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Travel Insurance: what it is, why to have it and what you already paid for

Travel Insurance: what it is, why to have it and what you already paid for

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When traveling outside your country of residence, one of the most important things you should invest in is the travel insurance. But, what is travel insurance and why should you get yours?


What travel insurance is

In general terms, there are three types of insurance that are travel related:

  • travel health insurance (commonly refered as travel insurance, although it can be bought separately)
  • cancellation insurance
  • life or accident insurance with international coverage

Travel health insurance is a health insurance that covers your health expenses when they happen as you travel, generally excluding pre-existing conditions and chronic diseases. It allows you to visit private doctors and hospitals (unlike the European Health Insurance or Social Security Card) and also covers the costs of bringing you back home if you get sick and have to take you back. They usually include legal assistance, stay for a family member and other costs, but it depends on the company (and price.)

Cancellation insurance, on the other side, is an insurance that refunds you the amount of flights, reservations, etc, when certain things happen. For example when someone of your family is hospitalized, you must attend an election as a local representative, you get fired at work, etc. The coverage depends on the company (and price).

Life or accident insurance gives you money when an accident happens and it causes you death or a severe damage. Also depends on the company (and price).


When should you get your travel insurance

Most travelers get some sort of insurance when they book their flights, but this is only a cancellation insurance or a life insurance, not a health insurance. But if you are planning on traveling to a country with expensive medical care such as the United States, Japan, Europe, Mexico… you should plan ahead for several reasons:

  • When you are traveling to a country that requires a Visa, you will probably have to provide proof of your health coverage (some countries limit the insurance companies that are valid for this) when applying to the visa. For example: Russia.
  • When traveling to certain countries that require health coverage to enter the country, you will be asked about the conditions and coverage when getting in and out of the country. For example: Venezuela.
  • When you are not traveling with a package, most cancellation insurers limit the amount covered to what you bought in the las 24-72 hours or apply an equivalent restriction. So when buying travel on your own, it might be good to plan your shopping or buy different insurances for each of your travel items.
  • Health insurance is best bought a few weeks before you travel. First, because they don’t cover pre-existing conditions and buying in advance is a way to show you didn’t buy insurance for a sickness you already have (for example 15 days for Coronavirus) and in case they need to send you coverage documents (now most of them work with digital documents, but depends on the country you visit).

I tell you all the questions you should consider when buying travel insurance in this post.


All the insurance you already have (and you might not know)

There are several insurance coverages you already have and that might be useful to complement your travel insurance:

  • When paying with a credit card (Visa, Amex, Mastercard) your travels, you usually have a life-accidents insurance that covers you when using the transport that you booked with it. It doesn’t usually go beyond a life or accident insurance and doesn’t cover you when you are not using that specific transport, and coverage also depends on your card type, so you better check with your bank.
  • If you have an airline points card, some of them include an assistance service that covers medical expenses when you have an accident, but it is very limited in most cases or depends on what you payed for your tickets.
  • Some of the health insurance you have at home also offer international coverage when traveling in short periods. You should check with them what they cover, how much and if they have country exclusions or similar. Also, they usually require you to notify them that you will be traveling.
  • If you live in Europe, the European Social Security Systems allow you to get medical coverage through the EHIC and other agreements.

And… in many cases your Travel Health Insurance also covers life/accidents and (in some cases) certain cancellation expenses.


Which are good travel insurance vendors

There are tons of vendors all around the world and wach vendor will have its own expertise. You will not need the same insurance when traveling as a backpacker, when doing a work placement or when being a digital nomad.

So, here you will find the top 12 questions to ask when buying your travel insurance, but also a few considerations that are usually applicable:

  • Your travel agent might get you one, but they usually have too many exclusions and limits that you cannot choose from and they are not always the most competitive in pricing.
  • Hotels don’t always offer them, they do offer flexible cancellation policies to compensate) but many independent travel cancellation plans allow you to add their costs to their insurance. Not many cover non-official accomodations such as private houses or AirBnb.
  • Airlines, ferries, cruises, etc. offer them but only for their own service and are usually more restrictive and harder to manage. You can cover all together with a single travel insurance contract from an independent vendor.
  • Some insurers work by refunding your costs (you pay first) and others tell you where to go and pay for you. This is important when traveling to certain countries.

What else would you like to know?

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