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Just like any medical or auto insurance you normally have in the states, having the protection of travel insurance can be just as important when traveling abroad. Travel insurance is not one-size-fits all so it’s important that you purchase insurance based on your personal needs in case of an emergency abroad or any pre-trip interferences that occur.

There are two types of insurance and you need to beware of which one you opt in for. The first is general travel insurance and the second is travel medical insurance. Travel insurance does not necessarily cover any medical attention needed, so you may need to purchase additional insurance for medical costs if you decide to go with travel insurance instead one that provides travel medical. Normally, general travel insurance covers events such as baggage loss or cancelled flights.

Be absolutely certain that you’re traveling with the insurance coverage that is the right fit for you. One of the worse things to happen while traveling is not losing the small amount you paid for the insurance, but rather finding out that you are excluded from health care coverage because of any pre-existing conditions. Medical insurance such as Medicare provided by the government is not valid overseas, ever. Medicare is not an exception, most stateside medical insurance policies are not valid on when traveling internationally.

Coverage is only good for a certain amount of travel days, so when you are researching different travel insurance options, be sure the insurance provider offers insurance for the length of your trip. Travel insurance offered can be issued anywhere from 30 – 60 days or in some cases 3 years. You have three options of coverage based on the length and frequency of your travels abroad:

  • Single Trip – Purchase coverage per trip

  • Frequent Traveler – Purchase coverage for several trips that are each no more than 30 days 

  • Multi-trip Traveler –  Purchase coverage for trips that are longer than thirty days

What’s covered varies depending on the company’s policy, however there are standard policies that most companies abide by. “Full coverage” doesn’t mean you’re fully covered. What it really means is that you need to be fully aware of what is and what is not covered. When traveling, always carry a copy of your policy in case there is any dispute with local hospitals, doctors or anyone else that you are seeking medical care from!

What to look for in your travel and medical insurance:

  • Protection for up to $1 million for medical emergencies

  • Evacuation and repatriation by air to a hospital closest to home if extensive medical care is necessary

  • Emergency evacuations

  • Lost or delayed bags

  • Hotel and Meals for Delayed Flight

  • 24/7 telephone assistance

  • Accidental death and dismemberment

What most travel insurance does not cover:

  • Medical Tourism
  • Political, military, civil unrest in visiting country
  • Damages caused while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Intentional bodily harm or suicide
  • Trips purchased through awards programs
  • Nuclear disasters
  • Injury caused during high risk activities
  • Bad weather conditions

If an injury occurs while involved in a “high risk” activity like scuba diving, rock climbing or mountain biking, you need to make sure your insurance will cover your medical expenses. Most policies will cover injuries or accident taken place during a “high risk” activity through premium plans.

In case you do need to seek medical care while traveling, you must contact your insurance company to make sure that you are receiving healthcare from a facility that qualifies under your policy’s network.

Trip cancellation

If your trip is cancelled for any of these reasons, most insurance policies will cover you:

  • Unforeseen injury or illness of insured, travel companion, family member, or business partner

  • Hurricane or natural disaster strikes destination

  • Terrorism or mandatory evacuation at destination

  • Death or hospitalization of destination host

  • Home or business damaged, vandalized, or burglarized

  • Required to work, terminated, or transferred

  • Victim of felonious assault prior to trip

  • Traffic accident prior to trip

  • Stolen passport

  • Divorce

  • Extended school year

Cancel for any reason

You may purchase a ‘cancel for any reason’ policy which would reimburse you travel costs that have been prepaid. The policy is usually an add-on and depending on the company has restrictions–such as a time frame of when a cancellation could be made, when the insurance was purchased and the portion of the loss the policy will pay. In order to receive payment or reimbursements for cancelled portions of your trip, everything you are claiming must be pre-paid and insured.

Many times while you’re purchasing your plane ticket, the airline or if you’re using a service like Hotwire or Travelocity, will allow you to opt in for an insurance policy with a company they’re partnered with for about $60. Be certain that you qualify for the insurance before you decide to purchase it so in case of any sort of trip interference you are qualified and covered.

The cost of travel insurance varies depending on whether you purchase traveler’s insurance or medical insurance. Rates tend to be about 8% of the total cost of the trip, but there are a few factors that determine the cost of the coverage: age of travelers, the length of the trip, total cost of the trip and any type of additional coverage.

