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I ROAD TEST THIS SERVICE IN ORDER THAT HOPEFULLY YOU DON'T HAVE TO!
Club Direct Travel Insurance
Member Name: Richada
Club Direct Travel Insurance
Advantages: Superb Value For Money. Good Assistance. There When You Need it!
Disadvantages: Let Down By Polish Agent.
Ours was a far from exotic holiday as you will discover by reading on……..
OK, holidays are not specifically the topic concerned here – travel insurance is. As with any form of insurance, you pay your dues each year (or trip in the case of a holiday perhaps) and hope never to have to call on it. If you are anything like us, you probably do an internet search, maybe even check a broker or two for prices and then make some kind of compromise decision based on a balance of price / cover.
What you will probably never actually do is read ALL of the fine-print, which is vital to the policy and how you will be “processed” should you be in the unfortunate position of having to actually make a claim.
You will never be able to “sample” or road test a travel insurance policy either, your first experience of calling upon such a policy / service will be for real.
Well (certainly I have to say on this occasion, NOT in your interest!), I have road tested, comprehensively, this particular service for you – I hope never to have any other similar experience to compare it to, so I beg your forgiveness for, what I hope you will understand to be, a lack of comparative data!
Let us return to first principals briefly and consider what kind of travel insurance you need to carry. Firstly, don’t try to skimp on it. If you are going to the Alps skiing don’t merely take out a European cover expecting it to cover you for winter sports – it will not. You will requite more specific cover for that. Likewise, European cover, by definition will be useless elsewhere in the world – where hospital bills tend to be much higher.
Most I think will probably take out “one trip cover”. It makes sense if you have one foreign holiday a year, it costs less and more likely than not will be “destination specific”. However, for us, and for many of you, who from the reviews that I read, travel far more often than once a year, an annual “multi-trip” insurance policy makes much better sense for several reasons.
# It will work out MUCH less expensive than paying for travel insurance each time that you go.
# It will save you all the trouble of organising it (sometimes at short notice) several times a year.
# It will cover you for long weekends etc in this country that you probably would not even think about taking insurance out for, or for those hops across the Channel for a weekend perhaps.
# It will even cover you for business travel here and abroad, again I hope never to put it to the test, but for someone travelling all over the country on business, as I do, it is reassuring to have there in the glove-box.
There are probably many other reasons why multi-trip insurance is a good idea that I have not as yet come up with – after all we all have different reasons, desires and destinations when we travel.
You may have noticed that I am using the word “travel” rather than “holiday” insurance, this is quite deliberate, as we regard the policy in rather wider terms than mere holiday cover – it covers our many travels wherever they may be, that not always being a holiday!
OK, that takes care of the principals – let me explain our particular travel insurance needs.
My wife, as many of you know, is Polish – her family live in a small village near to the town of Mielec in the far south east of Poland – almost as far east as you can currently travel in the EEC. They are wonderful people and I enjoy visiting Poland, we drive there twice a year, in the summer and for Christmas and the New Year.
Our multi-trip European travel insurance covers Poland – neither of us ski (the area is as flat as East Anglia!) or partake in any form of dangerous sports. We take out each year a fairly basic “Europe only multi-trip” insurance cover – but it does include cover for all of the points that I listed above.
We made the mistake four years ago of falling for an HSBC promotion, when they sold us the mortgage we were entitled to a special (now defunct) bank account which offered us “Privileged” holiday insurance. It was worldwide and very expensive, it was easy to take up, but seeing the cost at over £120 the second year, we decided to search the net.
Thanks partly to Martin Lewis’ Money Saver Site, we found MoneySupermarket.com with whom we cut the cost of our annual travel insurance by over 50% and got the exact cover we required, nothing more, nothing less.
What this site actually does is to search out the best deal, you having entered your travel insurance requirements. In our case it recommended that we sign up with Club Direct, a company set up in 1995 and owned by the Collinson group, specialising solely in the travel insurance business.
In July last year, we renewed our policy through Money Supermarket Travel Insurance with Club Direct for £49.95, little knowing that on 2nd January 2006 we would be calling on their services.
From here on I will be referring to the insurers as Club Direct.
When your travel insurance policy turns into a vital service:
Having celebrated Christmas in Poland with my in-laws, on the late afternoon of New Years Day, we drove out into the country in order to say goodbye to my wife’s grandparents. Since we had been in Poland, this was the first day that the temperature had been above freezing point. There had been plenty of snow, which had been packed down to ice, that was starting to melt, additionally it was raining – that rain falling onto the icy ground.
