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How I’ve Handled Travel Insurance Over The Years

Foot Injury
I can tell you very quickly how many times during my travels I’ve had an incident overseas that required real medical attention. Three times. In thirteen years.

The first time was when I fell into the moat that surrounds the Old City of Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had been celebrating the Thai New Year (Songkran) when I somehow lost my balance and ended up in the dirty water below. The problem was that during my rescue, which involved a chain of people reaching over the moat wall to pull me back out, I scraped my toes against some rocks and lost the toe nail on my big toe in the process. Off to the hospital I went where I spent two hours being fixed up by a team of doctors.

The second incident was when I got a stomach illness in India. After spending an hour walking around the Golden Temple in Amritsar in the mid-day heat, a kind, elderly man noticed how much I was sweating and offered me a cup of water which he had filled up from a nearby public tap. Not wanting to be rude, I drank the water, and then I proceeded to spend the next three days on the toilet, unable to sleep, eat or venture outside due to my condition. Eventually, the manager of the hotel where I was staying took me to the local doctor who gave me some medication to take and two days later, I started feeling better.

My third injury/illness occurred while jogging around the outside track on one of the cruise ships I worked on. It was night time and I couldn’t see the ground very well, and I happened to step right onto a broken wine glass. The stem of the glass pierced my shoe and shot right into my foot. With blood filling up my sneaker, I hobbled inside and down to the medical center on board the ship where I received two stitches and a legitimate excuse to take some time off work.

Apart from that, I also cut up my body quite badly while volcano boarding in Nicaragua, but I didn’t see a doctor in the end. All I needed was a pair of tweezers to remove the shards of volcanic rock from my skin and some ointments to heal the wounds.

So, if I’ve only had a few non-serious injuries and one non-serious illness during so many years of travel, do I think it’s necessary to have travel insurance?

What if I told you that the hospital bill after my injury in Thailand came to a mere $5.00 USD and that the doctor visit and medication in India only cost me $4.00 USD? If medical care is that cheap in many parts of the world, is travel insurance really worth it?

My answer is ‘yes’. Actually, my answer is more like ‘ABSOLUTELY!’.

Even though the chances of something serious happening while traveling are quite low and even though medical care in many parts of the world is very inexpensive for travelers, having no insurance is a major risk. Anything can happen at any time…you never know and you certainly don’t want to end up in a foreign hospital with $100,000 worth of bills simply because you thought insurance was a waste of money.

Volcano Boarding injury in Nicaragua

What I’ve Used For Travel Insurance

Over the past 13 years, this is how I’ve dealt with travel/health insurance:

  • Travel Insurance – Up until three years ago, whenever I was traveling, I made sure that I had travel insurance. In my earlier years I would buy insurance through STA Travel and then I switched to WorldNomads.com later on. Such a plan typically cost me $50 – $60 per month, it was easy to set-up and even though I never had to use the insurance, it always seemed like a good deal to me.
  • Employer-Provided Health Insurance – When I worked on board cruise ships, the cruise lines I worked for provided health insurance for all crew members. So every time I signed up for another contract on board a ship (I did 11 contracts in total), I was fully covered and did not have to pay for extra travel insurance.
  • One-Year Mistake – A couple of years ago, for some unknown reason, I simply decided to stop paying for travel insurance. And while nothing serious happened to me during this period of time, I still realize that this was a mistake and a risk I don’t want to take again.
  • Independent Health Insurance – Starting last year, I decided to pay for a comprehensive independent health insurance plan in the US instead of paying for travel insurance all the time. With this US-based insurance, which costs me about $100 USD per month, 100% of my major medical costs are covered in the US once I reach my low deductible, and any doctor’s appointments, medications and tests I might need cost me almost nothing. And 50% of all medical costs incurred overseas are covered under my plan as well.
  • Combination of Insurance – Whenever I am traveling to a country and/or region where I know that medical expenses can be high for visitors (Western Europe, Australia, etc.), I also take out travel insurance these days so that 100% of my medical costs in those regions would be taken care of in the event of an injury or illness. Such a plan usually costs me around $60 USD per month.

