Simon Slater took out one of our Working Holiday policies after searching to find the right policy to cover him for what he would be doing whilst away, and for the duration that he needed. He talks about his experiences in his own words:
“Since the age of 17 I’ve wanted to work and travel in New Zealand. Now almost 30, and running out of time (due to age restrictions on NZ working holiday visas) I have been granted a 23 month working holiday visa. I have worked and travelled in Europe and visited India, but this trip is set to be different. Why? Mainly the length of time it’s taken to save for the trip, the organisation needed to get a visa, and the length of time I intend to be so very far away from friends and family.
Keen to make the most of my time in New Zealand, careful planning is required to ensure the experience is all I hope it to be. So, visa granted, everything steps up a gear. First on the list is travel insurance and flights, once these are in place, it’s real!! The money left is my travel budget, and the mountain of guide books will be eagerly consulted for all the exciting stuff to see and do.
Ugh! Travel Insurance! Is it parting with hard-earned cash for something you hope you won’t need? Premium rate phone numbers? Or repeatedly entering details into dull websites that make it such a chore?
To be perfectly honest it crosses my mind to forego insurance altogether. Many travellers do. I know, I’ve met them. It’s always a topic of conversation among 'free spirited' backpackers, a way of 'sticking it to the man' if you will. However I’ve met enough experienced travellers who can’t speak highly enough of their insurance company for helping them out when things have gone wrong. Equally, I’ve met plenty of people frustrated with their insurance companies. So what does this tell me? I want insurance, but also I want the right insurance company.
First thing to do is to set aside time. I wait for a day I can really sit and compare products. I am supremely glad I did. Although I have bought travel insurance before, I had no idea how limited your options become if you are travelling for an extended period of time, particularly beyond 18 months.
First, I search for top travel insurance providers using comparison websites such as Moneysupermarket and Which? and read related articles from trusted websites. I make a note of the companies that continually rank well. Then I focus my search on using their websites to get quotes. I single out three or four that have competitive rates to follow up.
It quickly became apparent I didn’t have as much choice as I would have liked. Firstly, some providers don’t allow you to buy cover more than a few months in advance of travel. Most don’t insure you beyond 12 months. Practically no-one will insure you for more than 18 months of consecutive travel.
I formulate what I think is a clever plan. Get quotes for 12 months then just extend for another year while on the road, easy. I start to ring the companies. This way I can ask detailed questions that I can’t ask an online booking tool. It also gives me a feel for the company. How long will I be on the phone before my call is answered? How quickly will I get through to the relevant department? Most importantly, how will they treat me? Are they the sort of people I want to be dealing with if things do go wrong?
As soon as I speak to the first insurer it’s obvious I’m going to struggle to find the long-stay cover I want. I tell them I have a 23 month visa, only to be told they don’t offer travel insurance beyond 12 or 18 months. Nor do they have any kind of specialist products. I suggest taking out a 12 month policy and extending later to cover the second year? No...and this is where it gets interesting.
It turns out that most insurance companies won’t sell you insurance while you’re outside of the UK. On top of this, you need to be able to prove your intention to return to the UK within the period you’re initially insured for. Most claims are in fact dealt with once you return home. If it becomes apparent you intend to travel on for longer, you will invalidate your existing insurance.
I was flabbergasted! How many travellers think they are insured but in fact are not covered because they've decided to travel on for longer? How many work for, say a year in NZ, find they have saved enough to visit Australia, or maybe plan couple of months holiday in south east Asia, only to find they can’t extend their insurance? They also can’t find another company who will offer cover while they are already abroad.
Most insurers claiming to specialise in long-stay products won’t offer cover beyond 18 months. Those that do offer cover for 18 months and allow for extensions, their quotes are well beyond the means of the average seasonal worker.
I then started talking to Go Walkabout. They were happy to explain the ins and outs of extended stay travel insurance. Best of all they had listened to people like me before and because they did, they were now starting to offer cover for 24 months of consecutive travel. Result! Also, they offered competitive rates at 12 and 18 months with the options of making extensions. They know that people take long stay trips and that plans often change.
I wasn’t done. I made a note of the quotes and went on for a few more hours to see if anyone could better them. Most insurers lost interest immediately after I said I wanted to travel longer than 18 months. Others who provided online quotes, also provided premium rate numbers to call or shuffled me into the dreaded phone queue before I got anywhere.
Back to Go Walkabout. I adjusted my activity and work packs with them. These set out which types of jobs and activities I’d be covered for while away. I was pleased to discover it’s straightforward to upgrade them if I need to. I confirmed the regions I’d be travelling in and paid the man I spoke to. I was never pushed for a sale. All the time the focus was on making sure I had the right cover and understood the policy. I was very pleased with the price and the manner with which I was dealt with.
Half an hour later my phone rang. I’d left my number for a call back from one of the so called leaders in the market who are recommended in most guide books. I got a very abrupt woman asking about my enquiry. I decided to humour her and see if the deal I’d just got would stack up. They would insure for 18 months only, however they did allow for extensions to be applied later. OK? So I asked for a quote. "We don’t do quotes over the phone" she said "you need to do it online!"
When will they learn? What kind of service is that?
What is so frustrating about online reviews regarding travel insurance is that so many say they are happy with their insurance but haven’t had to make a claim. Really this tells you nothing. So how do I know I have a good deal? Unless the unfortunate happens and I need to make a claim, it’s hard to know. What I do know is I’ve got peace of mind. I’ve got travel insurance suited to my needs. Most importantly, a company that can use a telephone, and deploy good customer service. And that’s a good enough start.”We were happy to talk to Simon about his requirements, and pride ourselves on providing great customer service to all. We hope that he has a fantastic time in New Zealand!