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Germany and Europe has become a different world. Not only as a result of the first major terror attacks in the United States, followed by regularly recurring attacks in public places, including North America and elsewhere.
But for me also of looking more critically at differences of life in general in North America as compared to my former (long-ago) homeland Germany.
In Summary: In my 52 years after having left it, (that is 43 years out of Europe), living, working and travelling in North America (US, Canada, Mexico) I have seen so much, met so many different peoples, and had so many unbelievable experiences that if I would even consider moving back to where I came from, it is like shrinking my brain from it’s now large size to a small pea, or having to wear some giant Scheuklappen [blinkers]. It’s all a matter of perspective.

TRAVEL TIPS.
Nonetheless, Visiting Germany one can be assured that most everything works efficiently. Not anymore their public transit system, because of shrinking public roads and excessive automobile traffic. And so many people. As a Canadian, I can say that, because we have hardly any population in the second largest country.

Good city maps are always tough to get on the Internet, in fact the ones you find are more or less useless. So, on arrival in any city in Europe first thing ask for city maps and regional maps.
I arrived Frankfort Airport. To get to Wiesbaden is easy: From the Airport Terminal 1 take the S-Bahn (Rapid Transit) S8, also works S9, to main train station, from there find the Bus to get you to your address. Free WiFi at Frankfurt Airport may work certain areas only. I got a copy of the entire transit network in Canada from the Internet: http://www.rmv.de, Regionaler Schienennetzplan and Schnellbahnplan.

The day of arrival I prefer to pay a one way ticket for the Bus, to first get to the wherever one resides. After that I buy a monthly bus pass. Strangest thing is, one enters a bus in the middle door, the driver does not care to see your bus pass. But beware, any control and you don’t have a pass, can cost 100$. In Hessen, Rheinland-Pfalz, I bought a monthly bus pass for the region Wiesbaden-Mainz, it includes also the S-Bahn.The monthly bus pass also includes the city of Mainz across the river Rhein, best to use is S-Bahn.
Mobile phone (in Germany called ,Handy,) setup is easy. Enough options offered by competing network servers with SIM card, special outlets or super markets or other stores. Buy the plan with the SIM on arrival.
The nicest thing about Wiesbaden are it’s many hot springs (Thermen) and Spa’s. There are many in this entire Rhine-Main region, which rests on a thin earth crust, therefore the many natural hot springs. Thousands of vineyards, good wines, too. Germany’s largest river Rhein offers plenty of river cruises starting Mainz/Wiesbaden along this most beautiful stretch of Germany, up to Cologne.

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Propaganda or eyewitness news ?, which in other words means my own personal experiences. Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) was an equivalent to today’s citizens’ control and spy organizations, but operating within a fascist dictatorial rule, like in Nazi Germany. Nazi derived from National Socialist, the type of government under a dictator, subjecting citizens to very strict rules of obeisance. The only rule under the Nazi regime was: If you are NOT with us, you die. The punishment of choice was the guillotine (head shorter). During those times of WWII, a large number of extremely dedicated SS officers were needed for this Gestapo to function like a well oiled machine to keep the population under control. Control being the operative word. The Gestapo being the enforcers. Since they mostly operated enforcing their terror on civilians (the regular German army was at the Front, Russia) this had been even more traumatic, especially to small children. In order for this system to function as well as it did, an important aspect of it was the reliance on certain dedicated Nazi citizens to report on others, like neighbours, friends, even family. That is exactly what happened to us, my mother, sister and myself. A neighbour in our building, probably a superNazi, called in to the Gestapo reporting that my mother forbade us children to say Heil Hitler in school. I was 5 years old at that time. One day, our door bell rang, there were two Gestapo officers at the door, came in, checking out our flat even the attic, they thought my father who at that time was at the Russian Front, was hiding somewhere. Because my mother had two little children, that saved her life. Later that afternoon she tried to commit suicide, taking pills. I’ll never forget. And all this in the middle of the war, being subjected to daily and nightly bombings. Question remains: “What is so different now compared to then, with Government spy organizations controlling and terrifying citizens ?”

Located in Lower Saxony, Germany. Early history shows human settlements in and around before 12000 B.C. The actual town began to develop around the 9th century, early founders two Dukes of the Welfen Dynasty, and growing as a merchants’ town. During the 12th century the most powerful noble Henry the Lion (Heinrich der Löwe), Duke of both Saxony and Bavaria, founded not only Braunschweig with its many interconnected market towns, but also Munich, Lübeck and Lüneburg. Interesting to note: His father in law was King Henry II of England. By the 19th century Braunschweig was made capital of an independent Duchy. Braunschweig’s centre piece the Saxon lowland Castle (Burg) Dankwarderode from the 12th century exists today restored. Reconstructed during the 19th century and major damages suffered during the war.

