Note: This post was written in October 2017 and published in April 2020.
This question, despite everything, I still have trouble answering. The advantages and disadvantages honestly seem equal to me, making it hard for me to decide whether I should get it or not at times. Of course, it’s only this case if nothing happens to you related to major medical expenses or evacuation. For our travel to Puerto Rico and back, we booked a travel insurance with World Nomads. This was pretty much an upscale insurance, but we clearly saw that it offered more funds for medical expenses, trip delay, or trip interruption. It really seemed like a great thing and most of all the most safe thing we could do. We booked it for about 158 euros, rather pricey for a student, or someone with limited amounts of funds for travels. But we consoled ourselves by the fact that we wouldn’t regret it if one of our flights got cancelled, for example. Of course, one of our flights was cancelled and we were stuck in London for two days (not a cheap place to be stuck in). We called our travel insurance and they said that this fell under a trip delay (a delay is classified as 3 hours or more), meaning they would cover our expenses for those days. In this situation, we were very happy about our high end travel insurance purchase. Of course, we still had to send in our claim and wait for it to be accepted, etc. Additionally our travel insurance charged a claim fee of 70 euros each time we wanted to submit a claim. This made us realize that we would really need to spend a lot more in order to benefit from their coverage. If we each only spent 70 euros those two days in London, and they accepted our claim, we would get zero in return, and still spend 70 euros on the claim. In this case, it wasn’t even worth filing a claim. We made sure to spend well beyond 140 euros, to at least make some kind of gain (even if it wasn’t really the case, perhaps a psychological gain?).
The next moment we considered using our travel insurance was in Puerto Rico when hurricane Maria hit. Which meant only three days after our London stay. Our insurance did cover evacuation from a natural disaster area, if the disaster hits while you are there. However, we quickly learned that they didn’t cover any complex situations. Zsiga and I had planned to go to the States for one week to visit my parents and we wanted evacuation to the States to then be able to continue our travels and not completely lose out on our time away from Europe. However, the insurance would have only covered a direct flight from Puerto Rico back to Hungary (our country of residence). On top of this, there were no flights leaving from Puerto Rico at the time, since the airport traffic was completely backed up. So we finally realized the insurance wasn’t going to help us get off the island, even though this truly was a case for evacuation. I understand that sometimes certain insurance companies run pick up flights to rescue those who get stuck in some kind of disaster, but ours wasn’t offering any such thing in that moment. It was really disappointing to see that our travel insurance didn’t help us in practice in such a situation.
The other downside was the paperwork that we encountered while trying to file the claim. It literally took us about 2 working days to get everything together, fill out the forms, call World Nomads with questions about unclear areas of the forms, photocopy/scan our receipts, etc, etc. It was also discouraging the forms didn’t have a place for everything we encountered. For example, we decided to place the cancelled flight from London as a travel delay and they had no place to add the expenses for food! So we had to draft a separate word document explaining the situation. We also had to do the same explaining the complex situation in Puerto Rico and how we managed to leave the country (although we doubted they would pay for this we could at least try!). Even after we handed all of this in, they still needed to contact us for the photocopies of receipts and boarding passes, which they didn’t ask for in this initial round of bureaucracy. At the moment, we have no idea how long it will take, but we hope that at some point the travel insurance will pay off.
Obviously, travel insurance is just a common sense thing to have when you are travelling, because you have no idea what could happen. We are currently on our way to South East Asia and of course, even though we had a bad experience with travel insurance this time around, we still booked it. If something happens on a motorcycle for example, or one of us gets seriously ill, then it is important to have (despite all of the bureaucracy). I’m just still not that excited about it, and its double edged nature.
Update: The claim was handed in October 2017 and the approval and transfer happened in January 2018. So one has to be patient when it comes to reimbursement. Also, during the process it turned out that although we paid for the same insurance with the same company, Ana because of her US citizenship received more reimbursement than me with a Hungarian passport. World Nomads never answered our questions on why this difference in re-imbursement according to nationality was justified …