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Cheap Worldwide Travel Insurance
How to find the perfect travel insurance policy

Do you have $10,000 to spend in the next 12 hours?

If you're on the road without travel health insurance, a simple broken bone and an airlift home could cost you that, or more.

These days you can get very cheap worldwide travel insurance that provides excellent cover. You'd be mad to hit the road without it!

I've read several blog posts from travelers who advocate saving a few pennies by focusing on prevention and natural remedies instead.

If you have a head-on collision with a bus, prevention and herbal remedies won't set your bones or see you through intensive care.

I don't want to sound alarmist but an unexpected gallbladder infection during a trip to the US cost me upward of $25,000. What would I have done without health insurance?

How to choose the best travel insurance

Buying a policy is the first thing I do after I decide to travel, but you can't just pick one off the rack. On the contrary, getting the right travel insurance policy is key to staying safe and healthy on the road.

Let me tell you which insurance I use when I travel, and most important, how I choose my coverage.

(If you don't want to read through all the advice below and just want to know what I use, I use World Nomads.)

Bandaged forehead - fortunately I had health insuranceAmazingly flattering selfie after three hours in the emergency ward in Santiago de Compostela, looking a lot better than I did going in (you'll have to trust me on that)

New companies appear nearly every day, and they all pitch the best or broadest or cheapest travel health coverage. Sorting the bad from the good becomes harder as a result.

Before you decide, you'll need to answer a few basic questions, the same ones any travel health insurance will ask you:

  • How old are you? Most policies don't cover you after 60 or 65. (This unfortunately goes for World Nomads as well, which stops its coverage somewhere between 60-66, depending on where you live.)
  • How healthy are you? Most travel insurances won't cover pre-existing conditions.
  • Where are you from? Buying an international travel health insurance policy in New Zealand will have a different price tag and cover than one bought in the US.
  • Where are you going? Policy prices can differ radically depending on whether you're heading for a war zone or angling for a tan on the sand.
  • What will you do once you're there? A gentle trek with a tour group is far less risky, from an insurer's point of view, than skydiving or bungee jumping, and your policy will be priced accordingly.

Once you've gathered the basic information, keep the following travel insurance tips in mind as you shop around:

  • Be honest: don't lie about pre-existing conditions when you apply. Insurance companies do check and if they find out you've lied, they might cancel your entire policy - just when you need it.
  • Check the deductible: no policy will pay 100% of costs and you'll have to fork out the first hundred or two.
  • Read the fine print: you won't be covered for war or terrorist acts by most policies, but each policy defines these differently. Think about this when you're planning your trek across Afghanistan.
  • Your fault: most policies won't cover you if what happened is your fault. If you got drunk and punched a wall, your broken fist will probably be yours to mend. If you tried to fly under the influence of drugs, ditto.
  • Think through your high-priced items: if you're planning on taking your diamond-studded iPhone or family heirloom, you may need special insurance to cover these items. None of the top travel insurances online will give you the cover you need for these.
  • Take your paperwork: scan all your purchase invoices and either carry them on a stick or email them to yourself. The first thing an insurance company will ask you for is proof of purchase so don't delay your claim by failing to produce these.

And now, get ready to shop!

Assuming you're looking for CHEAP worldwide travel insurance...

...you should make sure it provides the following benefits, at the very least:

  • Value for money, but that goes without saying. Why spend more than you have to for a good insurance package?
  • Easy to buy, easy to understand, easy to claim.
  • Valid pretty much everywhere. You don't want the one place you've set your heart on visiting to be the one that isn't covered, do you?
  • No silly constraints - like we'll cover you only if you happen to trip over a stone while walking - but if you were running we consider that a 'dangerous' activity. In other words, as a woman on the road you may like a bit of adventure - and should be covered for it.
  • Flexibility. What if you change your mind and want to keep traveling? I've been known to extend trips on the spur of the moment...
  • Length of cover: make sure it covers the full length of your trip. Many travel insurances are only valid for weeks or very few months, not convenient if you're contemplating a gap year.
  • Solid medical coverage, especially in expensive countries like the USA, to the tune of US$ 1 million at least. Hospital bills mount quickly and you'd be amazed at how expensive a serious accident with lengthy rehabilitation can be.
  • Such basic coverage as trip cancellation, cover for damaged or lost luggage and personal effects and if possible, personal liability insurance (although you may already have this through your home insurance policy).
  • Repatriation and 24-hour a day assistance in an emergency. If you can't get appropriate medical treatment where you are, you'll be flown to where you can, or even home if that's the best solution. You'll also be accompanied by medical staff if you can't travel on your own.

Finding all these benefits in a single travel insurance isn't easy. I know because each time I travel, I look for the cheapest travel insurance, just in case there's something new or better on the market. There isn't yet and I always end up buying World Nomads.

I'm in good company with my choice - Lonely Planet, the world's largest travel guidebook publisher, has been recommending them for years. Rough Guides, another large guidebook publisher, recommends them, too.

