On the fence about getting travel insurance? Check out these four real travel insurance stories from vacationers that encountered medical emergencies, broken equipment, a cancelled trip, and stolen luggage.
#1 – A Medical Emergency in Colombia
By Betsy of PassingThru
We never dreamed that shortly after a week exploring all the wonderful things to do in Cartagena, Colombia, I’d end up in a less than stellar ICU in the Caribbean coastal town of Santa Marta. But that’s exactly what happened, where I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, previous aortic dissection and aortic aneurysms.
Frantically, we contacted our travel insurance carrier, Allianz, and established active claim status and were assigned an adjuster. After several days, I was close to death and it was clear the hospital was not equipped to handle such a complex case.
I Was Close to Death
With the help of friends in the USA who had Colombian relatives, we located a tertiary care cardiology clinic in Barranquilla, three hours up the coast from our remote location. With Allianz’s help, we chartered an ambulance to transport me, my husband and all our belongings to the new clinic.
To say it was a wild ride was an understatement, what with typical Colombian highway traffic and my deteriorating condition. But we made it and they immediately went to work with the goal of stabilizing me sufficiently to return to the United States.
Since the aorta-related issues were deemed a pre-existing condition, Allianz was responsible for treatment for the pulmonary embolism, and I underwent surgery in Barranquilla to detach and remove it from my lung.
Once the surgery was completed, there was immediate improvement, and within several days I was well enough to return home accompanied by a medical escort Allianz provided.
All in all, Allianz paid out about $30,000 to two separate hospitals and multiple medical providers, along with first class airfare and an EMT who arrived from Florida to travel back with us.
Medical Insurance for Travel
Having undergone this emergency, I feel like the poster child for why you should purchase medical insurance for travel abroad.
We had been traveling full time for more than four years without incident after living in Hawaii on the island of Kauai, and like many frequent travelers, sometimes questioned the necessity of carrying additional coverage.
It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be alive if we hadn’t renewed our long-term travel insurance with Allianz, and our experience with them was positive overall.
#2 – Broken Gadgets in Jordan
By Becki of Meet Me In Departures
I had always used travel insurance, and thankfully I never needed to use it, until I broke my beloved camera whilst on a once in a lifetime trip to Jordan.
I was insured with a company called True Traveller, I was using them based on a recommendation from other people who had positive experiences with problems they had had while travelling.
A Trip to Jordan
My trip to Jordan was filled with so many bucket list things, such as the stunning ruins of Petra, floating in the dead sea and of course, visiting the Wadi Rum Desert. It was here that I broke my camera.
I was out on an excursion on camelback with one of the local Bedouin guides, the desert was beautiful, especially with the early morning sun making the rocks and landscape glow in shades of red and orange. Of course, it was the perfect time to get trigger happy.
However, there was a gentle breeze, and with it, sand was whipped up. Mechanisms on cameras and sand do not mix. A moment later, the zoom lens on my camera had jammed, and because it was a compact camera, I had no way to fixing this.
It was rendered useless for the remainder of my trip. Even though I was in the last few days, I was still devastated that I wouldn’t be able to take photos.
My Claim was Accepted
When I returned to the UK, although had heard great things from True Traveller, I was apprehensive that they would pay for the repair. However, after a short phone call, and them sending me the relevant forms, my claim was accepted.
I took my camera to my local authentic repair shop, received the receipt with the repaired camera a few weeks later, sent the receipt off to True Traveller who reimbursed me for the repair. It was so straightforward.
Although I had not needed to claim before, I am so glad I had gadget coverage with my travel insurance plan which saved me the expense of having to pay for the repair.
#3 – A Cancelled Trip to China
By Chris Fry of the Aquarius Traveller
Some people wait all their life for a trip to a bucket list destination. For me, that was visiting China’s city of Beijing and stepping onto The Great Wall of China. Unfortunately, fate had other plans for me at home in Brisbane, Australia. Sadly, a week before traveling, I had a young family member pass away, who was living in Melbourne.
A Death in the Family
In a normal circumstance, the funerals and other arrangements would have been completed in this length of time. However, as the cause of death was unknown and an autopsy had to be performed.
Therefore, funeral dates could not be arranged until the body was released by the Coroner. In the end, the funeral was set for 3 days into my China Holiday, and therefore, unable to travel.