As you can see, apart from that one-year lapse of judgment, I’ve made sure that I am covered through some type of health insurance wherever I am in the world. And this is despite the fact that I’ve only spent a ridiculously low total of around $9 USD in 13 years on medical expenses for injuries and illnesses sustained during my adventures overseas.

All I know is that the last thing I want to worry about is having to dish out thousands and thousands of dollars in the event that something serious does happen to me and I suddenly need some major medical attention while in a foreign country. Again, the chances of that happening are of course quite small, but I’ll still gladly pay $100 or even $160 per month in order to eliminate that worry altogether.


How do you handle your own travel insurance? Do you have any tips or any questions?

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76 Responses to How I’ve Handled Travel Insurance Over The Years

  1. Ben says:

    I recently purchased a travel insurance plan from Travel Guard (www.travelguard.com). I got their top package for 6 months for $132 TOTAL. At first I thought this was incorrect, so I called customer service as I was certain it was $132/month. However, the representative I spoke to assured me it was $132 total. If you’re on a super-tight budget, this might be the way to go – the coverage is really good.

  2. Ian says:

    So I live in the USA. I’m about to embark on an 18 month long travel around the world.
    This blog was informative. Since I will be leaving my job, I won’t have any more health insurance coverage. The only way to get coverage is to sign up for obamacare, and premium is high at this time because on my income. But next year at the end of 2015 when open enrollment comes around, my premium will be low because I won’t have made any income. Without a doubt in my mind I will sign up for travel insurance. But what travel insurance do you recommend. I have been researching travel guard, world nomads, but I know there are others. On average, I would be paying $100 to $125 a month on travel insurance.

    Also I know this blog entry was written more than 2 years ago, so the rules has change for health insurance coverage in the United States. It is now mandatory to sign up for affordable care act or face penalty. I’m hesitant to sign up for obamacare because I dont have any health problems. I definitely want to sign up for travel insurance. But obamacare premiums are so expensive. For the Bronze plan, it is $210, for the silver, $281, and for the gold plan $340. I dont qualify for rebates because on my income.

    Short term health insurance seemed like a good idea 2 years ago, but now it’s different. I just want to hear what your thoughts are on this. The only way to avoid the obamacare penalty is to travel abroad, and not step foot in the United States for more than 33 days out of the calendar year, or to have very low income.

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  4. Kunal says:

    Hi earl

    great finding your site. would be great to meet you sometime if you are back in the US or in India. I visit once a year for about a week or two and live between NYC and DC

    is there any insurance plan that covers me for this type of situation below?

    1. I usually don’t get travel insurance when i travel in Asia as i can afford the cost of care.

    2. i do all healthcare including dental, complete annual check up ($100 in India, including all doctors and tests, takes 1.5 full days non stop as it is very complete testing your entire body)
    dental work also is cheap.
    for optical, i use my insurance and FSA in the US to buy glasses/contacts etc
    medications, i get from India (generic, with doctor prescription) for any ailments noted

    3. employer work insurance in the US as you know costs about $100-150 not counting employer share which at best pays 80% of costs which is still very expensive and you get huge bills that you can’t understand.

    4. i want to quit working due to health issues and retire at 45 and live as follows
    a) 6 months in India (travelling in India and based in south india where i have a family home)
    b) 3 months in Asia or Europe travelling a new itinerary each year living in apartments/hotels/etc.
    c) three months in NYC where i have a small apt that i want to rent out for 9 months a year but still be able to enjoy the summer months in NYC and file tax returns etc when i am back

    In India and Asia, i can probably self insure or buy an Indian insurance policy.

    assuming I am retired early,How do i get coverage for 3 months a year in the US and also comply with Obamacare rules etc? as I am a US citizen and will file US returns

    I think, barring a few ailments, treatment in India would be cheaper (even if i pay 10% out of pocket in the US) and add insurance costs of $200 per month* 12 months = 2400 per year. i would prefer to just pay 3 months costs while i am in the US only which leaves $1800 a year to self pay in Asia for any care i need

    any ideas/ suggestions etc

  5. Mary says:

    Wandering Earl,

    I’ve been looking at the travel insurances sites you recommend. I have existing conditions, asthma and allergies mainly. How would I get coverage for medication refills while traveling? or do I have to return to the US and see a doctor?

