Of the concerns people have when the topic of world travel rears its exciting head, few feel as serious as the concern of getting sick or hurt in a foreign country without any form of health insurance to take care of the problem. Compared with the fear of running into serious health problems abroad, the concern of not knowing where to travel, or the worry about getting scammed, or insecurities surrounding your ability to make the money necessary to travel all seem trivial. None of those fears can kill you- getting sick or hurt abroad without any form of health insurance can.
Most forms of health insurance are nationally based, they are domestic, which means the insurance you use at home isn’t going to do much of anything for you abroad. Thankfully, getting health insurance while you’re travelling, or getting insurance that will cover you as you travel, is a lot easier than you think and it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg.
An Important Question
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to acquire health insurance that will keep you secure and feeling good during your travels you need to ask yourself a single important question- do you plan on travelling to one country or multiple destinations?
The answer to this question will determine what sort of insurance you will need. If you’re travelling all over the place than you need a more comprehensive, far-reaching insurance. If you’re travelling to a single city or country and setting down roots for a few weeks or a couple months then you only need to get health insurance valid within that country.
Even though you should avoid overly-detailed travel planning to figure out the answer to this question before you leave home, it is a good idea to plan your health insurance needs.
Single-Country Insurance Strategies
As far as insurance goes, if you’re travelling to a single city or country you have it easy– though it’s important you act fast for peace of mind and safety’s sake. You should purchase local insurance the first day you arrive.
Doing this not only makes sure you’re protected no matter what happens, resolving to buy insurance your first day in a new country is also the best way to be sure you actually get it done. It’s easy to put off chores and busy work, the less sexy elements of travel, when you’re excited to be in a new country and itching to start exploring. Getting all the boring stuff out-of-the-way as soon as possible protects you against the dangers of procrastination- dangers that are potentially lethal when it comes to medical coverage.
But how, exactly, can you find local insurance?
Well, you have two options.
You can spend hours trying to research local medical coverage plans online, often browsing through poorly translated websites in an attempt to compare one plan with all the others. Or,
You can take the easy route and just ask an employee at your hostel or your hotel what local health insurance they have and what insurance they think you should sign up for. Then find out if their insurance coverage is available to visitors. Hospitality workers are there to help you out, and the more personally owned and operated your lodgings the better the chances of receiving some good advice from them.
Multi-Country Insurance Strategies
Owning local insurance in addition to global insurance is almost always a good idea. After all, it’s a safe bet local hospitals will accept your local insurance card but there’s no guarantee local hospitals will accept your international coverage. That being said, if you’re travelling to a large number of different locations, you don’t really have much of a choice. You need to get the most comprehensive global health insurance you can afford.
When it comes to global health insurance you have a couple options at your disposal.
1) First, you can take a look at your existing domestic health insurance and determine whether it provides any sort of worldwide coverage at all. The bigger the insurance carrier the more likely it will provide something for you when you’re out crisscrossing the globe. If you don’t know where to look and you’re unsure about your current coverage you should get on the phone with a representative and start asking questions.
If your current coverage won’t help you overseas you need to ask whether there’s any plan provided by your carrier that will help you out as you travel. If there’s an upgrade to your insurance available and if the upgrade will cover you abroad you’d be wise to pay a little extra to make sure you’re secure. Acquiring traveler’s insurance isn’t really difficult but ultimately it’s a lot easier to stick with the carrier you already have than to unnecessarily jump ship.
2) If your current carrier does not provide travel coverage while you’re travelling and if they do not offer any sort of upgrade, add-on or package that will cover you abroad, then you need to locate a new carrier.
You can either switch over to a large carrier who provides a wide range of insurance options, or you can just sign on with a carrier who specializes in traveller’s insurance.
3) Travel Health Insurance is a LOT more common and a LOT cheaper than you’d think. Don’t be surprised if you find travel health insurance that is considerably less expensive than what you’re paying for your existing domestic coverage. Not only that, but travel health insurance tends to be extremely flexible. You can purchase insurance for a single trip, you can purchase insurance for trips of varying lengths (such as 30, 60 or 90 days) and you can purchase insurance for those times you’re going to travel indefinitely.
So how cheap can travel health insurance be? How does less than $1,000 dollars a year sound to you? Compared with the normal $300-$500/month you’d pay for your own health insurance, if it’s not covered by your employer’s travel insurance, this represents a really, really good deal.
What Types of Travel Insurance Do You Need?
When you start researching travel insurance you’ll soon realize there are many types of travel insurance out there, all covering a different corner of the traveller’s experience.
The average traveller simply needs to purchase the most comprehensive Travel Health Insurance they can find. But if you’re travelling to snowboard the alps or something else that may be considered risky, then Hazardous Sports Insurance might also be worthwhile.
Evacuation Insurance might make sense to help get out of countries if political or environmental situations turn ugly, but only if you are in a country where you could reasonably assume you could be evacuated by helicopter.
You can purchase Identity Theft Protection in case someone swipes your passport and credit cards.
You can purchase Cancellation Insurance to make sure you end up at your destination even if your airline starts messing with your reservations or some other unforeseen problem arises.