The interesting part is about the Lion statue, which was built in honor of Duke Henry the Lion in the 12th century and erected in the center square of the Castle. It is the largest and oldest preserved bronze sculpture of the middle ages. The original Lion – to prevent from being destroyed during WWII – is now inside the castle museum, and a replica erected in the castle square.

The legend of the Lion: Henry the Lion went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. From there he brought a lion back with him. When Henry died 1195 the faithful lion as a result refused all food, and died at Henry’s grave. I was born in Braunschweig, and left my home town in Fall 1961. I remember from this Lion saga, that as children (not during the bombings of our home town but after 1945) we went to the Castle. At the large front portal there were large it appears claw marks in the stone, marks – the story goes – were made by the lion.

Brauschweig also has a dark past. Adolf Hitler who came over from Austria in 1913, paid deciding visits to Braunschweig in the early 1930th, starting the “brown” wave of the Reich and was made a German citizen February 1932 in Braunschweig. Which led to Hitler become Chancellor of the German Reich (consolidation of Austria, Germany and who knows else) on 30 January 1933. Not too late to revoke this “citizenship” thing ? [ http://www.spiegel.de/international/revoking-the-fuehrer-s-passport-hitler-may-be-stripped-of-german-citizenship-a-471168.html ]

Between September 1943 and April 1945 Braunschweig suffered at least forty large Allied bombing raids by the British AF and the American USAAF mostly B17 bombers; the worst October 1944 by 233 Lancaster bombers, destroying 90% of civilian targets. The American bombers focusing onto industrial sites. April 12, 1945, followed the invasion of the 30th US Infantry Division in Braunschweig. Subsequent occupation by British forces. I know, I was there, five years old then. [British Forces Germany, permanent deployment to end by 2020. As of 2015 there were still over 5,000 troops in Germany.].

Today’ Braunschweig: largely reconstructed areas, rebuilt formerly historical quarters, modern buildings, some ridiculous American inspired funky buildings, and populations having moved here from anywhere in the world.

Part II of Budget Travel blog. [https://renataveritashistory.com/2017/02/09/travel-on-a-budget/ ]

Home away from home. This post on cheap Transportation, excludes car rental. Besides standing by the road with your thumbs up referred to as hitch hiking (which I did in the past several times, long illegal and very dangerous); when on vacation transportation is one of the most important requirements. Even if someone rents a car.

Usually I research transport facilities prior to departing. Get my metro, bus, sky train maps, be prepared. In fact get my city maps immediately after my flight arrives. Of course if you go on a package trip with all included and some guide takes care of you, no worries, but I am independent and like to be prepared.

Example, Spain, Alicante, Arrive from Berlin, masses of travelers inside the arrivals hall of the airport, standing in line for car rentals. I walk out of the arrivals, across some street to the other side, there is the public bus. Cheap and no delay.  

Well, travel on a budget for me does not include Taxi for that matter. Too expensive, too unsafe. A few times I had nightmarish experiences with taxis. In fact, in many countries – even Europe – there are advisories against taking a taxi. Taxis only if there is (which is the odd times) a woman driver.

Good example, St. Martin, in the Caribbean, a tiny island shared by two countries Netherlands and France [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Martin ]. I spent some time there shortly after the big volcano Montserrat eruped in the 1990s. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/05/volcano-earthquake-caribbean-montserrat-maarten ]. I was in a resort on the French side of it. Wondering why there were so few tourists despite it was summer season. {Because of this major eruption.} One day, from St. Martin I tried a trip to the Dutch side St. Maarten, Philipsburg.

Went with a guy who gave me a ride in a truck. To get rid of that type, I simply slipped away inside a store. But needed a ride back to my resort hotel St. Martin. There was this very nice local cab driver lady who gave me a ride. I did not have much cash money on me. As I speak French, it was easy. I offered her all my French Francs for the trip, not much, she took it. What a decent thing to do ! When coming back, met some Americans who told me they spent US$20 the same trip that cost me couple of dollars. There you see !

