Race to Buy Travel Insurance for East Asia Adventure

April 2, 2024
Photo credit: nicki-eliza-schinow-BjJP2TN8WoI-unsplash.japanjpg

On April 10, Series 5 of ‘Race Across the World’ will be hitting screens in the UK and also thrilling expats, if they can view this travel-themed challenge online.  But what will this season’s paired-up couples have to face, as they traverse six different seas and eight national borders, with very little money and no smartphone?

All we know so far is that the race will start in Northern Japan and end in Lombok in Indonesia.  This means contestants could be travelling through South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and perhaps Singapore.

If a standard traveller were doing this, they would first need to check the number of days they would be away and then opt for a worldwide travel insurance policy to suit their trip’s requirements. This could be a single-trip policy or, if they thought they would be packing their suitcase for more than this East Asian extravaganza in the course of a year, an annual multi-trip policy.

Travel healthcare and trip cancellation risks

The next consideration, given the region involved, would have to be given to healthcare precautions.  This part of the world is known for diseases spread by insect and tick bites, such as malaria, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever and dengue fever.  A traveller would need to organise vaccinations and anti-malarial drugs treatment well in advance of departure.

The programme producers point out that this is a geographical area that skirts the “ring of fire” – a part of the world with high-levels of volcanic and earthquake activity.  This would typically be another good reason to buy travel insurance from Europesure, so that any cancellation or curtailment of a holiday, brought about through such situations, did not result in financial loss.

Photo credit: Tom Bixler-9CAa-_DbD61 Unsplash

Terror threats to travellers

Travelling to any country is best done in conjunction with an online visit to your home nation’s government website, to view what country-specific advice it provides.  If you are a UK national or UK expat, this is likely to highlight a much-enhanced terrorism threat against British nationals at present.  It pays to understand how to best act in the event of terror attack but also to consider a terrorism disruption extension to your travel insurance policy, as provided by Europesure, so that there is added protection in the eventuality of a terror incident affecting your destination or your trip.  More information can be found in this blog.

Some of the countries on this Race Across the World itinerary would be considered high-risk in terms of terrorism, with Indonesia (including Bali and Lombok) and Malaysia having groups with affiliations to religious extremists.

Theft risks during holidays and trips

Other risks are also commonplace in this part of the world.  Food and drink spiking is one of them, as criminals seek to take advantage of tourists by stealing from them or sexually attacking them.  Being careful about the alcohol being bought is also important as there is always a danger of some spirits having been mixed with dangerous methanol.  Only buy from a reputable place and check bottle seals.  Avoiding cocktails and spirit-based drinks also makes sense.

Another common issue is that of pickpocketing and, in particular, bag-snatching, whether that is done whilst a tourist walks along a street or rides in a tuk-tuk.  Cross-body bags offer more protection but people can be dragged along by criminals on motorcycles.  

One of the issues with this is that many of the countries in East Asia will expect you to carry your passport with you, which often means having some sort of bag.  Trying to keep things hidden on your person is the best solution, whilst not putting passport, money and valuables in one place is another.

Credit card fraud and scams at ATMs are another common issue and care has to be taken when exchanging money, making sure that an outlet is licensed.  Other scams involve keeping hold of a passport when a customer rents a motorcycle and then not showing a willingness to return it, until money for some alleged damage or other incident is paid.  Never hand over your passport in such a scenario.

Local customs and laws

Learning about local customs is extremely important in this part of the world and also appreciating that there is typically a no-tolerance attitude to drug use is key.  Extreme penalties can result if there is any evidence of involvement with drugs.

Some customs and social rules may also tighten within Muslim countries in East Asia during Ramadan, including dress codes that may already be strict in terms of what needs to be worn on the streets, around religious sites and in public.  Wearing beachwear is likely to be frowned upon at all times in many countries, even if you are making your way back from a swim.

During Ramadan, however, don’t eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public, even if sitting in a car and be extra careful about how you dress, choosing modesty at all times. 

Also, if you are a same-sex couple or even unmarried couple (in some countries) be very careful about your actions and displays of affection in public.

In East Asia, some countries have strong rules relating to the purchase of animal products that are associated with the illegal elephant or tiger trades, so steer clear of such goods.  

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In Singapore, you will receive an on-the-spot fine for littering and if you leave any graffiti there is a harsh punishment.  There is also no smoking in public parks, on beaches and by some waterways.  Smoking is also illegal on the streets of Tokyo and some other cities in Japan.

Photography can also land you in hot water in several countries in East Asia, if you photograph people, monks, bridges, army bases, government buildings, or airports and transport hubs.

Weather risks and country-specific threats

Weather risks relate to monsoons and typhoons, which can lead to widespread flooding and landslides.  Add this to the earthquake risk and there is a lot to think about. Weather conditions should always be monitored, if venturing off the beaten track.

There are other country-specific risks that might see you needing unexpected elements of your travel insurance protection. For instance, in Sabah State in Borneo, Malaysia, there is a risk of kidnap in a certain part of the country, with tourists abducted from beaches, resorts and boats.

In both Vietnam and Cambodia, landmines present a threat to safety, so tourists should not venture off main thoroughfares, if possible.  

In general, the road transport system in many of these countries is fairly basic and dangerous, so anyone travelling by car needs to be extremely careful. 

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Travel scams

Every country has its own form of ‘scam’, often intended to trap unsuspecting tourists.  In some places, these are centred on venues such as tattoo parlours and beauty salons.  In Singapore, there is a particularly nasty scam in which someone approaches close up and then claims molestation, threatening to go to the police unless money is handed over.  Keep your distance from strangers on the streets, wherever you travel and don’t get drawn in by actions they may take around you.

Sporting activities and travel insurance 

The contestants in Race Across the World typically like to enjoy their experience by taking time out to indulge in sporting activities.  If you are an independent traveller, you too might be tempted to do this but do check that your travel insurance policy will cover whatever it is, before you go ahead and do it.  This is particularly vital in the East Asia part of the world, where many activity providers will not have the right safety equipment or licences in place to ensure your safety.

One particular black-spot for such things is around the Mekong river in Laos, where white-water rafting, kayaking and tubing are all on offer.  The Europesure Travel Insurance policy encompasses many activities but some policies will not and there are certain rules which apply to such activities. This may relate to being supervised whilst doing them, having a qualified instructor, not taking part in a competition and wearing protective safety gear whilst participating.  Some of these may not apply, if you are in a rural location or one with little sports infrastructure, so don’t take part, if you have doubts.  For some sports, there may also be no personal accident benefit included with your travel insurance cover, so think carefully as to whether the lure of the activity is actually worth the risk.

Doing your homework before exploring another country is key to having a safe and enjoyable experience, free from friction or run-ins with local authorities or communities. Remember that Race Across the World contestants may well be warned about such things off-camera – a luxury you will not have when you travel.

Be alert, aware and respectful of other cultures and their social rules, monitor your environment constantly and do not lower your trust barriers. If you to this, you should find that an adventure across East Asia can be exhilarating. Just make sure you organise those all-important vaccinations and buy the right level of travel insurance for your trip and its various risks.  For help with that head to www.europesuretravelinsurance.com

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