I write about travel insurance about once a year because, for those of us who travel solo, it’s an absolute must.
This is an unusual mid-year update. I’m revising this article now because World Nomads has expanded their offering and, as a result, my recommendations have changed somewhat. Please read on.
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.
Travel insurance will take care of such things. But is the cost of insurance really worthwhile?
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.
I believe that travel insurance is worth every penny.
Surprising Savings on Travel Insurance
World Nomads is a company that has been providing travel inspiration and insurance for a long time.
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 tend to take many trips of two to four weeks in length in one year.
When I ran the numbers I found that most travelers would get a better deal with World Nomads. As a Canadian I ran numbers comparing American Express (the insurance I currently have) to World Nomads and the savings with the latter were significant. I turned on my VPN which put me in the US and ran a similar though smaller analysis of Roamright vs. World Nomads and found again that World Nomads was the better deal.
Here are the numbers I came up with in my comparison. When buying Amex insurance you don’t specify what countries you are going to. When buying World Nomads insurance you do specify so I suspect the countries will affect your price. I chose the UK, France, and Italy as my destinations.
- 3-day trip – American Express, $78.74. World Nomads, $19.11.
- 14-day trip – American Express, $170.64. World Nomads, $81.83.
- 30-day trip – American Express, $244.08. World Nomads, 168.37.
- 45-day trip – American Express, $297.44. World Nomads, $242.43
- 60-day trip – American Express, $367.20. World Nomads, $289.60
- Multi-trip plan – American Express, many trips during the year up to 31 days each, $348.84. World Nomads doesn’t have a multi-trip plan
- longer than 31 days – World Nomads is your best bet.
A few notes:
- The above prices are based on American Express top-of-the-line insurance and World Nomad’s basic plan which is comparable in terms of benefits.
- It would take four 14-day trips to make it worth buying the Amex multi-trip insurance over World Nomads single trip insurance. You’ll have to do the math for your situation.
- The cost of your insurance may be more or less than the above depending on your age.
- World Nomads insurance has an age limit. I believe it’s 65 in Canada and 70 in the US.
- World Nomads is the only company I know of that will let you buy insurance once you have left on your trip.
For Canadian, American, and Australian travelers I would recommend considering World Nomads. British and European travelers should check what their bank offers and compare it to World Nomads.
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.
Before purchasing travel insurance, travelers should consider their preexisting 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 buy. 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 four plans:
World Nomads: $1,500 in coverage. “If you’re traveling alone and are admitted to hospital for 3 days or more, we’ll arrange for someone to be with you and pay for their return economy airfare, accommodation, meals, essential calls and taxis of CAD$150 per day for a maximum of 10 days.”
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.”
Roamright Elite Plan: “When you are hospitalized for more than 7 days, the company will arrange and pay for round-trip economy class 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.”
American Express Travel Insurance Ultimate Plan (Canada): “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 any of those occur. 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.