Other planning advice
While individual circumstances may vary, here at Travelfish our solid recommendation to any traveller planning a trip to Southeast Asia is: make buying travel insurance a part of your planning -- don't leave home without it. we certainly don't.
There's a perception among many travellers to Southeast Asia, that as basic medical care is relatively cheap, there's little need for travel insurance, and while it is true that basic health care in Southeast Asia can be cheap, the emphasis should be on the word basic -- not cheap. We've seen the inside of Cambodian hospitals and believe us, you want to spend as little time as possible in one.
True, Thailand and Singapore, and to a lesser extent Malaysia, have a higher standard of medical care, but bear in mind this care is often in private hospitals. Anything more than a few nights in hospital gets expensive fast and the medical bills associated with longer stays can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
In buying travel insurance, you're not only buying something that can assist greatly should you find yourself in need, you're also buying some peace of mind -- both for you, while you travel, but also for your family and friends back home.
A personal story
Here at Casa Travelfish we have a long-held tradition of leaving the purchasing of travel insurance till the last possible moment -- generally the bags are at the front door when we remember to buy it (at which time we logon to World Nomads and buy it). In the past that has always worked fine -- but good things never last!
In the middle of 2010, Samantha (Ms Travelfish to you) had planned to take a two week holiday to Istanbul in Turkey. We called it a womb tax -- her first "kids free" holiday since we had the kids. As per normal, she didn't plan to buy travel insurance till the very last moment. She did however go and book a couple of thousands dollars worth of flights and accommodation (this was most certainly to be a flashpacking trip!).
Anyway, to cut a long
story short, the day before she was due to leave, I came down with dengue fever. With a 40 degree Celsius fever and in considerable pain, there was no way I'd be able to look after the kids by myself. I was pretty much incapacitated and actually ended up being hospitalised. So short of getting Mum to fly up and look after me, Sam decided to cancel her trip .
Because she hadn't bought travel insurance. Samantha lost both the flights and accommodation money -- all up just shy of A$2,000. The travel insurance would have cost A$80, which, with a $100 excess, would have seen Sam reimbursed around $1,800.
From now on, when we buy the flights, we buy the insurance. Lesson learned .
So what does travel insurance cover?
Aside from medical care, travel insurance can protect you in the case of lost or stolen luggage and personal effects, trip cancellation, personal liability, funeral expenses (without wanting to sound morbid, dying overseas can be very very expensive), emergency dental treatment and evacuation back to your country of residence.
There's all manner of add-ons covering matters like expensive camera gear and gizmos like laptops and iPods, more adventuresome pursuits and even some special needs, but for many travellers a general travel insurance policy should provide a good starting point.
That said, bear in mind that not all travel insurance policies are born equal. As our recommended provider World Nomads says
"The best single piece of advice we can give is to READ THE POLICY WORDING CAREFULLY. Let's repeat that again: Take your time. Have a cup of tea. Sit down quietly and read the policy fine print. Especially the exclusions."
Things to watch out for
While you're battling your way through the small print, keep in mind the following potential pitfalls.
* Dangerous activities
Many insurers consider motorcycling, diving, parachuting, hot-air ballooning and many other largely safe activities as hugely dangerous pursuits. Falling off your motorbike, breaking your arm and spending a few days in hospital will only be more painful if your insurer tells you the bill is all yours.
* Country exclusions