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Cautionary tale of the importance of travel insurance!

nidarosa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes please!
#1
This September my husband went on an adventure, to walk from St Jean to Santiago. I would meet him there and we would walk out to the sea together.

He was just getting his washing when he slipped on smooth stone steps and fell hard on concrete in an albergue garden. It was late and he didn’t get help until the next morning, when he was finally taken to hospital and called me. Of course I dropped everything and went to the airport with only my camino backpack and kit (always packed and ready), and bought a ticket for the next flight to Spain. While I waited I called our insurance company to let them know what had happened and that I was going there to help him, and while I waited for the ALSA bus in Madrid, they rang me back to reassure me that we would get the help we needed.

I was at the hospital early the next day, and was told that he had broken his upper arm very badly, so they would pin and plate it the next day. He had also fractured his pelvis, and he was badly bruised. The doctor said he wouldn’t be able to put weight on the leg for probably 6-8 weeks … and with the damaged arm he couldn’t use crutches either, so if he was to be sent home, it would have to be lying down on a medical flight. No problem, I thought, luckily he has travel insurance. And he had his EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) with him too, so there would be no medical expenses.

I found a cheap room in town and settled into a new routine: walked to the hospital in the morning, kept him company and helped him eat, wash, dress, and used my limited Spanish to communicate with the nurses. At lunchtime I went back into town, had a meal, called the insurance for updates, went back to the hospital and stayed until nine, then a few tapas and bed. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and did everything they could to help us and explain what was happening, and they made him feel welcome and comfortable.

During this time we got precious little real or practical help from the insurance company - the doctors were frustrated that they got no answers, I was frustrated that I couldn’t provide them, the insurance company dragged their feet and nothing happened. I managed to get a 10 km walk on the camino one bright and clear morning though, and it worked wonders for the stress!

Finally, 16 days after the accident, the insurance company organised transport and we were sent home by ambulance, plane and another (private) ambulance. A friend kindly came to help me move furniture around so we could get the bed moved downstairs, as my husband wasn’t allowed to put weight on his leg and was in a wheelchair. Then there were doctors’ appointments, hospital visits, and at long last physiotherapy. He is walking again, and healing, but it will take a long time before he is able to go back and carry on where he left off. And he might never be able to comfortably carry his own backpack again.

There was nothing we could have done to prevent this from happening – it could have happened anywhere, any time, to anyone. Our lives were temporarily turned on their heads, the wonderful once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk the camino was taken away and replaced by injury and pain, worry and frustration. But if we hadn’t spent the extra five minutes and couple of quid on upgrading his travel insurance – 45 day stay instead of 30, extra for walking above 1000m above sea level, less excess – we would have had a financial emergency too. I could have been forced to leave him there. I might not have been able to take time off to go and care for him at all. I didn’t think I spent much, but it adds up: last minute travel (£185) and expensive hotel (five hours for £55), 16 days of accommodation (£375), food and drink (£300+) and medication (£130) in Spain and the costly return tickets (4 seats @£270 each), not to mention two private ambulances (£?)! OK, there were days when I thought I would happily have gone without insurance and not had the added grief of having to deal with them, but now we are back home and have made our claim, we can put the financial part of it behind us.

The moral of the story is, please please please don’t even consider going anywhere without travel insurance. I have always thought about it in terms of delayed flights and stolen or lost property, and on the camino I carry so little it is hardly worth covering. It never occurred to me that I might rely on it for expenses to do with a medical emergency, because I have my EHIC for that … but the EHIC only covers the medical treatment, not all the other things like travel, food, accommodation, medicines, equipment, a carer. You or your loved one(s) might rely on your insurance for repatriation and all kinds of unforeseen extras. Take the time to compare prices, read the small print, pay a bit extra for a better cover, ring them and explain what you are doing and find out what you need. Disclose any medical problems to avoid delays. Ask if they offer translation services if you end up in hospital, or cover translation of medical documents afterwards. And of course, check that your EHIC or other medical insurance is in date and easy to find, and leave a copy with someone at home.

Sorry about the long tale and finger wagging, but if only one person takes the advice and gets (decent and relevant) travel insurance rather than just hoping the best and risking the worst, it will have been worth it. Make it your New Year’s Resolution to check you have the right insurance!

Take care and buen camino to all.
 
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Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#3
Thank you for making this point so forcefully. Several times in recent years local newspapers in my part of the world have printed stories of people who have run into major problems travelling overseas without travel insurance or without declaring a pre-existing medical condition which has invalidated their insurance cover. One man had travelled against very specific medical advice. These stories always contain an appeal for money to pay the bills and bring the person home. I am afraid I find myself very unsympathetic. While many of us may not be wealthy and find travel makes serious dents in our bank balance this is one area in which we should not skimp or gamble.
 