Marrakesh, Morocco, took a taxi to the major Square and walled in Souks, Jemaa el-Fnaa, but had I not been able to speak French, they would have driven me to doomsday that day. If in Tunisia, or Morocco taxi drivers will drive you anywhere you do not want to go.

In Europe anywhere we have very good, efficient and reliable transportation systems. No need to do extensive research. Get a map, get costs for bus passes (cheaper than single trip), mostly also try to get discounts. I always do. Including train. I love trains. Always prefer the train to anything else. Cheap, fast, easy ! Any major airport to any town or city usually has an express bus system, but check for trains – they are much less expensive and usually reliable.

Except – can happen – when in Monte Carlo, Monaco, trains fell out, waiting hours, finally a special train from Prince Albert II, Principality of Monaco, was installed and all of us got back to Cannes, France. Things happen, not always only in London, when the Tube strikes.

Canada has a large rail system (close to 50,000 km to traverse). Primarily today for commercial freight transport: CN (Canadian National), CPR (Canadian Pacific) Railroad. VIA Rail is for passenger transport. A private corporation operates the Rocky Mountaineer rail system. After thirty years in Canada, in 2008 for the first time I took VIA Rail from Quebec City to Montreal. Late Fall. It was cold.

Mexico for long distance travel, their bus system was one of the best. Big comfortable coaches, separate washroom for ladies, gents, and each passenger got some lunch and water included in the price. TVs each isle. Local buses not so good, old and outdated suspension systems, watch your back.

Further back in time, I took the train from my hometown to Berlin, during the time of the Berlin Wall and the DDR (GDR). Berlin lies at that time in the Russian zone. All trains were special trains with special bars for windows and underneath the train also, to catch those who tried to escape the Russian zone into the West. At stops along the way, the VoPos/Volkspolizei came in to check passengers. At that time it was always a good idea to keep your mouth shut, else you end up being pulled from the train and put into a Soviet DDR prison.

Also during that time took the train from Munich to Zagreb, then Yugoslavia. Long trip, many countries to traverse. Was like in the movie Dr. Zhivago, passengers with all sorts of farm animals, no room, one had to sit on a suit case all that long trip. Usually in those Eastern States people speak also (besides Russian or Serb Croatia) German or French. When taking a train into the country side from Zagreb, I had a Serbo Croatian dictionary with me. Not realizing that most peasants could not read.

Good tip: Before travel to Europe best not to purchase any rail passes. They are cheaper on location. Plus, often rail lines have special deals. Europe, trains are a wonderful alternative. Locally Bus systems are preferred. Certain other countries outside of Europe, wait times can be very long. Never traveled to any country where I did not find public transit maps and schedules at the airport on arrival or any train station. Also check not only government trains systems, but also private companies operating trains (like in Italy).

Travel on a budget

Home away from home. This post on food and vacation rentals.

Though I hate to generalize, but I can safely say – after traveling alone most of my life – that no matter if you find a way to “travel on a budget”, this only works if you NOT travel alone. Almost all accommodations advertise “sleeps 3, 4, 5, or even 12” (whatever that means). The odd times, I can find “sleeps 2”. Never once seen “sleeps one person only”.

Rule of thumb: As a single traveler you usually pay more. This applies to renting vacation accommodations. [Cruises, you always pay double.] However, even the odd time I found vacation rentals for 500 a month. Lots of ‘foot work’ to dig that up. Mostly it is much more.

I am considering for example the Bahamas, because it is half way between the Pacific Coast where I live and Europe, where my family lives. Plus, it is pleasant climate and few restrictions for Canadians. In the following link [ http://www.bahamasonabudget.info/ ], someone implies that “
One of the biggest costs away from home is
food and drink” (quoted from that web site). No matter which country you travel to, from experience I found that accomodation is the most expensive item when traveling. Food is not. Having a decent “roof over your head” is priceless and costly. Unless you travel in a group (most people do not) and share with half a dozen others. What kind of fun is that ?!

Eating out in restaurants on the other hand can get pricey. Because of service costs. While food items bought in super markets, grocery stores, any kinds of markets, is cheap. No matter which country one travels to. Mostly it is much less expensive than the city where my home is. The other reason I do not eat restaurant food is, that I am a good cook and do not trust what others present me with. Drink likewise. Anywhere in the world, one bottle of good wine cannot be more expensive than 20 or 30 dollars (in a store), in fact in Europe more like under ten . Restaurant ?, try get a glass for that.

