Motorbiking through the dusty paths in the jungles of Southeast Asia without a care in the world, clambering around a volatile volcano containing sulfuric blue flames that jut out of the ground and a green acidic lake… at 2 am, and cruising around islands in a boat that’s leakier than your hostels’ faucet…
These are all activities that I’ve participated in (and more) and no, I did not have travel insurance.
Call me ignorant, call me reckless, call me stupid, naive, or totally fucking crazy. I did it. It is what it is.
I traveled the world without travel insurance for over four years.
From the beaches in Mexico to the crepe stands in France, to the volcanoes of Indonesia and the chaotic traffic in the Philippines… I’ve been there and done that without travel insurance coverage. I didn’t even have insurance on my electronic equipment.
Older more mature me looks back and wonders how the F I survived.
As many may guess, my mind has changed a bit on travel insurance and I’m hoping you may be interested to see what I have to say about it and how I fared without it during my years abroad.
But let’s get the more boring stuff out the of the way, shall we? What exactly is travel insurance, what does it cover, why do people even say it’s necessary and what can you use it for? Let get this part over with…
Travel Insurance: Coverage
So, what does it cover? Well, depending on your plan, anything and everything!
Say you were planning a trip to Belize and a hurricane hits a week before your trip, flooding the town you intended to stay in and closing your resort indefinitely. Without travel insurance, you would be out everything you already paid for, flight, hotel, rental car, etc.
How many months (years?) of savings just went down the toilet?
With travel insurance, you get all of your money refunded. The price you pay to insure your trip really is peanuts compared to the thousands you could lose if something goes wrong.
Lost or Stolen Items
Many places around the world experience what are called “crimes of convenience.” This means that if you left your laptop on the cafe table outside while you went in for a refill, and it’s gone when you get back, travel insurance would replace it. Your hotel rooms got ransacked?
Travel insurance has your back.
Also, the airline might misplace your items. Your bags could be sightseeing in Beijing while you’re stuck wearing your tank top you boarded your Orlando to Iceland flight with. Brr. Travel insurance will take care of all of that.
Medical and Death
Ugh, the one thing we do not want to think about or talk about while traveling, or ever really. Your zipline breaks and you crash into a rock wall, breaking your leg. Your bungee jumping excursion does wrong and you fracture your collarbone. Worse, you suffer such trauma that you need to be airlifted out of the Amazon jungle, hundreds of miles away to a state of the art hospital.
You could be out thousands, even millions, of dollars without travel insurance.
With it, with good coverage, all of your expenses will be paid for or at least, a large chunk of it. Seems pretty clear-cut, right?
Travel Insurance: What’s the Best Coverage for You?
So this one depends. If all you are doing is hanging on the beach in Jamaica for a week, you may need an inexpensive plan that covers the basics.
In fact, check with your own health insurance and your renters or homeowners insurance, and you may find that you are either already covered for things like medical emergencies overseas and lost items. All you’ll need then is insurance to cover the possibility of cancellation.
However, if you plan to live somewhere for a while or if you are a committed nomad like I am, bulk up on the insurance. You want to be covered in the event of an accident while skydiving or spelunking.
Even contraction of malaria or some other disease is possible when traveling through otherwise perfectly safe areas. You’ve got to think ahead so you can enjoy yourself and rest at ease that you are covered just in case.
Because the only thing worse than getting terribly ill or injured is having to pay full price to get yourself better.
Find the right plan and you can get great coverage for a relatively small fee. There really is no price too high for peace of mind while you are sticking your neck out in a foreign country.
Travel Insurance: Tips for Making a Claim
So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few decades, you know that insurance companies make their money on people who never have to use it and by not paying out on claims.
Oh, the loopholes they will find.
For this reason, we have to have a kind of love/hate relationship with insurance companies. We are happy to have insurance but hate having to prove every single penny, nickel, and dime and legitimate accident that occurs. The best way to protect yourself from any problems with your insurance company is to follow a few simple, common sense rules:
Keep Close Track of Your Belongings.
