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July 2000

Take Cover

Travel insurance is a wise precaution

“With the vacation season in full swing, it is essential to make sure you have the correct travel insurance (Reiseversicherung). Before taking out an “all-in” package from a travel agent, however, work out which policies you really need, and which ones you already have.

The most important policy is health insurance, including coverage of the cost of transporting you back home if necessary. If you are in the state health scheme, ask your health insurance fund (Krankenkasse) for form E 111 (Auslands-Krankenschein). In theory, this entitles you to free treatment in EU countries, Switzerland, Turkey, Tunisia and Romania. In practice, many doctors insist on payment up front, leaving you to claim the money back from your insurance fund, which may not reimburse the full amount. To avoid this it is essential to take out private travel health insurance (Auslandsreise-Krankenversicherung). (This can also be sensible even if you have private health insurance; check the extent of its coverage abroad.) Annual policies are as cheap as DM 15, give worldwide coverage, and are valid for vacations of up to six weeks.

To insure against canceling your vacation — for instance, because of the death or serious illness of a close relative, or unexpected pregnancy — you can take out coverage (Reiserücktrittkosten-Vesicherung). This must be done within 14 days of your booking, and is advisable for expensive vacations or those booked long in advance.

Insurance for your luggage (Reisegepäckversicherung) is less crucial. It is expensive and subject to so many restrictions that insurers might just as well say “we will not pay out in the event of a claim.” Cash, cheques, passports and travel documents are never covered, while jewelry and cameras are covered only if they are in a safe or in your possession. Note that airlines are liable to pay DM 53.50 per kilo if they lose your luggage. For break-ins to your hotel room or vacation home, your normal home contents insurance (Hausratversicherung) is liable.

You should already have personal liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung) to cover damage you might do to other people or their property. This will also cover you on vacation, as will your normal accident insurance (Unfallversicherung); separate cover is not needed in either case.

If you take your car abroad, check with your insurer that you are covered. Consider fully comprehensive insurance for the vacation period (Urlaubskasko); many countries — including Turkey, Bulgaria and Croatia — have dangerously low levels of third-party (Haftpflicht) coverage if another driver causes an accident. To avoid problems when driving a rental car, you can take out a “Majorca policy,” to bring the coverage up to German levels.

Also, make sure you take the green insurance card (Grüne Versicherungskarte), available free from your car insurance company, which, in Europe, certifies that you have German coverage. Legal insurance (Verkehrsrechtschutz) is also advisable, and consider accident insurance for passengers (Insassen). A Schutzbrief policy will provide help in the event of a breakdown of your car, and therefore may prevent you from having a mental one, too.

For more information, contact the Verbraucherzentrale Bayern e.V., Mozartstrasse 9, 80336 Munich, Tel. (089) 539 87-0. <<<

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