By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Most people are thrilled to drive a Mercedes-Benz. But I sensed trouble when my husband George rented a brand new Mercedes-Benz when we were in England a few years ago.
“No, I don’t want a new car,” I objected. “And I don’t want a Mercedes.”
“The (car rental) guy told me that this is the only car they had left,” George replied. He and I are not vain about fancy cars; we are practical and care more about the merits of automobiles than their brand.
“Okay, you better buy full insurance,” I said.
“Yea,” he said. It’s only a small fee when you add insurance to your car rental charge. Some credit cards offer rental car insurance — check with your credit card company and make sure liability insurance is included.
It’s risky for George to drive in England for two reasons. We were unfamiliar with the country, and he’s not used to the steering wheel on the right side of the car. Actually, there’s another reason, England’s roads are hard to program on the GPS. You have to know the exact name with the exact spelling to be programmed so you can get the correct directions. A dot and hyphen can be challenging to enter on the GPS.
On the first day, George drove from the London airport to Windsor. It was pretty straightforward. However, on our second day, we missed an exit driving to Oxford, and ended up on the wrong road. There, the car hit the tail end of a double-decker bus because George couldn’t see the bus. The Mercedes! Don’t ask.
The brand new car’s front was bent and crooked. The damages were over $1,000 U.S. We spent four hours waiting for the tow truck and the car rental company to send us another car.
The good thing was, we paid nothing. There was little paperwork involved, we didn’t need to file any claim forms. The car rental company took care of everything. Our insurance covered everything, but not our spirit. We were shaken. But without insurance, we would have felt even worse. Then, George struck the sidewalk when we left the garage the next day. Oh yes, the damage was obvious. Again, the insurance covered it. It’s unusual for George to have two accidents in two days. He has a solid track record of being a good driver for decades in the U.S. When you travel in a strange land, it can be a totally different story.
I didn’t know anything about travel insurance at first. Our friend Vi Mar, a former travel agent, taught us to get insurance in 1990. Newspaper work was unpredictable. We didn’t know if we could leave our office for two weeks during Christmas. “For your peace of mind, get insurance,” she said. If anything happens, the loss would be minimal.
There were several family emergencies since then, and we travel as usual with insurance coverage. My mother-in-law was close to dying, and we didn’t know if we should travel.
Then, my mother was sick and I hesitated to plan trips. But with insurance, we were comfortable to plan cruises and flights months in advance, since we could cancel our trip anytime. There were no worries.
One friend argued she doesn’t believe in buying travel insurance. “I get home safe from every trip, and nothing ever happens,” she said. “And the insurance companies just make all the money from me.”
If nothing ever happens in my trips, I count that as blessings not only for myself, but the insurance company too. I’d rather they make a little money and my stress of facing a huge unexpected loss, reduced.
Getting sick on the trip
Are you aware that your health insurance plan may not cover you when you travel overseas?
If you get sick, it could be a financial disaster or mental drain. A couple of times, my husband got sick during our trips, and we felt helpless. We didn’t know how to get doctors or where to get help. He was sick because our family doctor prescribed medicine that was too strong for him. His body didn’t react well. I asked for help from the hotel when we were in Venice. When the doctor arrived, my husband refused to let the doctor see him. He didn’t have any confidence in the doctor. I still had to pay the doctor for just showing up.
Bring the right medicine for travel. Last year, when we were in London, my husband had diarrhea due to eating over-greasy stuff. I didn’t bring any anti-diarrhea pills. If we visit China, I would have brought the anti-diarrhea kind. I brought constipation-relief pills only.
It’s important to have both.
Also, don’t drink the water from the restaurants when you travel. Ask for hot water, which is much safer, and will save you a lot of grief.
Stay away from street food. They often look good, but you have no idea now the locals prepare them.
Salt and vitamin C should be on your packing list. Salt water is best for sore throat. Vitamin C boosts your immunity from any colds or flu. Bring medicine, including antibiotics, to fight colds and flus. You might be able to buy those conveniently outside the hotel. However, when you are really sick, it’s handy to have those next to you.
It’s no fun when you are sick during travel. Plan and do as much as you can to protect your health — it is the best plan for travel.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.