CAVEAT: Be aware that most World Nomads policies are only valid if you're under 66 (even under 60 in some countries) so if you're in that age group or beyond, check to see if you're covered. If not, you'll probably find what you need through aggregators like insuremytrip.com.

Here's why so many people rate World Nomads

  • Its policies are totally affordable, even if you're on the tightest of budgets. It's certainly the cheapest I've found for long-term adventure travel.
  • You can be covered for up to 18 months and that's essential if you're a long-term traveler.
  • If you decide to extend your trip, just get online and extend your policy. I've done it - it takes about 60 seconds. And if something happens to you, you can also put in your claim online.
  • You don't have to buy it in your country of origin. Anyone who has ever tried to buy travel cover outside their own country will appreciate how important this is.
  • Any insurance that covers bungee jumping and kite-surfing can certainly cover my basic needs (only in some countries, though, so check first).
  • This is a company was created by travelers for travelers. You can easily see that from their website, which has everything backpackers and adventure travelers might need: destination articles, plenty of safety information, a Q&A section for travelers, free travel blog software if you want to blog as you travel, free SMS travel alerts, downloadable phrasebooks in lots of languages, an online travel community... 
  • One important issue for me is how to give back something to the communities I visit. World Nomads has a philanthropy network that lets you make direct donations to projects that benefit the poor in developing countries. Can't beat that. Same with the travel scholarships they offer. I like a company with a conscience.

Why comprehensive travel insurance cover is so important

So far I've been fortunate enough to remain (relatively) accident-free on the road.

Except for that nasty boil that turned septic (see flattering photo above) and that gallbladder attack I had on my way to the airport in Washington DC. I was rushed to the emergency ward and left the hospital ten days later. That could have been a very nasty financial incident.

Few hospitals will operate on you without your insurer's green light. Simple medical conditions can become complicated without proper medical attention, and complicated ones can worsen - you could lose a limb or even your life (like that boil on my forehead that had become almost dangerous by the time I had it looked at). If you have a major accident, we're talking about big money.

If you don't have a quick and easy way to reassure the hospital it'll get paid, you may end up lying in a dingy hospital hallway, unattended. And that's why I wouldn't dream of traveling without worldwide travel insurance.

Get a free travel insurance quotes

If you're planning on taking a trip any time soon, get a travel insurance quote. It's free, there is no obligation, no strings attached.

You'll be surprised at how cheap it can be.

Don't even think of leaving home without it. It may seem like a detail now, but it's a detail that could save you a bundle of money, not to mention your life if you get ill (and it can happen) or have an accident (it happens too) on the road.

And if you're already on the road and 'forgot' to buy it before leaving, you can get World Nomads anywhere there's an Internet connection, so please get that quote. With any luck, you'll never need your travel insurance policy. If you do, you'll be thankful you took the five minutes to sign up.

So where's the catch?

No policy is perfect for everyone, but this one does come pretty close. There is no catch, but you still need to make sure that it matches your needs. World Nomads policies were designed for backpackers and long-term travellers.

BUT, you may want to shop around elsewhere if...

  • ...if you're past the age limit. Like most insurances, World Nomads unfortunately assumes you won't be an adventure traveler much after retirement and policies tend to stop at around 60-66 (I love them but they're wrong on this one!) If you've been on the road any length of time, you've seen those spry 80-year-olds whipping by uphill and leaving you in the dust. If you're one of those, World Nomads is not for you.
  • ...if you're more the short holiday break type than a long-term traveler. World Nomads is specifically designed for lengthy travel through a number of countries, although I recently traveled through Sri Lanka for a month and purchased a policy. That said you can get policies from other insurers that cover multiple short trips per year (short means only a few weeks). You may be better of with one of those policies.
  • ...if you plan on carrying a huge number of valuables with you, in which case you'll have to find special insurance for that diamond-studded iPhone.
  • ...if you're driving your own car, in which case it might be worth shopping around for travel insurance that covers both you and your vehicle. Most travel insurers, including World Nomads, do not cover your car.
  • ...if you plan to undertake any high risk activities not covered by the policy - and this is why you have to check the fine print.
  • ...if you need coverage in your home country. Remember that this is travel insurance, not home insurance, so your coverage starts at your destination. If your bags get stolen while you're waiting for your flight, you'll have to claim from your home insurance policy.
  • ...if you have a pre-existing medical condition that you're sure will flare up. You may have to search for a costlier health insurance that specializes in harder-to-insure patients (unfair, I know).

Bottom line, any travel insurance has to meet your specific needs - and that's the catch. You still have to read the small print just to make sure.

Visit the World Nomads website to get that quote. It comes with a link to the detailed policy wording. (It's different for each country of residence, that's why I can't link directly to it.)

Make sure the policy covers all your needs, and you are good to go.

Have a safe trip!

cheap worldwide travel insurance

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