Insurance for Long Term Cycle Touring

Whether you decide to take out insurance or not depends on how you feel about risk and about the impact of misfortune on you loved ones. If you have no family ties and really don’t give a hoot about your own health and safety then let’s face it you ain’t going to bother. If something happens to you whilst you are abroad and you have to be repatriated it costs tens of thousands of pounds. If God forbid, your body has to be repatriated and you do not have insurance then you relatives have to pick up the tab. As for your belongings? Well can you afford to replace them if they are stolen? Will they actually be covered even if they are damaged or stolen. A lot of people assume they are covered, but often it turns out to be the opposite. So the upshot is, think carefully about what cover if any you actually need, taking into account your personal situation and feeling towards risk and your relatives in the event something my go wrong.

We had real problems trying to find suitable insurance. The key problem areas were:

  1. Period of Cover ­ Generally, single trip policies are only valid for a maximum of one year. I think we found one that was valid for 18 months. The alternative to these are the annual policies that many companies offer. Although these are valid for a year they only allow you to be out of the country for so many days per year. Normally about 60 days. What we needed was a policy that could be renewed annually whilst you are travelling.
  2. Residency ­ All insurance companies require you to be resident in the country where the policy is taken out. So in our case we had to prove residency in the UK. Thus it would be necessary to take the policy out whilst we could still prove our address. i.e. before our house sale would be completed. For renewal purposes we would still need UK address, which we would consider as our normal residency. We used our son’s address for this purpose.
  3. Remote Renewal ­ Most policies are annual. At the end of the period a new policy is taken out. To do so most companies stipulate that you must be living in the UK. We needed a policy that could be renewed remotely whilst we were travelling
  4. Cycling Cover ­ Many companies will not cover bicycling as an activity and many of those that do only cover it as an incidental activity for short periods. Getting cover for cycling any time anywhere was almost impossible.
  5. Bicycle Cover ­ Most companies will not cover for damage to or theft of bicycles and even if they do cover them they impose ridiculous conditions. E.g. it has to be locked up in a locked building. You can’t exactly do that all the time, especially if you are camping.
  6. Pre-existing Conditions ­ In some cases you have to jump through all sorts of hurdles to prove pre- existing conditions like asthma for example. Some companies won’t cover you at all especially if you are older.
  7. Age Restrictions ­ According to most insurance companies if you are over fifty, you are past it. Cover you as a back packer or long term traveler? Goodness No! At least that is how it seems. Many long term travel insurance policies are aimed at gap year students or career break thirty somethings.
  8. Cost ­ We could get any amount of cover if we were prepared to pay megabucks. We could get full private health cover for example. We have a limited budget so anything much over £500 per year is a problem.

I looked at many different insurance offerings over a four week period, studying policies, searching on the net, etc. I expected that the insurers offered by many of the travel web sites would be ideal, but inevitably there was something that presented a fundamental block. Eventually, having almost given up hope of finding a suitable insurer I came across Campbell Irvine Direct who offered a policy underwritten by Axa, one of the largest insurance underwriters in the World.

The basic policy looked good. It included all of the elements that we needed. Cycling wasn’t excluded. Neither was our age or pre-existing conditions (although a special exclusion applied to this). The most important thing was that Anthony Kaye, the advisor that I dealt with was very helpful and went out of his way to tailor the policy to our needs. He advised that as long as we were UK resident we could set up the policy and if we were happy to be repatriated to our son’s address then we could renew the policy remotely.

Their original quotation for the first 12 month policy was £412 per person, which was more than we wanted to pay. We looked at the cover offered and determined that we did not need cover for Travel Curtailment or Delay. Anthony was willing to remove these elements from the policy and offered a reduction to £350 per person. This was still more than we wanted to pay. We agonized over whether or not personal belongings insurance was required. We decided that even if we had this cover, in many instances we would not be covered, because we would be camping or in insecure accommodation. Our bikes would often be locked to trees or similar. We discussed it with Anthony. He told us that holiday makers think Personal Belongings insurance covers all of their belongings. In principal this is true but in practice they leave stuff in unlocked rooms or on sun beds so when it comes to a claim they are disappointed. They also only get back an amount considering fair wear and tear. In his opinion he felt that, for our particular situation, it was probably not worth having and that we should just accept the risk of loss and cost of replacement. This saved a further amount and the final quote was £280 each – close to our £500 max.

Our key criteria for insurance are:

  • Medical Expenses and Repatriation ­ Being cyclists, a significant risk is having an accident. Our main worries are if we get injured or killed through accident or if we become ill through whatever reason. In this event we need to be treated well by local medical crew and if necessary repatriated to our home country ­ alive or dead. We also wanted cover for medical treatment for illness and emergency dental problems. We also had to ensure that the cover was not prejudiced by pre-existing conditions like Karen’s asthma.
  • Personal Liability -Just as damage to ourselves through accident is a high risk, the thought that we could cause an accident where others or their property are damaged is also of concern. So, we felt it was essential to have personal liability insurance.
  • Personal Accident and Legal Costs ­ As well as cover for the immediate effects of an accident, we also felt that we should have the option to get compensation for injury and to pursue claims against third parties. So this was also considered desirable.
  • Winter Sports Coverage ­ We do like to ski so we thought it would be useful to also have winter sports coverage in case we wanted to go skiing.

The personal Liability aspect of the cover was not 100% clear, each case being taken on its merits. So in addition to the Campbell Irvine insurance we also joined the Cyclists Touring Club (CTC). Membership of the CTC also provides Third Party Liability worldwide up to £10M with no restrictions. Membership also gives access to route information and many other cycling resources that we have found useful.

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