Insurance matters

It’s been interesting to see or hear different people’s views about travel insurance.

I’ve always taken it out for trips outside of the UK. I have had annual cover on a couple of occasions and cover via one of my then bank’s current account deals, but any insurance is now taken out on a trip by trip basis.

Some providers offer travel insurance that is available to all, whilst others have definite no-nos if you’ve had certain medical problems. As I’ve survived a stroke, I always declare the fact and give the provider a full account of what happened, when it happened, what the current state of play is and a full list of medications that are being taken. Once that’s been undertaken, then there’s usually an additional fee to pay to cover the additional risk factors and then it’s time to pack and go.

There have been times though when that hasn’t been the case. Back in 2007, we changed our holiday plans at two days notice as the weather in the UK had been so atrocious – rain, floods and more rain & floods – so we ditched the idea of camping in Wales and headed down to our local travel agent.

And booked a week in Cyprus instead – guaranteed sun, no rain and a self catering apartment in Paphos instead of a small tent on a hillside in Snowdonia. As it was such short notice, we took the agency’s insurance out for the trip, but it took a great deal of insistence on my part to get the fact that I’d had a stroke over to the travel agent and then the person she spoke to over the phone. One referral call later and the extra cover was in place, but boy, did it take some doing!

Fast forward a year and we booked a late deal for a walking holiday in Austria. The insurance was taken out separately from the holiday this time and whilst everything was declared, there was a height limit on the policy – that I wasn’t to go above 2000 metres.

It was only when we were out on one particular day that we realised at the last minute that our intended lunch hut was above that height. So a decision had to be made. Yes, I took on that risk and got away with it, but given that the decision was taken in the middle of a fine day and there was a very good track up to the hut, it was a risk that was worth taking. Yes, I had quite a few years of hillwalking under my boot soles and a few years as an instructor too, so the risk factor was very, very, calculated!

More recent trips haven’t had that edge to them as I would now class myself as a traveller rather than an adventurer, so the insurance questions haven’t been as probing – just the basics about the stroke etc, but I still get the additional charges.

Others I know however have had to have risk factors almost drummed into them though. One acquaintance decided to head off to the U.S of A to do some sky diving. They had insurance cover through their bank, but hadn’t specific cover for dangerous sports. Once the message got through (which involved doing some research into basic US medical costs), and additional premium was paid to provide additional cover, but boy, it took some convincing to get to that stage.

When I have been skiing, or climbing or on walking holidays, I’ve always taken out that extra cover, just in case. I’ve been hospitalised on three occasions now – spontaneous pneumothorax (a.k.a a collapsed lung), food poisoning and that stroke – and there was little or no warning on any of those occasions (I’d had a medical three days before the stroke and had had a lot of treatment on an infected leg wound for a few months before that). I also know people who have been knocked off bikes or motorbikes too.

Fortunately, all of the events mentioned in the last paragraph happened here in the U.K. where we have good emergency services and the medical treatment is usually free to the end user. Had these happened in the U.S. then who knows what the costs would be?

So, what’s it to be?

The cost of insurance?

Or a good night out instead?

My money is always on the cost of insurance every time – good nights out can cost a lot less!

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About Keith Rickaby

Fiftysomething writer and occasional photographer who has worked in both the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and whilst I'm originally from the North East, I'm now firmly based in't Yorkshire...
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