I get it. Travel insurance is probably the last thing on your to-do list when it comes to planning a trip. You probably think, “Nah, I’ll be fine, I won’t need it”. Right?
Why? Because travel insurance ensures that when things do go wrong, you have a backup plan, a safety net, and the reassurance that you’re protected at all times. What’ll we’ll cover here is how to choose travel insurance that’s right for your needs.
Travel insurance will put you up in a hotel when your flight is cancelled; fly you home when a family member dies; give you money to buy clothes when your bags get lost, and replace your camera when it’s stolen.
Having travel insurance is the single most important thing you should get to protect you, your belongings, and your trip. I strongly recommend you never leave home without it.
It’s important to remember that most health programs don’t cover you abroad and credit cards only offer limited protection. Travel insurance is something you definitely need to protect you from the unknown.
After all, you don’t want to end up like my friend who didn’t have insurance, arrived in Iceland and spent a week without her clothes.
Have you ever thought twice about insuring your car or home? No? You should place the same importance on travel insurance, if not more so because you’re taking yourself and belongings into a foreign environment with so many variables and opportunities for things to go wrong.
I don’t mean to paint a picture of doom and gloom. Personally, I can’t think of anything worse than being pickpocketed and stranded without cash, or even worse, become ill or injured with no one to take care of me. That’s why I never risk it. I’m not the gambling type. I always get travel insurance. My favourite travel insurance provider is World Nomads.
On the flipside, buying the wrong travel policy can be as bad as not having one at all.
Think of it this way.
Buying a cheap travel insurance policy is like forking out a small fortune on the latest iPhone then spending $3 on eBay for a cheap cover to “protect” it.
Chances are, you’ll eventually drop the phone, break the screen then spend $100 at the Apple store to replace it.
Was spending $1 on a flimsy case really worth it? It’s like not having a case at all.
So, how do you choose the right travel insurance policy?
I know you don’t have time to study the fine print when there are more exciting things to do like flipping through travel brochures or booking a sunset safari drive.
Choosing the best travel insurance is an essential part of planning any trip. However, since this is one of the most complex and confusing aspects of trip planning, I’ve created this simple guide and checklist for you.
You’ll learn everything you need to know when buying a good travel insurance policy and how to avoid getting a bad one.
Then you can go back to those brochures!
How to choose travel insurance
Below is a list of questions you should be asking of your travel insurance policy.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
1. Are All My Destinations Covered?
2.Do I Have the Right Medical Cover?
3. Am I Covered in Emergencies?
4. Are All My Belongings Covered?
5. Do I Have to Carry My Valuables with Me?
6. What Happens if My Luggage is Lost?
7. Am I Covered When Participating in Sports or Activities?
8. Am I Covered If I Have to Cancel My Trip?
9. Does it Cover Car Hire Excess?
10. How Much Excess Do I Have to Pay?
11. What’s NOT Included from My Policy?
Where to Buy Travel Insurance
If you’re only going to one destination, for example, Australia, then this will be an easy one to check off your list, but if you are travelling to various destinations, be sure they are added to your cover.
Anywhere that you choose to stop over, even for one night, should be added to your policy. If you’re taking a cruise, include the places you want to visit as part of the tour.
It is important that you understand how much coverage you have and under what circumstances the medical cover applies.
When choosing a good policy, make sure they offer a high coverage limit on your medical expenses. A good company will provide up to $100,000 in coverage care. For the more expensive policies, this amount will be even higher.
Why are high coverage limits important?
Well, if you get sick, injured, or need serious medical attention, you want to make damn sure your huge hospital bills are covered.
The worst thing you can do is go cheap and get a policy with a $20,000 USD coverage limit, then break an arm, and reach that limit before they’re done taking care of you.
Think about that $3 eBay phone case.
Don’t cut corners on your medical cover. Be smart. Get a minimum coverage of $100,000 USD.
If you’ve got a pre-existing medical condition such as mental illness, cancer, pregnancy, heart-related medical conditions, hip problems, confirm that this doesn’t exclude you from the cover you want to buy. Also, make sure you know what excesses you have to pay before your medical cover kicks in.
Any condition you’ve had before, be it chronic or cured, could be excluded. You may have to be assessed for your condition but it could save you a lot of hassle later on.
Medical cover is more about emergency care than being a replacement for your normal healthcare. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can get a general health check abroad using your travel insurance. It is only there to protect you in case of emergency and, if necessary, get you home safely.
God forbid a natural disaster occurs or there’s a fire in your hotel. Make sure you’re covered in an emergency. This isn’t the same things as medical coverage.
If you are hiking Trolltunga and you break your ankle, your policy should cover your transport to the hospital. A good policy should cover you for up to $300,000 USD.
The policy shouldn’t stop there either. If you need to be flown back to your home country, then a standard emergency evacuation should cover this. It’s always a good idea to double-check that the company covers it.
Most travel insurance policies will provide some level of cover for your personal belongings. The catch is in knowing exactly how much you are covered for.
Will it be enough to protect all of your baggage and belongings? If not, you may want to change your policy or consider upgrading to cover more valuable items.
It’s important to note that electronics over $500 USD usually require supplemental insurance.
So, if you’re taking a laptop, expensive camera with lenses, a drone or any other high-ticket items, make sure you account for them in your policy and get supplemental insurance.
I bet this one didn’t even cross your mind? Right?