Conclusion. To save while traveling: try get accomodation/vacation rental with at least a small kitchen. Try, not to eat street food in certain countries. Make sure the food you buy is clean. Wash your own laundry. Do your own cleaning. Find the best deals where to buy groceries and a decent cup of coffee. [Example: Here in Cannes, Côte d’Azur, one bistro asks 5 for one cappuccino, next door it is 2.50]. To look at (food) cost of living, first thing I do is check out how much a cup of coffee and specialty coffee costs. [Transportation = next post.]

1967 was the year the World Wildlife Fund Canada was founded, Toronto ON. It became a member of the worldwide global network of the WWF, which came into being April 1961, in Morges, Switzerland. 2017 will be the fiftieth anniversary of the WWF. In recognition of this and the tremendous effort and work of this organization, its members and contributors and supporters were asked to write a personal story about the year 1967. “Where were you in 1967 ?”

In my case, the year 1967 was very special. In January 1967 I got married to a Dutchman. Living in Holland and working for the European Space Technology Centre (ESA) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. In June that same year we took a vacation of two weeks to Varna, Bulgaria, the Black Sea. Just shortly prior to that, the six day war had broken out in Israel, the conflict between Israel and the Arab countries.

[ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-Day_War ] Our plan had been to take a boat voyage across the Black Sea to Odessa, at that time still the USSR (Soviet Union). But because of the war, European nationals were not allowed into the USSR, because Russia was pro-Arab, whereas Europe was pro-Israel. Particularly the Netherlands.

Therefore, instead, we took the boat from Varna to Istanbul, Turkey. That crossing was not easy, it was rough. Istanbul in contrast was a wonderful and exciting cultural experience. That same year 1967, late in September my son was born. Making him next year also fifty years old, the same age as the World Wildlife Fund of Canada.

Of course during those years and living in Europe there was no such thing as wildlife. The best we came up with had been house pets. My caring for wildlife and the environment started in North America, when completing my graduate studies at Syracuse University, New York State. My major projects were on environmental information systems, in particular the United Nations Environment Programme. It was also during that period that I became aware of the problems our oceans are facing. The period was 1974. And today ? we hear the same. Nothing much has been accomplished as of yet. Keep up the good work for endangered wildlife species. It may be hard work, but it is worthwhile to never give up the fight.

Is this really true ? I plan to test this assumption. For most of my life I have worked with computers, since the beginning of the sixties. The old IBM machines we worked with often needed special attention, like actual manual manipulating. Later main frames, system development, programming, big main frame conversions, IBM and VAX machines, all languages, up to creating the first ADABAS/NATURAL fourth-gen language systems. My job. Then following the laptops, all Windows systems, starting with the Windows 1, later XP (my favorite), then installing the 7, now Windows 10. Piece of cake installing and converting from one to the next. In between, adding one Apple iPad. Just working with devices of course cannot prevent dementia in later life. On the contrary. Versatility of feeding your brain, thinking for yourself, overloading yourself with not just stereotype Internet junk, and spoon-fed dictionaries. Versatility for me includes also reading a book, writing and publishing on the Internet, playing chess daily, and never relying on anybody else to do any thinking for me. The best ‘brain-food’ is languages, preferably more than just one (or as we always say: English, Irish and Rubbish). Plus, travel comes cheaper when speaking the language of the guest country.

To retain memory function, why not try remember all international phone numbers, all passwords without ever once having to look it up. That’s what I do. In other words, practice your brain like doing physical exercise (mine is swimming, and cycling and walking). Next year will be my eightieth. Hoping for myself to still have a nice healthy and well-functioning brain.

From the Mayo Clinic:”dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. Typically, dementia is always assigned to “the elderly”. Those whose memory often goes back over seventy years. [Remember: “A victim never forgets.”]. The dementia described by the Mayo Clinic, however, fits almost 100 % of most young people. Texting on their devices, pulling down dictionaries to complete entire phrases without ever having to think for themselves, or addling their brains with drugs. Good luck to you all !

