Although travel restrictions are easing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are back to normal. Under the current Alert Level 2, permission has been extended to internationally outbound Filipinos with leisure-driven itineraries. But there’s an added catch: Those traveling on short-term or tourist visas, apart from fulfilling all of their destination country’s requirements, have to present round trip tickets as well as a travel and health insurance.
Read on as we detail IATF’s latest requirement for foreign travel: Insurance.
A bit broad with no specific coverage amount indicated, according to the Bureau of Immigration: “Any brand of travel and health insurance, as long as it covers COVID-19 may be used by departing Filipino tourists." What is clear is that the insurance policy you will avail has to cover COVID-19 and it has to be valid for your whole duration of stay abroad.
What exactly is travel insurance?
Travel insurance, in its simplest context, is when you pre-pay expenses that may arise from unforeseen predicaments. Since it is purchased before your trip, without any assurance that you will be using it, it comes at a lesser price tag than the value it guarantees you. For example, you can purchase Malayan’s Travel Master Policy for a P390 premium, and it will cover your four-day stay in Thailand with a P1,000,000 Emergency Medical Treatment Peso Policy. The premium (the amount you pay), will vary depending on which insurance company you use, your destination, length of stay, and the coverage (the inclusions as well as the corresponding monetary value).
Prior to the pandemic, this was only required by some embassies during visa applications. Apart from checking your bank statements to make sure you can fund your holiday, consulates want to make sure that will be able to pay for medical and hospital bills, should an emergency arise. Other than for visas, travel insurance was totally optional pre-2020.
Why do you need a travel insurance now?
The IATF seems to understand that since we are living in unprecedented times, global policies are ever changing. The right insurance can greatly cushion your pocket from travel disruptions such as locking down of borders and grounding of all flights. Plus, with the volatility of the virus, a surge or a dangerous variant can strike anytime. Knowing you can afford hospitalization and medical expenses will give you peace of mind during your trip.
But aside from the IATF’s requirement, some countries, even those that are normally visa-free and more lenient towards Filipinos, have much stricter policies for visitors arriving at their borders. Cambodia, for instance, requires you to avail a specific policy: FORTE’s COVID-19 Insurance. Starting at $90, this premium insures up to a 20-day trip, and if knock on wood, you become positive during your stay, FORTE will pay the benefit to the hospital. In this case, that benefit is $50,000 which can be used in categories such as: COVID-19 tests, hospital room and board, miscellaneous services, etc., subject to the allocated maximum limit per day or per category.
How to choose travel insurance?
This is where it gets tricky. Not all insurance policies are created equal and you really have to research and go through the terms and conditions. Chal Lontoc-del Rosario, the General Manager of Jeron Travel & Tours, tells Preview: “The key is to read the fine print and to have it explained to you.”
For starters, there are single-trip insurance, as well as annual multi-trip insurance. How you file a claim, or avail your benefits also vary. “There are also types of insurances that will just reimburse everything as long as you keep the receipts, have a manifest, written proof, police report, etc., while premium ones can assist you internationally with a collect call and take care of fees outright,” Chal explains.
Of course, this will depend if the mishap is actually covered by your particular insurance. The coverage amount alone is not enough when discerning an insurance policy’s bang for your buck. Sometimes people just want to hear the coverage amount and not bother anymore about how this will be availed, and what it actually covers. “Personally, more than the cash coverage for accidents, it's the coverage for certain types of incidents that should be looked on,” Chal cautions.
According to the travel agent, some of the things to consider are: “Are cancelled flights included? Are damaged and lost luggage covered? What about a lost or stolen wallet or passport? What type of medical incidents will be taken cared of, so on and so forth." She also notes that you have to check if force majeure is covered and up to what age can benefit.
The right insurance, apart from letting you exit the country, can save you a lot of headache. And while there are no shortcuts in finding the best one, according to Chal: "The key is to actually purchase one that is within your budget and needs."
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