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July 2005

Cover Up

Heading off on holiday? Make sure you're insured

I remember as a child seeing the posters go up for British Airways’ brand-new Concorde transcontinental service. “Breakfast in London and lunch in New York” heralded the posters. At our local train station this impressive claim had been augmented by a handwritten line, probably by an embittered customer, “and luggage in Bermuda.” Clearly this person had forgotten to take out travel insurance. If you’re taking a holiday this summer, it is an option you should consider.

There are four basic types of travel insurance in Germany, of which travel cancellation insurance (Reiserücktrittsversicherung) is the most popular. This should be taken out on the day when a holiday or journey is booked or in the 14 days following the booking (Buchung). If you decide to take a last-minute holiday, that is, if you book it a month or less in advance, cancellation insurance must be taken out immediately or on the day following the booking. Should you have to cancel a trip, the insurance guarantees reimbursement of around 75 to 80 percent of costs—or up to 100 percent if you are hospitalized. Insurance companies recognize the following as legitimate reasons for a cancellation: serious injury or illness, death of a close family member, risk to a pregnancy, the need to (unexpectedly) resit an examination, loss of employment incurred by the employer and (unexpected) resumption of employment after a period of unemployment.

Emergency insurance (Soforthilfeversicherung) is another option for the traveler. This is useful if you lose your passport or travel documents or have forgotten essential medication. Once the insurance has been taken out you will be given a phone number (Notrufnummer) and, should there be an emergency, assistance is guaranteed within 24 hours. Holiday abandonment insurance (Reiseabbruchversicherung) can come in handy if you have to return home to deal with an emergency—this includes illness of a dependent, fire or burglary. Holiday abandonment insurance covers the travel costs incurred by having to rebook a return journey.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is medical insurance (Reisekrankenversicherung). Before you consider taking out a policy, though, check what kind of coverage your general health insurance offers. Private health-care patients are normally covered abroad by their insurance—though it might be worth finding out which regions or countries this applies to. If you have state insurance—Barmer Ersatzkasse and AOK come into this category—you may find that you are insured for travel in EU countries. However, it is important to check first with the insurance company. Medical insurance can be particularly useful if you are traveling independently and cannot rely on the goodwill of a tour operator.

Last but not least is insurance for baggage and personal effects (Reisegepäckversicherung). Most policies will cover lost or damaged luggage, whether this is through theft or natural disaster, or even for bags lost while being stored at a luggage depot. If items need to be replaced in order to continue a holiday or journey, it may be possible to get immediate compensation.

Our thanks go to the staff of the Delphin Reisebüro (Tel. 157 40 11), especially to Brendon from Cork.

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