Imagine it is the departure day of your long-awaited and much-needed holiday. Glowing with excitement, you anticipate lazy days at the beach soaking up the sun and balmy evenings dining and sipping cocktails on the pool terrace. It never occurs to you that you should purchase travel insurance.Everything is booked and confirmed. You have your passport, airline tickets, reservations and holiday money ready. Your bags are packed with all the essentials and clothing for glorious hot, sunny weather. You take a taxi to the airport, board your flight, fly to your destination, pick up your rental car, check into your hotel, unpack, and head out to the beach to enjoy the sunshine. Easy!Two days into your holiday you have a momentary lapse in concentration while crossing the road and forget which way to look. You get it wrong, you step out, and…BAM!There you are, lying prostrate on the hot tarmac with one of your feet facing the wrong direction. Shock sets in. Strangers rush over to help. You hear someone shout:Somebody call an ambulance!You are rushed to a hospital for x-rays and later the doctor gives you the sobering news: a compound fracture requiring extensive surgery and a long recovery. They ask for your insurance details. Then, and only then, does it dawn on you that you should have purchased travel insurance. You stammer apologies and excuses: you didn’t think, you’ve been on so many trips, so many holidays, done crazy things but nothing ever went wrong before.Now what? Your treatment is going to cost a packet. You make panicked calls to family and friends at home. Someone suggests you purchase travel insurance and get covered.Yes, of course! That’s the answer. Why not. You purchase a policy online and then contact the claims department to report your accident.At this point the Claims department is none the wiser. They take the policy number and all the information and tell you not to worry. They have it in hand.The next day you receive word that the travel insurance claims people are urgently trying to contact you. You call the help line and listen to the news, then feel faint as your world starts crumbling around you.”Sorry, but we checked your policy dates and it appears that you did not purchase the insurance until the day of the accident. Our insurance requires purchase before you leave your country of origin. In fact, the time of the purchase shows that the policy was purchased after the recorded time of the accident. Unfortunately, and we are really sorry to have to inform you of this, but your policy is not valid and we cannot process your claim.”What? Say again?You hang up the phone, dumbstruck. Furious! How dare they deny your claim! You paid the premium for the travel insurance policy and they should cover you! The hospital bill is going to run into tens of thousands and you just don’t have that sort of disposable cash.In desperation you call your embassy and tell them what happened. You ask them to intervene and make the insurer pay up. They inform you they are sorry but there is nothing they can do to make the insurer pay. You are bound by the terms of the policy.How can this be? You are a citizen! What a tough lesson. If you have every travelled without insurance you may be feeling relieved that this has never happened to you. Have you ever left yourself wide open to the risk of financial disaster of this magnitude? How many times have you (or has someone you know) gone off on holiday or a weekend break without travel insurance?Still in disbelief, and kicking yourself (or you would, if not for the broken leg) you try everything you can think of. You consider contacting the financial ombudsman, television stations, radio stations, watchdogs and newspapers. You have to expose what has happened. The company has to be wrong. They have to pay up! But it is all to no avail.You become increasingly frantic as the hospital bills continue to rack up. Your loved ones try to console you, but none has the courage to tell you it was entirely your own fault. They know that no one else is going to pick up the bills for the accident.Slowly the reality dawns on you. People have explained to you over and over that you cannot wait until disaster strikes and then purchase insurance – and that includes insurance of any type – and expect the insurer to pay up.It varies from company to company, but in most cases you must purchase travel insurance before you leave your home country. Even then, no insurer is going to cover a claim for something that had already occurred before you purchased the policy!You would not purchase a car and drive it without insurance, have an accident, and then purchase car insurance and expect the insurer to cover you. Travel insurance is no different. Seasoned travellers who regularly purchase insurance will probably roll their eyes at this point, as it should be obvious.The above scenario may be fictional, but similar incidents have occurred. It could happen to you or someone you care about. Don’t be a victim. Travel insurance may not cover each and every disaster that could arise, but a good comprehensive policy should cover most common travel problems.In the above case, after being discharged from hospital in a cast the patient would likely have to be repatriated by air ambulance, or on a commercial airliner requiring the purchase of additional seats and perhaps with a medical escort. The expense goes on and on.Not only do you need insurance, but you need a comprehensive policy that provides adequate levels of medical cover – as well as cover for air ambulance and medical repatriation. When you consider the potential cost of a disaster such as this – running into tens of thousands – the modest cost of a robust travel insurance policy is something you simply cannot afford to leave home without.