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Travel Insurance — México

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Emergency expenses incurred while traveling abroad usually fall into four main categories — evacuation, medical, property loss, and trip disruption. Existing medical plans, credit cards, homeowners' insurance, and travel cards for students, youths, and teachers often insure against some of these costs, although they're seldom sufficient. Supplemental travel insurance can usually make up for any short falls.

Treatments for common medical problems in México are generally inexpensive. Indeed, most Méxicans do not even carry medical insurance nor can they afford it; they just pay out of pocket. Serious medical emergencies or accidents, however, can be expensive, especially if an evacuation or extended hospital stay is necessary.

México has no reciprocal health care agreements with any country. Nevertheless, many travelers' private and public health plans cover some, mostly emergency, expenses incurred there. In the US, many university health plans have good coverage abroad, while private insurers are all over the board. Medicare, for seniors, usually pays nothing. In Canada, provincial health insurance plans cover some emergency medical expenses; check with the provincial Ministry of Health for specifics. Regardless of where you're from, it's important to verify what your health insurance covers while you're in México.

Anyone planning on traveling with expensive possessions should consider that the airlines' liability is limited to USD$640 per checked bag and USD$400 per person, and this, of course, only covers the flight. Homeowners' insurance often provides additional coverage up to a point for possessions and important travel documents while abroad. Again, check your policy.

Ash clouds from volcanoes, Gulf of Mexico oil spills, hurricanes and other extreme weather, airline strikes, overbooked flights, and a myriad of other events can cause travel plans to be delayed or even canceled. Think back to 2010 when the volcano erupted in Iceland, disrupting travel for millions. And the disrupting event doesn't even have to be that dramatic. A severe storm shutting down a major US hub can cause cancellations and delays in air travel for days. Without some kind of coverage, stranded passengers are left absorbing the additional costs of hotels, meals, and transportation. In terms of overbooking, always reconfirm departure and return reservations, especially during the high seasons, and, if possible, get seat assignments and boarding passes included with tickets. Also, during the high seasons, make sure to arrive early for check in to avoid being "bumped."

Credit and charge cards often have a few travel insurance benefits built in, particularly car rental insurance, although they may require a portion of the trip to be charged to them. Coverage varies widely. Check with the card issuer for details.

Student, youth, and teacher travel cards entitle their holders to some travel insurance benefits, depending on where they're from. For instance, US cardholders get basic emergency evacuation, emergency medical, baggage protection, and trip delay protection insurance, as well as worldwide emergency medical, legal, and financial assistance. The ISIC website, www.isic.org, has a breakdown of benefits by country.

Navigating the intricacies of travel insurance can be confusing, especially if you're unsure of what you're trying to insure against. What is the probability of the trip being canceled? Are you traveling with expensive possessions? Are you going to be engaging in any risky activities? These are just a few of the questions to ask yourself.

So first, consider the type of trip planned, what the risks are, and how much the emergency expenses could be. Next, figure out what's already covered through existing means and where it falls short. Then, depending on your own financial situation, consider the trade offs between the cost of travel insurance and the risk of paying much more in emergencies.

The options available in policies can be overwhelming. Some are comprehensive, although pieces of coverage are often offered separately, tailored to a traveler's needs, while others offer coverage in specific areas exclusively. Common areas of coverage include emergency medical care, emergency evacuation, trip disruption, property loss, and accidental death or dismemberment.

Policy terms vary widely and sometimes contain baffling exclusions. To avoid tricks and traps, read the small print carefully. For examples, some benefits, like medical evacuations, may require preapproval, and many policies do not cover, or charge extra, for engaging in common vacation activities they deem to be dangerous, such as motorcycling, scuba diving, whitewater rafting, windsurfing, and trekking. And often, for very similar coverage by different insurers, costs can vary by 200% to 300%. Make sure to shop around.

Claims are almost always paid after returning home. Insurers, therefore, require receipts for all medical expenses and a copy of a police report for stolen property. In some cases, such as extended stays hospitals, insurers will allow advances to be arranged up to the policies' limit. And lastly, know whether the policy is for primary or secondary coverage. If its secondary, a claim with a primary source usually needs to be filed first.

Try these sources for supplemental travel insurance:

www.worldnomads.com sells a reasonably priced, well-rounded package of travel insurance designed for the adventurous traveler with world-wide coverage, available in 150 countries. Benefits include trip cancellation or delay; emergency medical, dental, and transportation; accidental death or dismemberment; and property loss. The policy covers engaging in all but the most extreme forms of physical activities. Their website has detailed policy information, instant quotes, single and multi-trip pricing, and online purchasing.
www.quotewright.com offers both comprehensive packages and individual travel insurance plans from multiple insurers, covering trip disruptions, medical emergencies, evacuations, and accidents. Their website has detailed policy information, instant quotes compared across multiple insurers, and online purchasing.
wwwinsuremytrip.com offers both comprehensive packages and individual travel insurance plans from multiple insurers, covering trip disruptions, medical emergencies, evacuations, and accidents. Their website has detailed policy information, instant quotes compared across multiple insurers, single and multi-trip pricing, and online purchasing.
www.americanexpress.com American Express, Canada or US 1-800-869-3016, charge card holders have travel and auto insurance as a basic service of their cards. Premium plans with additional emergency medical, evacuation, property loss, travel delay, flight, and car rental benefits can be purchased inexpensively. Their website has policy and pricing information.

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