Insurance is still a relatively novel idea in South Africa. The vast majority of the population has no proper health or auto insurance, leave alone the other secondary types of insurance.
This situation is heavily skewed against black South Africans. For instance, while 75% of white South Africans have health insurance/medical aid, less than 10% of blacks have any. Overall, less than 20% of South Africans are covered by a functioning medical aid scheme.
As we try and change the narrative by emphasizing on the importance of covering your risks, we encounter yet another type of insurance; Travel insurance.
By definition, travel insurance is a type of insurance that covers the costs and losses of travelling, both domestically and internationally.
As anyone who has travelled will tell you, so many unforeseen expenses arise during such trips, which you can sometimes struggle to cover out of pocket.
Why buy travel insurance?
If it’s not the age-old question of why you should buy any insurance.
While travelling to a foreign country, you open yourself to crippling financial expenses, particularly if you were to get sick. You will find that it is much cheaper to buy insurance, than find out.
For instance, if you are South African travelling to the US, you will pay for the insurance in Rand. If you need to use it on your trip, your provider will be left to deal with all the expenses, particularly the foreign exchange one. You may realize that after converting your Rand to Dollars, they don’t go very far in the land of the free.
God forbid you are hospitalized, and you will come to find out why America has the most expensive medical system of any developed nation.
Travel insurance is also important when it comes to one of the most common travel-related mishaps; loss of luggage. You can be compensated if this happens to you.
What does travel insurance cover in South Africa?
As with many other insurance products, there is no one size fits all. Different companies will offer different products, and different add-ons.
However, the most basic packages should tick the following boxes.
/ Accidental death of injury/disability cover
/ Emergency medical insurance
/ Personal liability cover
/ Luggage cover
/ Losses incurred due to unforeseen trip interruptions or cancellations.
Your insurance provider may include a few others, but these are generally the basic ones.
What does travel insurance not cover?
It’s also good to know what travel insurance will not cover. This is also different from one provider to the other. In some cases, some of these may be offered as paid add-ons.
But generally, your travel insurance will not cover the following:
/ Pre-existing conditions: Some providers may offer a ‘look-back-period’ of several months prior to your purchase. This is a period when you should not have had any symptoms or treatment for your pre-existing condition. For instance, if your diabetes or arthritis has not flared up in the past 6 months, you may be covered if you develop a related emergency during your trip.
/ Natural disasters that begin before you purchase the insurance: If for example you purchase insurance after a volcano starts erupting, or after news of an incoming hurricane, you will not be covered for damages related to that.
/ Travel for medical procedures: Most insurance will not even cover persons travelling abroad for medical procedures.
/ Pregnancy and childbirth: If you are pregnant while travelling, your travel insurance will not cover expenses related to the pregnancy or childbirth. Some providers may however chip in only if complications arise from the pregnancy or childbirth. If you fall in this category, it’s always good to seek clarification.
/ Bad weather: Although travel insurance covers losses related to certain interruptions to your trip, bad weather tends not to be one of them. This is determined on a case to case basis. For instance, you may be covered for any losses if the weather delays or cancels your flight, but not covered if you’re forced to cancel a trip to the museum for the same reason.
/ Security delays: Delays related to security eg. at airports are not covered by most providers.
/ Pandemics that begin before you purchase the insurance: With the Covid situation, it is proper to indicate that travel insurance will not cover such scenarios, unless the pandemic or health crisis began after you bought your insurance. However with the disruption that has been brought about by Covid-19, many providers have introduced a special and separate Covid cover package.
/ Anything not on the covered list: It is almost impossible to exhaust what’s not covered. So, most providers refer their clients to the covered list. Anything not on that list is almost always not covered, and the wording is very rarely open to interpretation.
Is your credit card travel insurance enough?
Certain banks provide travel insurance as a perk of holding and using their credit cards.
You however need to read the fine print. While it is different from one bank to the other, what this tends to provide is mostly medical cover.
Unless clearly stated, a lot of these credit card-provided insurance do not cover things like loss of luggage, flight cancellations or other interuptions.
The best travel insurance in South Africa
Some of the leading providers of travel insurance in South Africa are:
Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC) – They offer different categories of travel, including: Leisure, Business, Emigration, Incoming, for seniors, youth, etc.
Allianz – This German multinational also offers travel insurance in South Africa. They subdivide their packages by regions, or by frequency of travel.
Hollard Travel: Among their offerings is a Covid-19 travel insurance cover.
How much does travel insurance cost in South Africa?
A lot of considerations go into pricing your travel insurance. Your age, medical history, country you are visiting, duration, etc. are some of them.
Most providers are not very transparent, and will require a detailed profile of the applicant before they can calculate a quote.
However, Allianz does give us some insights.
If travelling to the Schengen region, their rates start from R 128.
This covers a host of medical emergencies, including dental, which is covered to the tune of R5,000.
For that rate, your medical cover in a foreign land is covered up to R500,000.
Other packages offered by Allianz are a global ‘Travel Plus’, and ‘Travel Extra’. These ones cost from R212 to R264 respectively.
The difference being the amount of compensation awarded incase of unforeseen situation. For instance, the ‘Plus’ package will pay up to R 2,500,000 in medical related expenses, while the ‘Extra’ package will pay up to R 10,000,000 for the same.
The Plus will pay R 25,000 for baggage loss, while the Extra will pay R 50,000.
Other differences are things the Extra package covers but are not covered by the Plus package. These include muggings and legal expenses like bail bond.