Most Unusual Travel Insurance Claims

13 04 2009


The Nakuru Cat Burglar is remarkable for its resemblance to the baboon. (Nakuru, Kenya)


Though I’ve had more tropical diseases than the average petri dish and once had to survive in Iceland for 24 hours without so much as a toothbrush and clean socks, I have been fortunate that I’ve only once had to make a claim on my travel insurance.


Travel insurance is one of those things that I faithfully buy but hope never to get my money’s worth from. Over the years I have probably spent enough money to pay for a pretty decent vacation, but so far apart from one visit to a doctor in London (see “How To Get A Head in Africa” 10 July 2008), I’ve never got back a penny – but I have scored a ton of peace-of-mind.


The silence at the end of the telephone line when I called the insurance company about my tick suggests it might well still be discussed around the water cooler. But I am glad to know that I am not the only one who has entertained or bemused travel insurance companies. Here are a few others that are likely pinned to a bulletin board beside Terry the Tick:



        A pensioner, whose false teeth fell out while he vomited over the side of a cruise ship, put in a claim to his travel insurers for new dentures under “lost baggage”.


        A young traveller, distracted by the appearance of a group of women in bikinis, broke his nose when he walked into a bus shelter in Athens.


        A traveller lost his wallet in a drain in Israel. Instead of filing a police report and making a claim through his insurance, he instead stuck his hand down the drain – only to be stung by a poisonous scorpion. He ended up claiming for both a lost wallet and a hospital visit.


        A man who claimed for holiday cancellation when refused boarding was turned down by his insurance company when it emerged his ticket was for a flight from Manchester, New Hampshire…not from Manchester in the North West of England.


        Returning from India, a traveller filed a claim with his insurance company for $1100 worth of “Bombay Mix” snack food that he had lost from his luggage enroute. The insurance company performed a few quick calculations and determined that at less than $2 per 250g bag, the man would have had to have misplaced more than 137 kilograms of munchies…and refused to pay.


        A couple on vacation in Malaysia returned to their lodge to find that monkeys had climbed in through an open window, stolen their clothes and scattered them throughout the neighbouring jungle.


        A family’s camping holiday was ruined when a parachutist from a nearby airbase missed his target and landed squarely on their tent, destroying their equipment. Their insurer rejected their claims as they weren’t insured against accidental damage.


And in the category of needing a vacation to recover from a vacation:


        A holidaymaker in Sri Lanka needed hospital treatment after a coconut fell on her head while she was reading in the shade below.



Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan

Lessons Learned the Hard Way – No. 45

30 06 2008


Never get dressed in the dark


I do not consider myself to be a dandy or a slave to fashion, but I do generally take an interest in my appearance and at the very least like things to match. This is particularly true when flying. My practicality prevents me from completely sacrificing comfort for sartorial elegance, but I do believe it is important to look respectable especially when presenting oneself to immigration authorities.


During a series of flights to Malaysia that had me flying via New York and Dubai in one very long day, I had taken great care in selecting my wardrobe. I wanted apparel that would not only be comfortable for my 28 hours of non-stop travelling, but would also provide me with some degree of presentability for my examination by various security and immigration officials enroute.


Very early that morning, I got dressed, tip-toed out of my home and headed off on the journey that would entail two taxis, four airports, one train, four countries and countless time zones before I’d arrive at my next bed. I checked in at the airport, cleared security and boarded my first flight. Shortly after take-off I kicked-off my shoes to enhance comfort. I bent down to tuck them safely under the seat in front of me and recoiled in abject horror.


My socks didn’t match. One was blue and the other black. I was to travel some 10,606 miles with odd socks. I was mortified. Everyone in the aircraft was staring at my fashion faux pas. The flight attendants were muttering behind cupped hands. Other passengers were moving away from me. Would the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia even allow such a visual disgrace to set foot in their countries?  


Upon arrival at my hotel at the end of my odyssey, I discovered that my unspeakable blunder was actually twice as bad as I had at first imagined, for, in my luggage, I found a second identical pair!


Post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008

Rebel Without A Pause

28 04 2008

I derive a certain spine-tingling thrill from breaking rules, scorning authority and just generally being a rebel, which is why I stood in the elevator grinning from ear to ear, having slipped past the vigilant concierge with my bag of junk food in full violation of the lobby sign that emphatically stated “No outside food in the guest rooms”.


A glamourous life of spectacularly tasteful crime clearly loomed. I could envisage a future spent abseiling from art gallery ceilings in black spandex or relieving state depositories of their entire gold reserves accompanied by vertically-challenged circus acrobats.  There was clearly no stopping me now - until my room card wouldn’t work and I had to sheepishly return to the front desk clutching my illicit food and bashfully request a new one.


Every hotel and hostel has its rules and regulations. Many make perfect sense - like not smoking in the rooms, or refraining from throwing furniture off the balcony into the swimming pool. But the sign in the elevator of my hotel in Kuala Lumpur had me stumped.


It was a small, engraved plaque fastened to the wall just above the floor buttons. It depicted something akin to a medieval projectile: a peculiar oval-shaped object with little spikes around the outside, with a line drawn through it. My elevator-mate, observing my quizzical gaze, explained that it referred to the durian - a popular fruit whose odour is so offensive that it is banned from most hotels and public places throughout Asia.


Clearly, the gauntlet had been raised: I had to have one - and in the illegal seclusion of my hotel room too!


In the nearby market I quickly located the stinky-fruit stand. Disappointingly, it looked rather innocent. The seller instantly rumbled me as a curious tourist rather than a connoisseur of his tropical wares and offered to let me try it right then, instead of going to the bother of actually buying one. Somewhat disappointed that this was cheating and would deprive me of the naughty pleasure of noxious fruit smuggling, I nevertheless shrugged my shoulders and agreed.


No sooner had his large knife penetrated the skin than the smell of victory reached my nose. My nostrils twitched. Imagine taking some very dirty and well-worn socks, stuffing them with a wretched quivering mass of rotten mouldy-onions, stirring in some turpentine and adding a hint of death - and you would be close. I suspected that its character-building scent was illegal under the Geneva Convention.


Not content with permanently damaging my olfactory senses, a small bit of its flesh was then offered on the end of his knife.


I grinned nervously, the sweat beading in my hairline. This was a living breathing Fear Factor without the bikinis or prize money. It slid onto my tongue and sat there before I quickly swallowed it whole, successfully managing to circumvent all taste buds. I smiled and nodded that it was lovely, although in fact cowardice had ensured that I discerned nothing more than its slimy consistency.


I returned to my hotel obediently devoid of durian but wondering if my nose would ever truly be durian-free again.


Post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008