Walking less than ten paces from the car to the front door of my grandparents-in-law’s house I slipped on the ice, falling onto my side. Due to my wearing stout walking boots, regrettably my left foot and ankle stayed standing up when I fell down.
I did not hear the break, but the pain was immediate and excruciating – I was laying on the icy garden, screaming in pain and for help – the family were all indoors. Fortunately my father-in-law and an uncle were rapidly on the scene to carry me indoors, an aunt who is a nurse lost no time in diagnosing a broken ankle – it had swollen far too fast to be anything else she remarked.
OK I’m thirty minutes from the general hospital in Mielec, my car is sitting outside and we are due to drive home in two days time – I was due back at work on Thursday, today was Sunday.
Bravely, uncle took his first drive in a right hand drive car (mine!) in order to get me to the hospital. It was dark, 6.45pm, the roads were covered in wet ice and it was now starting to re-freeze. The nurse had tightly bandaged my agonisingly painful ankle which got me to the hospital without actually passing out.
The details of my admission and the ensuing two and a quarter hour operation the following morning are hardly relevant here so I will spare you the (fortunately not so) painful details.
I will say here and now though that my treatment in a Polish NHS equivalent hospital was absolutely second to none! From the surgeon right down to the cleaners, I could have not enjoyed better care had I paid a fortune in a private hospital in this country.
The afternoon after the operation, having woken up to the reality that I was going to be hospitalised until the end of the week – it turned out to be rather longer than that even, 9 days in all – it dawned on me that we would not be driving away from here tomorrow, staying in our favourite Dresden hotel, nor honouring the Calais – Dover ferry booking!
My next train of thought was towards the holiday insurance, hospital bills being my main and immediate worry. My wife returned to her parents flat to contact the travel insurance company, it is a condition of the insurance that you let them know as soon as you are admitted to a hospital abroad. We and, in turn, they were in luck, it is another condition of the policy that you have and carry an English “E111” medical card. It was in my wallet.
THE E111 CARD
If any of you travel in Europe and do not have one of these, then for your own sake please take my advice go to the post office and apply for one NOW! It will save you a fortune in hospital bills and / or complicated negotiations through an English Consulate at a time you really do not have the strength for it. An E111 card gives you reciprocal medical rights under the NHS systems of other European countries.
My wife made contact with Club Direct Travel Insurance, based in Chichester, West Sussex and the operator who handled her initial call – Doriana, handled my whole case until we flew out of Poland on Thursday 19th January, over two weeks later than we had anticipated leaving in the car.
WHAT DID CLUB DIRECT TRAVEL INSURANCE DO FOR US?
They kept in touch each day in order to keep track of my progress in hospital and to make sure that my medical needs were fully taken care of – which they very much were.
Their priority, not ours actually, was to get us back home to the UK as soon as possible “that’s our policy” Doriana told me. I assured her that, with us staying with my wife’s parents, there were no hotel bills accumulating, and that I would rather make the journey home in a week’s time when I felt rather stronger, physically and emotionally, than on the day I finally left hospital. We have flown before to Poland and I knew that the road journey on the Polish side would be “arduous” to say the least of it – exacerbated at that time by the rapidly deteriorating weather conditions.
They were in touch with the hospital in order to assess my travel requirements. One of the younger English speaking doctors came to my room (a two bed ward) one afternoon to say that he had received a call from England, and told the insurance company that I would require three seats on the aeroplane in order to keep my leg “elevated in transit”.
Being Poland, there remains a certain amount of “old world Communist” bureaucracy in place, there was a hitch. Three days after being released from hospital I returned to have the stitches taken out of my wounds and a new plaster applied to my leg. Doriana had requested that I obtain from the surgeon a “Fitness to Fly” certificate, without it, no carrier would fly me apparently. The surgeon and the hospital had never heard of such a thing and were not, initially, prepared to take responsibility for signing such a document.
They were incidentally quite happy to sign me a “Certificate not to Drive” required by the AA in order to ship my car back home – another review, another day!
ENTER CLUB DIRECT’s POLISH AGENT ON THE SCENE!