Don’t worry, most people don’t even know this is even a thing.
Common items like passports, phones, laptops, cameras, tablets, sunglasses, and jewellery are often excluded from cover when they’re not with you. That means you’re not covered if you leave your passport in the hotel room safe, or your backpack with your laptop inside a parked car.
Make sure you read the Product Disclosure Statement or contact the insurer to understand whether your valuables are protected and under what circumstances you can make a claim.
Baggage cover varies the most so if you’re not carrying expensive items, save on paying premium prices by selecting a policy that provides less cover.
If a transport provider (e.g. an airline) loses your baggage and doesn’t offer compensation, if you’re covered, this can be obtained through the insurer.
This usually applies when your baggage is lost for more than 12 hours. The minimum time limit varies per insurer as does the level of cover (from $100 to $5000) so be sure to check what the conditions are.
Activities, like white water rafting, abseiling, quad biking, and scuba diving, all incur the risk of injury. Therefore, you should check whether your policy covers you for the specific activities. Also, check the conditions, for example, for scuba diving, you may only be covered to a certain depth.
Motorcycling is another one you may not have considered. While motorcycling in a city isn’t exactly an extreme sport, it does come with a greater risk of injury, so be sure to check you’re covered if you plan on hiring a Vespa in Rome.
Crappy stuff does happen which might mean you’ll have to cancel your trip. If you do, check that cancellation is part of your travel insurance policy.
A good policy will allow you to claim lost funds from cancelled flights, accommodation, car hire, tour bookings and more. As always, check the maximum amount of money that you can claim back.
Here’s a nice money saving tip.
If you plan on hiring a car, you can save money by using your travel insurance to cover any collision damage excess rather than paying the car hire company’s extra charge.
Not bad, eh?
Before you start receiving any aid, most insurance policies will require you pay excess.
This means that if the excess on your lost baggage is $200 you’ll have to pay the first $200 of your losses before your insurance company will begin paying you.
To keep your excesses low, consider purchasing a higher level of cover or choose to waive your excesses altogether by paying a higher premium.
Know what’s not included in your travel insurance is just as important as knowing what is.
There are always caveats to each of the areas of your cover and most of them I’ve mentioned above.
Do your due diligence and make sure you carefully read through the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). This will give you a comprehensive view of what isn’t included in your cover.
A few common exclusions include terrorism (most insurers cover medical expenses but very few cover cancellation expenses in the event of terrorism), pandemic or epidemic, military actions, and travel provider insolvency (eg. an airline or tour operator going broke). All of these are commonly excluded.
It’s a good idea to make a note of any specific events or items that are excluded from your policy.
If in doubt, drop the insurer an email or call them. Sometimes it’s easier and quicker to hear it direct from the horse’s mouth.
Yes! Here are a couple of extra handy tips.
In your search for the best travel insurance, you may come across coverage for “unforeseen circumstances”.
This refers to something that wasn’t publicised in the media or on official government websites when you bought the policy. If it became known before you purchased the policy, you’re not covered. So to improve your cover, I recommend purchasing your travel insurance as early as possible.
How often to do you plan to travel? If you travel two or more times per year, consider getting annual multi-trip travel insurance. Sometimes this can work out even cheaper than a single trip policy.
Often the levels of cover, particularly for medical expenses, baggage and cancellation tend to be more generous on an annual policy. If you are a frequent traveller it also gives you the flexibility to arrange last-minute trips without having to worry about insurance.
Just don’t forget to renew your policy every 12 months!
There are several scenarios where a travel insurer might cover you for extra expenses.
- Additional travel expenses to reach a pre-arranged tour, wedding, conference, or any other special event if your scheduled transport is cancelled or delayed.
- Additional meal and accommodation expenses if a scheduled transport is delayed.
- Additional accommodation and travel expenses if you can’t travel because of an injury or sickness; if your journey is interrupted by an unexpected event; or if you need to return home because of a relative’s illness or injury (this is still considered a pre-existing condition so make sure you account for this in your policy).
- Expenses to resume your trip if you returned home due to a relative’s illness or injury.
If you book through a travel agent, they will often try to sell you insurance when you arrange your holiday. If you are booking a ticket with a low-cost airline or online travel firm, you will also often be asked if you require insurance. It might sound convenient to purchase it this way, but it is usually more expensive. Also, the cover may not suit your needs. Buy direct from the insurer online and you’ll save.
For value for money and peace of mind, you can’t go past World Nomads.
I highly recommend you check them out. They are the only insurer I trust. They are also very popular amongst the travel blogger community and are even endorsed by Lonely Planet and National Geographic.
Just knowing that World Nomads has a 24-hour emergency assistance puts my mind at ease. They also have a great customer services team who responded to all my emails full of questions leading up to my trip to South Africa. They responded within hours of me email them.
I love their flexibility too. They give you the option to extend your policy or even purchase one even while you’re travelling! This is especially great if you change plans mid-trip and need to be covered.
No matter which company you choose, remember that all plans are different and you want one that suits the type of trip you are taking.
While there’s a high chance you will never need to use the policy, it’s better to than the alternative, right?
Accidents happen and life on the road is uncertain. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when you are in a different country, thousands of miles from home.
Be smart and get coverage.
Use the widget below to find an insurance plan that’s perfect for your next trip.
Over to you!
Have you purchased travel insurance in the past? What are some of your tips on how to choose travel insurance?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.
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