Compare Quotes

In August I am taking a month-long trip to Turkey, Bosnia and Croatia so I requested a quote comparison through Square Mouth. This gave me a good estimate of what I should expect to pay for travel insurance. A majority of the of the trip has been prepaid through points which don’t qualify for coverage, paid for through credit cards and additionally we will be using the auto collision coverage provided by Visa for rental car protection, so our main concern would be to ensure that any unforeseen medical expenses are covered in case of an injury or accident. Square Mouth allows you to filter for options you prefer, and because medical is my main concern I found that the lowest I was quoted for two travelers was $199 and the highest was $1,045. Keep in mind that the less you end up paying the less coverage you may have so read the policy carefully to make sure you are have adequate coverage so it would pay off in the long run to spend a bit more. 

Popular travel insurance providers

  • World Nomads

  • Allianz

  • Seven Corners

  • Travel Insured

  • Travel Guard

  • American Express

Popular travel insurance providers for students:

STA (CSA)

Travel Insured International

The UStiA website is an excellent resource to find a list of trusted insurance companies that offer both domestic and international policies.

World Nomad is also a useful site for travel news and travel advice on where to go and what to see in their journal section in addition to providing travel insurance. They also have a program called “Foot Prints” which allows you to select a project to donate to like building schools in rural areas or bringing clean water to areas that have limited access.

Credit cards as travel insurance

If you desire to stick to your credit card for insurance and you have purchased your airfare using a major credit card, you may be covered under the credit card’s protection plan. Generally, what most credit cards will offer depends on the card’s annual fee, the more you pay the more coverage you may have available to you. Most credit card companies will offer protection for travel delays, cancelled trips, accidental death and , lost or damaged baggage and emergency assistance. Refer to your credit card’s policy to know exactly what they offer to protect.

Travel insurance is not for everyone, but it can provide extra protection for expensive trip purchase or family trips. The more people you are traveling with, the most potential things that could go wrong, the more costly the trip would be to cancel. Both travel insurance and travel medical insurance are important things to consider when taking a trip abroad. Ultimately it is up to you to determine how much risk you want to take and whether you would feel more comfortable purchasing extra insurance while traveling abroad.

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5 Comments

  • what do you say about world nomads? they seem to have amazing reviews online but they also seem to be more expensive with less coverage….

    • The insurance that World Nomad provides is basic and is perfect for someone who doesn’t think they really need it-but just in case. It covers essentials like medical expenses, trip cancellation in case of a death, adventurous sport coverage, etc and for $140 (World Nomad Explorer quote) that’s a pretty good quote, but you can get better coverage with other companies by paying a bit more. Use http://www.squaremouth.com to shop around and compare for better rates and more coverage.

  • I would like to get travel medical insurance for my 3 week trip to Costa Rica next year. I just did a search on Squaremouth and with the emergency medical & evacuation coverage filters, it yielded about 5 options. Unfortunately none of them were ones you noted above as “popular”. How do I know if they’re reputable?! Other than googling “Trawick International” and seeing what I learn!

    • Hi Cindy,

      That is a really good question and good point. It takes some research to decide whether the company is reputable. Many of the companies that Square Mouth offers quotes for are underwritten by larger companies. Trawick International is a Starr Indemnity and Liability company. I checked them out on the BBB resource site and they are listed with a grade of B- . Also, SquareMouth has been rated an A+ on the BBB site. (

      However I am curious, did you include other filters? I included the same filters for a three week trip costing about $3500 for Costa Rica and I was quoted policy rates for Travel Insured and Travel Guard –> http://www.squaremouth.com/quotes/234-508-5

      If you need more help I can help you shop around !

      • Thank you so much for your quick reply and the intel on Trawick- sounds like a relatively safe bet! I did not select trip cancelation coverage since I booked our flights using points and haven’t/won’t prepay for significant lodging expenses for awhile. I just did $1 million plus emergency medical and $1 million plus emergency evacuation (wasn’t sure on amount so I just went high). I did a single trip quote and it asked for my dates but not the total cost. It yielded only a few options. Thanks again for any other insight!
        Cindy