Up to this point I had had great confidence in Doriana and her company’s service in general. She informed me that their agent in Poznan, many miles away, would arrange for a private doctor to visit me, probably the following day. We were instructed to be ready to fly – once she had a copy of the certificate, if possible, she would fly us out the same day! That was on the Thursday.
We were also told that, at the airports, there would be both wheelchair assistance laid on for me and luggage assistance for my wife, who otherwise would have to struggle with our four cases and various paraphernalia. One of the reasons we travel to Poland by car is that we never travel “light”!
On Monday (four days later) having heard nothing at all, I called Doriana to ask what was going on. She had no more idea than I, and said that her Polish agent would contact me. Little did we know that rather than doing what he had been paid to do – i.e. arranging for a doctor to come to see me – he merely piled enough pressure on the hospital to do it for nothing, this took a further day.
On Tuesday I had a three way conversation between Doriana and the agent, he was insisting that I went in person to the hospital and collect the certificate. Doriana laughed out loud at him “this man has a broken ankle – all we require is a fax copy!” She called back later in the day to say that the flight had been booked on Thursday morning on Ryanair from Rzeszow to Stanstead and assured my wife that transport would be laid on.
We got on with the packing in blissful ignorance on Wednesday, it had been snowing hard all day, the night time temperature falling to -16degC, from a daytime one of around -3. At 4.30pm, Doriana called to say that the Polish agent had failed to provide transport to the airport and that my wife would now, at the eleventh hour have to find a taxi, suitably commodious to take me on the hour and a half journey to the airport with my leg elevated! I was furious! The flight was at 11.35am, we would have to leave at 7.00am to get there and the driving conditions were going to be atrocious – there was already about six inches of snow on the ground. Remember too that I had only a pair of crutches to aid my movements – terrifying to use on snow and ice, just in case you were wondering.
Within an hour, my wife had achieved what the agent had failed manifestly to do – call a Rzeszow taxi company and locate a big “people carrier” – there were none available in Mielec.
The journey through the snow to the airport and the flight went like clockwork. The airport and Ryanair staff, both on the ground in Poland and on the flight were superb. This may be a “low cost” airline, but in my hours of need they really took care of me!
At Stanstead the assistance was slow to arrive and inadequate – a man with a wheelchair did arrive – eventually. Although Doriana had pre-arranged this, it took two calls from the Ryanair captain to get someone out to the plane. There was no assistance whatsoever for our luggage, my wife, who is not large of frame, is still aching a week later from struggling for miles through the airport with that.
Much to our relief, as promised, there was a driver waiting for us in the arrivals hall. He had been told by Doriana that a “big” car with “plenty of room” was required, he was driving a converted, albeit fairly plush, Ford Transit Van!
We arrived home safely at 4.15pm, having been travelling since 6.00a.m English time. For both of us it had been a truly exhausting experience.
Doriana and Club Direct’s role ends when you take off the ground in the foreign country. The case is then handed over to a third party – Claims Settlement Agencies Ltd, who go on to handle any outstanding money claims. Upon our arrival home there was a claim form, dated 9th January (the day I left hospital) waiting for us.
I am currently awaiting a receipt to be sent for the plastic leg plaster (not covered by the Polish NHS) and special orthopaedic shoe, approximately £30, from the hospital in Mielec. This along with the 396PLN (zloty, equivalent to £72.00) taxi fare, has to be claimed back – these sums having the policy excess of £50.00 deducted from them. There is also a payment of £25.00 for each 24 hour period that you have spent in hospital. This is to cover incidental expenses, such as mobile phone calls etc, whilst you are hospitalised.
Fortunately for the insurance company there are no hotel bills to settle, had we been in a hotel at the time, the on-going costs, on a bed and breakfast basis, would have been met on behalf of both myself and my wife.
All the travel costs were taken care of for us, and apart from the aforementioned slip up with the Polish taxi – had my wife not been Polish speaking this would have been a disaster – all the necessary arrangements made successfully on our behalf.
Our £49.95 travel insurance turned out to be a really wise investment, I estimate that had we been travelling without insurance, this already painful experience would have been a good deal more traumatic, not to mention leaving us poorer to the tune of well over £1000.
As I said at the start, I have no comparisons to make, Club Direct served us as well as it could. Their Polish agent let them down badly – indeed he is no longer I believe their Polish agent, Doriana having refused to speak to him again.
Summary: What you need for that unexpected "slip" abroad.
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