Tia Valeria

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
C. Inglés 2011
C. Primitivo '12
Norte-C. de la Reina '13
C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
#4
Trusting that your husband makes a full recovery soon. We too have extended cover....., just trust we don't need it - but not having cover is not worth the risk.
Thank you for bringing this to everyone's attention.
 

nidarosa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes please!
#10
@grayland Thank you! I am - we are - lucky enough to live within cheap flights distance of Spain and also get our EHIC cards for free as part of our EU citizens' rights to free movement, so we are indeed privileged. When I say we could have run into financial difficulties without it I wouldn't like to think what it would have been like without any of this! All the more reason to check your travel insurance NOW, to make doubly sure. Please.

One part I didn't mention was that the pilgrim who helped him in the morning was from a country without a freely accessible health system, and not being used to it this pilgrim searched for my husband's insurance details rather than call the emergency number. Only after getting through to an agent at the insurance company (no mean feat) who advised calling a public hospital, did they call for an ambulance. If you are from such a country, or even if you're not, please make a note of the number 112, which is the EU wide emergency number and where you can ask for an English speaker to get the help you need, not just for others but for yourself. My husband and I are very grateful to his fellow pilgrim for helping him and hope their camino was everything they had hoped for.
 
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SabineP

Camino = Empathy + Compassion.
Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
#12
@nidarosa : Wishing your husband full recovery. Thanks for sharing!

I will certainly remember your experiences when we go out again. Thanks for sharing these wise words.
Yes @Koidream , I also took extra travel insurance here in Belgium for my last two Caminos, just to cover all those possible extra costs ( even in case of death ). Something I would not even consider buying when still young and innocent...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Some but not all, and other routes too.
#13
This September my husband went on an adventure, to walk from St Jean to Santiago. I would meet him there and we would walk out to the sea together.

He was just getting his washing when he slipped on smooth stone steps and fell hard on concrete in an albergue garden. It was late and he didn’t get help until the next morning, when he was finally taken to hospital and called me. Of course I dropped everything and went to the airport with only my camino backpack and kit (always packed and ready), and bought a ticket for the next flight to Spain. While I waited I called our insurance company to let them know what had happened and that I was going there to help him, and while I waited for the ALSA bus in Madrid, they rang me back to reassure me that we would get the help we needed.

I was at the hospital early the next day, and was told that he had broken his upper arm very badly, so they would pin and plate it the next day. He had also fractured his pelvis, and he was badly bruised. The doctor said he wouldn’t be able to put weight on the leg for probably 6-8 weeks … and with the damaged arm he couldn’t use crutches either, so if he was to be sent home, it would have to be lying down on a medical flight. No problem, I thought, luckily he has travel insurance. And he had his EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) with him too, so there would be no medical expenses.

I found a cheap room in town and settled into a new routine: walked to the hospital in the morning, kept him company and helped him eat, wash, dress, and used my limited Spanish to communicate with the nurses. At lunchtime I went back into town, had a meal, called the insurance for updates, went back to the hospital and stayed until nine, then a few tapas and bed. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and did everything they could to help us and explain what was happening, and they made him feel welcome and comfortable.

During this time we got precious little real or practical help from the insurance company - the doctors were frustrated that they got no answers, I was frustrated that I couldn’t provide them, the insurance company dragged their feet and nothing happened. I managed to get a 10 km walk on the camino one bright and clear morning though, and it worked wonders for the stress!

Finally, 16 days after the accident, the insurance company organised transport and we were sent home by ambulance, plane and another (private) ambulance. A friend kindly came to help me move furniture around so we could get the bed moved downstairs, as my husband wasn’t allowed to put weight on his leg and was in a wheelchair. Then there were doctors’ appointments, hospital visits, and at long last physiotherapy. He is walking again, and healing, but it will take a long time before he is able to go back and carry on where he left off. And he might never be able to comfortably carry his own backpack again.

There was nothing we could have done to prevent this from happening – it could have happened anywhere, any time, to anyone. Our lives were temporarily turned on their heads, the wonderful once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk the camino was taken away and replaced by injury and pain, worry and frustration. But if we hadn’t spent the extra five minutes and couple of quid on upgrading his travel insurance – 45 day stay instead of 30, extra for walking above 1000m above sea level, less excess – we would have had a financial emergency too. I could have been forced to leave him there. I might not have been able to take time off to go and care for him at all. I didn’t think I spent much, but it adds up: last minute travel (£185) and expensive hotel (five hours for £55), 16 days of accommodation (£375), food and drink (£300+) and medication (£130) in Spain and the costly return tickets (4 seats @£270 each), not to mention two private ambulances (£?)! OK, there were days when I thought I would happily have gone without insurance and not had the added grief of having to deal with them, but now we are back home and have made our claim, we can put the financial part of it behind us.

The moral of the story is, please please please don’t even consider going anywhere without travel insurance. I have always thought about it in terms of delayed flights and stolen or lost property, and on the camino I carry so little it is hardly worth covering. It never occurred to me that I might rely on it for expenses to do with a medical emergency, because I have my EHIC for that … but the EHIC only covers the medical treatment, not all the other things like travel, food, accommodation, medicines, equipment, a carer. You or your loved one(s) might rely on your insurance for repatriation and all kinds of unforeseen extras. Take the time to compare prices, read the small print, pay a bit extra for a better cover, ring them and explain what you are doing and find out what you need. Disclose any medical problems to avoid delays. Ask if they offer translation services if you end up in hospital, or cover translation of medical documents afterwards. And of course, check that your EHIC or other medical insurance is in date and easy to find, and leave a copy with someone at home.

