What is the best travel insurance?

Last year (2017 October), 5 of us travelled to Ethiopia for holidays. The last days at home, Pedro and me thought maybe it would be good to have a travel insurance this time. Imagine, until now, all the time we were travelling only with our credit card insurance! You always think that everything will go well, after all, it’s holidays!

The best decision

Later we understood it was one of the best decisions we ever made for this trip. First of all, we started looking into Portuguese insurances. We found that three of them had this type of insurance. But they appeared, let’s say, very weak. For example, trekking was considered a risk activity and wasn’t covered. As most of our time in Ethiopia would be for trekking, that just didn’t do it. So we started looking for international insurances and found “World Nomads Insurance” that was even cheaper than the Portuguese ones and didn’t consider trekking a risky activity.

What happened?

So, on our third day we were trekking in the Danakil Depression, which is considered to be the hottest place on Earth and one of the lowest points of the planet, and I lost my conscience. I was transported to the closest hospital, the Mekelle University Hospital. Later it was clear that I had a Shigella infection that caused very serious complications. Literally, I was knocking at St. Peter’s door and my family were living in uncertainty for a week. After a week in Mekelle, I was transported on an air ambulance to Nairobi, Kenya, to the Aga Khan Hospital. Once I regained consciousness, I understood that I can’t walk, my arms were trembling even in a calm state and one of my vocal cords was paralysed.

More than a year later, I can walk, though slowly. In general I am improving but still there is a long way left to the “old” Lina. Basically, we’re now working on “Lina version 2.0”.

What does insurance cover?

The insurance covered my transportation with medical assistance from Ethiopia to Kenya and from Kenya to Portugal. My medical expenses in Ethiopia and Kenya (I stayed there for more than a month). And if you think that Africa is a cheap place to get a medical assistance, think again. Although the health costs in Ethiopia weren’t high, all the rest hit through the roof.

My bank account never had, in my life, the amount we had to pay (in this case, the insurance paid) in Kenya. The insurance also covered the hotel and meals for Pedro, and the phone calls related to my medical condition. These are the main things they covered.

And the more pleasant part of this, is that they really acted as helpers and not in a style “so you pay now and later we’ll see if we give you some money back”. And in these situations this attitude is very helpful because your close people have a lot of in their hands. That said, there were a lot of troubles to get me out of Ethiopia, from what we could understand the state owns everything so they were not keen on having another entity doing the transport so it took us a few days to get the paperwork and clearances needed. The fact we contacted some Lithuanian institutions might have helped move things forward, but, in the end, “World Nomads” moved forward with the air ambulance without having the proper documentation and despite the opposition from Ethiopian authorities.

What are the suggestions for the future?

Get a separate health insurance when you travel.

Call your insurance contact centre the moment you run into problems.

Study it, believe me, lost luggage is the least of your troubles!

Don’t think of the worst, my disease didn’t stop me from wanting to travel, if we would know what will happen we would try to avoid it, but no one knows what the future holds.  

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