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Have a safe trip

If you are planning a trip abroad, take travel insurance. The cover will not only help deal with medical exigencies but also take care of flight-related inconveniences.

Print Edition: April 16, 2009

It's that time of the year again. Families are looking forward to vacations, many of them abroad, and students are applying to foreign universities for higher education. If you fall into either category, an important thing to factor in is insurance because illness and flight-related mishaps tend to ruin the most well-planned itineraries. To deal with such eventualities, insurers offer plans to suit various traveller profiles — leisure or business travellers and students — as well as destinations.

The standard travel insurance covers health and flight-related irritants. It includes a health-cum-personal accident policy as well as a pre-defined compensation for trip delays, cancellations and loss of baggage or passport. It also provides a third-party cover. The policy is available for tenures ranging from a few days to a year and can be taken as single trip or annual multi-trip covers. The most important protection sought under the policy is for illness; one must also remember to include pre-existing diseases to take care of emergencies.

In many countries, travel insurance is mandatory while seeking visas. Besides, several hospitals abroad do not accept patients without an insurance cover, making this policy a must-have. The policies are broadly classified as those for travel to the US and Canada, and those for the rest of the world. While you have to pay a markedly higher premium for travel to the US and Canada, it also depends on your age, the number of days of proposed travel and the countries you plan to visit. The cost of a policy is also determined by the range—the covers you take along with add-ons—and the extent of coverage. Most plans offer medical reimbursement expenses and benefits for accidental death and dismemberment, personal liability, baggage delay, checked baggage loss, passport loss, trip delay, hijacking and emergency cash advance. There are variants for these combinations that offer different limits across covers, resulting in varying premiums.

Each insurer offers an international toll-free number to make a claim in a foreign country. It is a good idea to take a countryspecific contact number, so that all you need to do is call and specify your policy details. If you are admitted to an accredited hospital (a list is usually available with insurers), you need not pay a dime. But if you're in a non-accredited hospital, you might have to pay upfront and later forward a claim to the insurer with the required documents (claims form, prescriptions, medical records and cash receipts). For students, the covers are long-term in nature and structured to have built-in benefits if they need to return to India in case of an emergency. Though you may get customised products in the country that you visit, it is advisable to buy a plan in India as it is cheaper and comes into effect the moment you board a flight.

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