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Cheap worldwide health insurance

Budget Travel Insurance 
What to look for when shopping for cheap travel insurance

It's easy to find cheap worldwide travel insurance - the question is, do you really need it?

Accidents, mistakes and sometimes even crimes do occur in every country of the world, so no matter where you are planning on backpacking, make sure you have your travel insurance in order.

Some women wouldn't dream of leaving home without it - and I'm among them - while others think it is useless.

There are both pros and cons.

And neither position is necessarily permanent. At times, those who never purchase insurance may think it's necessary, while those who wouldn't leave home without it feel adequately covered for a short trip near home.

Lets look at these pros and cons in greater detail.

Budget travel insurance: the pros

In many situations, travel medical insurance is essential:

  • if you're undertaking unusual or adventuresome activities
  • if an accident abroad would bankrupt you
  • if you have limited language abilities, since you can reach medical advice around the clock, in your own language

Budget travel insurance: the cons

Here are some of the downsides:

  • it can be expensive
  • it's sometimes difficult to understand what's included and what is not, and under what conditions (weather, war, disasters...)
  • you may never need it, so you may have spent money for nothing

Despite this I'd never travel without insurance.

Let me tell you why.

I've climbed high into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to track mountain gorillas; I've sailed across the Amazon in leaky tubs, sharing sleeping decks with passengers infected with tuberculosis; I traveled to Lebanon at the height of the war; I've taken every kind of unreliable road transport in regions better equipped with guns than hospitals. And I've always been insured.

Because if I hadn't had travel insurance, chances are I might have given some wonderful adventures a miss. I've always been happy with World Nomads, mostly because they're user-friendly and I can extend online, but also because as far as I'm concerned, they meet all my insurance needs when I travel.

Here's what your travel insurance should cover - at least

  • theft or loss of personal belongings, including important papers
  • trip cancellation
  • evacuation to a high-quality hospital
  • high-risk activities - you'll be able to handle a scraped knee on your own but not a diving accident
  • your age group (policies have a variety of age limitations, often based on your country of residence)
  • medical expenses resulting from illness or injury abroad
  • emergency dental treatment (dealing with a cavity is up to you)
  • liability insurance - in case you cause someone else harm or burn down the hostel
  • death-related expenses - burial or repatriation - not fun to think about but you have to
  • and it should be available 24/7 from anywhere in the world, in your language

After that, it's in the details. Some policies cover a visit from next of kin or compassionate emergency repatriation if someone at home dies.

Always read the fine print. Find out what's covered, and what is not. And find out how much the insurance pays, and how much you pay.

Before you rush out and buy your backpacker budget travel insurance, make sure you're not already covered! You may be, depending on where you're from, so check out the following:

  • if you have a national health insurance plan in your country, find out if it covers you abroad (and compare what is included to a private travel health insurance plan - you may wish to combine the two)
  • if you have a private health insurance plan at home, find out the same
  • your standard credit card may have some accident cover, especially if you book your ticket with it
  • check your home insurance: your belongings may be covered away from home and you may be able to get reduced insurance - covering health only, for example - as a result

Keep an eye out for...

  • beware the limitations: carefully read what the policy does not include (if you're going skydiving or bungee-jumping, you don't want a policy that specifically excludes adventure sports)
  • be especially vigilant of coverage if you're heading towards dangerous places or if natural disaster strikes
  • try to avoid buying travel health insurance from the companies organizing your trip - if they go bankrupt you'll have all your eggs in one basket
  • make sure your life insurance covers repatriation if you die abroad (I know, these aren't fun things to think about - but they're unfortunately necessary and extremely expensive)
  • if you have a pre-existing medical condition, beware - many budget travel insurance schemes won't cover them, or will

The key is to stay abreast of changes. In today's fast-paced world finding cheap worldwide travel insurance is becoming easier - and companies are beginning to offer products that reflect today's realities, such as special adventure travel coverage, flexible plans, long-term cover for backpackers...