    Thanks

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Mary – Usually, travel insurance is to cover medical expenses that might arise as a result/during your travels and does not cover medication that you currently take or pre-existing conditions. You could have a prescription from home faxed or emailed to pharmacies in other countries and they will fill it but the prices will vary of course.

  6. Gabriella says:

    What about dental work, do you know any good dental offices in Bucharest, being that you lived there for so long, or you take care of dental in US as well. Its so wired myself being a Romanian living in US asking these questions, but everybody knows how expensive a root canal can get in US. I will be traveling to my home country especially for this reason to have a few crowns and root canal.
    Thanks!
    PS: just discovered your blog and its fascinating, thanks for sharing .

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Gabriella – Unfortunately I don’t know of any good dentists here in Bucharest as I haven’t needed one. I usually get my dental work done in India :)

  7. Kali says:

    It definitely isn’t true that you don’t need insurance in cheaper countries. I ended up with a $10,000 bill after spending 12 days in hospital in Indonesia with dengue fever (the standard of care was fantastic, more like a hotel, which was nice as I was there alone over Christmas). Thankfully my insurance paid up even though I’d stayed longer than the maximum 30 days per trip.

  8. Scott says:

    Thanks for reminding me! My coverage has lapsed. Time to run out (or perhaps slowly, carefully walk) and buy more coverage.

  9. Sabrina says:

    You know what surprised me about this post? That your travel insurance with additional insurance abroad is still cheaper than my employer-based insurance here in the US. I think my employer pays about $350 a month and I still have deductibles of thousands of dollars for various network and out-of-network services. Do your plans have high deductibles? Or how come they cost so little? Any drawbacks?

    • Earl says:

      Hey Sabrina – My deductible is $5000 and I have co-payments of around $30 – $50 for doctor’s appointments, tests, etc. I’m not sure why it costs so little but it’s a great plan in my opinion and I did a lot of research before choosing this one.

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  11. Christopher says:

    I haven’t worried much about traveling around Europe since I have health insurance covered through my employer. But next week I’m headed back to the USA for 26 days and I just took out my first Czech insurance plan today for travel to the USA. I’m sure that I won’t need it but the cost of health care in the USA is crazy. It’s just to big of a risk if something goes wrong.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Christopher – Good call with the insurance for your visit back to the US. The cost is crazy back home and one thought of having to dish out thousands of dollars to fix a broken leg is enough to convince me to make sure I’m always covered.

      On a side note, enjoy your trip back to the US!

  12. joost says:

    I know you are right, saying we all defenitly need insurance, i can’t come up with 100k.
    But still, i’m just buying a product. With all products i buy, i really think if i really need it, is it worth it. In this case i buy a peace of paper with a claim from an organization, they will cover expenses. And ofcourse with many many, many conditions.
    And i have too trust them on their blue eyes, knowing they have an army of lawyers ready to fight me in case of an irregularity. And what are they gonna do with that money?
    In my home country i am obligated to have health insurance, i paid €7200 over the past 6 years. about €20000 so far (26 years of having insurance). if i don’t pay, they come with guns to get it or take all my possesions. And believe me, i know they will!
    That’s what mobsters do. So, what i’m trying to say is, i have such a different point of view on this matter, i actually realize in this world i need travel insurance, but it’s such a crazy product, i can’t get over it. Supporting that outrages healtcare system, which is solely based on money instead of humanity, or healing people. Thats why i don’t ensure myself. I have changed direction 180 degrees to avoid the mobsters steel my money. In a way i don’t think about the consequenses, i know they can be serious, but hey, i also step into an airplane, or sometimes even a car, although i try to avoid cars as much as possible :) too risky! :)

    Like i said, for me it’s actually not an option anymore buying health insurance.

