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Madagascar – Advice for Visitors and Travel Insurance

Posted on February 16th, 2011, Jean. Filed under Backpack Travel, Holiday Destinations, Student Travel, Travel News,

Madagascar is a name that conjures up magical images of an island inhabited by mysterious plants and creatures that are found nowhere else on earth. 

Thanks to the efforts and documentaries of David Attenborough and other naturalists, those not lucky enough to be able to visit in person are able to glimpse into this amazing world of bizarre insects, lemurs and baobab trees. 

The computer-animated DreamWorks film of the same name, with a cast of former zoo animals shipwrecked on Madagascar, stirred the imaginations of kids (and kidults) everywhere.

At the time of writing, the island is affected by tropical cyclone ‘Bingiza’, with heavy rain causing flooding in the north.  The cyclone seasons runs from approximately January to March and mainly affects coastal areas.

At the end of February 2011 the Malagasy Embassy in London is scheduled to close with visa services transferred to the Malagasy Embassy in Paris.  (The Republic of Madagascar was formerly known as Malagasy. Malagasy is the native language; French and English are also spoken).

Some political unrest has been reported in Madagascar, but at the time of writing there are no government advisories against travel in effect. In particular, the situation in the capital, Antananarivo, remains unstable and visitors are advised to avoid any political gatherings or crowds.

Visitors are advised to travel with an established company or travel firm who have knowledge and experience of the island and the political situation.  Those travelling alone should monitor media reports for updates.

According to the FCO there is a significant crime risk in Madagascar and muggings and robberies, mainly involving passports and money, do occur – not just in major towns but also on beaches and in the nature reserves. Pick-pocketing is common and visitors should be vigilant in crowded places.  Particular caution is advised if going out at night, especially alone.  Other important FCO advice includes;

  • International driving license required to drive in Madagasca
  • Avoid causing offence regarding ‘fady’ restrictions
  • Export and import of items is very strictly monitored
  • Tourist visas can be obtained upon arrival
  • Passports must be valid for minimum six months with two blank pages
  • Visitors are required to have a return air ticket
  • Visitors must carry identification at all times
  • Drink boiled or bottled water and avoid ice
  • Important advice re changing money
  • Note: local BMOI bank does not accept Thomas Cook travellers’ cheques
  • Vaccination and health advice
  • Take precautions against mosquito bites

Medical facilities are limited and anything other than routine procedures requires evacuation to La Reunion or S. Africa.  It is, therefore, very important that visitors take out comprehensive travel insurance which includes medical evacuation by air ambulance and medical repatriation (ours does!).  Check that your policy has sufficient levels of cover for medical emergencies and covers your planned activities.  Many of our policies include cover for mugging, and natural catastrophes such as earthquake, fire, hurricane and flood.

For further information visit our Travel Guide to Madagascar and follow the link for the FCO for their updated travel advice. 

Flickr cc Image: Frank Vassen (White-headed Lemur)

Egypt – Change in FCO Travel Advice

Posted on February 16th, 2011, Jean. Filed under Holiday Destinations, Travel News,

As the situation has improved greatly since the resignation of President Mubarak, the Foreign Office (FCO) no longer advises against all but essential travel to Luxor. 

The FCO continues to advise against ‘all but essential travel’ to Alexandria, Cairo and Suez.  However, they no longer advise British nationals who do not have a pressing need to remain to leave these cities when safe to do so by commercial means.

Continue to monitor FCO travel advice for further updates or changes before booking any travel.

Be aware that booking travel or travelling to a country after a government advisory against travel has gone into effect could invalidate related claims on your travel insurance!

UEFA Away Matches February 15 & 17 2011

Posted on February 15th, 2011, Jean. Filed under Europe, Sports, Travel News,

There are several football away matches scheduled for this week:  Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) play AC Milan in the Champions League.  In the Europa League Manchester City play Aris Salonika and Liverpool meets Sparta Prague.

