Why travel insurance


My twelve-year-old son broke his arm horse-riding this summer. Had he done this in Blighty, we'd have been looking at an ambulance, an x-ray, a cast or surgery, and a night in hospital.


Instead, it happened in Khövsgöl, northern Mongolia, a vast expanse of terribly scenic nothing with a vast expanse of terribly scenic Russian nothing 5km away across some terribly scenic mountains.


And I am honestly not at all sure how we'd have coped without travel insurance.


It took five hours to get a doctor out from the nearest clinic, who splinted Zac's arm with sticks and shot him up with so much Tramadol that in an hour-long jeep ride over riverbeds, gullies and rocky fields he emitted only the observation, “I think I might be tripping.”


Her clinic did have electricity, which was nice. And the staff were lovely, which was excellent. A few things it didn't have? Running water, indoor toilets or an x-ray.


Enter travel insurance


As it happens, the only international standard medical facility in all of Mongolia is in Ulaanbaatar, more than 30 hours overland from where we were. Further, as the nearest x-ray was at least twelve hours' drive over landscape unsullied by roads, the only sane way to extract us was on a helicopter.


For a pilot, a co-pilot, a doctor and a paramedic to make the nine-hour round trip cost our insurers over £20,000.


In Ulaanbaatar an x-ray rapidly revealed that Zac had what we laypeople term “an absolute bitch of a fracture” and would need what we laypeople term “a plate”. And, as no one in Mongolia is capable of doing a plate, and he needed to travel lying down, he (and I, as his mother) would need to be evacuated on an air ambulance to Hong Kong.


An air ambulance, for the record, is a private jet with a doctor (and more medics if needed), a pilot, a co-pilot and some kit. The cost of getting the jet and team from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar and then out to Hong Kong was well over $100,000.


Which makes the price of our private room in an elite Hong Kong hospital, Zac's tests, surgery and follow-up, plus a week or so in a Hong Kong hotel and flights back to the UK, a snip at another twenty grand and change.


If we hadn't had insurance? Well, we'd have been looking at long, agonising hours of overland travel, at thousands of pounds of medical expenses in the capital and thousands more on agonising flights from Ulaanbaatar to the UK with Zac's arm strapped to his chest.


Most importantly, however, as the rural clinic had splinted his arm so tightly his muscles were spasming and his blood flow was restricted, it's quite likely he'd have ended up with permanent nerve damage.


Not got travel insurance? Go buy it. You'll probably never claim on it, but if you need it, you'll really need it.





Published by Stuart Lodge