If you’re thinking “Do I really need travel insurance”, the answer is yes. Don’t make the mistake of traveling without it.

The one time I travelled without insurance, I had a scooter accident in Bali. That didn’t go so well. I ended up having to pay for all my medical treatment, and I couldn’t recover any of the costs. Luckily Bali is rather cheap compared to other countries, but imagine if I’d had an accident in the USA! Without travel insurance I would have been in serious trouble.

Why you need travel insurance

Now I will never travel without insurance- it is not a gamble I am willing to take. I learned from my mistake, but you don’t need to make the same mistakes I did.

You WILL need it at some point, particularly if you’re planning to travel for extended periods of time. Travel insurance came in very useful when I had my camera stolen in Monaco, and when I was struck down with a mysterious fever in Bangkok.

Travel insurance doesn’t just cover your for medical emergencies; it covers you when your flight is cancelled, when something is stolen or you have to take an emergency flight home. It covers you when your bags are lost by an airline, or you lose your passport.

I know choosing a travel insurance policy can be overwhelming, and with so many insurance companies out there, no-one wants to spend hours and hours reading through the small print. The world of travel insurance can be very confusing, but it’s an important thing to have, so you need to make sure you are properly covered.

Here I’m going to discuss how to choose travel insurance and who I use on my travels.

What to Look For When Choosing Travel Insurance

First let’s deal with what to look out for in an insurance policy to make sure you are covered. It will need to include the following things:

  • Cancellation: It would be pretty disappointing if you are taken seriously ill before you depart from your trip and you have to cancel, but these things can happen. Every travel insurance plan is different so read the policy wording and check the cancellation terms.
  • Lost or Stolen Gear: Travel insurance plans tend to have an individual item value limit. If you’re traveling with expensive items such as laptops and cameras, you will need to make sure this limit is high enough or choose a policy that will let you increase the limit. If your per-item limit is $500 and your Macbook is worth $1500, it won’t be covered for its full value. Some travel insurance companies will let you specify particular items for an extra charge, or you can look into taking out separate gadget insurance.
  • Medical & Emergency Evacuation: Make sure that your travel insurance policy covers emergency medical treatment and transport to get you home if you are sick (also known as repatriation). For more serious conditions, most travel insurance providers will insist on getting you home for medical treatment if you are fit enough to travel. If you have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, asthma, cancer, strokes, epilepsy, blood pressure and heart conditions, you may want to purchase special medical travel insurance so you don’t have to pay enormous costs of medical care abroad.
  • Adventure Activities: Read the policy carefully so you are aware of what sports and activities you are covered for. If you’re planning to go skiing, skydiving, abseiling, rock climbing, ballooning or scuba diving for instance, you will want to make sure you are covered! You may have to pay a little extra to cover these things, but it’s worth every penny.
  • Personal Liability: Pick an insurance policy that covers you for personal liability, i.e when an accident happens and it is found to be your fault. If someone decides to sue you, at least you are covered. Travel insurance doesn’t typically cover liability while you’re driving any type of motorised vehicle (cars, motorbikes, scooters, boats) so make sure you’ve got appropriate cover elsewhere.
  • Check it’s safe to go there:  Make sure you check your government’s travel advisory before you go. If there is a government warning saying you shouldn’t go there due to major things like war, terrorism, civil unrest or environmental disasters, you may not be covered!

Additional Tips

Check that you aren’t already covered by your bank- Some premium bank accounts come with perks such as  travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, so make sure you are not paying twice for travel insurance.

Some things may be covered by your home insurance, or your parents’ home insurance– Before you buy your travel insurance, check to see if your belongings are covered by your home insurance. Sometimes they will cover your possessions even when you are abroad.

Shop around online for the best insurer- Common sense really, but shop around online to find the best deal and read reviews by people who have used the company. Try sites like Travel Supermarket, Insure My Trip or Moneysavingexpert.com

Check the length of coverage- When you buy single trip or annual multi-trip policies they will usually only cover you for trips of around 30-90 days at a time, depending on the level of coverage. If you are planning to travel around the world for a year, you will need to purchase long-term backpacker travel insurance.l

Worldwide or excluding North America: Make sure you are covered for the country you are traveling to. If you plan to visit North America on your trip then make sure you buy a policy that includes travel to the USA!