Lucky, there were only two parts for cancelling – return flights to China, an 11-day tour through 4 cities, and I was talking to the travel insurance company straight away.
They were clear in what paperwork I had needed to complete the insurance claim and could all be submitted online through their website. On this occasion, I used the receipt from the funeral director, Newspaper notice, and the Coroner’s body release letter.
Along with all the flights, Visa and Tour documentation, which cost around $2500.
A Fairly Easy Process
All this paperwork was submitted online about a week after the funeral and was a fairly easy process. I was even happier when I received a phone call about a week later. Unfortunately, due to his age and the cause of death unknown, the claim couldn’t be paid until the Death Notice was issued.
At this stage, I was saddened to think that I would never get my money back. The death occurred in October, and I waited until January for the Coroner to sign off on the Death certificate. After emailing this to my travel insurance company, it was only 2 days until I received a phone call with approval, and the money was in my bank account a week later.
Four Months Later
Although I waited four months to get my claim approved, this was out of the hands of the insurance company. The money would have been paid earlier if the death occurred under different circumstances.
I have never gone on holidays without purchasing travel insurance and, since then, have had other claims submitted. This insurance claim allowed me to rebook China the next year, and I eventually ticked off The Great Wall from my bucket list.
#4 – Stolen Luggage in Rome
By Bec of Wyld Family Travel
As parents who travel with kids, getting something stolen is one of our biggest worries. Sometimes our attention is not always undivided, and it can cause a problem within seconds. This happened to us on a train from Naples back to Rome after visiting Pompeii.
Boarded the Train
We had boarded the train easily and were sitting down in our seats when a man at the end of the train started screaming. We all turned and looked for a brief second and that is all it took. Mark’s bag, that was right next to him, was gone and we still have no idea how they got it.
For a second, we thought we left it in the café so Mark raced back to see if it was there before the train left. It was not there. The train conductor came to see us just before the train left and was sure it had been stolen. On the return, the conductor wrote us a letter to say what had happened on the train for the police. As soon as we got back to Rome, and as soon as the apartment owner came to give us new keys, Mark visited the police station.
Alerted Our Insurance Company
We alerted our travel insurance company back in Australia and started the process of lodging our claim. Three weeks later, after numerous emails and a phone call to the call center, they denied our claim saying we did not provide adequate supervision of our belongings. They said that we left our belongings unattended in a top shelf of the train baggage area and this was against their policy.
Contest the Decision
As we had not left the bag unattended or on a baggage shelf, we decided to contest the decision. We then had to go through the entire process again. We arrived back in Australia four weeks later and still had not heard from the insurance company. So, I called their offices in Australia to see what was happening. They lost our forms and had been ‘unable to reach us’ so they declined the claim again.
I was a bit fed up by this stage and decided that we had not done anything wrong and we had done our best to look after our belongings. So, I lodged the third claim on the stolen bag. I also applied to have the application escalated to a manager.
Four weeks later they sent us a letter stating we left our bags meters from our bodies, our bags were unattended in an above head baggage area, and we left the seating area unattended. However, that was not the case at all. It was stated in all 3 previous claims that the bag was centimeters from Mark’s body lodged between the seat armrest and his body.
Three Weeks Later
Three weeks later I received a phone call from the manager it was escalated to saying that it was declined again and that we had no further recourse for contesting the outcome. I asked why when we had done the correct things and had not broken the terms in their policy of leaving baggage unattended.
I told the manager I would go to the ombudsman and check what rights I had in taking the claim further. After listening to me, he went back through our case and discovered that on the second and third try the paperwork was not saved.
In addition, the paperwork from the original claim was being used to determine the outcome. As we stayed on the phone talking, I sent him through the 2nd and 3rd lot of paperwork including a picture of where the bag was prior to it being stolen. (For some reason I had taken a picture just after we all sat down, and you could see the bag!)
With all this new information, he determined that we had in fact done our best to protect our belongings and with this, our claim was approved. We were paid by the insurance company for the items we lost in the bag.
We Never Travel Without Travel Insurance
While it didn’t get us our lost photos back, it taught us that if you are in the right, you should always keep going until you get a result you are happy with.
We never travel without travel insurance but after this, we did go with another company on other trips, which was a great idea as on our gap year we visited two doctors and four hospitals with no problems from our insurance company at all…but that’s a story for another time!
Alexandrea Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.