific regions by adding value to their travel insurance plans.

While travel insurance plans are there to take care of you, the core issue is how the claims are settled when you are travelling. All insurers use global partners who step in to help the policyholder in each country where he plans to travel. This way, though the policy is sold in India, it takes care of issues specific to a foreign country that one is travelling to. Medical insurance is important, but there are issues like personal accident, missed flight connections, loss of passport and financial emergency that are now addressed too. The new policies look at wide risk cover offering the traveller that much more assurance when undertaking international travel. A final piece of advice — read the policy details to understand what they are covered for by the policy that they have taken.

(The author is a Head of Travel Inurance, ICICI Lombard)


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