A wise friend once told me that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. After many years of travel and mishaps, I agree with him. You may think that those big things couldn’t happen to you, like natural disasters, but what about something simple like getting pickpocketed or having your luggage lost?
A bit of extra money on the front end of your trip can save you a lot of money on the back end, but only if you purchase travel insurance.
What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
It’s easy to think that nothing major will happen when you’re traveling, especially if you’re going somewhere you consider to be “safe” like Europe or North America. But there are so many things that could go wrong that will be covered by travel insurance:
- Your luggage could get lost on the way there.
- Your flight could get canceled.
- Your bag could be stolen from your feet on a long train ride.
- A coup could erupt.
- A volcano could spew ash and ground all flights.
- Your home country could declare a travel warning for your chosen destination.
- You could contract an illness and wind up in the hospital.
All of these things happened to me or friends of mine within the last few years, some with travel insurance and some without.
When I first traveled in Australia, a friend of mine had all his clothing stolen off a clothesline at a hostel in Noosa. That’s something you wouldn’t think about happening, but he had to call his travel insurance provider back home, who processed his claim and later reimbursed him for the costs of buying new clothes.
It’s the situations you don’t consider that become problematic.
My Personal Travel Dramas
I’ve had bad luck with travels, including contracting dysentery in Australia, food poisoning in Thailand and almost getting stuck in Bangkok during the military coup of 2014. I was in Turkey in between large scale protests and had allergic reactions in Thailand, Turkey and Germany.
Travel is full of unknowns and while I haven’t had to make a claim thanks to generous healthcare coverage in Australia and ease of gaining treatment at pharmacies, it gives me peace of mind to travel with insurance, especially when I think about the worst case scenario.
When Do You Need Travel Insurance?
You might be wondering how long a trip should be, or what destinations should be booked, before you need to get travel insurance. I recommend buying travel insurance for any trip outside of your home country.
And, it’s good to remember that you can still get travel insurance if you’ve already left on a trip – at least with World Nomads.
Most travel insurance providers start at one week worth of coverage. You can get this amount for generally around $50 for 7 days. If you’re traveling long term, you can regularly renew your insurance so that you’re covered for the entirety.
Considerations When Purchasing Travel Insurance
Consider what activities you’ll be doing abroad, as not all travel insurance covers adventure sports (or it needs to be added on). For example, World Nomads, my chosen provider, the Standard plan covers traditional sports and activities like canoeing and dog sledding, but the Explorer plan covers ballooning, abseiling, skydiving and scuba diving.
Items you want to check for in your chosen policy are:
- emergency evacuation
- trip cancellation, interruption or delay
- coverage of baggage and personal effects
The deductible or coverage amount will differ by policy, but you want to make sure that if something bad happens, you can be taken to your home country for proper treatment.
There is also evacuation insurance that you may or may not book separately from your standard travel insurance. This covers what could potentially be a very expensive helicopter or plane ride from a remote destination to a medical facility. Consider this type of insurance if you’re doing something dangerous like climbing Mt. Everest, or planning to be in remote areas. MedJet Assist is just one company that provides this service.
Do I Really Need Travel Insurance?
You might be wondering about your personal health coverage and credit card travel insurance. Many travel credit cards also offer travel insurance, but it usually only covers items purchased with this card. Your health insurance in your home country may also cover something in other places, but you need to check before leaving the country.
How Do I Choose Travel Insurance?
Once you know what you want in travel insurance, you have to find which company and policy works best for your needs and your trip. InsureMyTrip is a good website to start with, as it provides information on dozens of providers and plans that you can compare.
World Nomads is popular among the backpacker crowd, as it provides insurance at a reasonable price and also gives back to local communities.