This means write down every single serial number, keep your receipts, and file everything away on a safe, secure online platform. Google drive is great for this. You can access it from anywhere at any time, and you know it won’t get lost.
Keep Your Story Simple.
If something does befall you, keep your description of the incident clear and to the point. Do not let the insurance company find any reason to cut you out of what is rightfully yours. Avoid the loopholes.
Know What You’ve Got.
About those loopholes, be sure you are really clear on what kind of coverage you have before you buy it. Like I said above, if you plan on zip lining, don’t get the insurance that prohibits “risky” behavior. Hell, drinking too much wine and falling asleep on the beach can be considered “risky.” Educate yourself on your plan.
Report Report Report.
Anytime anything happens to you, file a report. Call the police. Notify your hotel. Be sure there is a clear paper trail that documents your accident, lost or stolen items, or anything else untoward.
So What Happened To Me All Those Years Without Travel Insurance?
I survived. Somehow I survived and without any debt in credit cards or to my parents to bail me out. How?
I got so fucking lucky. Nothing really happened to me (thankfully) that required travel insurance.
My biggest expense? $90 USD out of pocket when I was practically on my death bed from getting some awful bug that totally put me out while traveling Indonesia. I was up all night in agony waiting for it to pass. When 8 am rolled around and I hadn’t slept and it was only getting worse, I knew I had to go to a hospital.
I was seen within 15 minutes of entering the hospital (it would have been 15 hours back home.), they pumped an IV in me, gave me electrolyte-filled drinks, sent me home with two weeks worth of medication and I was on my way to feeling better for only $90 (which was surely the white-person price.)
Not too shabby!
I got scraped up on a motorbike in Pai but nothing too terrible (a burn and a scar for life but I lived), and I nearly drowned on Koh Chang, which would have resulted in crazy expenses for my parents (sorry mom and dad!) but luckily, I lived (with only mental scars).
I GOT LUCKY! Somehow, I got lucky for over four years. Somehow…
So Do I Actually Have Travel Insurance Now? Do You Need It?
Fuck yes. I’m not tempting fate any longer. I’m also a bit older (and I’d like to think wiser too) so I’m never traveling abroad again, ever, without travel insurance. I’ve been insured for about three years now.
I need to make sure I’m covered just in case.
And you should too. It’s just not worth it.
No, it’s not fun to pay hundreds of dollars to some company “just in case” but the peace of mind you have when your things go missing, when you get hurt, or worse… is priceless.
What Travel Insurance Should I Get?
I personally travel with Safety Wing and while I haven’t had to file a claim (woo!, thankfully, again) they have been great so far in answering all the ridiculous questions I’ve had.
Being a full-time traveler, I’ve had to ring them a few times just to be sure I’m covered (I am) on a few random things and they have been most helpful.
After researching all of the travel insurance programs, I’ve found them to be a good choice as well as World Nomads.
Let’s face it, that’s why you’re here. You don’t want to research travel insurance companies because who TF does? Nobody! It’s super boring but luckily for you, I nerd out on all things travel, so I’ve done the homework for you.
While I can recommend companies for you, I can’t recommend any plans. That’s for you to figure out. Remember the boring stuff above. Read the fine print and make sure the activities you want to do on your trip are covered!
Get the plan that you’ll need, not the cheapest plan that barely covers you. What would be the point in that?
Finally, just have fun. Get insured so that you can relax. The whole point of travel is to enjoy yourself, so the whole point of travel insurance, and why I am encouraging it, is so that you can do that freely and safely anywhere in the world.
Which provider is for you? Check them both out right here with a quick quote.
Now, tell me, do you have travel insurance? Ever had a bad experience and you weren’t covered? Know a friend who broke a leg falling from a tree along the Nile river after being bitten by a man-eating spider? Tell me about it in the comments below!