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How to Buy Cheap Worldwide Travel Insurance
And no, you can't leave home without it
Do you have $10,000 to spend in the next 12 hours?
If you don't have travel insurance, a simple broken bone and an airlift home could cost you that, or more.
I've met travelers who advocate saving a few pennies by focusing on prevention and natural remedies instead.
"I'll be careful," they say.
"I'll behave in a healthy way," they say.
If you have a head-on collision with a bus, no amount of prevention or herbal remedies will 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?
The last thing I remember was taking a cab to the airport in Washington DC after visiting my brother and his family. And then, THIS. Eight days and $25,000 later, I was finally released and finally went home
How to choose the best travel insurance
Once I decide to travel, the first thing I do is buy a travel insurance policy.
There was that incident in Washington (see the lovely photo above).
And then there was this, below. A strange growth on my forehead that grew enough to worry me seriously. I happened to be in Santiago de Compostela, far from home.
Again, I didn't have to pay.
I don't need convincing: I buy a World Nomads policy each time I leave the country, period. I'm not particularly accident-prone but I don't want to spend the rest of my life paying off emergency surgery.
Amazingly flattering selfie after three hours in the emergency ward in Santiago de Compostela, looking a lot better coming out than I did going in (you'll have to trust me on that)
There are plenty of travel insurance companies out there so these basic questions will help you decide which is right for 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 kind of trip are you taking? 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.
Now, look for these travel insurance benefits
- Value for money, but that goes without saying. Why spend more than you have to for a good insurance package?
- Easy online access, simple 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. You're not traveling to stay safely in your hotel room so you do need to be covered when you have a bit of fun!
- 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 a few weeks or 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.
- This isn't a deal-breaker for me but it helps if a policy has basic coverage like 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.
A few final tips before you buy your travel insurance
Once you've gathered the basic information, keep the following travel insurance tips in mind as you shop around:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Here's why so many people (including myself) rate World Nomads
- Its policies are affordable, especially 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.
- You can extend your policy online. 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 created by travelers for travelers, so I don't feel my needs are being sacrificed on the corporate altar.
- Corporate conscience. An important issue for me is giving something back to the communities I visit. World Nomads has a philanthropy network and offers travel scholarships, and I like a company with a conscience.
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.
So where's the catch?
No policy is perfect for everyone, but this one does come pretty close, at least for my needs.
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 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.
You can click to get a quote or use the form below - 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!