Sorry about the long tale and finger wagging, but if only one person takes the advice and gets (decent and relevant) travel insurance rather than just hoping the best and risking the worst, it will have been worth it. Make it your New Year’s Resolution to check you have the right insurance!

Take care and buen camino to all.

Thank you for this thread it really brings home the need for good insurance. I hope that pilgrims really take note of this information.
 

rappahannock_rev

Anglican Catholic Priest
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes, Burgos & SdeC 77 (by train); Frances 12, 15 & 17; Finisterre 17; Lourdes & Aragones 18
#14
In September 2015 I fell crossing a busy street in Virgin del Camino, badly breaking my right hand. I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital in nearby Leon, triaged, x-rayed, operated upon, bandaged, given a prescription for antibiotics, and kicked out the door in just over 4 hours.

I had my passport and travel insurance documents on me, which expedited things enormously. I was not asked to pay one red cent out of pocket. Weeks later, after the travel insurance firm settled everything, I received a bill from the hospital for a mere $115.00 US.

Do not walk w/o travel insurance. Please.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances , St Jean Pied de Port - Finisterra May/ June 2017
Le Puy en Velay - Ales May 2018
#16
Hardly ' Finger wagging ' , more like the 'on the ground' advice and experience sharing that makes this forum so invaluable to any Pilgrim , thank you Nidarosa .
I well remember the Icelandic volcano that stranded my wife and daughter in Paris for ten extra days . We were literally on the embarkation bridge at Charles De Gaulle when all flights were cancelled .
What could have been a distressing and financially ruinous time was transformed into a delightful and unexpected chance to enjoy Paris at our leisure , all due to half decent travel insurance .
 

mega

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
September (2017)
#17
Don’t forget that is it not just while you are away that travel insurance is handy. Take it out as soon as you book your trip. Late June I found I had a serious medical issue that resulted in cancelling my September Camino. As I had insurance, flights from NZ, accomodation in both Paris and Barcelona were covered. I have also had to use insurance to cover a cancelled holiday in Peru due to the death of a family member. The extra cost is totally worth the peace of mind
 
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#18
Wow, that's quite a story nidarosa. Hoping that the recovery is going well.

I appreciate getting the nudge. I have in fact bought travel medical insurance a few times, but then gave up trying to find a policy that I could really understand and feel comfortable that I knew what was covered. The fine print on most of these policies is pretty hard to decipher. I know I have told this story before, but a friend of mine who was trying to buy travel insurance read that the insurance policy would "arrange for repatriation of remains." A phone call revealed that what that meant was that the insurance company would find you a company to bring the body home, but that the bill for the transport was on you.

The landscape (at least for those of us in the US) seems to have changed since I last bought insurance. Medex, which I had bought based on some recommendations here, seems to be gone. United Healthcare has jumped into this niche. Its webpage seems to be very clear about what is covered and Would love to hear recent US experiences since this is so country dependent.

Update: HA! Medex has been taken over by UHC
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino France's (2018)
#19
Thank you Nidarosa for your story! As an American this is a great concern for me. I haven’t walked yet but planning my first for Fall 2018. At 55 s/p stroke it will be a challenge for me but I think doable. My concern is getting sick or more likely injured. Seems for small things cash will do but anything quite like your husband experienced would be quite overwhelming! Given we don’t have national healthcare and many insurances will do little in a foreign country. I’ve had travel insurance in past when there were options. It does seem that those options are dwindling and do not cover much! We just had a local priest who had to fly home after 3 days because of kidney stones... church covered him. So finding a good insurance already having a preexistant condition is a concern and also a necessity! Thank you so much for sharing your story and warning!
 
Camino(s) past & future
2012, 2015 ,2017
#20
Best wishes on your husbands recovery. As A Canadian I have always extended insurance. With each birthday it goes up of course. This year my insurance was higher than my return ticket. Thank goodness never had to use it. I also have repatriation insurance just in case and detailed instructions in my POA (power of attorney) what to do should I die abroad.
 

mmmmartin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2014
Plata (2017)
#21
For those that are from the U.S. or OZ or even further.....
We also do not have the European Healthcare coverage.
Depending on the outcome of the British-EU negotiations, we Brits may lose our EHIC coverage. Worth remembering when thinking of insurance that lasts for a year ("annual multi-trip") because things might be very different after March 2018.

EDIT - sorry, I was being sloppy. I meant to meant that: "If after March 2018 you're buying one-year insurance you might want to think how things might be different one year on, ie after March 2019."

Thank you to Bradypuss for raising this point.

