Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WWOOFing Insurance

Trying to decide on what insurance to get for my trip has been a bit of a nightmare!

I have my new EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) which replaces the E1-11. My bike is covered, under the house insurance policy, for theft from anywhere in the world. Piece of mind, of sorts, but what about all the stuff I will be taking with me?

There are plenty of companies out there offering travel insurance but most have a limit on the amount of time you can be out of the country. Some say no more that three trips in any calender year and for no longer than 90 days in total. Clearly no use to me as I will be going for much longer. Others don't offer anything longer than 12 months but even then you have to return home when your policy expires and take out a new one. Also no use to me as it will not be practical to return home. It is possible to find 18 month cover with a few companies, but again, you must return home to renew your policy. Useless.

Having researched maybe a dozen travel insurance companies up to this point, I then chose the three which appeared closest to suiting my needs - then I read the small print. It turns out that none of them are of any use whatsoever! The reason being, in order to make a claim, any stolen items needed to have been securely locked up in the first place. All items are only covered if they are taken from a locked hotel room or locker. I will not be staying in hotels and I will not have access to any lockers. In short, even if I did take out an insurance policy, I could never make a claim.

At this point I then made the decision to travel without any additional insurance, as there seemed little point. If my stuff was to get stolen I would have to replace it all out of my own pocket anyway, so I decided to save the money on insurance and put it towards an emergency fund instead. I didn't like the idea but didn't know what else to do.

Next I turned my attention to volunteer insurance. Essentially that is a basic form of public liability insurance covering you if you damage or break anything whilst staying with a host in their home or on their farm. Many WWOOF hosts insist that you have some sort of volunteer insurance for this purpose.

As with other travel insurance, many companies include volunteer insurance within their policies but, as often seems to be the case, the small print renders many of them useless if you actually want to make a claim. For example, some state that you are not allowed to do any building work of any kind or use farm or plant machinery. Both understandable, I suppose, but then they also say you are not allowed to be up a ladder above two metres. Now it was getting ridiculous again. I can't be doing with all that rubbish. As I often find with insurance companies, you can pretty much guarantee that anything you wish to claim for is not covered. Yes, it is in the small print of course, but trawling through 47 pages of 6 point type gets pretty tedious even before the end of the first page! Plus you often need to have a dictionary to hand to even understand half of what they are saying!

During the course of my earlier research, I had stumbled upon a company called OVEuropa and knew they did volunteer insurance specifically for people WWOOFing. I decided to read more into what they had to offer. As it turns out, what they offer is pretty much all you might need.

"OVEuropa is a registered non-profit association that was set up in 2006 in response to various volunteer groups (WWOOF, SE7EN, HelpX, Workaway, Ecoteer and others) which had recognised the need for an insurance that would provide protection for both volunteers and their hosts.

The association was formed and first registered in Italy in 2006. In October 2011 the Association was transferred to the United Kingdom and is now an incorporated not for profit association."

You can read the finer details of their plans on their website and I have included links to each policy here:

OVEuropa provides three insurance plans.
Basic: Volunteer, Accident & Illness
Intermediate: Basic + Travel
Full: Intermediate + extended Medical & Travel

Of course you should consult their website regarding exactly what each policy covers but the cost of each plan is as follows:

"At €35.00 per year, the Basic Volunteer plan is the one required by most WWOOF organisations and Hosts as it will provide you with medical and accident cover whilst you are volunteering and also covers the hosts for any accidental damage you might do to their property."

"At €7.50 per week (€390.00 per year), the Intermediate Plan gives you all the benefits of the Basic plan with extended medical cover plus travel insurance to cover you for delayed or missed travel arrangements and theft of luggage and personal belongings. Unlike the Basic plan which is only valid when actually on a farm the Intermediate plan covers you on holiday, while travelling and between farms."

"At €12.00 per week (€624.00 per year), the Full Plan gives you all the benefits of the Basic and Intermediate plans with extended third party liability, extended medical cover, increased travel cover for cancellations and curtailment and larger amounts for theft of luggage and personal belongings."

I thought it pertinent at this point to email them asking questions specific to my needs.

Is cycle touring, as the main method of transport between host farms, covered?
Yes and No. The medical, accident, personal valuables cover are valid regardless of the method of transport used and should your bike be destroyed in a road accident then as a personal possession you would receive compensation up to the limits of your policy but this insurance cannot be considered the same as motor vehicle insurance where you are covered for liabilities on public highways. That is a specialised form of cover that we cannot offer so you may want to consider some form of "vehicle" insurance for your bike touring.

Would my personal belongings be insured if attached to a locked but unattended bike? (I cannot take all my clothes and everything I own into a shop with me when purchasing food for example).
Yes. With the intermediate and full plans you are covered against theft. You are expected to take all reasonable precautions to protect your belongings against theft or misfortune (after all it is in your own best interests) but as you point out you can't be expected to take all your possessions into a shop just to buy a sandwich.

Would my personal belongings be insured if left inside a locked but unattended tent? (If spending a day in a campsite, I might wish to go sightseeing and cannot take all my clothes and everything I own with me when doing so. The bags would be locked and the tent would be locked in a registered campsite).
Again Yes, as above.

If I have a crash whilst touring (either I fall off my bike and damage my clothing and bags rendering them useless, or someone, in a car for example, crashes into me and I need to replace lots of my stuff), are the costs of purchasing new bags/luggage/clothing covered?
Yes and No with conditions. If you have an accident on your own that causes damage to you and your belongings then you are covered up to the limits on your policy for your bike, your possessions and any medical expenses you might have. If you have an accident that is someone else's fault (the car drivers) then our insurance is secondary. That means that you must first claim under the car drivers insurance for the full amounts and then to us if the car drivers cover does not indemnify you for the full amount. If you have an accident involving other vehicles and it is your fault your costs would be covered but there is no cover for the other people involved. As I said at the beginning you would need road vehicle cover for that.

Can I re-new a policy or take a out a new policy whilst on the road, without returning to my home in the UK?
Yes, you can extend and renew online.

Do I need to receive anything in the post or can it all be done and activated online?
It is all done via internet. After you sign up we will send you your cover letter as an attachment to an email.

To me, all these responses seem very reasonable and their prices are compabale with the best offers I got from other insurance companies. The main difference here though is that OVEuropa seem to be a fair company and seem likely to make the process of making a claim, as straightforward as possible.

Having finally found decent insurance, with what appears to be a decent insurance company, my mind is now at rest :)


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