From the hustle and bustle of Shibuya in Tokyo to the historic streets of Kyoto, Japan is a dream destination for many Brits. However, in a country with a history of natural disasters and an expensive medical system it’s important to sort out your travel insurance before you start dreaming of ramen or bullet trains zooming past Mount Fuji.
Using Travel Insurance in Japan
Much like the UK, Japan has its own national healthcare system. The Japanese government boast of the first class treatment and affordability of the system, which has meant that Japanese people are living longer and longer.
In Japan everyone has access to healthcare insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions or economic status. Patients can choose from any hospital nationwide.
In Japan there is high-level care. Although thought of as an expensive country to travel in, their healthcare system is neither the most expensive nor the cheapest and has prices very similar to those of Australia or Canada.
All this means that if anything happens to you on holiday in Japan you can be guaranteed top quality medical care. Additionally, you can usually find English speaking staff in most hospitals.However, this system DOES mean that unless you are willing to pay upfront or can show proof of your insurance you might find it very difficult to get treatment.
It is especially important to carry your insurance documents with you either in paper format or at the minimum a copy in your email or on your phone. We have heard of customers who were turned away from hospitals, even in cases of life threatening illness, because they couldn’t show the correct documents.
Things you should look for when buying travel insurance for Japan
Valid in Japan: Obviously, the plan you purchase must be valid in Japan. There are no major plans that exclude Japan but you must ensure that you have worldwide cover or that you are planning a trip to Japan when you buy your policy.
Cancellation coverage: Make sure that the policy will cover cancelled hotel reservations and plane tickets etc.
Full medical coverage and evacuation coverage: The plan should cover all potential medical expenses, including ambulance transports which are also not free in Japan.
Lost, stolen or damaged gear or luggage: Japan is one of the safest countries in the world and it is very unlikely that you will have anything stolen while you are in the country. However, as with any trip it is better to be safe than sorry and make sure that your valuables are covered just in case you have an accident or your luggage is damaged during the trip.
Dangerous activity coverage or exclusion: If you plan to do some skiing in Hakuba, hiking the Komodo Trail or Scuba Diving off the coast of Miyako Island while you’re in Japan, make sure the plan you intend to purchase covers these activities.
Travel insurance including natural disaster cover
Natural disasters are a part of life and can hit anywhere in the world. However, Japan is one of the most earthquake prone zones in the world and its normal for travellers to be concerned about this when they book their travel insurance policy.
There is no way to be sure that natural disaster won’t strike when you are away from home but travel insurance will at least provide you with a lifeline if the worst does happen.
According to most travel insurance insurance policies natural disasters are typically defined as a “flood, fire, hurricane, cyclone, tornado, earthquake, volcanic eruption, blizzard or avalanche that is due to natural causes.” It’s worth knowing that not all policies will cover the same events, for instance, some may omit volcanic eruptions or avalanches, and it's important to note those exclusions. The recent example of the tourist caught out by the volcanic ash in 2010 is the perfect example of a case in which most tourists were not covered as the volcano was named an “Act of God”.
The term "act of God" refers to natural phenomena such as lightning strikes, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes - large-scale, freak weather occurrences. The phrase is usually used by insurance companies, and in other legal circles, to describe events that couldn’t have been predicted or prevented by any reasonable measures. For example, when the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010 delayed thousands of travellers’ journeys, many insurers refused to pay compensation under their act of God clauses. In the case of Japan, it is especially important that you check this act of God clause in your policy documents to make sure that you are covered.
As you can see below most travel insurance policies do cover earthquakes and tsunamis at a certain level of cover, but you should check your individual policy document and ask when you are buying the policy.
Remember that if the natural disaster happens before or during your holiday but was not forecast then you are usually able to claim for the following things. However, each company and policy is different and you should read the terms and conditions carefully before you buy.
Cancellation before you’ve left: If you’ve not left yet, benefits will be paid if the earthquake forces you to cancel and claim for out-of-pocket expenses.
Cancellation when already abroad: If you are within the earthquake zone you will be covered for travel and accommodation costs involved in moving you to new accommodation (if your booked accommodation is deemed uninhabitable). If your flights have been cancelled you would also be covered for any additional flight costs.
Medical costs: Should you incur any injuries as a result of an earthquake, benefits would be paid towards your treatment.
Emergency medical evacuation and repatriation: In the event that you require emergency evacuation or medical treatment cannot be administered locally, you would be evacuated to the nearest medical facility. Repatriation costs would also be covered In the event of your death.
The best travel Insurance Policies for Travelling to Japan
There isn’t one policy that we would specifically recommend for Japan as there are no special conditions currently in place for the country. However, there are some features which we would recommend your policy has before you buy.
|Max. Medical Care||Max.Cancellation||Cost Single trip||Cost Annual policy|
Firstly, a policy to Japan should include a high level of medical coverage. Although Japan isn’t as expensive as countries such as the USA it is still easy to run up a big bill quite quickly.
Secondly, make sure that your policy has a 24 hour medical assistance helpline so that you can get through to your insurer should you need medical assistance. Remember, your claim must be approved before you will be treated in Japan and it will make it much easier for you if your insurer can pay for your treatment directly.
Finally, don’t forget your ski insurance if you are going to be hitting the slopes at some of Japan’s premier ski resorts!
Insurance Case Study
Maria was on her last day in Japan when she fell down some stairs and had to go to the ER.
She contacted her insurer Allianz Travel Insurance on their 24 hour medical helpline and were able to tell her hospitals in the area and reached out to their rep in Japan to contact the hospital to guarantee payment, since payment is required up front in Japan.
Allianz called her to check on her condition and recommend paperwork she should request for travel before being discharged to make sure that her journey continued unhindered. The doctors explained that the bone was broken. If she hadn’t been covered by travel insurance she would have left Japan with a really big bill. A broken arm in Japan costs about 60,000 yen (about £420!).