(Also - it would seem that the Irish border issue has prompted a commitment by the UK to Remain in the single market and customs union, so that might mean retaining freedom of movement and the EHIC card. But we don't know yet.)
 
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Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#22
Depending on the outcome of the British-EU negotiations, we Brits may lose our EHIC coverage. Worth remembering when thinking of insurance that lasts for a year ("annual multi-trip") because things might be very different after March 2018.
What change to the current EHIC system happens in March 2018? As far as I understand it there should be no change until the UK leaves the EU and that is not due to happen until 29 March 2019.
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
#23
Many of us have used the Squaremouth.com website to compare and price policies.
I have used for years. The site will price and compare most available policies for those of us in the U.S.

I recommend that you pay attention to
...be sure it is primary coverage
...I always go with a minimum of $50k medical coverage..$100k is better
...I look for $500k to $1 million medical evacuation

Try to be sure you buy the insurance within the first 1o days (varies) after first making travel reservations. This insures that you are covered for any pre-existing conditions.

I do not buy the "travel/trip" portion of the polices and that keeps the premium very low cost.
 
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grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
#24
I would add that I have had occasion to use the medical insurance over the past years.
Last year the insurance I used paid about $8500. when I was on an Italy camino.
There were several other occasions for much smaller claims.
The premiums are quite small if you only buy the medical/evacuation policy without the trip cancellation portion.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#25
I would add, from a rather expensive lesson, that it is important to have your insurance police, including all information, on you in some form. A copy on your smartphone will do. Then if you are injured it is important to alert your insurer immediately. Also keep all documents given to you by the health care provider. A friend walking the camino fell and was badly injured, was taken to a local medical centre where she was assessed and then transferred by ambulance to a major hospital. Not unexpectedly she was in such pain that alerting her insurer was not forefront in her mind. When she left the major hospital she was given an invoice but as it was quite small she paid in cash out of pocket. Many months later, now home, she received much larger bill, for the costs of the treatment in the medical centre and for the ambulance trip. By then she had lost all the documentation from the hospital and it was too late to claim on the insurer.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015)
#26
Wow, that's quite a story nidarosa. Hoping that the recovery is going well.

I appreciate getting the nudge. I have in fact bought travel medical insurance a few times, but then gave up trying to find a policy that I could really understand and feel comfortable that I knew what was covered. The fine print on most of these policies is pretty hard to decipher. I know I have told this story before, but a friend of mine who was trying to buy travel insurance read that the insurance policy would "arrange for repatriation of remains." A phone call revealed that what that meant was that the insurance company would find you a company to bring the body home, but that the bill for the transport was on you.

The landscape (at least for those of us in the US) seems to have changed since I last bought insurance. Medex, which I had bought based on some recommendations here, seems to be gone. United Healthcare has jumped into this niche. Its webpage seems to be very clear about what is covered and Would love to hear recent US experiences since this is so country dependent.

Update: HA! Medex has been taken over by UHC
Blue Cross/ Blue Shield here in the US have plans that cover international travel. Our plan has lists of MDs, dentists, clinics and hospitals that they work with in many countries. If you go to those facilities, the insurance company will handle all the paperwork. GeoBlue also sells travel insurance for single, multiple and long term trips. As far as repatriation of remains or bringing one of us home in an emergency we purchase a policy from MedJet, it covers you for a year at a time and is also good anytime you are more than 150 miles from home to the hospital of your choice. All together insurance is expensive, but the peace of mind knowing that it is there is well worth it.
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
#27
@witsendwv
Be aware that walking in the rather rural areas of Spain on the Camino routes may make it extremely difficult to use list of pre-determined locations for emergency care. The facilities may be located some distance from your location.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Fall 2016 Camino Frances to Leon
Fall 2017 Camino Frances to Finisterre
#28
This September my husband went on an adventure, to walk from St Jean to Santiago. I would meet him there and we would walk out to the sea together.

He was just getting his washing when he slipped on smooth stone steps and fell hard on concrete in an albergue garden. It was late and he didn’t get help until the next morning, when he was finally taken to hospital and called me. Of course I dropped everything and went to the airport with only my camino backpack and kit (always packed and ready), and bought a ticket for the next flight to Spain. While I waited I called our insurance company to let them know what had happened and that I was going there to help him, and while I waited for the ALSA bus in Madrid, they rang me back to reassure me that we would get the help we needed.

I was at the hospital early the next day, and was told that he had broken his upper arm very badly, so they would pin and plate it the next day. He had also fractured his pelvis, and he was badly bruised. The doctor said he wouldn’t be able to put weight on the leg for probably 6-8 weeks … and with the damaged arm he couldn’t use crutches either, so if he was to be sent home, it would have to be lying down on a medical flight. No problem, I thought, luckily he has travel insurance. And he had his EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) with him too, so there would be no medical expenses.

I found a cheap room in town and settled into a new routine: walked to the hospital in the morning, kept him company and helped him eat, wash, dress, and used my limited Spanish to communicate with the nurses. At lunchtime I went back into town, had a meal, called the insurance for updates, went back to the hospital and stayed until nine, then a few tapas and bed. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and did everything they could to help us and explain what was happening, and they made him feel welcome and comfortable.