Travel medical insurance – how to get better deals. Usually and in general travel emergency insurance is more expensive when purchased in North America before going on a trip – let’s say to Europe. I suspect that this is caused by high third party liability provisions, when something goes wrong (in other words legal action). For my international travels I purchased all my insurances online. They are large insurers, but come with a price. When in Europe and an insurance case arises while out of country I experienced the biggest frustration not so much with the insurance coverage, but with the inability to contact the emergency phone numbers for such cases. And this has nothing to do with the mobile phone technology used to get through to wherever these insurances have their headquarters (usually somewhere in USA, Canada or out in virtual space). When an emergency arises and you are somewhere in Europe or in North Africa, or (God forbid in Timbouktou) and must rely on a mobile phone, no such luck to get through to an insurance who – in the worst case – gave you an international “call collect” number. Examples: Travel Guard. I had bought expensive coverage. When in Berlin on one occasion I needed to contact their emergency number. Of course at a time when they (in that case in Canada) are reachable during their office hours. It should be noted at this point, that when anywhere in Europe and renting a temporary vacation home the only phone one has is a mobile (cell) phone, even if you rent for several months. That is expensive in terms of air time. The person at that Travel Guard insurance who is on call took his sweet time to respond. In fact this particular incident I never got anybody to answer my call, only some music playing. That cost me 20. Forget it ! Subsequently cancelled this  insurance, requesting a full refund. Then bought an insurance in Germany for the remaining several months stay, same or better coverage, for 130 (instead of the initial C$2,000).  For several trips within Europe and North Africa I then bought a travel emergency medical insurance with a trip package (examples: one month Tunisia, one month Morocco), insurance per one month trip only around 100. Another example: Pacific Blue Cross, head quartered Vancouver, BC. Gives you a collect number to call (within 72 hours of an emergency). Some online travel insurances provide an “international toll free number”. Do not expect to be operational in any country where the mobile phone provider has overriding airtime authority. Check out this one, sold in North America and offering world-wide toll free numbers [ http://infomarket.avoxi.com/International-Toll-Free-Numbers.html? ]. This is a ‘cloud communications’ provider. Of course, enough customers may fall for this, order this package, subscribe to it, then arrive overseas and discover the pitfalls. Remember, CEO and founder David Wise is in South Carolina, possibly never visited any country to test his system for functionality. When in Europe a visitor must abide to the federal or local rules of mobile providers of the country visited. International toll free numbers work in North America and Mexico. Worst contact phone number that any business or your Bank can give you prior to travel are “call collect” numbers. By the time I am through an automated answering system (in Canada) my mobile phone service times out.

My advice: Buy travel medical emergency insurance from within the country you visit. Or else, do not buy any, pay a doctor or clinic, usually way cheaper than anywhere in North America. I never had any problems with any European travel insurance provider. You can usually trust them.

 

Why I support organizations like the World Wildlife Fund is simply because I was surrounded by wildlife for so many years . I lived by myself in the Kananaskis Country of Alberta and later in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains for over twenty seven years. With my horses and cats to keep me company. Before arriving in Canada – from the United States – in 1976, I had lived in cities, mostly Europe. I also did not have the luxury of growing up in a “Huckleberry Finn kind of childhood”, like Monte Hummel, President Emeritus & Chair, Legacy Giving, World Wildlife Fund. On the contrary, when I was two years old, World War II had started in Europe, and our country during the bombardments in the years 1940 until 1945 was completely destroyed. Not the kind of childhood one likes to remember, but must. Being in Canada and reminded of the war regularly.

Not long ago I received a book from Monte Hummel titled Wintergreen, Reflections from Loon Lake. I did not even know where Look Lake is: “Loon Lake is a resort and vacation/retirement community off Highway 97 just north of Cache Creek in British Columbia, Canada.” In it, he wrote: “To Renata Sch., I hope this little book reminds you of an important place in your life.” [signed: Monte Hummel]. It sure does, to me always Alberta comes to mind, although since 2002 I have resided in British Columbia. The memories of Alberta and my animals are so strong that I even have ‘AB with a banner and the wild rose’ tattooed on my leg, together with a horse, and a dream catcher. Among others.
My large piece of land in the foothills was bordered by miles of Crown Land. My nearest neighbor almost a mile. To get groceries I had to drive with my truck into town, one hour. In winter the snow was at times five feet high and trees down. I always had to take my chain saw with me and cut myself out of my place, to even get anywhere. Of course, being alone has also its draw backs, many accidents, no medical services anywhere. I survived !
In winter, my resident moose cow came by, she always had her calf near my home. Lots of white tail deer abound. We also had the occasional wolf, bear, and cougar. The grizzly bear, dangerous. I recall a particular incident when I had to drive though the bush with my 4-wheel drive truck to the little saw mill to pick up lumber for my fences. Arriving at the site, I did not see the usually present lumberjack. All was deserted. The only thing I noticed was a yellow wildlife service tape strung around the trees, KEEP OUT sign. Grizzly Bear. In fact, a Grizz had taken down a cow and the fresh kill was still there. On my way up to the saw mill I had also met another truck with two guys – white in their face – leaving at high speed from the opposite direction.
Many times in winter and summer I rode alone with my horse, through bear country. Important is, to make some kind of noise, if it’s only singing. I never had any bear spray on my. Useless anyways. In the high country, when I see fresh bear scat on the trail in the bush, I quietly get out and on my way, return to where I came from. Reason is, that my horse can easily get scared, dumping me. Not a good idea, with a large animal that is scared of a mouse.
One such incident in the Kananaskis: A lady rider with her horse, running into a cougar, the horse bolted, turned and she was thrown. The cougar – being a cat – then jumped the horse and injured the poor animal seriously. I saw the horse later in the barn. The rider had been lucky.
I also had a cougar den at the other end of my property – half a mile down – where I had done some logging. With my horse, I just get out of the way.
Smaller animals, we had plenty. Including a visitor who arrived at my house and played on my porch one winter, a snow white weasel, beautiful creature
[ http://www.aitc.sk.ca/saskschools/animals/weasel.htmla ], not shy at all. And in my large pond a family of musk rats. My duck family returned annually in spring to have their babies on my pond. Usually they have seven, which is typical I suppose. Where they hang out in winter, I do not know. At this elevation, snow usually started around Thanksgiving in October, and often stayed until beginning of June.
What I learned about wildlife is, no wild animal is really dangerous or harms you, if you treat it right and with respect.

