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No one could have imagined the chaos that the eruption of faraway Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano could cause to air travel to and from Europe, as the ash cloud drifted across the continent and beyond. Were you one of the hundreds of thousands of people whose vacation, business trip, or return to school, was disrupted? This unprecedented event left many travelers wondering if their travel insurance would cover the additional costs they incurred from unexpected hotel stays, meals and taxi fares from long delays and cancellations; costs that they had never anticipated.

Most insurance companies view volcanic eruptions as “Acts of God” and as such do not consider them to be “insurable events”. However, the way in which European insurers have handled such claims vary widely, and some policies do have more generous terms and conditions than others. Indeed as a “goodwill gesture” to policyholders, some travel insurers review and settle some claims on a case-by-case basis. It is worth reviewing your travel insurance documents carefully to see where you stand.

Do you have travel insurance?

If you are one of those that has never thought of, or even bothered with travel insurance, you do need it, because life is so unexpected. No one wants to be pessimistic as they book a trip, so travel insurance is usually the last thing on their minds, yet it can turn out to be the most important thing to have when you are in a crisis situation and far from home. Here are some of the advantages of booking travel insurance.

1. Flight delays: Some insurers will consider paying something towards travel delays and missed connections if “reasonable” expenses for accommodation food and fares are backed by valid receipts.

2. Cancellation: Flights could be cancelled due to industrial action, adverse weather, the collapse of an airline or terrorism. Insurance will also cover flight changes such as those caused be an emergency return home following a death in the family or a fire.

3. Missed flights: If you miss your flight home, such insurance covers the costs incurred in changing flights or settling hotel bills.

4. Emergency cash: Should your cash and cards be stolen travel insurance can provide you with emergency cash.

5. Personal Accident: This means that if you are injured or die during your trip, you or your family will be compensated.

6. Personal Baggage: This provides reimbursement for the purchase of essential items if baggage is delayed; and coverage against lost, stolen or damaged baggage.

7. Medical Care: If you have an accident or fall ill during your trip, you will be covered for medical expenses and incidentals whilst you are hospitalized abroad.

8. Medical Transport: Some policies will bear the cost of transporting you to a medical facility, by road or air ambulance.

9. Medical repatriation: Insurance may also pay for the cost of returning you to your home country after your treatment, sometimes accompanied by a medical professional. Cover may also include the repatriation of mortal remains.

10. Medical evacuation: Should you become seriously ill in a place without appropriate medical care you will be evacuated to the nearest adequate medical facility for treatment, even if this means your being flown abroad.

Read the fine print

Many people struggle to understand the finer details of their insurance policies. It is important for you to read the fine print carefully before you sign any documents or pay for your cover; it is all to do with the policy wording and in “exceptional circumstances” rules may not apply. Be clear on the exact process for making a claim, as this can differ from insurer to insurer.

The cost of insurance

Be cautious about opting for the cheapest policy. Invariably it is the cheaper policies that offer the least help in difficult situations. Depending on your destination, and how long you will be there for, the cost of insurance differs; it is more expensive to buy travel insurance for a country that is considered dangerous, as compared to countries without serious safety concerns.

The travel chaos of the past month has brought to light some gaping holes in insurance cover. Even if you haven’t been affected by the current travel disruption, you may be planning holidays later this year or may be a frequent international business traveler. Review your insurance arrangements and sign on with a strong insurance company that has built a sound reputation over the years for providing outstanding customer service; such companies are more likely to offer at least some assistance to policyholders when unexpected events occur, rather than relying on the small print to reject claims.

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