During this time we got precious little real or practical help from the insurance company - the doctors were frustrated that they got no answers, I was frustrated that I couldn’t provide them, the insurance company dragged their feet and nothing happened. I managed to get a 10 km walk on the camino one bright and clear morning though, and it worked wonders for the stress!

Finally, 16 days after the accident, the insurance company organised transport and we were sent home by ambulance, plane and another (private) ambulance. A friend kindly came to help me move furniture around so we could get the bed moved downstairs, as my husband wasn’t allowed to put weight on his leg and was in a wheelchair. Then there were doctors’ appointments, hospital visits, and at long last physiotherapy. He is walking again, and healing, but it will take a long time before he is able to go back and carry on where he left off. And he might never be able to comfortably carry his own backpack again.

There was nothing we could have done to prevent this from happening – it could have happened anywhere, any time, to anyone. Our lives were temporarily turned on their heads, the wonderful once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk the camino was taken away and replaced by injury and pain, worry and frustration. But if we hadn’t spent the extra five minutes and couple of quid on upgrading his travel insurance – 45 day stay instead of 30, extra for walking above 1000m above sea level, less excess – we would have had a financial emergency too. I could have been forced to leave him there. I might not have been able to take time off to go and care for him at all. I didn’t think I spent much, but it adds up: last minute travel (£185) and expensive hotel (five hours for £55), 16 days of accommodation (£375), food and drink (£300+) and medication (£130) in Spain and the costly return tickets (4 seats @£270 each), not to mention two private ambulances (£?)! OK, there were days when I thought I would happily have gone without insurance and not had the added grief of having to deal with them, but now we are back home and have made our claim, we can put the financial part of it behind us.

The moral of the story is, please please please don’t even consider going anywhere without travel insurance. I have always thought about it in terms of delayed flights and stolen or lost property, and on the camino I carry so little it is hardly worth covering. It never occurred to me that I might rely on it for expenses to do with a medical emergency, because I have my EHIC for that … but the EHIC only covers the medical treatment, not all the other things like travel, food, accommodation, medicines, equipment, a carer. You or your loved one(s) might rely on your insurance for repatriation and all kinds of unforeseen extras. Take the time to compare prices, read the small print, pay a bit extra for a better cover, ring them and explain what you are doing and find out what you need. Disclose any medical problems to avoid delays. Ask if they offer translation services if you end up in hospital, or cover translation of medical documents afterwards. And of course, check that your EHIC or other medical insurance is in date and easy to find, and leave a copy with someone at home.

Sorry about the long tale and finger wagging, but if only one person takes the advice and gets (decent and relevant) travel insurance rather than just hoping the best and risking the worst, it will have been worth it. Make it your New Year’s Resolution to check you have the right insurance!

Take care and buen camino to all.
An excellent post! Thank you for the reminder. Fifteen years ago we were on a cruise and my mother fell and broke her hip. We were let off at the next city where she could have surgery. The hospital staff were wonderful, but due to her overall health, she developed complications and we were told she was now palliative. We were now in a city where we don't speak the language and we needed help from our insurance company to get my mother back home. She needed air transport to get her back to Canada, but the company wasn't going to pay, even though it was part of the plan. The very short version of this is that we had to pay up front for our own air transport, to the tune of $60,000.00. But, the plane wouldn't come until we had a bed in a hospital. Maybe in other parts of the world there are empty beds in a hospital, but not in Western Canada! We were in survival mode and it was a nightmare! Always consider all possible outcomes when you are away because as Nidarosa stated "it could happen anywhere, anytime to anyone".
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015)
#29
@witsendwv
Be aware that walking in the rather rural areas of Spain on the Camino routes may make it extremely difficult to use list of pre-determined locations for emergency care. The facilities may be located some distance from your location.
I did not mean to imply that we can use only facilities listed, rather the insurance company will handle all the paperwork and payment for those facilities. We would have to submit the paperwork and bills from any other facility. Here in the US can be compared to In Network and Out of Network, but bills from both are paid.
 

Nekodemus

Certified insane
Camino(s) past & future
Been there, done that. Keep coming back.
Most likely addicted.
#30
What a wake-up call :eek:

As a Dane, in the days before the EHI was implemented, all that stuff, including repatriation, was covered by our public health insurance. Of course our fecal-matter-for-brains politicians :mad: just had to "improve" on that. I was happily unaware that the coverage has been degraded to the extent that it has.

Looks like it's time to review my insurance. I know I have some coverage, but actually understanding what is and isn't covered ... :confused:
 

Gaddong

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2018) First time will start in April
#31
This September my husband went on an adventure, to walk from St Jean to Santiago. I would meet him there and we would walk out to the sea together.