Fans travelling to European away matches to support their clubs should check the Foreign Office website for their valuable advice provided just for football fans.

15 February:  Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) meet AC Milan at the San Siro Stadium in Milan. Kick off 8:45 local time (7:45 UK time).

15 February:  Manchester City is away to Aris Salonika at the Kleanthis Vikelidis stadium in Thessaloniki.  Kick off 7pm local time (5pm UK time)
Important:  Special arrangements have been made by the Greek police for tickets to be checked at a location away from the stadium several hours before kick off

17 February:  Liverpool play Sparta Prague at the Generali Arena in Prague (aka AXA Arena or Letna Stadium).  Kick off is at 9:05 pm local time (8:05 UK time).

Advice for fans (provided by the FCO) includes:

  • Passport and visa information
  • Carry a photo ID with you at all times
  • Getting to the Stadium and public transportation information
  • What to expect at the stadium
  • Tips to stay safe
  • EHIC and Travel Insurance advice

When travelling to away games in Europe, even for just one night, the FCO advises fans to take along their (free) European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but to also take out travel insurance.

If you do not have travel insurance we would be happy to provide a quote.  Our rates for single trip insurance are very cheap – from just £4.19 – which is about the price of a pint in many places these days!

Flickr cc Image: timparkinson

Tips for Your Ski Holiday and Ski Insurance

Posted on February 14th, 2011, Jean. Filed under Airlines, Europe, Ski Holidays, Travel News,

There are some things that you may not think to check before booking your ski trip.  They may not be obvious, or become an issue, until it’s too late. Here are a few of our tips:

  • Check the elevation of your ski resort before booking.  If you plan to go very early or late in the season it may be wise to choose a high elevation or glacier resort to maximise the chance of good snow conditions
  • Check the resort’s website thoroughly before you book to make sure it offers all the activities you need.  For example: there are a few resorts in North America that do not permit snowboarding, i.e. Alta and Deer Valley resorts in Utah, and Mad River Glen in Vermont.  (We double-checked and this is accurate at the time of writing, but check for updates)
  • If going as a family, check that a resort is child-friendly with plenty of amenities, day care/nursery, and a good ski school
  • If booking your own flights, check the airline’s baggage policy regarding the carriage of ski equipment.  If traveling as part of a package it is still a good idea to check that you will not be hit by the airline for additional charges for your ski equipment.  Always read the small print!
  • Check the helmet laws, as in many resorts helmets must be worn by children under a certain age – and it is a good idea to wear them anyway no matter what age
  • Check the availability of ski passes – and if other nearby ski areas are included

Once you get there:

  • Always ski in control and avoid alcohol – or, if you must, save it for apres ski.  In some resorts you could be stopped for speeding, and breathalysed, possibly resulting in confiscation of your ski pass.  Remember that intoxication (alcohol or drugs) could result in the denial of any related claims on your ski insurance
  • Pack plenty of sunscreen and lip protection and purchase good quality sunglasses and goggles to protect your eyes.  Leave those petrol station cheapo sunglasses at home
  • Pack some chemical hand/foot warmers for a quick warm-up 
  • Carry your mobile phone with you when skiing and check out the latest ski apps for added fun.  Access to your phone in an emergency could save lives 
  • If you are a EU national and traveling to another EU country, apply for the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).  However, this should not be used as a substitute for comprehensive travel/ski insurance.

The EHIC entitles you to free emergency medical care in a state-run hospital only.  If you should be unconscious and taken to the closest private hospital your charges would not be covered without separate medical travel insurance. The EHIC also does not cover medical repatriation if you should be injured or become ill (or worse) and need to be transported home by air ambulance or stretcher or means other than a seat on a commercial flight  

You get so much more cover for your holiday with a ski insurance policy so please, always, always, take out ski insurance!  