  13. Laura says:

    I never used my travel insurance for my 8 month trip. But I have used it on two other trips. The great thing about travel insurance is that it covers you once you get home as long as the injury/illness occurred on your trip. The first time I used it was for delayed baggage (they gave me $200) and for a foot infection & eye infection that I caught in Africa and the second time was when I got sick and missed a flight from Kenya- it covered rescheduling my flight saving me about $1000! I would never travel without it- it’s just so cheap compared to what all it covers.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Laura – It’s definitely worth it as you pointed out! Although, not all travel insurance providers cover you once you get home, even if the injury occurred overseas. I know of a couple of people who flew home due to an injury or illness only to find out that their insurance ended as soon as their flight landed and as a result, they had to pay a lot of money. There are some good providers out there but it always pays to double check to make sure we understand exactly what is covered.

  14. Priyank says:

    Hi Derek,
    I am confused with the conclusion! :) Like you said, medical costs in certain countries are meager, so what’s the rationale for buying expensive insurance from USA if you are visiting those countries? I understand that your case is different, with all the hopping around that you do, so it makes sense to have one less thing to worry about.
    Government insurance plans in certain countries, such as Canada, cover foreign travel to a ‘limited extent,’ like $50-200 per day, and that may be sufficient for some places.
    cheers, Priyank

    • Earl says:

      Hey Priyank – My conclusion is basically that I would rather pay for the medical costs overseas when I’m in countries that have inexpensive medical care. However, if something serious were to ever happen to me, I could fly home and receive the best care possible without having to pay for it because of my US health insurance. This seems to be the ideal situation to me as I’d rather know that if I needed surgery or I suddenly became quite ill, I could just go home and have everything taken care of without having to worry.

      • Earl says:

        Oh, sorry to confuse you by the way :) Hopefully I clarified my position and didn’t confuse you even more with my last response!

  15. Dave says:

    Hey Earl,
    Long time lurker, first time poster.

    How do you handle your US taxes and Social Security?

    No need to get into specifics, but would make for an interesting blog post.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Dave – I pay taxes just as if I was living in the US. In my situation, I’m basically a self-employed business owner and therefore pay taxes according to the rules for such a situation. If I was actually residing overseas and paying taxes overseas to another country, then my situation would be different. It would also be different if I stayed outside of the US for more than 330 days per year as, when that happens, you don’t have to pay taxes on the first $92,000 or so of your income. But I usually visit the US a few times each year so I don’t fit into that category.

  16. Amish says:

    My wife and I never travel without travel insurance and that also includes the extra option for trip-interruption (which is sometimes a add on, onto travel insurance).

    Case in point, last year while in our trek to Everest Base Camp. When we returned back to Lukla after our trek, the weather took a turn and no flights (heli or planes) were able to come in to take us back to Kathmandu.

    They said there was a small field 600m lower that was able to get in a few helicopters every day (by few I mean 4-5), but they were filling up fast as there was well over 3000+ hikers stranded (+cost was also going up every day).

    By the 5th day when we finally had a reserved seating on one, the cost was $1250/each person. We paid that in person, but had earlier contacted our insurance company. They said it would be covered. Returned home filled out forms, and 2 weeks later had a cheque in the mail.

  17. Mzuri says:

    Only $100 per month for U.S. health insurance for all the benefits you describe?! The national problem of access to affordable health care solved. I, too, would love to know this plan.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Mzuri – It’s a plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida…check out the Blue Cross Blue Shield website for plans in your state and I’m sure you’ll find some good options.

  18. Great information.

    I too, would like info on the company you are using in the US. I am paying a much higher rate, with a high deductible, and it is only for catastrophic medical attention…as I must be checked in to over night to receive coverage. thanks for your input.