He was just getting his washing when he slipped on smooth stone steps and fell hard on concrete in an albergue garden. It was late and he didn’t get help until the next morning, when he was finally taken to hospital and called me. Of course I dropped everything and went to the airport with only my camino backpack and kit (always packed and ready), and bought a ticket for the next flight to Spain. While I waited I called our insurance company to let them know what had happened and that I was going there to help him, and while I waited for the ALSA bus in Madrid, they rang me back to reassure me that we would get the help we needed.

I was at the hospital early the next day, and was told that he had broken his upper arm very badly, so they would pin and plate it the next day. He had also fractured his pelvis, and he was badly bruised. The doctor said he wouldn’t be able to put weight on the leg for probably 6-8 weeks … and with the damaged arm he couldn’t use crutches either, so if he was to be sent home, it would have to be lying down on a medical flight. No problem, I thought, luckily he has travel insurance. And he had his EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) with him too, so there would be no medical expenses.

I found a cheap room in town and settled into a new routine: walked to the hospital in the morning, kept him company and helped him eat, wash, dress, and used my limited Spanish to communicate with the nurses. At lunchtime I went back into town, had a meal, called the insurance for updates, went back to the hospital and stayed until nine, then a few tapas and bed. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and did everything they could to help us and explain what was happening, and they made him feel welcome and comfortable.

During this time we got precious little real or practical help from the insurance company - the doctors were frustrated that they got no answers, I was frustrated that I couldn’t provide them, the insurance company dragged their feet and nothing happened. I managed to get a 10 km walk on the camino one bright and clear morning though, and it worked wonders for the stress!

Finally, 16 days after the accident, the insurance company organised transport and we were sent home by ambulance, plane and another (private) ambulance. A friend kindly came to help me move furniture around so we could get the bed moved downstairs, as my husband wasn’t allowed to put weight on his leg and was in a wheelchair. Then there were doctors’ appointments, hospital visits, and at long last physiotherapy. He is walking again, and healing, but it will take a long time before he is able to go back and carry on where he left off. And he might never be able to comfortably carry his own backpack again.

There was nothing we could have done to prevent this from happening – it could have happened anywhere, any time, to anyone. Our lives were temporarily turned on their heads, the wonderful once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk the camino was taken away and replaced by injury and pain, worry and frustration. But if we hadn’t spent the extra five minutes and couple of quid on upgrading his travel insurance – 45 day stay instead of 30, extra for walking above 1000m above sea level, less excess – we would have had a financial emergency too. I could have been forced to leave him there. I might not have been able to take time off to go and care for him at all. I didn’t think I spent much, but it adds up: last minute travel (£185) and expensive hotel (five hours for £55), 16 days of accommodation (£375), food and drink (£300+) and medication (£130) in Spain and the costly return tickets (4 seats @£270 each), not to mention two private ambulances (£?)! OK, there were days when I thought I would happily have gone without insurance and not had the added grief of having to deal with them, but now we are back home and have made our claim, we can put the financial part of it behind us.

The moral of the story is, please please please don’t even consider going anywhere without travel insurance. I have always thought about it in terms of delayed flights and stolen or lost property, and on the camino I carry so little it is hardly worth covering. It never occurred to me that I might rely on it for expenses to do with a medical emergency, because I have my EHIC for that … but the EHIC only covers the medical treatment, not all the other things like travel, food, accommodation, medicines, equipment, a carer. You or your loved one(s) might rely on your insurance for repatriation and all kinds of unforeseen extras. Take the time to compare prices, read the small print, pay a bit extra for a better cover, ring them and explain what you are doing and find out what you need. Disclose any medical problems to avoid delays. Ask if they offer translation services if you end up in hospital, or cover translation of medical documents afterwards. And of course, check that your EHIC or other medical insurance is in date and easy to find, and leave a copy with someone at home.

Sorry about the long tale and finger wagging, but if only one person takes the advice and gets (decent and relevant) travel insurance rather than just hoping the best and risking the worst, it will have been worth it. Make it your New Year’s Resolution to check you have the right insurance!

Take care and buen camino to all.
Thank you so much for sharing this experience. We will take heed, and do a little more research. I am going the same route in April and meet my wife in Spain end of May with God's Blessings. Take care.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015)
#32
Best wishes on your husbands recovery. As A Canadian I have always extended insurance. With each birthday it goes up of course. This year my insurance was higher than my return ticket. Thank goodness never had to use it. I also have repatriation insurance just in case and detailed instructions in my POA (power of attorney) what to do should I die abroad.
We carry a notarized letter both in English and in Spanish that lets the authorities in Spain know what we wish to happen if we were to die in the country. Cremation is not as common and bodies must be buried no later than 96hrs after death, so it is possible that a US citizen could be buried before next of kin is notified. The letter we carry is written authorization for cremation so that does not happen. According to Public Health regulations in Spain, prior authorization signed while living is required. Next of kin can provide information, but if may take too long. More detailed information can be found at:
es.usembassy.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/260/2017/03/disposition_of_remains_april16.pdf
 
