There are many ways to save money as a budget traveller. Some are perfectly sensible—such as staying in hostels or Airbnbs instead of hotels, taking public transport and cooking at your accommodation.
Other money-saving methods are stupid at best, and dangerous at worst—booking the cheapest accommodation available only to realise it’s actually an hour away from the city, trying to cheat on public transport by not buying a ticket, and not buying travel insurance.
Yup, you heard that right. You might never have had to make a travel insurance claim in all your years of travelling, but giving it a miss in the name of saving money is still very, very dumb.
Travel insurance covers you when you’re at home, too
Travel insurance actually covers you for a wider range of situations than most people think.
Once you book your policy, even if that happens weeks before your trip, your coverage starts, and it only ends when you return to Hong Kong and have collected your luggage at the airport.
You could be entitled to make a claim if something happens and you are as a result unable to embark on your trip, such as a flight cancellation or a natural disaster preventing you from getting to the airport.
You are also protected on the journey from Hong Kong to your destination, so if you miss a flight connection you might be able to make a claim.
Even when you’re back home in Hong Kong, you might still be afforded some form of protection. For instance, if your luggage gets lost, you can probably get compensated for it. And if you need to seek medical attention for an accident that occurred while you were travelling, you might be able to make a claim for those expenses, too.
What travel insurance coverage are you really getting?
You don’t need to get run over by a truck or robbed at gunpoint before you qualify for a travel insurance claim. In fact, you might be able to get a payout for some pretty mundane things, so read your policy so you don’t miss out.
Here are some things travel insurance policies will typically cover you for:
Getting into an accident or falling ill on holiday can be very costly, and your travel insurance coverage enables you to make a claim for medical expenses so you can seek help abroad without worrying about the cost.
For instance, if you rent a car and get into an accident because you’re unfamiliar with driving customs abroad, suffer from a bout of food poisoning after eating dodgy-looking street food or fall and twist your ankle because you were too busy waving your selfie stick around to watch where you were going, you should be entitled to a medical claim.
You can typically get a payout for things like medical or dental treatment, hospital cash benefits, medical evacuation and even expatriation in the event that you need to be rushed back to Hong Kong.
Medical expenses incurred after coming home that are linked to an accident or illness suffered while on holiday are also usually claimable.
Personal accident coverage
No matter how careful you are, accidents do happen, especially when the people at your holiday destination all drive like Formula One racers or have a creative way of interpreting traffic light signals.
Travel insurance policies offer personal accident coverage, which usually means you can make a claim if, as a result of an accident, you suffer from temporary or permanent disability or lose your life. Obviously, in the latter scenario, it’ll be your family or other beneficiary who receives the money.
Your policy should spell out the maximum personal accident payout you can get, and the percentage you will get in various situations. For instance, dying would entitle you to a 100% payout, while losing a leg would get you 50%.
We’re all praying you’ll never, ever have to use your travel insurance to make medical or personal accident claims.
But if you travel often enough, you’ll almost definitely end up having to make a claim for travel-related problems someday.
Should your flight or ride on some other mode of transportation be cancelled or delayed, you should be able to make a claim. You can also get payouts if you miss a flight because of circumstances out of your control, like a serious illness or a natural disaster.
You can also make claims for delayed baggage. The claim amounts are calculated according to the amount of time you need to wait for your baggage. This is a pretty sweet deal if the baggage loss happens on your return flight, since you should already have all your necessities at home while you wait for your lost luggage.
If you’re travelling with valuable items like a laptop, phone or watch, you might be able to make claims if they get damaged or lost. However, note that such claims are usually subject to your being able to successfully make a police report, and other than language issues you’ll find that the police force in many places won’t want to go through the administrative hassle of reporting a stolen iPhone.
Of course, travel insurance coverage for belongings isn’t unlimited. Your plan will state the maximum amount you can claim for each category of belongings. So avoid carrying your Hermès Birkin bag or wearing your Patek Philippe watch while on holiday.
Where’s the best place to buy travel insurance?
Unless you’re still living in the age of the dinosaurs, you probably buy your air tickets on the Internet. As you might have noticed, you are usually prompted by the airline’s website to purchase travel insurance from them along with your tickets, at more seemingly attractive prices than what insurers are offering directly.
But don’t be too hasty to sign up for these plans. Travel insurance plans offered in conjunction with airlines are often very bare-bones and offer less than what a standard plan does. The actual policy bars you from making claims in a wide range of situations.
So what’s the smart thing to do? Make an informed choice by comparing travel insurance plans online before you buy. It’s easy and free, and could be just the thing that saves your holiday.