  19. Hi Earl,

    I too, would like to know your US company for insurance, as I am paying much more for a very high, only catastrophic plan. Thanks for your input……

    • Earl says:

      It’s a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida plan…one of dozens that they offer. You can basically find a plan that is tailored to your needs using the online plan search on the Blue Cross website.

  20. I went without travel insurance after my initial plan expired for a few months. Then I realized I was taking way too much risk for something that would only cost me about 1-2 days of living expenses per month. For me, it is the emergency evacuation coverage that seems that most critical.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Stephanie – The emergency evacuation coverage is of course a good thing to have. Just make sure that you are covered when you get home as most travel insurance plans stop paying your medical expenses once you arrive in your home country!

  21. David says:

    At the moment I am living dangerously, but yes, it’s a tragic daily risk.

    Lets just hope I won’t be eating my words soon.

  22. joost says:

    hmm, interesting subject.
    I have a natural aversion against all insurances. Did very much trouble to avoid my obligatory insurance in my home country. I think i’ve paid enough, never claiming anything. While travelling i also never have insurance.
    But indeed i solely travel in low cost countries, so doctor bills are payable.
    And i think about what i’m doin, i don’t take high risks.
    I’m healthy. All together i feel confident when travelling not having insurance. It’s possible. When something serious occurs, i think a rely on the community at home.
    W’ll see if they wanna pay for my serious surgery. I realize i have a different point of view in products from financial organizations. So actually i don’t see insurance as an option. :)

    How much pad thai can you buy for your yearly travel insurances?
    I bet it’s for a lifetime :)

    cheers!

    • Earl says:

      Hey Joost – Yes, I could buy a lifetime worth of pad thai for my insurance costs but if something serious ever did happen, and I didn’t have insurance, I would lose two lifetimes of pad thai :)

    • Andy says:

      “But indeed i solely travel in low cost countries, so doctor bills are payable.”

      No, they’re not.

      A few hundred bucks here and there won’t break the bank.

      But what if you need serious surgery? Or fall into a coma? Spend months in intensive care? That will cost you up to US$ 100,000 easily. Even in Thailand. An emergency evacuation flight back home will cost you US$ 30,000 or more.
      Do you have that? If not, you need worldwide travel health insurance.

      Health insurance is not for a few doctors visits.

      It’s for the big catastrophe that will never happen… unless you are not insured because then it will happen (Murphy’s Law ;).

  23. Gigi says:

    Hey Earl,

    Interesting and timely post. I’ve been trying to figure out my own full-time traveler insurance conundrum (right now I’m on a short World Nomads plan, but now something more long-term seems appropriate). Have you done any research/do you know anything about worldwide insurance plans (like BUPA?)? Do you have any insights into how the new health care laws in the U.S. will affect full-time travelers? (Will we have to have coverage in the U.S. even while we’re abroad?) If you know anything or have any resources you could point me toward, that would be awesome!

    Gigi

    • Earl says:

      Hey Gigi – I haven’t looked into the new health care laws and how they might affect long-term travelers but I will do some research eventually. As for worldwide insurance plans, someone else just mentioned a worldwide plan with HTH insurance company that seems like a good option. If I find out any more info on the topic I’ll be sure to let you know!

  24. Elisa says:

    I ended up in an Indonesian hospital for 5 days after a wound from a motorbike accident (not my fault) turned infectious and burst at 12:30 AM. Fortunately I made it out with my leg still attached and some killer scar stories, but I racked up a multi-thousand dollar bill as I did not have insurance. Thank god and American Express for decent medical care.

    With World Nomads I have heard that there is exclusions for motorbikes – notably if you are injured in an accident and do not have proper licensing (an international license recognized in the country you are driving it) it will not cover any medical expenses. Have you heard of that?

    • Earl says:

      Hey Elisa – I haven’t heard of that particular clause but it’s definitely possible. I do know that most travel insurance companies have a long list of activities that they will not cover and you really need to read the details to make sure you know what kind of coverage you’re getting with them.

