Should You Buy Travel Insurance Or Not?

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Travel Insurance Tips

Guide to Buying Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance Guide

Buying travel insurance can be a very confusing part of planning your international travel adventure. Is it worth the expense? Which companies offer the best coverage?

What Is Travel Insurance?

The term travel insurance is commonly used to describe a few different types of insurance. It can sometimes be pretty confusing for new travelers.

You should know what kinds of coverage a travel insurance policy includes, because it may not include everything you think it does.

Travel Health Insurance is coverage for accidents, injuries, and hospital visits while you are away from home.

Medical Evacuation Insurance is coverage for transporting you to a major hospital for treatment.

Trip Cancelation Insurance is coverage for unexpected interruptions in your travel plans.

Baggage/Property Insurance is coverage for theft or damage to your gear while traveling.

Travel Insurance Guide

This is why you need travel insurance!

Do You Need Travel Insurance?

This is the million-dollar question — and ultimately a personal decision. I’ve met plenty of people who travel without travel insurance and I’ve contemplated doing the same.

But after over 6 years of constant travel, hearing horror stories from other travelers, and getting into a few dangerous predicaments myself — if someone asks for my opinion on the subject I answer with:

YES. Everyone should carry some kind of health/property insurance when traveling.

Why? Because shit happens. Whether you think it will or not. Despite your best-laid plans and preventative measures. Sure, if you sprain your ankle, it might not be a big deal.

But what if your appendix bursts? Or your bus crashes? Or you contract a deadly disease? Or require medical evacuation after breaking your leg?

These things definitely happen to travelers from time to time, and could cost you tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars. Without insurance, you’re screwed!

My recommendation is based on listening to countless first-hand tales of disaster from other travelers, as well as my own personal experiences.

Sick in Mexico

Catching Dengue Fever in Mexico

Real-Life Examples

I met a woman in Costa Rica who fell off a ladder, shattering the bone in her arm. She did not have health insurance, received horrible treatment at the local hospital, and was basically held hostage until she was able to pay the HUGE medical bill.

Another friend lost everything he owned when his locked guesthouse in Ecuador was broken into. Without personal property insurance, he would’ve needed to spend thousands replacing stolen computer & camera gear.

Another friend contracted a flesh-eating parasite while trekking through the jungles of Peru. He required months worth of treatment from specialized doctors, and a flight back to the United States.

Yet another friend had his 5-star resort hotel room ransacked in Mexico.

These are all people I know personally.

Travel Insurance Tips

Man Using My Stolen Laptop

My Own Close Calls…

I once crashed a wooden sled while flying down a volcano, receiving lacerations all over my head. Luckily I didn’t break anything… but a girl with our group wasn’t so lucky, and tore a ligament in her ankle that required surgery.

On a trip to Panama my laptop computer was stolen literally right out from under my feet. I’d let my travel insurance lapse, and was no longer covered for the theft… Luckily I got some payback!

I’ve also contracted Dengue Fever in Mexico, which required blood tests & doctor’s visits. In more serious cases patients are hospitalized for weeks, and require blood transfusions. That stuff isn’t cheap.

My point here is you never know. Not having travel insurance when you really need it sucks big time. And you won’t understand just HOW MUCH it sucks until it happens to you.

What Kind Of Insurance?

That really depends on a lot of different factors. You’ll have to ask yourself a few questions. Are you a short-term traveler going away for a few days/weeks? Or are you a long-term traveler leaving for 6 months or more?

Do you carry tons of expensive photo/computer gear, or not?

Will your regular health insurance cover you overseas? Does it include medical evacuation? Do you have pre-existing conditions?

Are you the type of person who books hotels/flights/activities in advance? Or do you just wing it and pay for services as you use them?

Short-Term Travel Insurance

World Nomads

World Nomads specializes in short-term travel coverage, including theft, and are very popular among travelers. I used them for years before I decided to get long-term expat type insurance instead.

