Travel insurance is one of the most important aspects to consider when planning your trip. It wouldn’t make sense to drive a car without car insurance or own a home while neglecting home insurance. In the same line of thought travel insurance is a necessity when you chosose to travel.
Why should you get travel insurance?
Firstly because solid travel insurance will provide you with medical coverage if you suddenly get injured or fall ill, because nobody plans to get hurt or sick while on vacation, it just happens.
Travel insurance plans can cover stolen or broken belongings or expensive electronic devices. Depending on the insurance company and coverage plan you choose, you may be partially reimbursed if you should lose or break a pricey piece of equipment, think electronics such as your phone, camera etc.
If you find yourself at the receiving end of a telephone call or email of the death of a family member travel insurance insurers can help you return home for the funeral.
Should your flight is canceled or your bags are lost or stolen, travel insurance will provide coverage to help replace your belongings.
Travel insurance is an emergency coverage system that you will hope you’ll never need to use but be extremely grateful and relieved when you do! From our personal experiences and those of the stories of our friends, family and acquaintances we can collectively agree that acquiring travel insurance is essential for any trip.
Don’t cheapen out and leave home without it. Choosing the right travel insurance will help you when you need it and bring you peace of mind that should you require assistance, help is on the way and you won’t be emptying your bank account. Access to insurance coverage can cost just a few dollars a day, so why wouldn’t you go for it?
You never expect something to wrong until it does
It’s easy to think nothing can happen but it’s always the case until something does happen.
Jonas was covered under travel insurance when he received a serious concussion while snowboarding in Whistler that rendered an emergency ambulance and a journey to Vancouver. He needed it again when he broke his elbow mountain biking and needed surgery. Not only did his insurance company pay for a private car from Whistler to Vancouver but also a business class ride back to Belgium as well as covering the costs for surgery and physiotherapy.
On my convocation day someone ran over Jonas’ foot and we made another visit to doctors and later the hospital. This incident was covered by the driver’s insurance but Jonas’ travel insurance also made it clear that they would pay for the medical expenses should the driver’s insurance been unable to.
Travel insurance allowed our friend get be transported from La Paz, Boliva to Lima, Peru and medical assistance by helicopter after he experienced severe altitude sickness.
A friend with travel insurance from World Nomads had to airlifted while trekking in Nepal. She then received the care she needed in Kathmandu.
A friend and former classmate of mine didn’t have travel insurance and had an unfortunate encounter. He was backpacking in Paris at the time was tied up and threatened with a knife and lost his cards, cash, and phone. He couldn’t recover any reimbursement from the theft or access counseling for the mugging and assault when he returned home because he didn’t have travel insurance.
Keep in mind that many health programs won’t cover you for medical care outside of the country particularly if you are gone for an extended period of time.
Some credit cards can offer you travel insurance but often with limited coverage or restrictions. I used my American Express Gold Rewards Cards when I traveled to Montana for field class but I was only covered for 14 days. Additional days required that I take out additional travel insurance from another company (we choose World Nomads). For my field class course (I was a geology major) it was mandatory for everyone to acquire insurance before leaving the country.
What insurance options should you look for in a plan
There are a dizzying array of insurance companies out there and it may be overwhelming to sift through all the different options to find the best one for you. Then when you look closer in the fine print (yes read the fine print!) you may find restrictions on your plan that renders it ineffective or non-applicable for your needs.
Emergency Medical Expenses Coverage Limit
When searching for a plan, ensure they offer a coverage limit of at least $100 000 USD for medical emergencies. Higher coverage amounts of up to two million USD are also available at a higher price point. It is unlikely you would incur expenses up to this amount though. It’s important to have high enough coverage limits in case you are must remain in the hospital for a longer duration of time or require serious and extensive medical attention. The bills can rack up quickly for each health professional involved in the diagnosis and treatment stages. At minimum opt for at least 100 000 USD.
Emergency Dental Expenses Coverage
Nobody enjoys a dentist visit and the dentist’s office is the last place you’ll want to spend time in on vacation. But what’s worse is if you don’t have coverage for an unexpected, emergency dental treatment following an accidental injury to the face and teeth or a sudden dental illness. Don’t overlook this detail.
Trip Cancellation and Interruption
Numerous variables in our lives could collate and disrupt our well-laid out travel plans.
Trip cancellation protects you from losing those non-refundable deposits and payments before the trip. Trip interruption helps you when you are forced to end your trip earlier than expected. You can worry less about those expensive, last-minute flights home and make it in time to support your family when they sick or at the funeral.
Ensure that your policy includes coverage for emergency evacuation and repatriation of at least $250 000 USD if not more. Emergency evacuation is important if you plan to go deep in the woods or the jungle, anywhere that isn’t easily accessible and will be more costly to retrieve you from.
