Travel Insurance – Common Pitfalls When Claiming Lost or Stolen Goods

Many of us will take out travel insurance when going on holiday but do you know what to do when something goes wrong? Knowing upfront can save a lot of heartache down the track. Read the following tips so that you can be prepared.

Proof of ownership

Travel insurance companies will often refuse to pay for lost or stolen items unless that you can prove that you own them. The best way is with the original receipt. We might keep receipts for the expensive items but who has a receipt for every item you are taking away with you!

Now, travel insurance companies are not all evil and will cover you for general things like clothes, toiletries, and luggage but without proof of brand or value you'll often only get a fraction of the true replacement cost.

Digital cameras are cheap and most people will be taking them on holidays. So you should take a photo of everything that you are taking. Get the brand and style where possible. Detail all this in a spreadsheet as well. Scan all receipts, manuals, warranty cards, or tags. You can claim when you get home but I'd suggest emailing all the photos, scans and spreadsheet to a free email site like Gmail or Hotmail so you can claim while away if needed.

Replacement value

It has become common now for car or home and contents insurance to offer new for old replacement. This is generally not how travel insurance works. You'll usually be offered the value of the goods minus depreciation. This should mean that the money you are offered can buy a replacement item second hand. Some items hold their value really well and you actually won't be able to buy a replacement one for anywhere near the money the travel insurance company gives you. You should always lodge a complaint if this is the case. Provide proof of the true market value (e.g. from classifieds, second hand shops, or eBay). If the travel insurance company still refuses to cover the real cost then take it to the ombudsman.

Stolen goods and police reports

Travel insurance companies will generally not just take your word for it when something is stolen. They want some sort of proof. This is generally best in the form of a police report but can be a statement from the airline, cruise ship, etc if it happened there.

Police reports can be a tricky thing to obtain in some countries. You may be asked to pay a fee for this service. If the amount is small then just pay as it probably isn't worth the hassle. If it is larger then you may want to consult your guidebook or the internet to see if this is normal. If not then your embassy or consulate should be able to help. Some countries have special tourist police who are the best to approach in regards to this.

If you have trouble speaking the local language and the police can't understand you then you could try an online translation service (e.g. babelfish) or finding a local or fellow traveller who speaks English and take them along (a tip is generally appreciated).

Unattended luggage

A major area in which travel insurance will not cover you is when your bags are left unattended. This may seem like it would rarely happen as you normally don't leave your luggage just lying around but unattended is usually defined as being left in an unlocked environment or with someone you don't know. Common scenarios are left luggage at hotels or hostels, with doormen, or with tour companies.