Travel insurance application form (Shutterstock: see below)
Article 05 September

How to claim on your travel insurance

It can seem like travel insurance companies will always find an excuse not to pay out – so you need to be savvy if things go wrong. Follow this simple guide to maximise your chances.

Before you go

Good preparation is key if you want to save time and hassle when you make a claim.

Take photos of all the valuables you're travelling with, so if they're stolen you have something to show the police and your insurance company. Email the photos to yourself (or store them on a cloud server or USB device), and send them to a trustworthy friend or relative too. Take a note of any distinguishing marks or serial numbers on the items: police may want a full description if they're stolen.

Don't forget important travel documents, too: take photos of your passport, flight info, booking confirmations, visas and insurance policy. Prepare a small, waterproof document of important numbers: for example, your passport number, flight numbers, next of kin details, your insurance policy number, and the emergency telephone number of your insurer. If you're travelling with someone else, keep duplicates.

Check the small print of your insurance policy before you go; some companies ask for specific details, or place time restrictions, so ensure you're clued up before you travel. Of course, it pays to go with a reputable insurer, and to ensure you're covered for specific activities before you buy the policy.

If you're looking for a quality policy where all ages and medical conditions are considered, take a look at insurance exclusively for Wanderlust readers. Subscribers get 10% off, and readers get 5% off.

If you fall ill

For non-emergency medical care, you'll probably have to cover all expenses yourself – then make the insurance claim when you return home. Request receipts, and keep them in a safe place: you won't be able to get your money back without them.

For costly treatment, get in touch with your insurer on the emergency phone number as soon as possible. They'll ask you about the condition and care, and will advise on policy limitations. It may be necessary to keep in touch with them regularly if it's a longer treatment (or for follow-up care), to ensure that you remain covered.

Again, request all receipts, and ensure that documentation is signed, dated, with your name and the address of the hospital. Keep them in a very safe place and – if possible – make scanned copies.

Delays and cancellations

If your journey is delayed because your flight was cancelled, for example, you usually need written confirmation from your tour operator or carrier. This should be fairly easily obtained and ideally it needs to be done at the time of the delay.

If that’s not possible, as soon as you are home, chase the carrier for a document explaining the delay. The longer you leave it the more complicated it can be and you will need proof of the delay to validate your claim.

If you're a victim of crime

All insurance policies require a police report in cases of theft. The ease of this process, however, depends on where you are.

Go immediately to the nearest police station: you'll need a police report within 24 hours of the crime taking place (or at least you noticing it), and the sooner the better. Get a crime number and a report – and ensure you fill in all of the police forms accurately.

Don't wait until you get home: if you do, your insurers probably won't pay up.

How to file a travel insurance claim

Depending on the nature of the claim, you'll need to fill in a form, send a formal letter, or speak to your insurer on the phone. You'll need to supply all supporting documents, so check your policy to ensure you've got all bases covered. Make copies and keep the originals. If you're sending anything by post, choose recorded delivery.

Filing an insurance claim while you're travelling:
Your policy will give details of an emergency phone number, or a line to call from overseas. Speak to a representative, and follow the steps they suggest.

Filing an insurance claim when you get home:
This is potentially the easier option, provided you have all the necessary supporting documents and have checked the small print and excess payment.

Don't be caught out by time limits, though: once you're back home, it can be easy to keep putting it off. Most policies will void claims if they're not submitted within a certain time frame. Keep this in mind – and don't leave it to the last minute.

If you're looking for a quality policy where all ages and medical conditions are considered, take a look at insurance exclusively for Wanderlust readers. Subscribers get 10% off, and readers get 5% off.