I write about travel insurance about once a year because, for solo travelers, it’s an absolute must.
Whether it’s getting sick from food in Paris or tripping on a root while hiking Patagonia or a hurricane disrupting your trip in the Caribbean, things can go wrong.
But is the cost of insurance really worthwhile? True, not everyone gets back the money they put into insurance. But that’s the nature of it. We all pay some so that those who are unfortunate (and it could be any one of us) do not lose their shirts financially. Personally, I’ve won at the travel insurance game. I’ve had a pair of glasses replaced that were lost in the UK – $300. I had a crown fixed that had come off a tooth in Sydney – $272. And I was refunded for a flight to Peru that I couldn’t take due to my mother’s health. – $1,100.
TIP: You need to decide whether you want single trip or annual travel insurance. If you go with annual insurance try to avoid it renewing automatically. I’m just back from a trip last week. My insurance happened to expire at the end of that week. I don’t know when I’m traveling next so I’m saving what amounts to $30/month for a few months. I’ll buy when I’m about to leave again.
What Travel Insurance Should You Buy
Because I’m Canadian and can only give you a Canadian point of view, I asked travel bloggers for their travel insurance recommendations for their countries for this post: Do I Need Travel Insurance? Top Bloggers from 6 Countries Respond. Here are the recommendations they made:
- The United States: RoamRight Travel Insurance and I’ll put in a plug for Allianz Travel Insurance. The latter’s emergency medical reunion terms are a bit better than RoamRight’s. I’ve also experienced Allianz’s claim service (the insurance was for a rental and through my credit card) and it was excellent.
- Canada: American Express Travel Insurance (I’ve done the comparison a few times and it’s my favorite. You don’t need their credit card)
- Australia: World Nomads. The big perk with them is that you can buy their insurance when you’re already traveling. I don’t know any other company that allows you to do this.
- Bloggers from the United Kingdom, Germany and The Netherlands all recommend going through your bank.
Now let’s get on to the issues of coverage.
Travel Medical Insurance
My primary goal with a travel insurance policy is to be protected from medical emergencies. To lose $1,000 on a flight is one thing. To lose tens of thousands on medical costs is quite another. As a Canadian, my provincial health coverage offers some benefits when traveling outside of Canada but they are limited. This is typical if you rely on private medical insurance as well.
Most travel insurance policies should cover expenses for medical attention, paramedical services, ambulance, emergency dental, and expenses to return home or bring family to your bedside. When shopping for coverage, compare the dollar limits available for similar benefits. For example, two policies may offer emergency dental coverage but one may offer $500 in coverage while another provides $5,000.
Before purchasing travel insurance, travelers should consider their pre-existing medical conditions and the risks associated with treatment for those conditions while away. Some insurance policies may offer full coverage for existing conditions while other policies may require that your health has been stable for a period of time. This is called a stability clause and it’s used to limit what the insurance covers. It is important to be completely honest when signing up for insurance so that your policy will not be considered void for misrepresentation. Pay special attention to the policy’s definition of “Stable” and “Treatment”. These definitions can vary and directly impact your available medical coverage.
When buying online I read the fine print but I also like to talk to an insurance representative before I do so. I like to be clear on what I’m covered for.
Emergency Medical Reunion Important for Solo Travelers
Emergency medical reunion is offered by many policies however the terms can vary greatly. Know the exact terms of the insurance you’re considering so that you can make a proper comparison between companies. Download the Certificate of Insurance. This is usually available in smaller print on any page promoting a plan or at the bottom of the site under the heading “forms”. Here are the medical reunion terms for three plans.
US – Allianz Travel Insurance policy, Deluxe Plan and above: “If You’re told You will be hospitalized for more than seven days during Your Trip, We’ll transport a friend or Family Member to stay with You. We’ll arrange and pay for round-trip transportation in economy class on a common carrier.”
US – Roamright’s Elite Plan: “When You are hospitalized for more than 7 days, the Company will arrange and pay for round-trip economyclass transportation for one individual selected by You from Your Home Country to the location where You are hospitalized and return to the current Home Country. The benefits payable will include: The cost of a round trip economy air fare up to the maximum stated in Your Schedule of Coverage and Service Emergency Medical Reunion. The period of Emergency Medical Reunion is not to exceed 30 days, including travel.”
Canada – American Express Travel Insurance Ultimate Plan: “This benefit is subject to the pre-authorization of Global Excel. Covers the cost of round-trip economy class transportation by the most cost-effective route, to have someone visit you when you are travelling alone and are hospitalized during your trip for more than 3 days. However, if you are under age 21, or age 21 and over and physically handicapped and dependent on your bedside companion for support, this insurance provides this benefit to you as soon as you are admitted to a hospital. That person is entitled to a maximum of $300 for meal and hotel accommodation expenses and is covered under the terms of your insurance during the period in which he or she is required at your bedside. The visit must be approved in advance through Global Excel.
Trip cancellation and Lost Luggage Insurance
Beyond medical insurance I also want to be covered for unexpected trip cancellation, interruption, and baggage loss if that occurs. Travel insurance is unregulated in most countries, so insurers are free to design their own policy wordings. As a result, travelers will find: minor differences in benefits offered, limitations in one policy and not another, and exclusions in some places but not in others. It is important to review your policy wording to understand how you are protected. Would you be covered if severe weather affected your trip, if you lost your job and determined that you couldn’t afford to go or if a serious business meeting came up. Look into the details.