One afternoon in Thailand, we had a stupid accident (looks like this doesn’t only happen to others). We went to the local hospital, it was cheap, they gave us a brace, some medicine and we thought it was over.
But it got worse and we had to go to another hospital 10 days later. Verdict: there were a dislocation, a fracture and torn ligaments (bummer). The surgery advised cost about $13,500.00 and implied months of crutches… But when we called our insurance, they refused to cover it as they did not consider it a “medical emergency”. In the end, we had to pause our holidays and come back to Europe, we went through a lot of difficulties with our Insurance but we argued our case over months and we did get all the money owed back.
This was not a happy experience, but we learned from the whole process and now we can help you!
The most important things you need to know:
- YOU NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE! So many times we heard “it’s expensive, and it never happens anyway, hospitals here are cheap should I have a problem” etc. You don’t want to go there! Medical care is (very) expensive. And yes, maybe you won’t need it (and we hope so) but if you do you probably won’t be able to afford it. Depending on where you are and the treatments you need, a night at the hospital can cost you thousands of dollars, emergency medical transport from $10,000.00 to half a million! And this does not include surgeries, ambulances, doctor’s visits, medical tests, medicine, etc.
- The in-patient cover is usually pretty high, while the out-patient is pretty low… If you can, definitely spend the night at the hospital! This can change your cover from 500 euros max to millions!
- Almost all travel insurances only cover MEDICAL EMERGENCIES. They aren’t health insurance, which means they won’t cover things that they believe can “wait” until you get back, or long term conditions and diseases like cancer.
- Many travel insurances won’t cover you anymore the minute you set foot back in our home country (that INCLUDES the medical charges after repatriation)
For both reasons above, make sure you can be:
- repatriated home
- covered after you came back (for anything that would have occurred while you were away, like disease, hospital charges if in a coma, etc)
Basically, you need to be either find an insurance that is both travel and health insurance; be covered for free in your home country; or you need to have BOTH a travel insurance and health insurance.
Travel insurances vary in so many things: covering types and amounts, benefits, conditions… Going through them is quite a nightmare, so you need to decide what is most important to you in order to make the right choice (and make your life easier!)
How to pick the right insurance:
How long are you leaving for and are you planning to come home?
Many health insurances offer an add on (travel or multi-trip insurance) for a small cost, usually up to 60 days away. If you are leaving for more than 60 days or not planning to come home, you might need backpacker insurance. First, talk to your health insurance as they have sometimes options available.
Are you planning to do sports and activities?
Not all sports are covered by basic travel/backpacker insurance. Often, either they do not cover it (so make sure you know what you can or cannot do), cover it partially, or make you pay extra. The best thing is to think about it, and if there is any particular activity you are planning to do, make sure you’ve got it (we were planning to kitesurf in Cambodia for example and it took us a while to find an insurance which covered it).
We know how annoying it is but: READ THE FINE PRINT
Many insurances have ridiculous clauses (such as no cover if drunk, on drugs, not wearing your seatbelt, getting an MST, falling from a balcony, getting hurt in a terrorist attack or natural disaster, or “do something stupid” like World Nomads, among others). You need to know exactly what you are entitled to: before you leave, but also during and after a claim.
Our insurance argued they would not cover us as we did not hold a return ticket. After reading their T&C multiple times, we realized it was written nowhere and they had no choice but agree. Don’t trust the agent on the phone, know the facts!
Check what is included and what matters to you (the covers will be different and the excess too)
The excess is what you need to pay or what won’t be reimbursed each time you have medical costs, it can be $20 as it can be $500 so check it before signing. You don’t want to have to pay the first $500 for consultations that cost usually less!
If you are bringing valuables you might want a policy that covers them, and if you are leaving far you might want to make sure your flights are covered if you miss them, for example.
Better safe than sorry
When you are traveling, we know that ever euro/dollar counts. However, you’re not a superhuman and yes, bad things happen. You cannot expect to crash your bike in Thailand, break your ankle while climbing a mountain in Africa, or get your things stolen in Spain…
If it does, you won’t have to worry about it because your insurance will look after it. And if it doesn’t happen, you’ll get the peace of mind!
Planning your trip? Read about how to choose the best backpack!