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Should You Buy a Travel Cover in Covid Days?

During the last few months, the Covid-19 cases in India spiked like never before. No one has ever imagined that a nation that was once labelled as “a pharmacy to the world” is now on the knife-edge, battling the life-threatening coronavirus pandemic. In these testing times, both mentally and physically, the better way to ease out pressure is by traveling or stepping out of the houses. Unfortunately, that’s impossible during this serious humanitarian crisis.

As the second wave took a fatal charge on people’s lives, particularly in India, several countries like the United States of America, UAE, Australia, Qatar, Maldives, Germany, Indonesia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Oman, Singapore, Kuwait have temporarily banned flights from India. A two-month lockdown back in May 2020 has severely impacted the aviation industry domestically, and the chances of having a long-term impact on the airline sector are probable, only if the dust doesn’t settle. Starting from May 17, Air India will resume its flight services from London to Mumbai.

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Despite turbulent conditions in India and other countries, most travellers are still searching for the next best destination to chill, hang out, and spend their evenings in the open. Although things are out of control, certain countries have reopened their borders for tourists and travellers like Zanzibar, Italy, Romania, Poland, Greece, and a few others.

Looking at the upheaval around raises a series of questions: Is it safe to travel during Covid times? Does a traveller need travel insurance?

What is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is a type of insurance that travellers buy to get coverage against all sorts of uncertain risks whilst traveling. In times like these, every traveller needs to have travel insurance of his or her own. Travel insurance covers all sorts of losses that are connected to your travel. Again, travel insurance is classified into two types: Domestic Travel Insurance and International Travel Insurance.

Under Domestic Travel Insurance, the policy covers all the risks involved within the vicinity of the domestic country. The policy covers travel reimbursement, in case, if your flight has got cancelled or delayed due to various reasons. Also, the policyholder gets reimbursement during health emergencies. Having a comprehensive travel insurance policy can make your journey easy and breezy.

Under International Travel Insurance, the policyholder gets coverage on standard things like loss of baggage or passport, delay or sudden cancellation of flights due to myriad uncertain reasons, loss of debit/credit cards in travel, medical outlay, and many other aspects that are associated with travel, till you safely return to your domestic country.

Tête-À-Tête with Travellers

Speaking to a few travellers who constantly are on the move even during the pandemic, this is what they say about the ongoing crisis and the significance of travel insurance.

Veidehi Gite, a Mumbai-based traveller goes by the moniker Krazy Butterfly, has travelled to 30+ countries so far. She has travelled during the pandemic too. “Yes, I have travelled to Indore, Mangalore, Udupi, Kudremukh, Byndoor, Honavar (Ksarkod), Gokarna, Karwar, and Goa, ever since the pandemic has hit the world.” She followed all the protocols during the pandemic. “At the airport, I always wear disposable gloves, double masks, and a full-body outfit. When traveling within city premises, I avoid touching surfaces, restrict my conversation with strangers and use a sanitizer every 30-minutes.”

Ajanta Mahapatra, a Bhubaneswar-based traveller who goes by the moniker ‘The travelling saree’ has travelled 68 countries so far. She has travelled during the pandemic too. “My passion for traveling never stopped in the pandemic. Although I couldn't travel outside the USA, I travelled from pillar to post inside the states, Alaska, Puerto Rico, East Coast, west coast, Florida, and Canada border,” says Ajanta.

Hardi Oza Patel, Founder of Velvet Escapes & Atara has also travelled to various places across India during the pandemic. “Crisis is there, but that never dampens my spirit to follow what I breathe and live for: travel. Covid gave me more time to explore my homeland and promote it across other countries. I stayed in boutique properties which not only had fewer crowds but also gave exceptional experiences. While traveling to all these places, I made sure that I always had a mask in place, sanitized or washed my hand regularly, and maintained social distance,” shares Hardi.

Is Travel Insurance Mandatory?

Yes, travel insurance is mandatory to protect yourself from some sorts of travel risks that are involved amid a crisis. But does that crisis involve Covid-19 too? For instance, Policybazaar covers emergency hospitalization but not isolation or quarantine. In other words, if a traveller is in isolation or quarantine, they need to pay the bills by themselves and these costs won’t be paid by Policybazar.

Moreover, premiums could be high in these Covid times, particularly based on the place a person is traveling. Say, if they are traveling to an international destination, the premium would certainly be high, as there is a higher risk involved.

However, during the pandemic, having travel insurance is like a safety net. Veidehi Gite, Ajanta Mahapatra, and Harzi Oza Patel, all three have travel insurance. They say travel insurance is mandatory especially during such times, to cover the iffy health risks. “Travel insurance is very important when you are traveling to unknown terrain and far off countries. It not only covers the lost baggage but also certain health concerns,” says Hardi.

“Travel insurance is a very essential thing for any traveller regardless of traveling within or outside the country. It gives you the peace of mind, that in the worst-case scenario, you are covered. Where there is a possibility to reduce the risk, why not to take one?” states Ajanta.

“I do rely on travel insurance for international trips, as sometimes, I have to travel through multiple airports and I do fear losing my luggage. In near future, I would like to get travel insurance so that I could avail cashless hospitalization if needed. ICICI Lombard is my personal favorite,” asserts Veidehi.

Finally, Stay Awake

In the end, wherever you go, it’s significant to know what your travel insurance policy has in store for you. A majority of the insurance products have a free look period option, which is less known to many, but an important one to keep in mind before buying any insurance policy. Having this option in hand, you have 15 days to review the policy and see whether it covers all their needs. If you are unsatisfied with the policy offerings, you can rescind them during the free look period and request for refund.

Other than that, travellers who are planning to buy travel insurance particularly for pandemic concerns, make sure to opt for Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) add-on as well to avail accommodation and flight cancellation benefits during the coronavirus. Furthermore, a travel insurance policy does not cover fear of travel, but having CFAR gives you the right to cancel the trip anytime, irrespective of whatever reasons listed in the policy.

The author is an independent financial writer.

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