Ask The Expert: What To Know About Buying Travel Insurance In The Pandemic Age

How to ensure the plan you pick covers all your travel needs.

By Sasha Gonzales        7 May 2022

After more than two years, international travel is finally back on the cards. No matter where you’re going or how long your trip’s going to be, don’t forget the travel insurance, for peace of mind and to protect yourself financially in case things go wrong.

Eddie Kheng, Head of Travel, Singapore, AIG, tells you what you should consider before purchasing travel insurance during the pandemic era.   

Q: Why is it important to buy travel insurance before a trip, especially now as global travel resumes?

Eddie: Insurance has become a crucial part of travelling. It’s a “safety net”, not only for risks from unforeseen circumstances, such as flight cancellations or a loss of belongings, but also for emergencies like natural disasters or medical emergencies that may force you to cut your trip short and return home earlier than planned (always refer to the policy wording for the full terms, conditions and exclusions). Finally, although borders are gradually opening, travel restrictions and rules may change at a moment’s notice, making travel insurance all the more important.

Q: How do travel insurance plans differ now from the plans we purchased before the pandemic?

Eddie: In the past, people might have been more worried about losing their baggage, but these days, their main concerns are more likely related to the pandemic, for instance, getting infected or their trip being cancelled.

Insurance companies should recognise that travel has taken on a new norm and provide relevant benefits such as overseas medical expenses and emergency medical evacuation, pre-trip cancellation, loss of personal belongings, baggage delay and more.

Q: What should Singaporeans consider before purchasing travel insurance in the coming months?

Eddie: While we all have our own needs and every travel plan is unique, here are five things that travellers should keep in mind:

1. Reacting to the unknown
With most attractions offering flexibility for reservations, some requiring an additional fee or administrative fee for the flexibility, be sure to check whether your insurer offers a similar perk. With AIG’s Travel Guard, changes in travel dates cost $0 in administrative fees.

2. Medical benefits and sum insured
We strongly advise all travellers to check the medical benefits and the coverage that the travel insurance policy offers, as hospitalisation expenses can vary in different countries.

3. Claims processes
The main reason for insurance is to cover any unfortunate loss, hence the importance of fast claims processing and reliability. Ensure that you verify and go through the claims process of your selected insurer. Don’t forget to check for any excess or deductibles.

4. Policy terms and conditions
Overlooking your policy terms and conditions could potentially leave you unprotected, or your claims may be rejected if important and required information is not included in the claim submission. So, have a clear understanding of the policy terms and conditions before you purchase any insurance policy.

5. 24/7 global assistance
When a situation arises while travelling, being able to rely on an insurer that provides 24/7 global assistance provides comfort, and more importantly, a solution, in case of emergencies. If your insurer has a global assistance team, they would likely be able to assist with medical emergencies during your trip, making new travel arrangements, retrieving lost baggage, replacing lost or stolen travel documents, language translation and more.

You’ll want an insurer with a 24/7 global assistance network for emergency travel needs and medical assistance while abroad. All these benefits give you greater peace of mind.

Q: If someone is unvaccinated or un-boosted, would their travel insurance cost more or have different terms and conditions compared to a vaccinated/boosted person’s travel insurance plan?

Eddie: We can’t speak for all insurers, but at present, we can confirm that there will be no additional cost or different terms and conditions specific to the unvaccinated or un-boosted policyholders of AIG’s Travel Guard.

However, you should do your own due diligence before leaving Singapore, and check on the requirements with the authorities of your destination country or region. This includes finding out whether specific tests are required and whether or not there are specific requirements for travel insurance, checking the vaccination requirements, and asking what vaccinations are acceptable.

Q: If someone has pre-existing conditions, would their travel insurance plan be different, seeing as these are a risk factor for Covid-19?

Eddie: At its core, travel insurance is meant to provide cover for unanticipated events that may arise from your trip. Therefore, for some policies, there may be benefits that might be excluded due to pre-existing medical conditions. That said, there are other benefits that would potentially still provide cover even if a traveller has pre-existing conditions, such as cover for travel inconveniences like travel delays and loss of baggage. It’s therefore important to read and understand the full terms and conditions of the policy before purchasing travel insurance.

Q: With cruises becoming increasingly popular, should a plan cover cruises, too?

Eddie: Travel insurance ought to be considered before booking a cruise because of the unique multi-leg nature of travelling by cruise ship. Whether you are flying or taking a cruise (to specific destinations or cruises to nowhere), you need to be able to travel confidently knowing that you’re adequately covered for medical expenses. 

With AIG Travel Guard, SAFRA members enjoy 20% off ALL Single Trip Plans that include 24/7 in-house Global Assistance. For more info, go to www.safra.sg/travelinsurance.

AIG’s Travel Guard is protected under the Policy Owners’ Protection Scheme which is administered by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation (“SDIC”). Coverage for these policies is automatic and no further action is required from you. For more information on the types of benefits that are covered under the scheme as well as the limits of coverage, where applicable, please contact AIG Asia Pacific Insurance Pte. Ltd. or visit the AIG, GIA or SDIC websites (www.aig.sgwww.gia.org.sg or www.sdic.org.sg).

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