Travel Insurance: Why You Need it + What to Look For

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First, there was the backpack I had to replace after it was damaged in Vietnam by an entire bottle of insect repellent leaking… Then there was the delayed luggage on a trip to the USA… Then there was the bus accident in Cambodia where I injured my foot… Then there was the broken Kindle after a flight to Turkey

Thankfully, in all of these situations, I had travel insurance! When I’m planning a trip I always stop and think, do I really need travel insurance for this? And the answer is always, YES. Because for all the times I haven’t had to make use of it, the few that I have made me so grateful that I bought it. It’s always been one of my top travel safety tips

Travel insurance tips - girl in pool with injured foot
I wasn’t allowed to get my foot wet but I was determined to enjoy the pool!

Why do you need travel insurance?

Because you truly never know what’s going to happen. Of course, we want our travels to be fun and carefree, but sometimes things happen that are out of our control. I can’t tell you how many people I ran into that had been involved in motorcycle accidents while travelling through South East Asia.

There have been countless stories in the news over the years of people who have had an accident or medical issue while travelling in a foreign country without travel insurance, or also importantly, not covered by the insurance they had, and ended up stuck in hospital there, racking up the bills and trying to find a way to pay for medical evacuation home. Every person thought it wouldn’t happen to them, but you just never know!

It sounds doom and gloom but it’s such an important issue! Thankfully I’ve been relatively lucky to not have anything too serious happen to me while travelling, as will most of you, but when it does that safety net is invaluable.

Aside from accidents and medical reasons, travel insurance can also cover you for delays or travel issues like lost luggage. I have friends who have permanently lost luggage or had everything stolen from their accommodation, some have been able to claim it all back, but sadly some haven’t.

Motorbiking in Vietnam - Travel Insurance Coverage
The motorbike trip in Vietnam where my bag got ruined

Different types of travel insurance

“Travel insurance” can actually mean several different things. You should always read the full policy and “fine print” to make sure that you know exactly what is and isn’t covered. Here are the two main policies to look for:

Medical

Medical travel insurance covers you for accidents and illness when you’re travelling. This could be anything from doctors or hospital visits and prescriptions for an unexpected illness on the road, to having to be medically evacuated to even repatriated home after an accidental death. It’s not nice to think about but it’s a reality that every year these things happen to travellers.

Travel-related costs

Trips can be delayed or interrupted due to circumstances outside of your control, like natural disasters or for political reasons. Travel insurance can sometimes even cover things like having to unexpectedly return home in the middle of a trip due to a travel partners illness or the death of a family member.

Airplane in the sky - Why You Need Travel Insurance

Things to consider when choosing travel insurance

Coverage

Medical is usually the most important reason to book travel insurance, as your health is irreplaceable. However, having travel costs like those mentioned above covered can also be important and make or break your trip. I would always advise getting both.

When to book

Sometimes you can end up extending a trip, or needing more cover when you’re already outside of your home country. Some providers will only allow you to book insurance before the commencement of your trip, whereas others allow you to buy coverage on the road. For digital nomads or frequent travellers, being able to easily buy insurance without having to specify your exact leaving or end date is key!

Destinations covered

Not all destinations in the world will be covered, or your coverage may be more expensive if you visit certain areas. For example, a trip to the USA always adds extra to my travel insurance! 

You should also consider whether the insurance covers you if you return home for a period of time. Some travel insurance becomes invalid once you return to your home country, and some allows you to visit home for a short amount of time. 

Activities

Travel insurance providers all have different levels of activities they deem to be automatically covered by their policy. It’s always worth checking the list if you’re headed somewhere particularly adventurous or where you’ll be doing a lot of activities. You might be surprised to know even things like hiking may not be automatically covered above certain altitudes, and riding a motorbike is often excluded.

Kayaking - Travel Insurance Coverage
Kayaking, an activity I’ve done in many countries and that I always check is covered!

Support

Being able to easily contact your travel insurance provider in the case of an emergency is important. Check what kind of support they have and make sure you keep the contact numbers close to you while you’re travelling, ideally in your wallet or daypack.