If you purchase your ski insurance elswhere, pay special attention to the section regarding medical expenses and the levels of cover, and check that emergency medical repatriation is included.  Also check that costs of a mountain or helicopter rescue are included.  Other benefits of ski insurance include cover for loss or breakage of your ski equipment – and ski hire to replace them; ski hire if your own equipment is delayed or misdirected in transit; ski pack (tuition, ski hire, ski pass, etc.); delays due to avalanche.

We hope you choose us for your ski insurance but, no matter where you purchase it, always take a minute to check that it covers everything you need.  For a quote click here.

Clickr cc Image:  Joe Schlabotnik

France – Nice Carnival 2011

Posted on February 12th, 2011, Jean. Filed under Europe, Travel News,

What better way to chase away the winter blues than with a colourful and musical carnival.  The annual Nice Carnival takes place this year from Friday, 18 February to Tuesday, 8 March. 

For a taste of the atmosphere have a look at this video from 2009:


We’ve noticed quite a few cheap travel deals popping up on the internet.  If you can get away why not bag a bargain trip and jet off to the sunny French Riviera and join in with the fun. 

The theme for this year’s Carnival is King of the Mediterranean.  Carnival events include the famous Flower Parade and Parade of Lights and there are guranteed to be hundreds of musicians, dancers and entertainers to keep the energy level buzzing. 

According to the official Carnaval de Nice website, tickets can be purchased at the Visitors Bureau at 5 Promenade des Anglais, or at temporary locations along the parade route up to two hours prior to each event.  The celebrations go on day and night so there’s no excuse to be bored. 

Nice is close to many other wonderful places to visit along the Cote d’Azur, so you could always take day trips to places like Monaco, Cannes, Antibes or Grasse.  The annual Menton Lemon Festival (Fête du Citron) coincides with Nice Carnival. 

For a travel insurance quote to make you smile – click here.

Valentine? Anxious Traveller WLTM Secure Partner

Posted on February 11th, 2011, Jean. Filed under And Finally..., Backpack Travel, Student Travel, Travel News,

Are you an anxious traveller seeking a stable and secure partner to provide peace of mind on your trips and holidays?  Well, forget the personal ads and look no further…. 

We hope to impress you, but we will not even try to compete with the amazing display of this Bird of Paradise!

We have been in the travel insurance business for more than 15 years and pride ourselves on our great rates and customer service.  We are sure to impress you with our cheap rates for all types of travel insurance, and not just on Valentine’s Day but all year round.  We’d like to say a big thank you to all our customers – and we hope you continue to choose us!  

Valentine’s Day is a great time to treat that special person in your life – if you are lucky enough to have one.  However, don’t forget to spare a thought for friends, relatives, or the elderly who may be alone and perhaps ill or feeling sad.  A phone call, card, or some flowers could really make their day.

We have cheap rates for all types of travel insurance (including ski/snowboard, seniors, backpackers, and motorcyclists).  There’s no need to risk being alone during a breakdown either - we also offer Vehicle and Motorcycle Breakdown Cover! 

Why not give us a look over and obtain a quote - click here.

Happy Valentine’s Day! - from all of us here at Travel Insurance Direct.

Worried About Exams and Afraid to Book Travel?

Posted on February 10th, 2011, Jean. Filed under Backpack Travel, Student Travel, Travel News,

It’s always a problem for students – having to worry about exams and whether it’s wise to risk booking any travel in case a re-sit becomes necessary.  In these tough financial times who can afford to lose money on airline tickets and other travel reservations. 

We have good news! Our Backpacker travel insurance policy includes cover for Cancellation and Curtailment in the event of failed university (or equivalent) exams. (Curtailment means having to cut short your trip). 

To qualify under this section of the insurance the exams must be recognised by an approved examining body.  Also, the date of issue of the policy must precede all examination dates relating to the failed course or exam.  That’s it.

Our Backpacker policy saves you money by skipping the things you probably will not need (such as cover for a lot of personal effects and baggage).  The cost of this insurance is very cheap – from just 20p per day – so there is no excuse to go without! 

