Travellers need to read the small print in documents to make sure they are covered for risky activities and visits to all countries
Amy Nip email@example.com
Trekking at high altitude, hang-gliding, hitch-hiking or just taking part in an exciting race of some sort are activities usually offered in tour packages for adventurous travellers.
But it pays to check your insurance cover carefully before you leap out of a plane because these adventures are not necessarily covered.
Travel insurance coverage hit the spotlight last month after the hot-air balloon tragedy in Egypt. Nine Hongkongers died in the crash, but only three families received compensation. The other six families were told the victims' insurance packages did not cover hot-air balloon rides.
Policies offered by major banks and travel agencies have different exclusion clauses or do not cover accidents involving certain activities. Except for flying as a passenger in a commercial airliner, aviation activities such as ballooning, parachuting and para-gliding may not be covered.
Many insurers will also not cover diving to a depth of more than 30 or 40 metres, trekking higher than 5,000 metres and any form of racing, except if it is on foot.
Bad luck too if you are hurt or killed during a riot, civil war, revolution, by terrorists or by radioactive contamination.
Flight delays caused by strikes and industrial action which were in progress when the insurance was applied for may not be compensated. If there was a threat of a strike when a traveller bought the insurance and they are then delayed when the industrial action actually happens, they may not be compensated, some insurance agents cautioned.
Insurers also do not want to know about sexually transmitted diseases and problems arising from alcohol or drugs.
Lost jewellery, mobile phones and computers are sometimes excluded. Losses from credit cards not reported to the police and the card issuers within 24 hours will not be compensated.
China Merchants Insurance, which insured the six uncompensated hot-air balloon victims, does not cover hitch-hiking, backpacking and motorcycling.
A package offered by Hang Seng Bank in conjunction with QBE General Insurance (Hong Kong) does not cover mountaineering - which reasonably requires the use of ropes or guides - ski-jumping, use of bob-sleighs, pot-holing, bungee jumping and rugby.
AIA specially excludes visits to Afghanistan, Cuba, Congo, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Sudan and Syria.
Hong Kong Insurance Practitioners General Union vice-chairman Andy Fung Chi-yuen said the insurers had to put in the exclusions when they lowered the premiums to win customers.
It was not the exclusions, but failure to explain them in detail that resulted in consumers buying packages that were not suitable for their tours, he said.
"Sometimes tour agencies' insurance representatives may not be able to explain the packages in detail during the short transaction time," he said.
Also, they might not be as careful as insurance agents when selling insurance because their livelihood did not depend on it.
If they get their insurance licence revoked because of breaches, "they can still sell tour packages or other products to travellers", Fung said.
Buying travel insurance on the internet is also risky because buyers will have to read the fine print themselves.