I’m asked quite often about travel insurance, especially since we are constantly on the road in foreign countries. There are different kinds of policies, coverage, etc., and many things to consider.
Travel insurance isn’t just about medical care
When people ask about this type of insurance, it can be a bit complicated. There is travel insurance that covers your trip, such as flight delays, missed connections, cancellations, etc. Other types provide varying levels of coverage for health needs (more on that below), and there are policies that cover all the above plus offer reimbursement for damaged, lost, or stolen equipment.
Considerations for medical travel insurance
Many policies will only cover you if you are outside your home country. While health care in most countries is extremely reasonably priced, accidents can happen causing a huge bill. A friend experienced this in Mongolia when her son fell off a horse and broke his arm. He required a surgical repair that could not be done in the country, and he had to be airlifted to Hong Kong, resulting in a bill that was over $100,000 USD.
In addition, sometimes you can encounter other unexpected situations around a medical condition. The insurance company is better equipped to deal with visas, transportation, etc., than the average person. When another friend had to be evacuated to Israel because of an emergent heart condition, there is no way they could’ve dealt with all the travel issues involved on their own (not to mention the costs involved).
My general advice to people considering travel insurance purchase is to make sure they get evacuation and repatriation coverage. The average person will not have an issue requiring them to spend thousands and thousands of dollars, but can you handle it when the “what if” becomes reality?
Make sure to check for coverage of pre-existing conditions. If you have or have had any medical conditions, this could be very important. Most of the policies we checked out had some basic limitations, but many of them would offer coverage after about 6 months of coverage.
You’ll also want to make sure the evacuation policy covers civil unrest, acts of terrorism, etc. While it is rare, if war or conflict breaks out in the region, it can be very difficult to get out, especially on your own. If you have insurance, they can orchestrate things a lot more easily.
Check travel advisories. Most policies have disclaimers that if you are traveling to an area with a current travel advisory against travel, you will not be covered. It can happen in places that might surprise you. While we were in the tiny town of Flores in Guatemala, we discovered they were under a bizarre state of emergency. Many people had to scuttle their trips to the area because their insurance wouldn’t cover them.
Repatriation can be very important, too. You may need to be transferred to your home country for care, or you may need your body (if the worst happens) or a family member may need to be returned. As a single parent, if I developed a condition that would require extensive time in the hospital, I would need Tigger flown to the States to stay with a friend/family. It isn’t fun to consider these situations, but it’s necessary.
If you’re adventurous, make sure the policy will cover those situations as well. If you plan on driving a scooter or something similar, be aware that not having an international driver permit (even if not required by the rental company) could negate the coverage. When riding a horse, you may have to wear a helmet. Remember my friend in Mongolia? If her son hadn’t been wearing a helmet, they would’ve received zero compensation. Read the fine print carefully.
Some companies have a long list of activities they either won’t cover or a supplement is required.
When we were in Europe, we went with Seven Corners as they also provided 80% coverage for time in the US. They wouldn’t cover diving incidents without extra coverage, but we carry separate coverage for scuba anyway.
Some people carry very expensive computers and/or camera equipment with them. Occasionally theft happens, or things get damaged, and having insurance to replace them can be a huge help.
We don’t carry this type of coverage because none of our stuff is that expensive. The cost of replacement would be less than the cost of the insurance, so it doesn’t make sense for us. However, for others it’s a big help.
Many trip policies also cover anything in your baggage. Make sure what the maximum replacement value is compared to any applicable deductibles. I’ve seen a couple of policies where the maximum coverage wouldn’t even pay for my camera.
Another thing to consider is that your equipment/gear may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance. Definitely check those policies before purchasing additional insurance.
What has been your experience with travel insurance?