There are four levels of Backpacker cover: Basic, Light, Standard, and Premier.  Our Basic Backpacker policy provides needed cover for the all-important and potentially expensive travel mishaps such as medical expenses, medical repatriation, personal liability and legal expenses. 

Catastrophe cover is included with the Premier policy (i.e. earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, storm, etc).  You can opt for more cover, depending on which level you choose, so it is up to you to decide which best fits your plans and needs.

To obtain a quote for our Backpacker insurance click here  (click on ‘Levels of Cover’ for more info). 

Good luck – and keep your fingers and toes crossed!

Flickr cc Image: Thanks to Pete  at  comedy_nose

ATOL Protection – Good News for Holidaymakers

Posted on February 5th, 2011, Jean. Filed under Airlines, Holiday Destinations, Travel News,

The government has confirmed that plans are in the works to provide holidaymakers with better protection against financial loss in the event of failure of a travel company. 

The ATOL insurance scheme (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) is to receive a much needed update and overhaul designed to provide better protection to holidaymakers. 

This is welcome news indeed, especially for those who prefer to purchase their flights and accommodation separately online (the so-called DIY holiday), rather than purchasing a package holiday.  At the moment the ATOL scheme only covers those on package holidays or travelling on chartered flights.

Travel companies will also be required to give clearer information to customers regarding ATOL protection.  This should help to prevent the problem of customers purchasing a holiday that they believe is a package holiday when legally it is not and therefore not covered under ATOL.  

The government is looking for ways to cut the deficit and lessen the burden on the taxpayer.  Currently, ATOL licensed businesses pay £2.50 for each booking, which goes into a fund to cover a travel company collapse.  (This amount was increased from £1.00 to £2.50 in 2009).   The funds are used to refund or repatriate customers stranded overseas – which can be a costly business.  The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) runs the scheme and issues the licenses.

The government will be consulting with member of the travel industry in the next few months and it is anticipated that changes will be implemented by the end of this year – hopefully, in time for the peak 2012 summer holiday booking period.  Airlines are currently exempt from having to hold an ATOL license, but any package holidays sold by them must be protected.  

Where the unwary customer often gets into trouble, as things stand at the moment, is when they purchase a holiday from a tour operator where the flight and accommodation are purchased separately on the customer’s behalf.  What the customer may not be aware of, and may not be told, is that this type of arrangement is not legally a ‘package holiday’ and therefore does not carry ATOL protection. 

For more information, and to check whether your tour operator is ATOL licensed, visit the CAA website – click here.  Or visit the Department for Transport Website (dft.gov.uk).

For a travel insurance quote click here.

Tunisia – FCO Lifts Ban on Non-essential Travel

Posted on February 4th, 2011, Jean. Filed under Holiday Destinations, Travel News,

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has published updated travel advice.  They no longer advise against all but essential travel to Tunisia.

Visit our Travel Guide and follow the link on the page for the FCO Country Advice for Tunisia to check for the latest situation and any updates.

For a travel insurance quote click here.

Global Travel Agency Ltd. Has Ceased Trading

Posted on February 4th, 2011, Jean. Filed under Airlines, Europe, Holiday Destinations, Travel News,

London-based Global Travel Agency Ltd. folded this week. They specialised in Goa holidays as well as holidays to Spain, Egypt, Greece and Turkey. 

Note:  This company is not connected with Global Holidays or Global Travel Group.

Customers with package holidays or aspects of travel booked through the Global Travel Agency, or those currently overseas with them, should visit the CAA website for further information and a claim form – click here.

London-based Rion Travel (also trading as Caribbean Vacations and Barbados Vacations) also failed during January, along with Leeds-based Grus Travel (Australia/New Zealand specialist), and Leicester-based Oriental Panorama.  Click on the CAA link (above) for further information.

For a travel insurance quote click here.

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