Last Updated on May 5, 2022 by Nellie Huang

This article has been updated in February 2021 to include tips on COVID19 travel insurance.

Many travelers dismiss travel insurance as an unnecessary expense and waste of money. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Insurance is not a luxury item, it is essential even for a one-week trip and especially so for active travelers who engage in extreme sports or visit remote places. Now with coronavirus raging across the world, it is even more crucial to have travel insurance that includes COVID19 coverage.

Trust me, I’ve learned from experience that travel insurance can be a life-saver. I have an annual multi trip travel insurance, and it has helped me in many ways.Whether you fall sick on a trip, get into an accident or lose your baggage, having travel insurance will help give you a peace of mind.

paragliding in south africa - why we need travel insurance

Why Do You Need Travel Insurance?

After more than 10 years of constant travel, I’ve had my fair share of incidents and predicaments and I’ve also seen and heard lots of other travelers’ stories and their unfortunate mishaps. If you ask me whether you should buy travel insurance, it’s always a resounding yes!

Travel can bring with it certain risks and inconveniences that you just can’t avoid at times. Flight delays, loss of baggage and unpredictable flight cancellations — these are just common nuances of travel. Travel insurance makes sure you get compensated for your time and money.

But what if you face something more serious than losing your luggage? What if you contract COVID19 while traveling? Or get stuck in a natural disaster? Or suffer from altitude sickness and need medical evacuation?

These things can happen and have happened to several of my friends. Without travel insurance, you may have to fork out thousands of dollars or even more to get yourself out of the scenario.

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COVID19 Travel Insurance

In today’s era, it is wise to get COVID19 travel medical insurance. As many policies don’t include COVID19 as an eligible medical condition, getting a COVID19-specific travel insurance can help cover any treatment cost or medical expenses.

First, check your current travel insurance plan if it covers an epidemic or pandemic. If it doesn’t, check with the travel insurnace companies I recommend below for their COVID19 plans.

Safety Wing is the most popular insurance company for COVID19-coverage at the moment. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date. it also covers people from all over the world, while outside their home country (For Americans, you can pay extra to cover travels within the US).

coronavirus travel insurance

 

Real-Life Experiences 

I’ve seen a friend get appendicitis in Miami, ending up with a $10,000 hospital bill (because she wasn’t covered by travel insurance) that she just couldn’t pay for. She ended up fleeing the country, and now 10 years later, she’s still afraid of returning in case she gets thrown into prison.

Another friend of mine got into a motorbike accident in Bali and broke her leg, and because she didn’t have travel insurance she had to spend thousands on hospital bills and couldn’t get any justice from the driver who hit her.

Alberto and I had our DSLR camera stolen from us on a bus in Thailand — but thankfully we called our travel insurance provider, made a claim almost immediately, and received compensation within a month. With the $1000 that we were compensated with, we could buy a new camera that had even better features.

best travel insurance - hiking up an active volcano in guatemala

How to Choose the Best Travel Insurance

The type of travel insurance you buy depends on many factors and it’s subjective to the type of activities you do, how long you’re traveling, etc. Here are some questions you should ask yourself first:

  • How often do you travel and how long are your trips?

If you travel more than three times a year, or are traveling for a year or more, you can save money by purchasing an annual trip insurance like I do.

  • Are you traveling independently or with a tour operator?

If you are traveling on a tour, ask the operator you are traveling with if they offer travel insurance; some of them offer policies that automatically cover all activities undertaken on your trip.

  • What type of activities do you usually do on your trips — outdoor adventures or cultural museums visits?

Keep in mind that most travel insurance policies do not cover outdoor activities such as biking, trekking, horse riding, or sailing. It is wise to find an activity insurance that will cover not only general travel-related incidents, but also the activities you will be participating in on the trip.

  • Do you travel with a lot of expensive gear and equipment?

Most travel insurance policies don’t cover valuables (or have a low limit), so you might need a separate policy to cover your cameras or other expensive gear for accidental damage and theft.

  • How is your health condition — any pre-existing illness?

How much you pay for the insurance plan depends on your health condition. Check to see if your regular health insurance plan covers you overseas. Sometimes you can top it up with some extra premium and get yourself covered for your trip too.

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Types of Travel Insurance

These are the main types of travel insurance:

1. Travel Medical Insurance

Travel medical insurance provides emergency medical coverage when you are outside your home country. It provides coverage for medical emergencies, accidents, and repatriation. This type of travel insurance plan focuses on medical and evacuation coverage.

2. Emergency Evacuation (Medevac) Insurance

Medical evacuation, or Medevac, plans provide coverage for emergency medical evacuations and international security evacuations. These plans focus on emergency evacuation services to take you to the nearest hospital or return home.

3. Travel Accident Insurance

Travel accident plans provide international accident protection and term life benefits for frequent travelers.

This type of plan focuses on AD&D (accidental death and dismemberment) and term life insurance benefits that are in effect while the insured is traveling on an insured trip or during their annual coverage period.

4. Annual Travel Insurance

Annual travel insurance plans are useful because they provide a variety of coverages in one convenient plan that covers you for an entire year’s worth of trips.