Not everything under the sun will be covered by travel insurance and even if it is covered, it may only be under the condition that the medical treatment is met in your home country. If this is the situation, the repatriation will take care of the expenses to send you home. On a more somber note, the repatriation clause should also take care of the expenses incurred to bring your remains home or for your cremation and burial.
What is not covered?
Often policies will not offer or provide cover medical care to incidents arising from extreme pursuits such as basejumping, backpacking, camping, or bushwacking over 6000m, bull riding and other similar activities. If they are included be assurred it will be at a premium price.
Alcohol & Drugs
Policies will generally have exclusions pertaining to cover if alcohol or drugs played a factor an injury or sickness.
Specific Medical Conditions
The medical expenses coverage of travel insurance pertains to emergency situations and injuries or sudden, acute illnesses. Chronic illnesses and pre-existing conditions are not eligible for coverage, nor are routine health exams by doctors or dentists.
You are liable for your belongings and baggage and must practice due diligence. If you are inattentive or careless and lose your personal affects then you likely won’t be reimbursed.
Third Party Liability Insurance
Third party liability insurance is often not bundled in travel insurance plans. Meaning you won’t likely have coverage for any injuries to someone else or their personal effects initiated by you sustained. For example if you spill beer on someone’s expensive lederhosen (traditional German attire) or if you accidentally scratch someone’s vehicle with your shopping cart.
Read The Fine Print
The list of terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions may be a little intimating but it’s best to still give it a read and be confident in what you’re getting.
What coverage makes a great travel insurance policy?
- Medical & Dental Emergency Expenses
- 24/7 Emergency Service and Assistance
- Emergency evacuation and Repatriation
- Pre-trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption
- Resumption of Trip (covering the cost to resume your trip!)
- Transport Delays & Missed Flight connections
- Hijacking & Other special circumstances
- Theft or damage to baggage, cash, passport, and travel documents
- Personality Liability Coverage
- Rental vehicle insurance excess coverage
List of the Best Insurance Companies
IM Global – Excellent medical coverage for expatriates or long term stays. I was covered by IMG while I lived for an extended period of time in Europe under the French working holiday program.
STA Travel – Popular with students and short trips. Cheap plans with limited coverage. They were also offered by my university and my fellow classmates have utilized their coverage.
Clements – Excellent if you have high-end electronics that need to be insured.
Insure My Trip– Great coverage and reasonable prices for older travellers and seniors.
MedJet Assist – Reputable company, membership fees, great feedback from clients.
We like World Nomads. I began using them when I went on my first solo trip in 2012 at age 19 and I continue to use them when I am actively travelling. They are a responsive, reputable company and claims are processed efficiently and easily. Purchasing insurance from World Nomads is very convenient as I am able to quickly pop into my account online and purchase, adjust, review or renew my insurance policy in under a few minutes.
They have an amiable presence on social media and are accountable to their clients. Their staff follow-up quickly on any questions and problems we’ve had through email, telephone or social media. They have excellent customer rapport and provide great coverage at a reasonable price! They are also consistently recommended and trusted by the travel giants Lonely Planet and National Geographic.
Buy Before You Leave
Many insurance companies require you to be in the country to be eligible for travel insurance. Travel insurance from World Nomads can be purchased even after you live your country of residence but there will a waiting period before coverage begins. The earlier you purchase travel insurance the better.
Tackle travel insurance as soon as you have concrete plans on where you want to go and when you plan to leave. Trip cancellation coverage is a valuable asset to have before purchasing non-refundable accommodation and activities. If a natural disaster strikes in your intended destination before you’ve purchased travel insurance then you would be ineligible to recover your non-refundable deposits. Don’t wait to get travel insurance at the last minute.
Don’t let your insurance policy lapse
It’s easy to gain a false sense of security once you stay somewhere for an extended period of time. Jonas put off renewing his travel insurance and then his insurance policy lapsed. Then of course as timing would have it he experienced acute shoulder pain and required medical attention.
Even after reacquiring the travel insurance, the waiting period for him was 72 hours and we couldn’t wait that long anymore. So we had to visit a doctor and get respective scans, spending more money than we would have liked to but that’s how easily and unexpected it can happen.
Later we couldn’t claim it because it was within the waiting period. This is because you cannot retroactively claim your appointments if they occurred before your coverage began or during the waiting period if you have already left the country. You cannot claim anything if you visited the doctor or emergency room etc BEFORE you bought the plan! You must have medical coverage before your initial consultation.
There’s a high chance that you will never need to use your travel insurance policy but you never know when accidents or illnesses will strike up unexpectedly. From our personal experiences with travel insurance on numerous occasions, I’ll definitely spend more money to have peace of mind and the assurance that comes with knowing I can afford help when I need it and won’t have to burden anyone else with it. There are many uncertainties in life, even more so when you step out of your comfort zone and being the exciting journey of navigating a new country!