Stay covered while on holiday by planning insurance and other important documents.
April has arrived, and for most South Africans that means a nice chunk of public holidays. If you’re taking advantage of these and planning a trip abroad, an essential part of your planning will be organising travel insurance for while you’re away.

In addition to covering you for things like lost baggage, stolen belongings and cancelled flights, travel insurance also covers you financially for medical emergencies that may happen while you’re overseas, such as if you’re in a car accident and need to be admitted to hospital in a foreign country. 

But it’s important to realise that the breadth of medical cover you’ll get very much depends on the type of travel insurance policy you have. In this article, we’ll outline your different insurance options if you’re a South African travelling abroad.  A trip abroad is an exciting adventure, but it’s important to make sure you’re covered for any of the risks you may face. Medical expenses while you’re abroad can be astronomically expensive, so it’s essential to have some kind of medical insurance policy in place. Whether you choose a comprehensive travel insurance policy or take out a top-up to add on to your medical aid provider’s cover, always read the fine print to see exactly what coverage you get and what costs you’d be liable for.

Credit card travel insurance

Most credit card providers in South Africa will give you some form of automatic travel insurance if you book your tickets using your credit card. But the medical benefits you’ll get as part of this will usually be fairly limited. So for example, you may only be covered if you need to be admitted to hospital, but not if you need treatment for a pre-existing condition or if you’re over a certain age. 

“Top-Up” policies

Some travel insurance providers and organisations like the AA offer a “top up” travel insurance option that you can add on to basic credit card travel insurance mentioned above. This is a good option because the “top up” policy is cheaper than a standalone travel insurance policy, but you’ll get comprehensive medical coverage once you add it on to your credit card cover. 

Overseas cover from your medical aid provider

Most major open medical schemes in South Africa will cover you and your dependants for medical emergencies while you’re abroad if you’re a member of their medical scheme. In general, you’ll need to be on a comprehensive medical aid plan rather than a hospital plan to be eligible for this. You also may not be covered for things like medical care if you’re pregnant, or for a pre-existing condition you have. Check with your specific medical aid provider to see exactly what you’re covered for.

Basic travel insurance

As with credit card travel insurance, a basic travel insurance policy will usually cover you for medical emergencies and associated costs, such as flying you home or paying for a relative to visit you while you’re in hospital overseas. If you’re taking a short trip abroad with minimal risks involved this may be a good option, but if you’re going on a more adventurous holiday to a potentially dangerous country for example, this may not give you the coverage you need. Sanlam Reality (which Fedhealth members have access to) is one example which provides international travel insurance and cover for medical emergencies and related expenses when members travel outside the borders of South Africa.

Comprehensive travel insurance

While these policies are more expensive than a basic policy, they give you much more comprehensive medical coverage for better peace of mind. With a comprehensive policy, you can get cover for things like treatment for pre-existing conditions and a daily hospital cash allowance if you need to go into hospital. Generally, these are also a good idea if you’re travelling somewhere where the Rand exchange rate is high and so the cost of paying out of pocket for medical assistance would be very expensive. 

Hazardous activity cover

If you’re planning an adventure holiday – maybe you’re going scuba diving in the Seychelles, paragliding in Turkey or skiing in Switzerland – this kind of cover is specifically designed for accidents that can happen while you’re doing these activities. Be aware though that there are usually limits to this kind of cover too. For example, if you’re skiing you won’t be covered if you’re in an out of bounds area, or for the cost of a search and rescue operation.