Be aware of the individual item value limit– Travel insurance policies will usually have an individual item limit, meaning you can only claim for an item up to a certain value. So if you are traveling with laptops and expensive cameras, you might want to choose a policy that allows you to specify each item on the policy and insure them at an additional cost.

Check the excess- The excess is the amount you will have to pay when you make the claim. So for example if the excess is $50, you have to pay the first $50 of the claim. Ideally you want a low excess!

DON’T buy single trip insurance- If you plan to travel more than once per year, it is far better to buy an annual multi-trip policy. You will waste money if you keep buying single-trip policies.

DO declare any pre-existing conditions– It can be scary to declare pre-existing conditions, but you will invalidate your insurance if you don’t declare your pre-existing conditions and it will cost you a fortune in medical bills.

Check what activities are covered- If you plan to do winter sports or risky extreme sports such as bungee jumping or paragliding, you will probably have to pay extra. Make sure you know what activities you are covered for before you do them.

DON’T be reckless- If your accident happens under the influence of drink or drugs, your claim won’t get paid. Be sensible, don’t deliberately put your life in danger and don’t get black-out drunk. You also aren’t usually covered for catching HIV or sexually transmitted diseases while you’re away.

24/7 support– Choosing an insurance company that offers 24/7 support gives you piece of mind that you will always be able to seek assistance in an emergency.

Making A Claim

Carry your policy details- When traveling, always make sure you carry your insurance policy details and the telephone number in case you need them. I carry around a little card in my purse with all the details on it.

If you need to go to a doctor/hospital, call the medical claims line- If you need to go to the doctors while you’re away, usually you will have to pay for your treatment and then claim it back on the insurance. If you can’t afford to do that and you have a medical emergency, call your insurer’s medical claims number so that they can direct you to the nearest hospital. They will usually inform the hospital that you are coming and make sure it is billed to them.

Have the necessary documentation- The travel insurance provider will need proof of ownership if you have had something lost or stolen. As a standard procedure before traveling, I keep the receipts, write down the serial numbers of all my electronics, then I take photos of them and store them on a cloud drive. So if I get robbed, I can easily prove that I owned the item in the first place. Make sure you go to the police station as soon as the incident happens as you will need a police report.

If you have the necessary documentation, this will help your claim go through a lot quicker.

Recommended insurance

If you’re looking to buy travel insurance, I suggest you purchase a policy with World Nomads. Lots of travel insurance providers will not let you purchase a policy when you are outside of your home country, but World Nomads will let you purchase insurance when you are already traveling.

I realised my travel insurance policy with another provider had expired while I was traveling in North America and they wouldn’t allow me to extend while abroad. World Nomads saved the day and allowed me to buy a policy while I was abroad.

Why buy travel insurance from WorldNomads.com?

The travel insurance plans available from WorldNomads.com cover travellers from over 140 countries and they make it easy to buy, extend and claim, even while travelling.

Save money

By focussing on what you need and leaving out what you don’t, the travel insurance plans available from WorldNomads.com offer some of the most competitive prices online. With travel insurance that’s made for independent and adventurous travellers, the insurance includes what’s important: overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and cover for a range of adventure sports.

Stay flexible

Did you leave home without insurance? Had a change of plans or your cover has expired? With World Nomads, you can buy travel insurance, extend your policy or claim online, 24/7, even while you’re travelling.

Be adventurous

From skiing & snowboarding in New Zealand to whitewater rafting in Colorado, the insurance plans cover a range of adventure activities, giving you peace of mind so you get the most from your travels.

Get help when you need it most

WorldNomads.com is backed by a suite of strong, secure, specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support and claims management when you need it most.

Stay safe on the road

Access up-to-date travel safety alerts, safety advice and tips online through the WorldNomads.com Travel Safety Hub.

Flirt in 25 languages and stay in touch

Get all the best phrases in the local lingo with World Nomads series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides. They’ll even help you stay in touch with family and friends with a free travel blog.

Make a difference when you travel

When you buy a policy from WorldNomads.com, you can help make a difference to developing communities. Your small donation helps fund local projects through the World Nomads Footprints program.