The complete guide to travel insurance

There are two main types of supplementary coverage: Travel insurance (described below) and travel medical insurance (up next). Sound confusing? No sweat, we'll guide you through it.  

What is Travel Insurance?

The Short Story: Travel Insurance is essentially umbrella accident insurance. It’s a suite of coverage for things like theft, trip cancellations, and emergency injury or illness.

Who is it Travel Insurance for?: It's designed for shorter trips where you want to protect yourself against a variety of accidents/emergencies. For health care, it is designed to cover only emergencies and evacuations, not ongoing or preventative care. 

The Longer Story: 

  • The biggie: travel insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions. If you have diabetes and need to buy more insulin, you won’t be covered. If you want to go see a doctor for a general check-up, you won't be covered either. Some companies/policies allow waivers for pre-existing conditions
  • Travel insurance is accident insurance. It is there to protect you in case of emergency and, if need be, get you home in a hurry. If you need more comprehensive health coverage, you need a global health plan. 
  • Travel Insurance typically limits health expenses to $100,000 vs. $1,000,000 with travel health insurance.

From seasoned world traveler, Nomadic Matt, a great travel insurance policy always includes the following:

  • Covers most countries in the world.
  • Some coverage for your electronics (and have the option for a higher coverage limit).
  • Cover injury and sudden illnesses.
  • Twenty-four hour emergency services and help.
  • Cover lost, damaged or stolen possessions like jewelry, baggage, documents, cameras, etc.
  • Cover cancellations such as hotel bookings, flight, and other transportation bookings if you have a sudden illness, death in the family, or some other emergency.
  • Cover emergencies, strife in the country visited, etc., that cause you to head home early.
  • Policies should include personal accident coverage.
  • Financial protection if any company you are using goes bankrupt and you are stuck in another country.

Get to know your "reckless" exclusion clause

If you're planning on hang-gliding, paragliding, bungee jumping, or other extreme sports, you probably won't be covered if you're injured. Also, if you get hurt while partying too hard, most policies don't cover alcohol or drug-related incidents. In short, if your problem happened because you were reckless (a reasonable person wouldn’t partake in what caused your accident) you won’t be covered. 

What is the approximate cost of travel insurance? 

Of course prices change over time, but current research shows prices between $120-$200 to cover a month of travel (as a single person under 70-years-old). 

FAQs about travel insurance

What are some of my best travel insurance options?

Some places to start your research. (No, we aren't receiving commissions from any of these, they just came up heavily in our research for this article)

I can't decide between travel insurance and travel medical insurance. Help!

It all comes down to three things you need to make a tough decision about:

1. Do you want a pre-existing health condition covered? Do you anticipate problems with a pre-existing condition?

If you are worried about a certain health condition causing trouble abroad (and aren't simply looking for accident/emergency care), you should purchase travel medical insurance. 

2. Do you need additional coverages like theft and trip cancellation insurance?

If you don't care about additional insurances, travel health insurance is cheaper and offers more health-specific coverage. If you are traveling with a lot of expensive gear and want protection from theft, travel insurance is more appropriate.  You may end up deciding you want both types of insurance.

3. Cost & Coverage trade-off

Travel health insurance is less expensive (since it is just medical care) and usually offers health protection up to $1,000,000. Travel insurance is more expensive (because of all the add ons) and usually includes emergency health coverage up to $100,000. Back to top