The lowdown on buying travel insurance in the UAE

From how much it costs to what you must include to ensure you are covered, here is a comprehensive guide to travel insurance in the UAE.

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Expatriates make up about 90 per cent of the UAE population, so outbound travel at least once a year is a given for most residents.

But very few residents – expats or Emiratis – buy travel insurance before they fly. Insurance brokers the Nexus Group estimates that less than 1 per cent of residents are covered by a comprehensive travel insurance plan.

That is a big mistake, say industry experts.

“Whether you are travelling for fun or on a business trip, travel insurance is an important aspect of your travel that should not be overlooked,” says Josiane Assaad, the dir­ector of communications at

Travel insurance covers everything from medical emergencies to lost belongings, flight cancellations and delays, to personal accident cover and loss of travel documents. And while some may receive a measure of travel insurance coverage through health insurance policies or financial products, it is wrong to assume cover is in place. “Some health insurance policies cover overseas emergency medical expenses, however, this might have some exclusions in terms of geographical coverage and the associated emergency expenses,” says Ms Assaad.

And health insurance never covers incidents such as lost baggage or flight cancellations, adds Jonathan Rawling, the chief financial officer for Credit cards, however, may offer a level of coverage on trips that you book with the card, he says.

“However, it’s likely that this cover would be limited. It may even only apply to lost baggage and flight cancellations, and exclude things like emergency medical coverage,” says Mr Rawling. “The point is that, given the low cost of travel insurance, for the cost of a couple of drinks at your destination, you can get pretty comprehensive coverage that will offer protection for most scenarios.” So, here’s the lowdown on buying travel insurance:

The cost

A policy costs the same in the UAE as it does anywhere else in the world, says Mr Rawling, adding that a single person travelling anywhere, except the US and Canada, can expect to spend from Dh110 on travel insurance for a single trip, and from around Dh575 for a multiple trip annual policy. That offers up to US$250,000 in emergency medical expenses, up to $2,500 in trip curtailment and up to $2,500 in trip cancellation, he says. Adding extra cover, such as hazardous activities, or winter sports cover, will increase the price.

Travel to the US or Canada tends to be more expensive, with single-trip policies starting at Dh155. However, multiple trip annual coverage for US and Canada starts from Dh575, says Mr Rawling, which is the same as the rest of the world.

What to include

Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst for StrategicAero Research, says medical, injury and cover for personal effects are a must. “Often we travel with high-end devices like tablets, mobile phones and laptops – often the content on them is valued as irreplaceable and immensely sentimental. While clothes and other replacement effects can be procured again, often, electronic devices which store so much of our daily personal data cannot be,” he says.

If you are planning any activities considered dangerous, such as winter sports or visiting a place with a high threat of terrorism, you will need extra cover. “For winter sports cover, you’re looking at an additional cost of about Dh110 per person, while hazardous activities and terrorism cover come in cheaper at around Dh30 extra per person. You can also buy bundles that include two or three of those extra forms of cover,” says Mr Rawling.

Read the small print

“Make sure you review the terms and conditions mentioned in the policy to make sure you are adequately covered without paying extra for a cover you might not need,” says Ms Assad.

Mr Ahmad says this will highlight any exemptions on electronic devices or financial limits on what insurance will cover for hospital or care costs.

And it will flag up any areas you don’t need included. “People may have separate phone cover/insurance with their network provider or be covered by their bank for health care – so why would you buy insurance with these included?” he says.

How to avoid invalidating your cover

“Every policy comes with a number of exclusions which will result in your claim getting rejected,” says Ms Assad.

Policyholders should therefore be upfront with their insurer about what they will be doing during the trip, says Mr Rawling.

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