      Glad you survived that motorbike incident in one piece!

  25. Alexa says:

    On a recent 4-month trip around India and SE Asia, I used Squaremouth to find travel insurance. Squaremouth gives great comparisons of different travel insurance options, and I found it very helpful. http://www.squaremouth.com/

  26. Simon says:

    Ouch! I’ve been swimming in Chiang Mai’s moat during Songkran (also not on purpose!) but fortunately I didn’t have any mishaps getting out. Your foot looks nasty in that pic!

    Great advice, by the way; travel insurance is so important. It may be a cliche but it’s true: I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Simon – It can’t be said enough…insurance really is that important! And I’m glad you haven’t had any serious moat mishaps…but even without losing a toe nail, swimming in that nasty water is not the most enjoyable activity :)

  27. Colleen says:

    Travel insurance is essential. Most backpackers will engage in some activities while traveling that place them at much greater risk for injury or illness than at home. My son slipped on a rocky outcropping on Bali and $10,000 later he was finally done being patched up. That was 3 days in a world class facility in Denpassar, an expensive MRI, plus another 2 days at a cheaper hospital. Then, doctors and dentists in Singapore plus a month’s stay there to get him well.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Colleen – Even without the greater risk, we still never know when something might happen. Just as we might fall down the stairs at home, we could fall down the stairs while overseas but if we don’t have insurance, that’s going to be a much more expensive road to recovery when in another country.

  28. tyrhone says:

    3 injuries! Before leaving to travel that was my weekly sick list, it seems travel is safer than just staying home.
    In australia we got a bank account that gives us 6 months free travel insurance, after 6 months if yo return it reactivates. By coincidence we are back in perth before heading to Mexico (thanks again for your help) around the 6 month mark so are covered again for free. Its the Nab gold account for any aussies reading.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Tyrhone – Thanks for sharing that as I’m sure that will be helpful to some other readers out there! And luckily for you, spending time on a white sand beach in Mexico is quite a low-risk activity so your safe travels should continue without a problem :)

  29. Completely agree. Sometimes it’s hard to rationalize it if you’ve never needed it, but all it takes is one serious event to change your mind forever. An unexpected $10,000 bill will ruin anyone’s year, never mind a $100,000 one.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Matthew – You’re right and even an unexpected $1000 bill can ruin someone’s plans when they’re trying to make their money last as long as possible in order to see as much of the world as they can. Of course, insurance costs money too but if you plan that into your budget ahead of time, it certainly won’t make nearly as big of an impact.

  30. Matthew Cheyne says:

    Being a traveler and an ex insurance salesperson from six years ago, I can’t emphasize how important it is to have travel insurance. You may go your entire lifetime having travel insurance and never having to claim on it. But it’s the unknowns in life and the things that can go wrong in traveling that make travel insurance an absolute must have.

    Nowadays in Australia at least, the market for travel insurance is very competitive so it’s really important to read the insurance policy documents before you sign up not after so that you can ensure you’re getting the coverage you need.

    I would recommend that if you’ve got specific valuables you need coverage for or if you’re participating in any sports for example, extreme sports or you’re traveling long term to find a specialist provider as your run of the mill insurance company’s policy may not cover you for what you need.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Matthew – That is definitely true and I believe that most travel insurance plans will have a long list of activities that they don’t cover. So reading that fine print is vital in order to make sure you get an insurance that really does fit your needs!

  31. I have a global health insurance policy through HTH Worldwide. It’s designed for expats who spend at least 6 months of the year out of the country.

    I opted for a plan that would cover me in both the US and abroad. Why? Because I will most definitely be visiting the States and some point, and I don’t want to be without heath coverage in case of a serious medical emergency, like a car accident.