Camino(s) past & future
2012, 2015 ,2017
#33
We carry a notarized letter both in English and in Spanish that lets the authorities in Spain know what we wish to happen if we were to die in the country. Cremation is not as common and bodies must be buried no later than 96hrs after death, so it is possible that a US citizen could be buried before next of kin is notified. The letter we carry is written authorization for cremation so that does not happen. According to Public Health regulations in Spain, prior authorization signed while living is required. Next of kin can provide information, but if may take too long. More detailed information can be found at:
es.usembassy.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/260/2017/03/disposition_of_remains_april16.pdf
Thanks..didn't know that. ..will look into it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Started Camino Frances April 2014 - Completed Camino Frances May 2017
#34
I totally agree. Coming from NZ it is definitely not negotiable.
In 2013 I started walking from SJPP and just out of Roncavelles I tripped and broke my leg. I spent 9 days in Pamplona hospital and insurance paid for 2 operations, one to fix what they did wrong the first time, my stay, the accomodation and flights for a friend to come from UK to help me home, business class flights home for both of us and then economy back to the UK for my friend and many miscellaneous exps after I got home! Would hate to think how much it all cost.
I went back in April 2017 to complete the Camino Frances and am pleased to say I got to Santiago! Again I went to the hospital along the way and insurance covered that as well.
So please please please add insurance into your budget for the adventure of a lifetime.
Buen Camino!
 

nidarosa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes please!
#35
Thank you to all who have replied to this post, thank you for your stories and kind words for my husband. And thank you to all who quietly re-evaluated their insurance needs after reading his story and got relevant coverage - hopefully it will make a difficult situation less so should something happen. We are waiting for the insurance claim to be processed now and that money will go back into our travel fund. My husband is recovering well, he is walking again and is determined to pick up where he left off - alone or with me. Time will tell.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and accident free new year, may the road take you where you need to be and may you find what you are looking for. (And check your insurance if you haven't already!)

Linda
 
#36
I have not walked on the Camino....yet, but have walked extensively in the US and Europe. I am from the UK. I could be corrected but the EHIC does not mean totally free treatment. Other countries do not have an NHS therefore if the locals have items to pay for so do you.

Height can be important I had over 10,00 feet (3000 metre ish) when I did the John Muir trail in California.

In Maine a trail buddy had a snake bite, whilst soon out of the emergency room he did need three weeks rehab off the trail with ensuing motel costs.

Re Brexit anyone with Irish grandparents can claim or continue with an EU passport( again I can be corrected but I have looked into it sometime ago). My Great Grandfather was Irish so I miss out. My Great Grandmother was from Quebec, North America (sic) anyone know if can claim an affiliation from her. Unfortunately because of the era, early 1920's, more information on them has not been possible.
 

nidarosa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes please!
#37
@englishstu - the EHIC card provides "the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland." Basically you get the same health care at the same price as the citizens of other countries covered by the EHIC agreement. In our case, my husband is a UK citizen and I am Norwegian, but we are both covered by the EHIC in Spain. This is a European agreement which does not cover any other part of the world.
And importantly: "The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property."
 

Janbrovold

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés 2013
Francés (2015)
#38
@grayland Thank you! I am - we are - lucky enough to live within cheap flights distance of Spain and also get our EHIC cards for free as part of our EU citizens' rights to free movement, so we are indeed privileged. When I say we could have run into financial difficulties without it I wouldn't like to think what it would have been like without any of this! All the more reason to check your travel insurance NOW, to make doubly sure. Please.

One part I didn't mention was that the pilgrim who helped him in the morning was from a country without a freely accessible health system, and not being used to it this pilgrim searched for my husband's insurance details rather than call the emergency number. Only after getting through to an agent at the insurance company (no mean feat) who advised calling a public hospital, did they call for an ambulance. If you are from such a country, or even if you're not, please make a note of the number 112, which is the EU wide emergency number and where you can ask for an English speaker to get the help you need, not just for others but for yourself. My husband and I are very grateful to his fellow pilgrim for helping him and hope their camino was everything they had hoped for.

This is a great post... wish we had read it 4 years ago! My 63 year old, super fit and healthy husband slipped in the shower ( how cliché ) on our third day on the Camino. He broke his hip severely. Through friends, we were able to transfer him to the university hospital in Pamplona... which was excellent in every way! We had no travelers insurance and had to scramble to pay for the surgery up front. In terms of US hospital costs it was ridiculously inexpensive... 9 hospital days and major surgery for €16,000. We had contacted our regular health insurance, Kaiser Permanente, and were told that it was very likely they would pay all costs including ambulance transport upon our return. They did promptly do that... Kaiser being one of the few Medicare plans that pays for international events. Thankfully, we were able to put the money together quickly, but it would have added another huge level of stress if we had not been able to achieve that. Now we don’t go anywhere far afield without travelers insurance. Despite swearing he’d never return to Spain, we’d traveled there many times before the Camino, we returned two years ago, started in the albergue where he fell and complete our Camino. We’re off to do the Camino Portugués in October. I hope your husband heals well... my husband’s gait is not like before... but he was able to train, carry his pack and walk into Santiago with so much gratitude.
 

lissie45

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk Frances 2019
#39
One thing that hasn't been mentioned is - that if you can make sure you have a credit card or two with a high limit on it. My partner collapsed in China - and they needed cash (yes folding stuff) up front, and then later more money which I did get them to accept an international card.

