What travel insurance you really need

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High cancellation costs if you cancel your vacation at short notice, high treatment costs if you fall ill abroad: when it comes to travelling, it can be expensive if something goes wrong. Here’s how to protect yourself.

Vacation and the anticipation of it should be carefree. Nevertheless, a lot can go wrong before or during the trip. Vacationers should think about this during or at the latest shortly after booking, even if it may be difficult given thoughts of palm trees, sun and sandy beaches.

But: illnesses, accidents and other imponderables can not only make the vacation burst. It can also become really expensive.

The good news is: You can insure yourself against many things. But not all travel policies on the market make sense. Some are indispensable, while others are better saved, as the following overview shows:

No alternative: travel health insurance

From the point of view of consumer protectionist Karolina Wojtal, this policy is indispensable for vacationers. As a rule, it covers medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Indeed, emergency treatment costs incurred in an EU country or Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland can be submitted to the domestic statutory health insurance.

The catch, however, is that the costs are reimbursed according to the rates of the country of treatment or according to the rates of one’s own health insurance fund. If you opt for the former, you only get what a patient in that country receives as reimbursement, according to Wojtal of the European Consumer Center. That can mean that not all costs are covered because patients in the other country also have to make co-payments, for example.

On the other hand, reimbursement of German health insurance rates also often creates a gap, as treatment abroad can be much more expensive than in Germany. “An operation in France can cost three times as much as it does here,” says Wojtal. Travellers would then be stuck with the difference. And any repatriation is usually not provided for in the domestic statutory health insurance either.

Outside Europe, travel health insurance is all the more indispensable. Costs of more than 100,000 euros could be incurred for repatriation from overseas alone, writes Stiftung Warentest on its website.

The protection against it is comparatively favourable: For Singles, there are policies already for less than ten euros in the year, and family tariffs often cost not 30 euros per year.

The departure is imminent, and the child breaks his arm. Not only does the vacation then fall through at short notice. It often gets really expensive, too, because such last-minute cancellations usually incur immense cancellation fees. Sometimes the entire price of the trip has to be paid. Travel cancellation insurances protect against this.

But the prerequisite is: the reason for the trip cancellation must be covered in the policy. “A lot can be covered, but also very little,” says Wojtal, looking at the offers.

In addition to accidents and illnesses, which are always included, unforeseen exam dates, pregnancies or sudden unemployment, for example, can also be covered. That’s why it’s worth checking the insurance conditions carefully.

One thing to watch out for: Some older policies have pandemic clauses – that is, they do not cover illnesses classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). So they don’t cover corona disease, either. Also to consider: Fear of contagion in the country of travel, for example, is generally not enough to qualify for travel cancellation insurance.

Suppose you want the flexibility to cancel your vacation up to a few days or weeks before departure without giving reasons. In that case, you can instead book a flex tariff, which many tour operators offer – but usually for an additional charge.

So for whom is travel cancellation insurance worthwhile? According to consumer advocate Wojtal, you should consider taking out travel cancellation insurance, especially for expensive trips and vacations with children.

The policies can be taken out for individual trips and a year. An annual policy covers all trips for one year up to a fixed travel price. Generally, the higher the insured trip price, the more the policy will cost.

Good to know: As a rule, insurance can be taken out up to 30 days before the start of the trip; for last-minute offers, it is often three to four days after booking.

A note from the expert: The insurance company should be informed as soon as there is an illness, “Do not hope for recovery,” says Wojtal. The reason: is that if one submits a medical certificate only days later, the insurer possibly crosses.

For example, cancellation fees could have risen from 50 to 100 percent during that period. In that case, it could happen that the insurer only pays the 50 percent and demands that you pay for the other 50 percent yourself, says Wojtal.

Often included in the package: travel interruption insurance

It is often offered in the package with the travel resignation insurance and steps in if the vacation must be broken off due to illness or an accident. The insurance then covers the costs of the return trip or cancellation.

The magazine “Finanztest” advises such combination tariffs, and consumer protector Wojtal says: The travel resignation insurance is the more important product. But if there is a travel interruption policy, it does not hurt.

And what do such combination tariffs cost? According to “Finanztest,” which recently compared 52 combination policies, singles aged 65 pay 112 euros to cover a 3,000-euro trip very well. A yearly contract with the same sum starts from 104 euros. A combined policy for families costs 143 euros for a single trip and 117 euros for an annual contract.

Worth considering as a supplement: Corona protection policy

The following scenario: You cannot fly because of a suspected Corona infection, for example, after a rapid test. Or you are refused entry at your destination because of this. And now?

For such situations, the protection of travel cancellation insurance is not sufficient. To avoid additional costs, you can insure against these imponderables for individual trips with supplementary insurance – optionally called Corona Travel Protection or Corona Protection Letter.

Currently, these are, in any case, sensible and also necessary estimates, Wojtal. Because the “suspicion” of infection is not enough for travel cancellation insurance since the actual cause of illness is not yet verifiable.

Often superfluous: Baggage insurance

Minimal protection for a relatively high premium, that’s the consumer protector’s assessment of these policies: “Because you have to look after your luggage as carefully as if it wasn’t insured at all.” Good to know: If one’s suitcase is stolen from the hotel room, the loss is also covered by the household insurance, he says.

And what else?

Even on vacation, you can unintentionally cause serious damage to others and subsequently be confronted with claims for damages in immense amounts. Therefore, to be safe, you should check whether your liability insurance covers you abroad and advise the consumer advice centers. Many of these policies provide coverage worldwide – even for stays abroad of less than a year.

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