As travel as a pastime, entertainment and necessity has become one the biggest ticket items sold and bought on the Internet, particular by a large seniors’ population, who incidentally require more than anybody else PEACE OF MIND (Oh my God, maybe I suffer a stroke while enjoying myself in a foreign country !), Insurance companies are advertising and selling at all cost and pressurising travelers to buy travel insurance. Sell at all cost, make as an agent your (who knows) 40% commission, but under no circumstances provide the most needed coverage to some poor sod who happens to have travelled out of country. Is travel insurance then useless ? unwanted ? not needed ? not necessary ? I would say so. Today when everything is bought and sold online, how do insurances make money ? They make money on the people who never use it. [ quoted from http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2013/05/24/the-travel-insurance-scam-read-this-post-before-you-book-your-next-trip/ ].
Point in case: Travel to Europe. Spend several months. Before leaving, buy some travel insurance package, including cancellation insurance, emergency medical insurance, delayed or lost baggage. The insurance company will provide an emergency phone number for the traveller. As you know, in Europe almost no one uses any landline phone, everybody is on a mobile phone (or as we call it: cell phone). Meaning expensive air time and roaming charges. When calling from Europe to North America, where these insurance agents physically reside, nothing but problems with their CALL COLLECT or TOLL FREE phone number (that would only work in North America). Call Collect works in misterious ways. A traveler has a medical emergency and needs to phone the insurance within 72 hours of that incident. If that person ends up in a hospital, a payment out front must be made (give me your credit card!). If that poor traveler is unconscious, he or she will most probably lie in some corner in the hospital, never waking up. Meanwhile the period of 72 hours to call the Travel Insurance overseas, has passed, and the policy is invalid. My recent case: I just spend three months in the South of France, using my cell phone with a French SIM card, that when used costs me a fortune, even if I would ever reach some call collect number. It would be an anwering machine, and waiting times at least ten minutes, costing from Europe like €20 at least. No matter, what kind of contact number the insurance gives you, there are still air time and roaming charges. Call Collect always costs the caller. [ http://www.howtocallabroad.com/qa/toll-free.html ] While international “Toll Free” numbers may work for the insurance company who sells them (usually residing North America), but not for the international traveler who tries to use them. All those (emergency call) numbers offered by North American insurance companies are foremost controlled by the country where a traveler currently resides.
Before leaving I had bought at Pacific Blue Cross $878 travel insurance for three months to cover emergency medical, and cancellation. When I needed them, using their Medi Assist call collect number, no contact, no way to reach them, my service provider hung up. Meanwhile I could have used a small amount (like not more than €50 to pay for a Doctor or Pharmacy). For the Pacific Blue Cross I tested their phone numbers after my return, typical wait times were way over ten minutes. The travel insurance industry has figured out that according to statistics – comparing insurances sold and emergencies covered – it has become extremely profitable to sell travel medical emergency insurance.
As mentioned before, insurances make money on the people who never use it. BTW – delayed or lost baggage is covered by the airlines.