The claim was later accepted and we reimbursed when you partner is collapsed is emmergency your first thought is not to call an insurance company its to get him admitted and assessed! At least in Spain I'm sure they can deal foreign cards.

The issue we have now is that its hard to get insurance for pre-existing conditions - broken bones aren't an issue but for medical issues we will I suspect be on our own.

I'm also trying to figure out whether NZ insurers will count walking 800km across Spain as an "adventure sport" or not?
 

nidarosa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes please!
#40
@lissie45 - call them and ask. My husband's insurance was for 1000+ metres above sea level, but they waived the 'in a group' requirement when I told them how the camino works. I recommend everybody call their insurers to make sure they are covered for the right things!

We will be renewing our insurance in the next month before going back to Estella one year on. We plan to visit the hospital to thank the nurses, doctors and staff for their help and care, and will be walking towards Santiago together this time. Looking forward to being back again with an almost-good-as-new husband!
 

KJFSophie

My Way, With Joy !
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014 & 2015 ) ,Via San Francesco, Italy (2017 )
Camino Portugese (2018 )
#41
@lissie45 , "

I'm also trying to figure out whether NZ insurers will count walking 800km across Spain as an "adventure sport" or not?

Like Quote Reply
I was told by my travel insurance provider that if travel was on a 'clearly marked, well travelled path, without obstacles requiring skill and specialty equipment ( ie: mountain picks, rope, axe, etc...) , then it is not considered 'adventure sport'. I think if it ever was disputed, one could offer the hundreds of octogenarians that have walked camino as evidence? :)
 

lissie45

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk Frances 2019
#42
@nidarosa I will if I manage to find anyone who will cover his cardiac issues at all - I just got 42 days in Asia with an extra premium - but I think the longer time frame in Europe is the problem. I very much doubt that the 1000m exclusion would stand up in NZ insurance ombusdman with something as "normal" as the caminio. Its not mountain climbing or anything close.

Which is the other issue - though its lovely to think you could take out insurance as soon as we pay for airfares - the reality is that no medical dr will sign clearance to travel certificates until the last minute- its sometimes literally been hours before we got on the plane before I got cover - it's a right pain
 

lissie45

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk Frances 2019
#43
I was told by my travel insurance provider that if travel was on a 'clearly marked, well travelled path, without obstacles requiring skill and specialty equipment ( ie: mountain picks, rope, axe, etc...) , then it is not considered 'adventure sport'. I think if it ever was disputed, one could offer the hundreds of octogenarians as evidence? :)
That sounds reasonable - plenty of evidence on Youtube to be found LOL Or a link to this forum!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances planned for October 3-mid November (2018)
#44
I used World Nomads (edit: while recently) in Guatemala and will continue to use them. You can even get travel insurance once you've started your "travel". Buy it today. Never had to use it but it gave tremendous peace of mind as I climbed and trekked volcanoes more than a few times in a 7 weeks. I would never consider traveling without it - I'm in my early 50's and it was very affordable.
 

rappahannock_rev

Anglican Catholic Priest
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes, Burgos & SdeC 77 (by train); Frances 12, 15 & 17; Finisterre 17; Lourdes & Aragones 18
#45
I used World Nomads (edit: while recently) in Guatemala and will continue to use them. You can even get travel insurance once you've started your "travel". Buy it today. Never had to use it but it gave tremendous peace of mind as I climbed and trekked volcanoes more than a few times in a 7 weeks. I would never consider traveling without it - I'm in my early 50's and it was very affordable.
Big World Nomads fan. saved my bacon once!
 

lissie45

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk Frances 2019
#46
I used World Nomads (edit: while recently) in Guatemala and will continue to use them. You can even get travel insurance once you've started your "travel". Buy it today. Never had to use it but it gave tremendous peace of mind as I climbed and trekked volcanoes more than a few times in a 7 weeks. I would never consider traveling without it - I'm in my early 50's and it was very affordable.
The reason they are cheap is that they have this huge loophole in their policies. They don't cover pre-existing conditions - except for the normal low risk list that everyone covers. This from their fine print

If you have a pre-existing medical condition that is not covered, we will not pay for any claims arising from or exacerbated by that pre-existing medical condition. Furthermore, other people listed on your Certificate of Insurance will not have cover for their claims relating to your excluded condition.

The way I read that - even stuff you may not really worry about - like my degenerated knees - could make it easy them to decline a claim because I say sliipped and fell and broke an arm - based on the fact my knees were a pre-existing condition.
 
Thread starter OLDER threads on this topic Forum Replies Date
LesBrass Medical issues on the pilgrimage 34
Wokabaut_Meri Medical issues on the pilgrimage 64

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