Buying insurance with World Nomads for your next vacation is quick & easy. You can even purchase a plan with little advanced notice. You can extend coverage online from anywhere too.

Health Coverage Worldwide: Yes.
Coverage At Home: No.
Medical Evacuation: Yes.
Trip Cancelation: Yes.
Theft/Damage Insurance: Yes. ($500 per-item limit)


Long-Term Travel Insurance

Because I’m a digital nomad and travel with thousands of dollars of camera equipment for work, I have a more long-term travel insurance mindset. I use an expat dedicated health insurance policy, combined with a gear policy for professional photographers.

This mix is more expensive than a World Nomads Policy, but works best for my long-term travel lifestyle.

TCP Photographer Insurance

TCP Insurance has been around for 40 years and has a dedicated department for professional photographers. General liability and equipment insurance begins at $500 a year with quarterly payments available. They can cover tens of thousands of dollars in photography gear, including laptops, drones, and general business liability should you injure someone else while working on location.


IMG Global

This plan specializes in long-term worldwide medical coverage, but does not cover theft or trip cancelation. Coverage inside the United States is included, but to qualify you must spend at least 6 months of the year living abroad. You can choose a deductible from $250-$10,000.

Health Coverage Worldwide: Yes.
Coverage at Home: Yes.
Medical Evacuation: Yes.
Trip Cancelation: No.
Theft/Damage Insurance: No.
Example Quote: Global Gold (1 year policy) = $74/month with $1000 deductible

NOTE: I’ve never needed to file a claim with any of these companies yet.

More Insurance Options

HTH Worldwide

Full international medical insurance, including the United States. No limits as to how long you are in the US. Deductible waived for regular doctor checkups. Excellent insurance, but pricey. Sherry from OttsWorld.com is a happy customer.

Health Coverage Worldwide: Yes.
Coverage at Home: Yes.
Medical Evacuation: Yes.
Trip Cancelation: No.
Theft/Damage Insurance: No.
Example Quote: Global Citizen (1 year policy) = $269/month with $1000 deductible


Your Current Insurance

Already have regular health insurance in your home country? Check to see if they provide coverage internationally. If they do, you might not need anything else.

Homeowners/Renters Insurance

Your homeowners or renters insurance may cover your belongings when you’re traveling in foreign countries too. Call them up to verify the details.

Credit Card Insurance

Many credit card companies often include some basic travel and theft insurance for their customers. Call them up to get details on what’s covered (or not).

Making A Claim

Insurance companies are notorious for trying to avoid paying out claims. Making a claim might take some work on your part, depending on the situation. Here are a few tips for getting paid:

  • If you’re having issues filing a claim, always work your way up the corporate ladder. Talk to a supervisor. Then talk to the supervisor’s supervisor. Make your claim issues public using Social Media if needed.
  • Record conversations. At the beginning of every phone call, tell the other party you’re recording the conversation to ensure no mis-understandings later. You can easily do this with Skype and a program like Pamela for PC or Ecamm Call Recorder for Mac.
  • When filing a police report of any kind, keep the story simple. The longer and more in-depth the report, the easier it is for insurance companies to find a loophole they can use to deny your claim! You better believe they will try…

Travel Insurance Tips

  • Read the fine print first! Know what you’re covered for. For example, some policies don’t cover extreme sports or theft of unattended items.
  • Take photos of all your gear with a date stamp.
  • Save PDF copies of all gear purchase & hospital receipts. Keep originals too.
  • Write down serial numbers, policy numbers, and insurance contact information.
  • Store this information online in a secure, easy to access place. I use Evernote. Another good option is Dropbox or Google Drive.
  • File a police report immediately after any theft or accident.

Happy Traveling!

No one likes to think about theft or injury when they’re on vacation, but the threat is real, and without good travel insurance, an unexpected incident could ruin the rest of your year. Never travel without it! ★

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Have any questions about travel insurance? Have you ever had something bad happen? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.