The question is not whether to get travel insurance, but rather, which one is the right travel insurance to get. We know that when planning a trip, any extra expense can be daunting. But in the end, travel insurance is so worth it that we view it as a necessity.
From getting sick, to having a medical emergency, to breaking to camera, to having your luggage stolen, travel insurance is the only answer to all your travel woes. In the end, it really is more of a financial safety net than an expense. On the road, you’ll hear a lot more desperate people lamenting that they were too cheap to buy insurance than you will hear lucky people lamenting their decision to buy it. It’s just not worth the risk.
So, now that we’ve surely convinced you, let’s get down to brass tacks. With so many options and so much fine print, there’s a lot to consider when buying an insurance plan. It can be overwhelming, to say the least. Here’s what to look for the right travel insurance:
1. What should be covered
A good travel insurance policy will always cover the following items. If you’re considering a plan that is missing items from this list, you should go elsewhere with your money.
Your plan should:
Cover most countries in the world
Include some coverage for your electronics (with the option for a higher coverage limit)
Cover injury and sudden illnesses
Include 24-hour emergency services and support–you don’t want to be put on hold or told to call back later when you’re in an emergency situation
Cover lost, damaged or stolen valuables like jewellery, baggage, documents, cameras, etc.
Cover booking cancellations (hotels, flights, etc.) if you have a sudden illness, death in the family, or some other emergency
Cover emergencies, unexpected danger in the country you are visiting, etc., that cause you to head home early
Have financial protection if any travel or transportation company you are relying on goes bankrupt and you are stuck in another country
2. High coverage limit on medical expenses
A good company will offer you coverage up to $100,000. You can find a lot higher, but this is a good baseline that indicates a solid plan with reliable coverage. A high coverage limit is essential because if you get seriously sick or injured, which can happen at any time to anyone, especially on the road, you want to make sure that your hospital bills are covered. If you cheap out and get a $15,000 limit, and then break an arm, you can exhaust that coverage before you’re completely taken care of. You’re going so far as to get coverage, so go all the way. Be responsible, don’t risk your health or your life, and go for a $100,000 coverage minimum.
3. Emergency evacuation
Make sure that your plan covers emergency evacuation with a coverage that has a separate cap from your general medical expenses. If you are out in the woods, climbing a mountain, or in any remote place and have a medical emergency, you need a plan that will get you to a hospital quickly without using up your coverage. Also double check that this coverage will include evacuation to your home country. Don’t risk getting stuck in a foreign place in dire straits because you ran out of money. Look for a plan with separate emergency evacuation coverage with a cap around $300,000–emergencies are expensive and unpredictable.
4. Be prepared–know your plan & your medical history
Insurance companies won’t cover you for for pre-existing conditions or general check-ups in a travel insurance plan. For example, if you have diabetes and need to buy more insulin, you will have to pay for it yourself. If you want to go see a doctor for a general check-up, you aren’t covered either. This is more for emergency situations.
Don’t purchase travel insurance thinking it’s a replacement for your general health care. Get all of your general physicals and check-ups done before you leave your home country. Travel insurance is accident insurance, not normal health insurance.
5. Pay attention to what’s not included
Most travel insurance policies do not cover accidents resulting from extreme adventure activities (ex: hang gliding, paragliding, or bungee jumping) unless you pay extra. If you know that you’re going to be participating in extreme activities like this, we strongly recommend that you consider paying for extra coverage. Don’t cheap out when it comes to your health and safety.
The majority of companies won’t cover you if you injure someone on the road (called third-party liability). Insurance plans generally won’t cover alcohol- or drug-related incidents, or obvious carelessness in handling your possessions and baggage. You won’t get reimbursed if the problem happened because you were reckless (how “reckless” is defined is a matter up to each company). Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean you can be a dummy with impunity.