    Another consideration for women of childbearing age is whether or not to purchase maternity coverage. Many travel insurance plans and monthly, high-deductible plans do not include any pregnancy/maternity coverage. Unfortunately, if you decide that it’s critical to have maternity coverage, it’s going to cost you. Usually these riders add another $1,500-2,000 to your yearly costs.

  32. LifeLessOrdinary says:

    Thanks for this post, I’m glad you wrote is I know a number of people who don’t bother with travel insurance. As a traveller who has had to venture into the medical system of a number of different countries (amoebic dysentery – twice (India, Nepal, Bali) and a dog bite in Cambodia, I can support your thoughts that it doesn’t matter how little medical services cost in other countries, is absolutely necessary to always have insurance. In fact, having had experiences like I did, I now go for the best travel insurance I know of (here in Vancouver it’s my bank’s insurance program), even though my work insurance technically covers me. Even if the medical services themselves are cheap, good companies will also cover short-term (if you need to change locale for medical attention) and, for example, $200 worth of international phone calls home trying to find out what medical services are recommended and where is the best place to get them. Trust me, it is MORE than worth it.
    P.S. Nice pictures, helped paint the picture of your stories for me :). Ouch.

    • Earl says:

      @LifeLessOrdinary – Ouch is right…I can’t even explain what it feels like to have a wine glass stem pierce into your foot while running :)

      And you certainly do have some overseas medical care experience…so you know what you’re talking about. Having the best insurance possible, like you said, really is the best way to go.

  33. EarthDrifter says:

    I agree that insurance gives us peace of mind. Practically everywhere, even Europe, doctors’ visits cost a fraction compared to in the US. As you cited, it’s most often very cheap to get care abroad. I even had free care on Ometepe (Nicaragua) to treat an embedded tick antenna, they wouldn’t let me pay. From my experience, I feel that travel insurance is good just in case something major happens and you need to be airlifted home. But what if home is the US and you don’t have insurance there? What happens then I wonder?

    • Lauren says:

      I wonder that all the time – I’m a US citizen and the only time I’ve got insurance is when I’m traveling (I also tend to use World Nomads) or when I’m working in a foreign country, where I almost always have health coverage as part of my job/visa.
      It makes me nervous to think that when I’m in my own country, visiting family, I’ve got nothing. Something’s just not right about that.

    • Earl says:

      @EarthDrifter – And that’s exactly why I decided to make a US-based insurance a priority over travel insurance because most travel insurance plans stop paying your bills once you arrive home, even if they flew you there for treatment. I figured that I would rather pay for myself to fly home if need be and make sure that my expensive medical expenses at a US hospital would be taken care of instead.

  34. My wife and I typically don’t get travel insurance, but are worrying about it more. Americans get really low rates on travel insurance, for people from other countries, Japan in particular, the monthly rates can be triple or more.

    We have also had inexpensive medical care in many countries around the world, but have been warned about the exorbitant costs of an international hospital in one of those countries. One of these days we will arrange some long-term travel insurance.

    One thing to watch out for though is that not all insurance companies are created equal. We have a friend that is a nurse in Thailand. She says that at least three of the US underwriters are blacklisted at many Thai hospitals because they are notorious for not paying bills.

    Insurance companies earn their money by paying out as little claims as possible. (Seth Godin recently wrote about Progressive Insurance trying to avoid a claim.) Just because you have paid for insurance, doesn’t mean you are covered. Check out reviews of the company and see what other travellers say first.

    • Earl says:

      Hey John – Absolutely and that’s also why I didn’t choose an even cheaper insurance plan (that offered similar coverage) that was being offered by an insurance company in the US that I had never heard of. In the end I decided to pay more money for one of the bigger, better known insurance companies after doing some solid research about how they handle claims. Paying for a very cheap, unknown insurance plan can definitely be a risk.

  35. Megan says:

    I was totally wondering how you dealt with travel insurance! And now I know! It’s like you read my mind.

  36. Andy says:

    Travel health insurance is an absolute must. Even if you’re the most careful person in the world, it just takes one retard on the road to smash into your vehicle or just one random drink/food poisoning to cause serious injury. Nasty accidents happen when you
    least expect them.

