Travel insurance is a dirty word (or two). Claiming on Travel Insurance is an even dirtier adventure.

I’ve found people fall into 3 categories.

  1. People who book their insurance every single trip, regardless of duration. They read all the small print and make sure everything is meticulously in order should they need to make a claim. (These people are rare)
  2. People who book insurance for the big trips. They shop around for a good deal and maybe book an extra provision or two (separate Gadget cover, or Adventure Sports cover etc). They’ve rarely if ever had to claim, so once it’s booked they forget about it.
  3. People who hate insurance companies, thinking they’re all a bunch of swindlers who’ll never pay out, and so never pay for it, and thus hope for the best on each trip.

If you’re in category 1, turn away now. You’ll learn nothing new here (but feel free to check out lots of my other great articles!)

This is primarily aimed at Category 2, and potentially swaying 3s over to the dark side.

I am a 2. I’m British, so I never book insurance when I travel around Europe, but when I take a long haul, I’ll always shop around for a good inclusive deal, but rarely read the how to claim because I’ve only had to claim once before and got shafted.

Heading to South America with a laptop and 3 expensive cameras, I definitely wanted to be covered.

Fast forward 6 months, and just as it’s time to leave Brazil, on a photoshoot with paying clients, one brushes against my tripod sending the camera crashing to the floor. “Not to worry, I have insurance” (spoken through gritted teeth).

And this is where things start to get stressful.

You think that just because you have insurance, all you need to do is contact your company, tell them of your woes and they’ll bend over backwards to get your trip back on course.

Don’t be me. Don’t think like this.

Insurance companies are exactly that.  They’re companies. (if you needed any more proof, read Travel Insurance Market to Reach $28,264 Million by 2022) They want maximum profit with minimum expenses, and so they create hurdles and barriers.  These hurdles and barriers aren’t impassable, but there’s absolutely some pre-planning you need to do to make sure they pay out when disaster strikes.

Small print

Every insurance company will have their own restrictions and small print, and I don’t mean to address them all, just the best practice to help the process.

Before you travel:

Take photos of all the items you are bringing. This probably isn’t close to the top of your thinking list as the excitement and nerves of the upcoming trip are coursing through your veins, but it is essential. And don’t just take photos of the items themselves. Lots of insurance companies require many more details.

Here’s an example of what I was asked for:

Proof of ownership for the items claimed. i.e. the original receipts, or online purchase invoices, valuations, bank or credit card statements, instruction booklets, packaging, or copy receipts from the retailer’s records.

Who in the blue hell keeps all that stuff when they get a brand new camera or laptop? You rip open the box as quickly as possible and then rush outside to start playing with it!  That’s pretty universal when you get something new and shiny, but if you’re buy something new specifically for your upcoming trip, photograph it all, and then keep the originals somewhere safe (or ideally leave them with someone reliable who you can contact should they be required).

Make sure you have a copy of all policy documents and important claim numbers in your email, and also send a copy to your reliable friend. Emails can get hacked or accidentally deleted, so a backup is a must. It’s also wise to try and keep a paper copy handy, stashed away in the bottom of your bag, just in case you can’t get access to the internet.

Make sure you have at least a few pounds/dollars/rupees of credit on your Skype account. It’s by far the easiest way I’ve found to contact my bank/insurance company etc whilst on the road. I’m sure there are lots of other ways nowadays, with a multitude of apps and online programs, but I’ve always found Skype to be reliable and cheap. Most internet cafes I’ve used in South America have it installed, so you can still use it even if it’s your phone or computer that’s been stolen/damaged.

Claiming on travel insurance when you are actually travelling.

Claim within 24 hours of the incident.

This is almost a universal rule. If you’re robbed you need to get a Police Reference Number from the closest Police Station. This can be a major hassle in some countries, but it’s essential. Keep the number safe, and get it to the insurance company asap.  This may not be your first thought, especially if it was a traumatic event, but it’s the first bit of small print they’ll use to fail you when claiming on travel insurance.

Try to send everything at once. If they ask for 5 things, send them all in the one communication. One classic line they’ll use is this:

Should you be sending in further information to substantiate an existing claim, please note that your submission will be added to your file. All further submissions are dealt with and are currently subject to a lead time of 10-15 working days.

What does that actually mean? As I found out, any additional information you send will be added to your case, along with an additional 10-15 days for them to work on it.  So with the “up to 28 working days” they first said they’d need to deal with my claim, they now add an additional 10-15 work days…….. think about that.  That’s a potential 59 calendar days for them to resolve your claim! No backs are being bent over here, or if they are they’ll start seizing up after nearly 2 months!

Which leads me to the final bit of advice:

Don’t panic.

When everything goes wrong, and it certainly can, you need to have patience.

Obviously, if you’re claiming on travel insurance for medical  reasons or something related to flights then they’ll usually have an emergency number to fast track your claim. However, if it’s a non-emergency then you’ll usually be waiting a good few weeks.

For a videographer/photographer like myself, you’re much better off taking separate, dedicated insurance. A quick Google search will reveal plenty of options, but you’d be well advised to speak to them personally to discuss your equipment, your destination and your intention for travelling. You’ll need separate insurance if you’re deemed to be ‘a professional’ (for insurance purposes a professional photographer is generally regarded to be someone who makes more than 50% of their income through photography).

This is obviously a more expensive option, but if your trip revolves around your camera (or computer if you take out specific insurance for that), and you’d be screwed without it, then it could be a necessary evil.

So I hope that was useful advice, and the little bit of forward planning saves you a massive headache down the line. I actually hope that claiming on travel insurance is something you never have to do, and your adventures are forever blessed with good luck and zero incidents, but it’s always good to be prepared for the worst.

Originally published in Allaboardthefraytrain. Written by: Adam (or Fray) and Carolina whom picked up a lot of knowledge whilst wandering the planet (241 cities down) and would love to share that with you.