5 Travel Insurance Lessons After Dirt Biking In JB

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We’ve all heard our fair share of travel insurance horror stories.

My bunch of friends and I are pretty outgoing and active, and we like to spend our weekends trying out new fun activities and sports. So being the ever-cautious and risk-calculative Virgo, I looked up what type of travel insurance to buy before an adventurous weekend of dirt biking in Johor Bahru in July.

A few things to clarify before I get to that though:

  1. I am not a licensed Class 2 / 2A / 2B rider. Neither have I had any prior riding experience except as a pillion rider.
  2. I was going with a group of 12 girls, of whom only 1 has a biking licence.
  3. Beyond some “reassuring” Trip Advisor reviews, little was known about the dirt biking company we were going to rent our bikes from
  4. The only riding “lessons” we were going to get was a quick tutorial just before our ride 

At a loss, I checked in with Cass, our in-house Head of Insurance, Cass, on what travel insurance to buy.

In anticipation of a few scrapes and bruises, she helped me suss out the most suitable travel insurance I should get for my trip, which turned out to be AXA SmartTraveller’s travel insurance And, I’m glad I did take her advice. Here’s what I learnt about travel insurance from my experience of dirt biking:

1. Take note of exclusions

When getting travel insurance, always always always check the exclusions. In this particular case, dirt biking is part of an adventurous cover that’s not included in most travel insurance policies.

At the same time, getting travel insurance with an “adventurous activities” cover also does not mean a blanket cover for all adventurous activities. That’s because of certain conditions and limitations to the policy.

Screengrab of the sporting activities covered by AXA SmartTraveller

Importantly, overseas adventure sports should never be done for a competitive purpose and should always be undertaken with a licensed operator.

2. Check if the company you’re engaging is a licensed operator

Are organised tours generally counted under generic travel insurance? 

No. We almost learnt that the hard way when my friend assumed that coverage for “organised tours” included our dirt biking session because it involved a quick tutorial session and was a guided ride all the way.

When I checked the terms, the wording stated coverage only if you are “participating in adventurous activities with a licensed operator, for leisure and non-competitive purposes”. That meant the onus was on us to make sure our dirt biking operator was legitimate and licensed.

3. Take note of emergency hotline numbers and the claims process

Importantly, save any emergency contacts on your phone in case of accidents or emergencies. Most travel insurance policies include an emergency 24-hour hotline to help you out at any time during your trip.

Biker chicks getting pumped up for our first ride

For our policy, travel insurance claims required the following information:

(a) Full name, dates of the trip, NRIC/FIN number, Policy number; 

(b) Name of the place and  telephone number that AXA Assistance Singapore (AAS) can reach you

(c) The nature of help required and a brief description of the emergency.

Having this information on hand will make you feel more assured should anything untoward happen.

4. Expect the unexpected

Maneuvering unexpected obstacles

You never know what you run into along the way. In our first dirt biking foray around the circuit, we encountered trenches, surprise mud baths and hilly, rocky terrain.

Taking a break along the dirt path

Not only that, I remember the look of fear on everyone’s faces when we realised we were going to ride manual bikes. That meant that we had to learn how to control the clutch, switch gears and brake on the bike: a process that involved simultaneous coordination across all four limbs at once. A moment of shock and horror for an uncoordinated klutz like myself.

My friend Esther, after her slippery slide into a mud pool

We knew we were covered in case anyone got injured but this was no time to be reckless. We spent time learning to control the bike on flat terrain before we headed to the dirt bike trail for our classic Lara Croft moment.

5. Consider rental vehicle excess

Halfway point — dehydrated, sunburnt and exhausted beyond measure

One of the main issues we faced was faulty and old equipment the operator tried to charge us for. 

When we checked our policy wording again, we realised that “rental vehicle excess” (what you usually get when renting a vehicle overseas) is actually coverage that is sold separately as an add-on. That said, most ‘rental vehicle’ add-ons refer to four-wheeled passenger vehicles, so it would be wise to check if motorbikes are included under the ‘rental vehicle’ clause in your travel insurance.

In the end, we managed to negotiate a lower price and come to an agreement that the damages on the bike were from pre-existing scrapes and not completely due to any accidents during our ride.

It would have been scary if the operator demanded we pay a hefty price for damages. We were stranded and in a country where English was not the main language. 

Conclusion

Scenic lunchtime pit-stop at the quarry

For a newbie like me, dirt biking was a scary, exhilarating and unforgettable experience. But, it would have been all the more gut-wrenching if I constantly had to worry about getting injured all the time while navigating the treacherous terrain.

Within our group of 13 girls:

  • one limped home with a sprained ankle
  • four had scrapes that resulted in deep purple bruises along their legs
  • at least 10 of us got pinned under the 75-kilogram 150cc Kawasaki dirt bikes at one point of time. 

But the trip was completely worth it. Our injuries became a badge of honour for conquering the dirt biking circuit in the face of fear and uncertainty. Heck, we even managed to ride back to the workshop on the main roads as if we were freshly-minted Class 2B holders!

Knowing we had bought travel insurance, those who got hurt immediately sought medical treatment upon returning to Singapore. It made me realise that buying travel insurance was a very minor inconvenience–– and a small price to pay in case of any real emergency or serious accident.

For us, AXA SmartTraveller was an obvious choice because of its coverage of adventurous activities.  All things considered, I could have come back with a broken arm (or worse) and hefty medical bills. Instead, I came back with a tan, thrilled that I chose to live life head-on, and was none the worse off barring but a few scrapes.


But wait! Before you go…

Whether you’re travelling near or far, be sure to get the right travel insurance coverage that best suits your needs.

From flight delays and lost baggage, to accidents and other unforeseen circumstances, compare and buy the best travel insurance plans with SingSaver.


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By Geraldine Mark
Geraldine has always been a mixed bag by nature. To her advantage, she has learnt how to identify connections across disparate subjects. Her interests include food and fitness. She also likes the smell of hot coffee, fried bacon and freshly-laundered clothes, in no particular order.