    And worldwide third party liability insurance is something I always add too. Shouldn’t cost you more than $15 per month and it’s well worth it in case you cause a serious traffic accident or damage property.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Andy – All good points you made. You’re right that injuries are often not our own fault…it can happen out of nowhere and as a result of someone else’s behavior which is another very good reason to make sure you are covered.

  37. For U.S. citizens maintaining continuous, comprehensive, health insurance coverage is an absolute financial necessity. It’s one place where budget travelers commonly try to pinch a few pennies and it’s a huge gamble.

    I’d go even further, though, and say traveler’s insurance alone is not enough. Traveler’s insurance won’t generally cover you if you develop some kind of chronic condition for which you’ll need long-term care (likely in the U.S.). Those are the kind of situations where medical bills can really add up, and also where you may be uninsurable in the U.S. after the fact (all depending on what happens to the new health care law).

    I generally don’t insure against any loss I can financially withstand. But good health insurance is one thing I’ll never be without.

  38. Kim says:

    Great post and I completely agree. How did you find your insurer in the U.S.? We went through an insurance broker but I wasn’t quite sure if there were better ways to go about it. Would love to hear your suggestions.

    • Hi Kim,
      Health insurance brokers are the way to go. You can check policies on your own with ehealthinsurance.com. The policy we got through a broker was essentially the same price as what we found through e-health, but our broker helped us through the awful application process. Every state in the Union has their own unique wrinkles so it’s good to have a broker to answer questions and help you get the right policy.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Kim – I looked at online insurance brokers and then I just went directly to the websites of several insurance companies I know in Florida (where my home address is). And Blue Cross Blue Shield had a great interactive website that helped me narrow down my choices and find me a plan that gave me the coverage I wanted for around the price I was looking to spend.

  39. TravelingFirefighter says:

    Hi Earl,

    Who are you using for your independent medical coverage that you mentioned in your article? That might be helpful to others. Thanks,

    TravelingFirefighter

    • Earl says:

      @TravelingFirefighter – I use a plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. When I visited the Blue Cross website you can fill out an online survey asking you what kind of coverage is most important to you and then they list all of your options, most of which I found to be of good value.

  40. Chris Booth says:

    Absolutely agree, it’s an essential. The saving of a measly few quid simply isn’t worth it. One thing you didn’t mention is the personal liability and legal expense cover you get with most plans. You might not mean to, but if you seriously injure someone (or their property) whilst traveling then this is likely to be the ONLY way you will avoid mahoosive law suits from your own pocket.

    I’m always a little wary of the backpacker insurance plans because they really skimp on everything beside cover for personal property and medical expenses. I used World Nomads several times but I’m not sure I would ‘save’ those extra few quid now, after reading so many scare stories.

    Also, off topic, the Captcha it’s asked me to do to post this comment is ‘asspain doctrine’ – awesome name for the metal band I shall now be establishing :oD

    • Earl says:

      Hey Chris – Haha…now that’s a band I’d want to follow! And good point about the personal liability coverage…the more comprehensive the plan the better, even if, like you said, it costs a little more money. Being in such a situation – injury, illness or being sued – could be devastating without having such a plan.

  41. George says:

    I totally agree. I never used to buy travel insurance for weekend aways, how much can happen in a weekend right? wrong! When I was in Prague the first night I had my passport and wallet stolen and it cost me around £500 to replace (including all my travel expenses). A nightmare yes but it’s all over. Now I have annual short trip cover which only cost me £20 for the whole year. Totally worth it!

  42. Tiger says:

    Hey Earl, Thanks for another great post. What is the US based travel insurance that you recommend?

    • Earl says:

      Hey Tiger – It is a plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (which is where my home address is). You simply go to Blue Cross Blue Shield website, you fill out an online survey that asks you what kind of coverage is most important and then they give you a long list of options to choose from. I found their options to be quite reasonably priced.

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