Walking through arrivals at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, I bypassed the luggage carousel (I was traveling carry-on only) to be the first in line to get my passport stamped. And there I stood for over ten minutes as five customs officials sat looking at me, then looking at each other, then back at me like it was their first day on the job and they didn’t know what to do next.
Eventually one motioned me forward. I handed over my passport, he gave me the cursory glance and asked if I was there for business or pleasure. Business, I replied. He nodded. Gave me my passport and I was on my way.
“Approaching the exit doors, I could already see the panicked look of the baggage ‘helpers’ as they quickly tried to think of a way they could help me with only one bag.”
Approaching the exit doors, I could already see the panicked look of the baggage ‘helpers’ as they quickly tried to think of a way they could help me with only one bag. As I walked out, my face felt like it was melting, not unlike when you open the oven and a blast of hot air hits you. I passed the first baggage helper, he didn’t say a word. Then the second, and a third. Nothing.
As I approached the fourth, I noticed he’d made more of an effort in his appearance and unlike the others, he smiled. Looking at me and realizing he didn’t have an immediate solution, he simply reached into his pocket and offered me a cigarette. This was my guy. I asked him if he spoke English, he did and introduced himself as Asim. For the next 4 days, he would be my guide, translator and getaway driver.
“Of course I mean taxi driver, but you wouldn’t know it the way he drove. His car had two gears. Fast and Faster.”
Of course I mean taxi driver, but you wouldn’t know it the way he drove. His car had two gears. Fast and Faster. It also concerned me that sometimes he would turn the steering wheel and about 3 seconds later, the car would turn… All taxi drivers in Pakistan wear the same uniform: Black pants, white shirts, and blindfolds.
I’m kidding, they don’t all wear white shirts… As we swerved across 3 lanes to merge onto the freeway, I kept telling myself that it was fine. I had travel insurance if I needed it. We came to a screeching halt next to a street vendor where Asim informed me I’d have the best food I’d ever taste. Having splurged on dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s London House just the night before, I had my doubts.
As travelers, we’re constantly reminded that things aren’t like they are at home. We’re not in Kansas now. Customer service is sometimes poor or non-existent, food hygiene is sub-standard, vehicle maintenance is lacking and road safety is dicey. There are quite literally risks around every corner, yet we insist on traveling.
“There are quite literally risks around every corner, yet we insist on traveling.”
Why? Why not? For me, travel’s the ultimate feeling of freedom. It broadens the mind in ways no classroom, photograph or documentary could ever recreate. I travel to experience the sights. The sounds. The smells. The extremes of hot and cold. To meet new people and to learn new cultures. I travel not to take risks, albeit carefully chosen ones.
But one risk I will not take is traveling without travel insurance.
Insurance is for everyone, no matter where they’re going, or how much they’ve traveled in the past. I’m an ex-soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m also a former Bodyguard and a Security Advisor. So I know a thing or two about risks. Years ago the price of an insurance policy was astronomical. The people selling them should’ve worn masks, it was quite literally daylight robbery. Now, the daily cost is equivalent to a cup of coffee, from your favorite franchise.
“I’m an ex-soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m also a former Bodyguard and a Security Advisor. So I know a thing or two about risks.”
Statistically it won’t be a major event that you’ll need your policy for. Travel insurance covers your laptop when it gets stolen, your camera when it breaks, your flights if you need to cancel them and yes in the unfortunate event that you break an arm or a leg, you will be covered for overseas medical expenses. If you don’t have travel insurance, you’re going to be out a lot of money. The question you should be asking yourself is not can you afford a policy, but can you afford not to have a policy!
The truth is, no-one anticipates falling ill or sustaining an injury while traveling, but unexpected emergencies happen, daily. I am the CEO of an international travel, medical and assistance company. We’re who your insurance company calls to assist you when you make a claim.
Unfortunately, we also receive hundreds of calls per year from people, who do not have an insurance policy, who quickly realize the extent of their mistake. A medical evacuation can cost upwards of $50,000. And no, that’s not pesos. That’s US dollars.
Please don’t travel without travel insurance. Choose your insurance provider wisely and read your policy carefully to ensure it is right for you. Most reputable companies will allow you to cancel within 14-days if the policy does not cover what you need it for.
I’ve researched different policies by different companies and for me, World Nomads is the best option. You can buy or extend your travel insurance online, from anywhere in the world, even after you’ve left home.
Especially if you’re traveling to a remote region or an area with increased political tension, you should protect yourself with Global Rescue. Get immediate access to security and medical advice and assistance, including individual and group evacuation.
This card is a medical ID and photo ID card all in one offered by my company, Nomad SOS. It provides first-responders with all of the critical information they require if you are involved in an accident and unable to speak for yourself. It also includes the emergency contact details so medical staff can alert your family/friends if you’re not able to. I personally carry and use this card as photo ID on the road rather than risk losing my driver’s license which can be impossible to replace when traveling.
Danny Kaine is an ex-soldier, global security advisor and CEO of Nomad SOS, an international travel, medical, and security assistance company. Follow him on Twitter @TravelRisks