Frequent travelers, traveling academics, business travelers, and even retirees who travel often like the simplicity of having the same coverage all year long.

5. Trip Cancellation Insurance

Trip cancellation insurance is a pre-departure benefit that can reimburse 100% of your trip cost if you need to cancel your trip for a covered reason. The most common covered reason is unforeseen illness, injury, or death of the traveler, a traveling companion, or a non-traveling family member.

travelers during pandemic


Tips on Buying the Best Travel Insurance

Before you decide on a particular travel insurance plan, consider these factors:

• Check if the policy covers your destination.

• Check if the policy covers COVID19. Many policies don’t include COVID19 coverage and will not cover COVID19 treatment. I advise buying specific COVID19 travel insurance if you are in a vulnerable group.

• Ask if the policy covers your interest (be it biking or trekking) as a primary activity. Many travel policies only cover cycling as an incidental activity, not a primary one.

• Find out what the excess of the policy is. This is the amount of money you need to pay for each claim. It may be worthwhile paying a higher premium for a policy with smaller excesses.

• Check the coverage limits. Most policies have a ceiling on the value of items to be insured, especially big-ticket items like cameras and laptops.

• Find out what documentation you need to supply to file a claim.

• Be honest about any pre-existing medical conditions you may have. Lying about your health conditions may give the insurance company the right to deny your claim.

• Some credit card companies provide limited travel insurance if you purchase your flight with their card. Ask your credit card company what it covers.

• Find out if the insurance company will provide any medical or emergency assistance on the road and if so, what information you will need when seeking assistance.

• Find out if you can renew the policy while on the road.

• Always check the fine print so you will be aware of every exclusion clause the policy may have.

When buying insurance, make sure they cover these items:

• Medical treatment, hospital transportation, and repatriation if you fall ill or injure yourself.

• Monetary compensation for trip cancellation in the event of an emergency.

• Coverage for loss or theft of valuables, documents, money, and baggage, and repatriation of remains in the case of fatal incidents.

tips on best travel insurance


Best Travel Insurance Companies

Once you’ve decided what type of travel insurance you want to go for, I would suggest comparing travel insurance quotes to help reduce costs on your next trip. There are several insurance comparison sites out there that compares prices, excess, cancellation and baggage compensations. I like using this one to compare coverage from 54 different insurance brands.

Safety Wing

Safety Wing is the most popular insurance company for COVID19-coverage at the moment. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date. At US$40/month, the insurance is quite affordable and coverage is extensive.

It also covers people from all over the world, while outside their home country. For Americans, you can pay extra to cover travels within the US. 

>>> Go to Safety Wing to get a quote.

Travel Guard

I used to have an annual travel insurance policy with Travel Guard. I made a claim before (for loss of my camera) and the compensation was great and the whole process was fast and easy. I have the basic plan, which has coverage for trip cancellation, reimbursement for lost baggage and gear, and up to $500,000 for emergency evacuation.

If you’re an active traveler, it might be wise to opt for their Adventure Travel Protection Plan, which covers trekking at high altitudes and other high risk activities. If you do some research online, you’ll find that it’s one of the most highly recommended policies.

>>> Go to Travel Guard to get a quote.

World Nomads

World Nomads Travel Insurance are a well respected company that allow you to buy a policy when you are already traveling. Their policies are comprehensive and include baggage and cancellation. Many of my full-time traveler friends use World Nomads and highly recommend them.

The reason I don’t use them is that they are more expensive than Travel Guard, but the World Nomads policy is more comprehensive and has a wider coverage.

>>> Go to World Nomads to get a quote.

Clements

Most travel insurance policies don’t cover valuables (or have a low limit), so it’s wise to get a separate policy if you’re traveling with specialized gear.

Clements is a great option for covering your electronics and cameras for accidental damage and theft. The cost depends on the value of your items. I’ve heard that the premium for a property insurance with Clements is quite cheap and it’s well worth it if you’ve got gear that cost more than $5,000.

It’s highly recommended by my full-time traveler friends. If you intend to buy a property insurance, be sure to save copies and keep originals of all your gear purchase and receipts. Keep a record of serial numbers, policy numbers, and insurance contact information and file a police report immediately after any theft or accident.

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Specialists in Activity Insurance

As I mentioned earlier, most travel insurance policies do not cover outdoor activities such as biking, trekking, horse riding, or sailing. It is wise to find an activity insurance that will cover the activities you will be participating in on the trip.

If you do a particular sport/activity regularly or if you’re going on an activity-centric trip (like a bike tour or trekking trip), you should get activity insurance that covers your interest as a primary activity. Many travel policies only cover cycling as an incidental activity, not a primary one.

Here’s a short list of specialists in activity insurance:

Sports Cover for active holidays
Top Notch Cover can cover activities with extra premiums
Snowcard for covering winter sports for UK residents
Dive Assure for scuba divers

extreme sports - active travel insurance

Have you decided which is the best travel insurance policy for you? If you’ve found this article useful, please let us know in the comments field below!


Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links which means we receive a small commission if you buy policies through these links, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST FOR YOU. Thanks for your support.

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