“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck
All I wanted for my 30th birthday was to surf and to surf in Bali. Sounds like a plan, no? Yeah I thought so. I mean if you’re going to have to face the feared why not do it in a magical place with friends? Well I had the friends – a travel buddy and a friend from a TEFL (Teaching English as a Second Language) course. I had the place – I arrived in Bali two days before ‘D’ day.
I even had the food.
Bali was full of gluten-free food and I found pancake mix for my troubled tummy. Banana pancakes for my birthday breakfast were a sure thing.
What wasn’t was the nausea. I was on the back of my TEFL friend’s bike heading for my first surfing lesson. He had to pull over. It couldn’t have been something I ate. I had been very careful since arriving Bali. It couldn’t have been the sun. I was used to that. I had been traveling through South East Asia for three months before Bali.
All I wanted to do was pick-up a board, but I could barely pick myself off the sand. This was not fair. This was not what I had planned. I pouted.
“Robyn come on you need to go to the hospital. Get an IV you’ll feel great!”
“No way I hate needles. I am NOT getting an IV. And I have no idea if I’m even sick. Maybe I’m just tired.”
I can be stubborn.
“Have you got insurance, Robyn?”
“Ok then stop moaning and get on the back of the bike. We’re going to figure out what is wrong with you.”
Bali might also be a very cheap country to visit. A steak dinner will cost you $5 and a full tank of gas $2. For more on my Bali travels check out My Postcards. For my Bali Photos visit where else? My Photos. You get the gist of this Monday Rock Fever Column featured in The Royal Gazette.
Their medical care? Let’s say I was happy I had insurance. My bill in Bali? Almost $150. I had to pay upfront, but I kept my paperwork. When I returned to Bermuda six months later I was reimbursed. That helped the finances!
Which is why I spoke to Andrew Hanwell, the Assistant Vice-President of Personal Insurance at BF&M insurance for the expert advice on insuring travel. His advice: “Buy the policy before you need it.”
Q: But Mr. Hanwell, I was away all of last year and I needed to buy health insurance while I was not on the island. What should I have done?
A: “The internet. That’s where we sell a lot of our policies. When we launched our website that was the big seller at first. The upshot is if you forget to call your insurance company before you go you can buy the insurance online and a lot of people do that.
“It’s totally tailor-made for yourself. You don’t have to take out medical if you don’t want too and it’s very inexpensive. It’s not going to to cost a lot of money but if you need the coverage you will be happy you have it.”
Q: What if I go away all the time? What are my options?
A: “There are two different policies. There is a short-term and we cover you once for particular days you are away. You have to have a minimum of $30 of coverage.
“Then there’s the annual travel insurance, which is helpful if you travel more than two or three times a year. For annual you might pay $45 for a full year of coverage. It might make it cheaper overall.
“We also have student travel insurance. It’s an annual policy and it’s for parents sending their kids away for school. Any of the belongings they have in their dorm rooms and all the items they own overseas, we will take care of that. And any trips back and forth from school for holidays.”
Q: Ok Mr. Hanwell you said most people buy the Baggage and Personal effects insurance. How does it work?
A: “First (if you lose a bag in transit) you need to see what you can get from the Airline and if they say nothing then you need to come back to see us. It also covers loss from a locked hotel room.”
However he added: “If you have a cell phones and other electronics we would want you to insure them on home insurance. Travel insurance is for personal belongings but not valuables.”
Q: What should I buy if I worry about getting sick before a big trip?
A: “Cancellation insurance. The main reason people get this is they have booked a $10,000 cruise. If you get sick a couple of days before most of that is non-refundable. You would get that back with the insurance. Also if you, someone you are traveling with or someone in your immediate family dies we will pay any non-refundable deposits.
“It also works if you need to extend the trip. i.e. you’re away and you get sick. They will cover the $150 change fee, for example.”
Q: How do I get my money back?
A: “Like with baggage we say go to the cruise line and see if you can et a refund and then we will pay back the rest.”
Q: But let’s say Hurricane Fiona came this week and I can’t get off the island. Would you cover that?
A: “We do not cover if, for example, the hurricane comes on Saturday and you cannot leave on Saturday. So natural disasters, missed flights, or missed connections.
“If we started extending it it would become a lot more expensive. At the moment it is sickness and death. There’s an upper age limit too. Once you turn 76 they have to get a doctors not that they are fit to travel. Then we would extend the coverage to them.”
Q: What if you do not have major medical insurance and you’re worried about…getting sick in Bali, for example?
A: “The medical expenses travel insurance is a very small amount. We cover up to $5,000. It’s for emergencies. It’s really for people who have HIP insurance.
“Major medical will cover treatment abroad and HIP will not. Ninety percent of Bermuda doesn’t need this. If you have major medical you don’t need this. If you just have HIP, you can give yourself medical coverage overseas with this.”
Q: What else can I insure while I’m away?
A: “Accidental Death. We sell this in units of $10,000. If you were overseas and had a car accident and die we would pay your beneficiary up to the limit of the policy. For temporary disablement we will pay up to 104 weeks.
“It’s life insurance while you are overseas. If people have a life insurance policy maybe they don’t need this, but they will still take a unit out to cover funeral costs which are not covered under life insurance policies.”
Q: And how, most importantly, do I make sure I get my money back?
“Keep receipts from what you purchase. A lot of times we can get that stuff if we need to, but the things they can keep will make the claim easier.
“For the airlines you will have to file the claim through the airline and get back a no (and keep this denial letter). If there was a break-in you need a police report.”
And finally make sure you report back here next Monday for my Rock Fever Column about a company that gives its employees up to two months off to do…..whatever they want! And they get paid! Of course before then check back for daily updates.