Pre-existing health conditions

Many travel insurance providers will not cover you for pre-existing health conditions, or may only do so at an additional cost. If you have a condition that might seriously affect you during your travels then you’ll want to consider this and read the fine print.

Electronics coverage

Although some policies cover electronics they’re usually fairly limited. For example, they may cover a camera and a laptop, but only up to a certain amount that is usually below what you paid for and doesn’t go far towards replacing them if they’re damaged or stolen. There is electronic specific insurance which is usually a better option if you carry lots of or expensive tech gear.

Deductible/Excess

Some insurance may require you to pay a deductible/excess on some of their coverage (an amount you’ll need to pay before their payment kicks in). You’ll find this in their policy and guidelines. In some cases, it’s possible to pay a slightly higher premium upfront to avoid having to pay anything in the event of a claim.

Family in Prague at Prague Castle
Our latest trip where we bought travel insurance

The cost of travel insurance usually amounts to only a few extra dollars a day, as opposed to the thousands you might end up losing (or having to pay!) if you don’t have travel insurance.

SafetyWing Travel Insurance

On our recent trip to Prague, we tested out SafetyWing Travel Insurance. SafetyWing identifies themselves as the “Insurance for nomads, by nomads”. They want to fill the gap that those who are constantly or frequently travelling often fall through when it comes to traditional travel insurance that requires start and end dates and your exact destinations. 

While we are not constantly on the road we are frequent travellers and they offer a number of benefits that suit us, like free coverage for children under 10 (one per adult).

They cover many of the things mentioned above including:

Both medical and travel coverage. They will cover hospitalisation and even emergency dental care, as well as several other medical-related needs. Their travel coverage includes trip interruption and delay, as well as a new place to stay in the event of a natural disaster, among other things. The full list of coverage is on their website so you can check.

24/7 Support, which is important in the event of a claim as mentioned above.

They cover most countries outside of your home country, with the exception of Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.

The ability to buy after your trip has started, or extend. With SafetyWing you can actually sign up to pay a monthly amount while you’re travelling, like a subscription. You can then cancel when you decide to head back home.

Unique home coverage, so for every 90 days away you’ll also be covered for 30 days at home (15 if your home country is the US) so it’s worth considering if you’re often back and forth.

They cover an extensive range of adventure activities, including riding a motorcycle which is common in Asia.

A low daily cost. For travellers between 10 and 39, the cost is approximately $37USD for 4 weeks, which is around $1.32USD a day, a low cost to pay in the event of something happening on your travels.

I should note, SafetyWing doesn’t currently cover electronic devices. This isn’t a problem for us as like many other digital nomads we’re already covered by other specific electronics insurance, due to having too much gear to be covered under normal travel insurance anyway! They are looking at this as an add-on for the future, however.

SafetyWing Travel Insurance Website

The SafetyWing website was easy to navigate and I could easily find and access the policy documents to check what we would be covered for. I opted to just cover the one trip since we don’t have plans to travel outside of the UK for a few more months afterwards and so it didn’t make sense to sign up for the subscription. I found the rate really affordable for the 3 of us, especially since Baby B was covered for free! However, it would be easy to jump on and extend or book at a later date if we need to. You can check SafetyWing out for yourself here

SafetyWing Remote Health Insurance

SafetyWing also has an option for those looking for insurance that will cover them both at home and abroad. Their new “Remote Health” insurance is aimed at those who are staying abroad for a longer period of time, those who might be travelling frequently between their home country and abroad, or working remotely.

It’s medical insurance that also covers pre-existing conditions and private health care when they’re at home and you can sign up as an individual or a company.

What it doesn’t cover is the travel insurance side of things like lost baggage or trip interruption, so you would need to consider which option is best for your circumstances. You can find out more about Remote Health here

At the end of the day buying travel insurance is a personal choice, but it only takes one small accident or travel issue to realise how important it can be for your trip and your wellbeing!

Sonja x 

This post is in collaboration with SafetyWing, but as always, all opinions are my own. 

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