Buying travel insurance for trips to Ireland is one of these things ... a waste of money, until you need it. And most of the time you won't need it, so next time you travel you go "Should I really spend money on that, again?" Let us have a look whether you need extra insurance if you are planning an Irish vacation.
The Bare Necessities are Covered
First things first - Ireland is not one of those places where an ambulance will roll up and paramedics inform you that they take Visa, Mastercard, American Express first and then take you to hospital second.
If you fall ill or have an accident, you will receive medical attention. This may not be free, but the haggling will begin only after your heart has started beating again and you stopped bleeding.
The same goes for special services such as marine or mountain rescue, it also applies to both the Republic and Northern Ireland.
In a less threatening situation, such as having forgotten your medication and needing a new prescription, you will be facing an up-front charge - but this is manageable, a visit to a GP (family doctor) will set you back around fifty to sixty Euros and you will have to pay for the medications as well. Considering that many travel insurances have an excess of, say, $ 100 to $ 200 ... you are still not in the red.
If your flight is delayed or canceled, EU legislation will help you to get at least some compensation and a snack.
For Everything Else, There is ... Travel Insurance
Looking through the benefits section of really comprehensive travel insurance is baffling - you are covered for basics as well as for the most exotic stuff you could imagine (but rather would not).
My own travel insurance, for instance, covers a hijacking and abduction. Which sounds great ... until you find out that the sum payable is € 10 per day to a maximum of € 300. This will certainly set me at ease while some tribal warlord is sharpening his machete behind my back.
The benefits you should look out for are:
- Cancellation of Trip - you should be covered for the full price of the trip at least and cover should include all cancellations (except whimsy, of course).
- Curtailment of Trip - check that you are covered for extra costs if you have to cut your holiday short for serious reasons.
- Luggage - it is always good to have your luggage covered, though claiming may be more complicated than you think (due to missing receipts etc.).
- Medical Costs - a few million should do the job here, better to be safe than sorry afterward.
- Rescue - check that you are covered for any rescue mission that has to be started on your behalf, they can be very costly.
- Recovery - check that the recovery of human remains is also covered, as the most serious curtailment of your trip may the due to ...
- Death - benefits in case of death may be of no use to you but may assist your loved ones to cope with the tragedy in many ways. At least on the financial side. It is good to have them.
- Repatriation - one of the most important aspects of travel insurance (in my opinion): what happens after you have survived the critical phase? An air ambulance flight home is costly, it should be covered. Also covered should be the repatriation of any human remains.
Then there are the optional additions you might want to skip - like valuables (if you don't take any, you don't need to insure any), hospital upgrades or the scurrilous hijacking benefit mentioned above. However, if you go for a high medical benefit, those will often be thrown in as free.
Insurance gets cheaper if you agree to foot part of the bill. Irish insurers, for instance, offer a substantial discount if you have private health insurance covering you abroad. Knowing that in all likelihood they won't have to pay a Cent, even in more serious cases.
And all insurers usually offer an excess - that is the sum you have to pay yourself before the insurance payments kick in. Effectively keeping minor claims at bay. Choose the excess you can afford without breaking the bank, and smile when your insurance bill drops.
On the other hand, don't go to excessive lengths to lower your insurance bill through excess. If you accept an excess you can't afford, you might as well take out no insurance at all. And keep your fingers crossed in both situations.
For a basic calculation: if your excess is the equivalent of 200 €, a trip to A&E for a sprain or similar, plus the prescription painkillers you need, will be the excess.
Okay, there are a gazillion of insurance offers on the web and dozens more in your neighborhood. Some offer cover from a few cents per day. Which sounds nice. But you will have to compare prices and benefits to make sure you get the best deal. Note that so-called price comparison websites may help, but sometimes are confusing the issue as well (by not including all offers or by comparing apples with pears).
Mentioning apples and pears - I could have had my current travel insurance for € 0.50 a day, but chose to pay nearly € 6.00 a day instead. Which makes me a candidate for "Idiot of the Month", right? Not so - the first quote was for a yearly multi-trip policy and the "per day" was spread over the whole year, the latter for a one-off policy limited to the actual travel dates. In effect, I saved about 50% on the total bill by taking the "expensive" option. Knowing that I will not need travel insurance for the rest of the year.
Always look at the bottom line ... and ask your home insurance or car insurance about special deals as well, many will offer an additional few percent off for existing customers (mine doesn't, boo!).
Oh, and avoid any last-minute-deals at the airport or so. I have yet to find one that was not more expensive than even a mainstream offer taken out with some basic research. Also don't let your travel agent pressure you into buying their in-house insurance package (for which they are acting as a broker and receiving a gratuity).
Finally - Do You Really Need Travel Insurance?
As I said above - not if you don't need it. Unfortunately, you'll only find out that you need it when it is too late to get it.
So ask yourself: do you tend to worry about such things?
If you do, put your mind at ease by taking out a decent travel insurance, writing the costs off as travel expenses you cannot avoid (like airport taxes or similar).
If you don't ... why are you reading this at all?