The Bottom Line
I never, ever travel outside my country without travel insurance. Really! I strongly believe that it's important to have travel insurance in case something goes wrong.
Check out World Nomads. They provide travel insurance to travelers from over 140 countries and are backed by reputable insurers and 24-hour assistance providers. I have World Nomads insurance.
To be clear, if you click on one of our links and buy we will get compensation. You'll pay no more but you will support Solo Traveler.
Do You Need Travel Insurance?
If you are over the age of 69 (65 in Canada), please read Travel Insurance for Senior Solo Travelers.
Whether it's getting sick from food in Paris or tripping on a root while hiking Patagonia, things can go wrong. You might have to cancel your trip or you could lose gear while traveling.
If you don't buy travel insurance, you're responsible for anything that goes wrong. If you do, you can claim many expenses back as I have for a variety of things.
- 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.
- I was refunded for a flight to Peru that I couldn’t take due to my mother’s health – $1,100.
I believe that travel insurance can be worth every penny.
Are You Already Covered?
Before buying insurance it's best to determine whether you're already covered by your company health plan or your credit card while you're traveling. To do the analysis, look for the gaps between what you consider to be adequate coverage and what you actually you have. Look at the financial limits of the coverage and whether you're covered in the countries you're visiting and for the length of time you'll be traveling. All these factors can affect whether you have adequate insurance. Check for:
- Emergency medical coverage.
- Upfront payment for claims. Many hospitals require payment on the spot which could be a problem for you.
- Trip cancellation. This is especially important for higher cost trips.
- Trip delay coverage.
- Trip length limits.
- Age restrictions. This doesn’t apply to me yet but if you are over 65 it could.
- Baggage loss coverage.
- Companion coverage so that should you be in hospital, your insurance company will send a friend to be with you.
Choosing the Right Travel Insurance for You
World Nomads is a company that has been providing travel inspiration and insurance for a long time. I insure with them.
When buying travel insurance you first need to consider your travel plans for the year. You need to determine whether your plans include:
- Short single trips – you will only take one or two trips per year.
- Long single trips – you're planning a trip longer than 30 days.
- Multiple trips – you intend to take many trips of two to four weeks in length in one year.
Next, consider what kind of coverage you want. The main categories are:
- Medical and dental coverage for illness or accident. This is a priority for me. Read below for more details.
- Trip cancellation, interruption or delay.
- Baggage and personal effects loss, theft or damage
I suggest that you compare the price and benefits of at least two insurance providers. I'd check World Nomads and RoamRight travel insurance. Read the policy details to ensure that it's right for you. Buy before you leave on your trip however, if you forget, contact World Nomads. They are the only company I know of that will let you buy insurance even if you have already left on your trip.
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 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.
Pre-existing medical conditions
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. Still others are more concerned about pre-existing conditions as it relates to trip cancellation insurance rather medical insurance. If you have pre-existing conditions, it is important to:
- Read the fine print concerning pre-existing carefully before you buy. Pay special attention to the policy’s definition of “Stable” and “Treatment.” These definitions can vary and directly impact your available medical coverage.
- Be completely honest about any pre-existing conditions when signing up for insurance so that your policy will not be considered void for misrepresentation.
- Call the insurance company so that you're really clear on what their terms mean. For example, if you have a heart condition you may still be covered for a heart attack as this is an unpredictable event. Seriously, call, their customer support people can be very helpful.
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.”
Trip Cancellation and Lost Luggage Insurance
Beyond medical insurance I also want to be covered for unexpected trip cancellation, trip interruption, and baggage or gear loss. 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:
- Know what trip cancellation situations you are covered for. 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.
- What their policy is regarding gear. If you have a lot of expensive gear it may be worth taking photos of all your gear before leaving so that you have proof of ownership.