“Its success lies in the fact that it's an insurance plan, not an investment plan or a welfare plan.” -James Roosevelt. As any volunteer abroad would attest, travelling just like everything else comes with its risks, some are foreseeable therefore avoidable but a good number are not. To make sure you are not very highly affected by such risks, it is beneficial to most volunteer to purchase some travel insurance when they leave their countries. This is just in case anything goes wrong shortly before they leave; on their way to their volunteer destination; during their volunteer work and on their way back home.
A basic description of travel insurance is that it provides coverage for unsuspected risk and financial loss that can occur before a trip starts. This includes cancellation, baggage loss or delay, and medical emergencies. Remember that coverage and limitations depends on the insurance company issuing the policy. There are up to four general types of travel insurance, they range from trip cancellation; we also have trip delay, accident/sickness medical expenses; medical evacuation/ emergency transportation; and supplier default and baggage/ personal effects, loss or delay.
As a volunteer you are probably going to spend quite some time at your destination. Your medical cover may be limited to your country of residence. It will also not be able to cover any medical evacuation you may need in case of an emergency.
Travel insurance covers a number of things, but the fine print in the policy is usually very strenuous to get through or understand. You need to know that travel insurance does not cover a number of scenarios: any pre existing medical conditions; medical tourism, that is a situation where you are travelling to another country to get medical attention there; failure of a travel planner to deliver the travel arrangements you had previously agreed on; any losses due to war that has been declared or not, military action, civil disorder or riots. The policies also never cover losses due to psychological disorders like depression; any losses incurred while the insured volunteer is participating in an unlawful act, and losses incurred while the insured is legally drunk or under the influence of drugs.
Buying travel insurance is as easy making any other purchases, you can either do it from your travel agent or you can do it online. The travel agent is already trained to make this sale and will steer the conversation towards what direction he/ she wants you to take, remember, they also get a commission from this. It is therefore cheaper for you to shop for a policy on line, the argument here is that by passing the middle man, the policy becomes cheaper by up to 50% less, buying from a travel agent will cost you 5-8% of your travel cost.
The best time for you to purchase a policy is immediately after you have made your payments for your deposits, this way you get maximum coverage. Before you buy any policy you need to ask an expert, and make sure you compare prices and levels of cover for different policies from different companies. Make sure you declare any medical conditions that you may have before purchase, read the small print carefully and check the excesses. One more tip that may come in handy is that it is cheaper to buy your travel insurance in numbers, possibly with any fellow volunteers you may be travelling with, but be careful to make sure that the policy you get does not always limit you to travel together, and if making your purchase online, try and make sure to correctly fill in the form, so that you do not have a hard time when you are trying to make a claim. So get yourself some travel insurance for your volunteer work, it will come in handy in case worst comes to worst.
For more free information and low cost volunteer abroad programs in south America visit http://www.volunteercapitalcentre.org/ecuador.aspx