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Quick travel insurance tips for volunteering

If you’re thinking of swapping out your laid-back Caribbean cruise or breezy beach stop for a stint of voluntary work abroad, you’re not alone.

Volunteering vacations are growing in popularity with plenty of travellers opting to use their time-off to help those in need. Whether you’re offering to plant crops in Nepal, teach English in Haiti or care for animals in Bolivia, travel insurance should be an essential part of your volunteering emergency kit.

Why do I need travel insurance?

Whilst extremely rewarding, the risks of volunteering abroad can be numerous. Working in potentially hazardous conditions can heighten the chances of having an accident or falling ill. Some overseas voluntary programs will provide you with travel cover, whilst others require you to purchase your own cover. Either way, take cover before jetting off!

What’s covered by travel insurance when you volunteer overseas?

Travel insurance takes care of the stuff you just can’t control. Accidents, illness, cancellation cover, theft and/or loss of your personal belongings are all covered for by comprehensive policies, allowing you to get on with your rewarding efforts.

Five top reasons to pack travel insurance

• You fall down the stairs at the school you teach at and break an ankle. Your policy will pay for medication, X-rays or any medical fees you incur.

• You experience severe stomach cramps distributing aid in Haiti and are rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Travel cover will pay for any emergency surgery you require.

• Your passport is drenched and ruined after a sudden tropical rainstorm. Any expense you incurred whilst replacing your passport will be covered by your insurer.

• Your handbag is swiped off you by a passing tuk-tuk riding bandit. Your handbag’s contents will be reimbursed provided you report the theft to the relevant authority and your insurance provider as soon as possible.

• You miss your post volunteering flight from Peru to Chile because the airport bus you were in broke down. Reassuringly, you will be reimbursed you for any unforeseen travel delay or accommodation expenses you need.

What’s not covered?

•  Volunteering which involves manual labour
Fulfilling your dream of building a world class school or hospital in a third world country may not fly with some insurers. No matter how hard-hatted or well-equipped your team, most travel policies will not provide cover for any injuries sustained whilst performing manual work.

•  Countries on warning lists
If the country you’re travelling to finds its way onto any ‘do not travel’ lists, you would still be covered, but not for incidents related to the warning. Confused? Put it this way; if the country you are travelling to has a ‘terrorist’ travel warning, you would still be covered for theft or illness. However, if you are injured in an act of terrorism your claim would not be paid out.

•  Working with animals
If you plan to volunteer with animals, most insurers won’t explicitly reject your claim should an accident occur.  However bear in mind that without a safe, controlled environment, a degree of animal training and reasonable protective care, your claim could be scrapped. Do your homework when purchasing cover as some insurers, like Columbus Direct, exclude any type of animal work within their policy.

•  Not getting vaccinated
Just like any happy partnership, both you and your travel insurer should work together to prevent a catastrophe whilst abroad. Entering a third world countries without the required vaccinations could jeopardize your claim, not least your health! When in doubt, follow the vaccination advice given by SafeTravel and see your G.P before flying off.

•  Customers with pre-existing medical conditions
Whilst you should always notify your provider about any pre-existing medical conditions before purchasing travel insurance, doing so is especially essential if you are planning to volunteer in a remote location with restricted access to medical facilities.

What’s next?

Ready for your huge volunteering adventure? Just like your yellow fever shots and anti-malarial medication, it wouldn’t be safe to pack up without securing the best travel cover possible. Depending on where you’re going, what you’re doing and for how long, it’s worth comparing travel policies before locking in the right cover for your trip.

Heading overseas to help the disadvantaged can be totally life changing, but it’s essential to safeguard yourself first before securing others.

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