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Travel insurance

Travel insurance

It is a condition of booking with Expert Africa that you have travel insurance before you leave on your trip. Specifically, all members of your party must be adequately insured for any medical emergency that could arise, including the potentially very high cost of an air evacuation back to your home country. Other benefits of travel insurance usually include cover for cancellation, curtailment and loss or theft of your belongings. Expert Africa does not sell travel insurance and we cannot recommend particular providers or policies. We do, however, have some experience in discussing these issues with our travellers and we hope the notes below are helpful.

When to take out travel insurance

You should take out travel insurance as soon as you book with us, just in case you have to cancel your trip for any reason. We have come across a few policies which must be taken out within a few weeks of your deposit payment for your trip.

Medical cover on travel insurance

Emergency medical cover is the most vital element of your travel insurance. If you suffer an injury, medical costs can start to stack up quickly, especially if an emergency medical evacuation is required.

Some policies offer very basic cover with low maximum limits: these should be avoided. In the case of a serious medical emergency in a remote location, you need to be confident that your insurance will cover all the costs for your evacuation and care.

It is hard to know how much cover you need. As a guide, the UK's independent consumer watchdog, Which?, recommends a minimum cover level of £5,000,000 for British travellers heading worldwide. They advise that in most cases this should be enough to cover emergency medical evacuation, any medical bills while in the country and medical repatriation to your home country, if required.

Always insure the full cost of your trip

Some insurance companies put a maximum cost limit on the value of trips which they will insure. In the UK, this is typically around £5,000 per person. Many will offer extensions to cover the full value of trips for additional premiums.

Always check the maximum cost of the trip covered by your policy: if you only insure a proportion of your trip, then any insurer is likely to refuse to pay out more than the equivalent proportion of any claim.

Finding the right travel insurance for you

Under regulations from the UK's Financial Services Authority, we are not allowed to make any specific policy recommendations for your insurance.

A vast array of providers and policies is available and the right policy for you will depend upon your circumstances. So we urge all of our travellers to take time to do their own research, so they can choose the best possible policy for their needs.

We note that many insurance companies around the world only offer travel cover for residents of their own country. So although we cannot recommend any policies, we make some suggestions below of companies to contact when starting your own research.

For travellers based in the UK

Which?, the independent UK charity that acts as a champion for consumers, regularly surveys the market and recommends a number of insurance companies. Below are the top-scoring travel insurance companies, as of April 2019.

For travellers based in North America

Below are a couple of insurance companies, based in North America, which have assisted our travellers in the past.
Another promising possibility is a policy from Travel Guard Plus, purchased through Safari Samaritan - who have set up a guidance page for Expert Africa's travellers. Their USD100,000 medical cover is less than we recommend to European-based travellers, but we're told that it's relatively high compared with the level of medical cover provided by most US insurers. At the time of writing, we believe that this policy includes adventure sports, but do check all the details for yourself. We're also told that travel to southern Africa from North America is regarded by US under-writers as relatively low-risk. Hence these premiums are lower than similar insurances which cover world-wide travel. Although we don't have personal experience of this policy, and we cannot endorse any insurance product, we believe that this policy is well worth investigating. If you have questions about this policy, then email joel@SafariSamaritan.com.

For travellers based globally

We know of a company called Global Voyager who claim to insure on an "anywhere to anywhere" basis. They may well be worth investigating if you can't easily find an insurance company based in your home country.

Travel Insurance and the COVID-19 outbreak

The coronavirus pandemic has put insurers, as well as much of the rest of the world, under great strain. We have been disappointed to observe that a number of insurers have tried to walk away from their obligations to travellers and businesses.

Our understanding is that UK travellers with good cancellation or travel disruption insurance cover should be able to recover payments made for their trips from their insurers if they choose to cancel because their departure falls during the period that the FCDO has advised against leaving the UK. (Please note that FCDO travel advisories are advice only: travellers may choose to travel, and tour operators may choose to run trips, to areas to which the FCDO advises against travel).

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, some claims have been paid by insurance companies, but many were refused or delayed, sometimes on questionable grounds. Anecdotal evidence suggests that to have a successful claim, you need to keep a meticulous record of your circumstances. You should always:
  • Document all your communications with your insurers in writing and keep copies;
  • Make a full, formal claim to your insurers in writing, carefully following their claims procedure;
  • Insist on a written explanation if your claim is rejected;
  • Follow up with the Financial Ombudsman in the UK (or your country’s equivalent) if necessary.
Of these steps, getting a written explanation of why your claim was rejected is particularly important. You need to be sure your claim was rejected on a point of principle, and not through a procedural error or because of a documentation irregularity.

Travel against FCDO advice and cover for COVID-19

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the travel advice issued by the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) was advice reflecting only the safety of travel in the country in question. However, since the start of the pandemic, the basis of this advice has changed to include advice that seeks to limit peoples’ movements in general. This has confused the advice for travellers given by the UK government.

The result has been an increasing number of insurance companies offering travel cover for travellers wanting to go to areas where the FCDO advises against travel for non-essential reasons. It is increasingly straightforward to get such cover and policies now usually include cover for COVID-19 infections. Prices for this cover are very similar to more standard travel insurance policies. Currently they include:
As the COVID-19 crisis has progressed, insurance providers have realised that they need to cover claims for COVID-19 in order to sell any new policies. So many of those insurers who have continued to offer travel insurance are now amending their policies to include some cover for COVID-19.

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