Recently, a friend asked my advice on how to find cheap travel insurance. She’ll be on an overseas program for several months, and the program mandates she get travel insurance coverage.
Myself? I’ve gotten it three times in my life. On my last trip however, I needed to get one and I discovered searching for cheap options was a pain.
Which nationality should you avoid being, if you need travel insurance ?
Europeans and Canadians may wonder why Americans don’t travel much. Do you know how much we get charged for travel insurance? Joking aside, of the western world, Americans get charged a premium for traveling. Recently, when I was looking for a travel insurance plan to cover my three month trip to India, I got prices which made my heart want to leap into cardiac arrest. Price quotes were more than my plane ticket, starting at $600 and rising !
But if I were a U.K. citizen, I could find plans as low as $25 a month!
“Cheap” and “travel insurance” doesn’t always walk hand-in-hand when you’re American.
Is Travel Insurance necessary?
Life is all a bit of a gamble. It’s like deciding whether or not to buy ‘collision insurance’ on a rental car. In many cases, you probably won’t need it; but you never know…
It all depends on your health, how extreme or accident-prone you are, your comfort zone with traveling without insurance and the risk factors you feel may be involved. It’s a personal choice.
During my three-month coverage in India:
Did I get sick?
– Yes. I had amoebic dysentery for a month in India. (read here)
Did I get into an accident?
– I got heat exhaustion and scraped up in a motorbike collision in…India again.
But with accommodations and medical services being extremely cheap and quite decent in large cities, like Mumbai and Delhi (where a friend of mine went to get a fractured toe examined and walked away with an x-ray and doctor’s diagnosis for under $8). I didn’t need my insurance. Filing a claim on my expenses (under $20) wouldn’t be worth the time or paperwork!
Needless to say, I didn’t extend my travel insurance. I was traveling to Thailand afterwards, which is one of my favorite medical tourism hotspots, where medical services and facilities are inexpensive and state-of-the-art.
Then again there are exceptions.
When is travel insurance definitely necessary?
Are you traveling or training with an overseas program, where travel insurance coverage is “compulsory”? In that case, damnit, you just have to suck it up and get it.
Sometimes, you just have a feeling you should get travel insurance
I always read travel alerts and warnings about a country as well as, get an idea of its medical support before I go. But sometimes, I just get a traveler’s sixth sense about things… along with paranoid feelings that I might get kidnapped and held at gunpoint.
Six years ago, I took a trip to Spain and Morocco with a girlfriend. Spain felt safe enough as a European nation, but what about Morocco and Africa? We knew nothing about medical practices there or of crime and this ‘lack of knowing’, in our minds, equated a bit of danger. Getting travel insurance seemed smart and my intuition agreed.
I didn’t regret it. Our first day in Morocco, our luggage didn’t arrive with us. We were left with no option but pickup clothes and toiletries in cities along the way. Moving from city to city was stressful. We didn’t know when or where our bags would arrive and we’d even get ‘false alarm’ notifications to show up at the airport and find … no bags. Finally, two days before our leave, we got our belongings back. My bag was in tact, but my girlfriend’s jewelry was stolen.
Thankfully, we were insured.
Three travel insurance carriers :
Insurance comes in options, ranging from short-term trip coverage to annual coverage. For the most part, they cover the standard: medical and hospitalization, luggage loss or stolen, flight delay or cancellation, death, etc… They don’t always cover computer and camera equipment too well, so you’ll have to read the fine print. Nevertheless, here are my top three tried-and-true recommendations:
• American Express (website here)
American Express has long been the credit card for travelers. Sadly, they’ve levied their charges to merchants to the point, less and less places take them. But what many Americans don’t know, is that Am-Ex offers cheap travel insurance. Several years back, they covered an entire trip if you charged your flight ticket to your Am-Ex card and paid a $24 service charge. I’ve used this once on a trip to Nepal and India (because it was so cheap) and my girlfriend used Am-Ex to cover her Moroccan trip. I’m not sure if they still offer this service, but it would be worthwhile to ask. It’s the best bargain I’ve seen so far!
American Express travel insurance still offers traditional insurance policies via a new website . They offer three plans, ranging from pointed coverage to annual full coverage. The most standard and popular plan starts at $59 and covers the she-bang. I’ve not been able to try this service yet, but it seems to offer a good deal. Con: You must be an Am-Ex card holder to get these deals. Non Am-Ex holders can get representation through their affiliate Global Travel Shield.
• World Nomads (website here)
World Nomads was my recent choice of insurance and one of the most trusted sources of travel insurance for backpackers. If you type in ‘cheap travel insurance” you’re likely to find Lonely Planet and Travelfish pointing you to World Nomads Travel Insurance. It’s because WN offers global insurance, knows what travelers need and they happen to keep up good relations with the travel community, by offering travel-study awards for budding videographers, writers and photographers. What I love about WN ? Their insurance prices aren’t biased to youth (as STA Travel is); it extends to the traveler, up to the senior citizen’s age of 67.
• STA Travel
STA Travel has always offered cheap travel services for young adults and the college crowd. I’ve used them for my Morocco trip. Their International insurance offers cheap prices for the under 35 crowd, but if you’re older than that, you’ve “missed the boat” on youth’s discounts. Expect the prices to jump to pricier. Prices for the over 35 crowd run a little higher than World Nomads.
Filing a travel insurance claim: Is it worth the pain?
I won’t sugar coat it, it’s not fun to file claims with an insurance company . The paperwork and wait can drag out for months. If you buy travel insurance and actually get into a situation where you’ll be using it, remember to always :
• Get an authorized complaint forms (ie. baggage loss complaint form at the airlines, police report for theft, doctor’s report for medical services.)
• Keep your flight tickets and itinerary
• Collect store receipts
• Baggage tags for lost luggage
• Keep records of your expenses (some countries are cash-based and may not offer receipts. Keep a hand-written list of purchased items.)
• Basically, collect everything that can be used as proof
When I got home from Morocco, I downloaded the insurance forms from my insurance site and spoke with an agent. I filled out forms, faxed everything that was required. In the end, both my girlfriend and I got small compensation from our insurance agencies so that it wasn’t a completely loss. But it took over six months to get.
Is travel insurance worth its claim?
Depends on the case and your specific losses. In many cases, having gotten back something feels better than just experiencing a trip’s loss.
Any tips or recommendations for backpacking travel insurance? Do you think travel insurance is necessary?
This post has an affiliate link to World Nomads which I used and recommend. If you buy through that link, I’ll receive a small referral commission, at no extra cost to you. This will help me maintain my site and continue sharing information and I’d be very grateful!