Is travel insurance really necessary? Yes. Absolutely. 100%.
We have been exactly where you are right now: debating whether or not to get insurance for our travels. We thought travel insurance would be expensive and weren't really sure how to go about picking a policy that fit our needs. We weren't sure it was really necessary...
But one experience forever changed the way we view travel insurance.
The story that made us realize the importance of travel insurance
This anecdote isn't meant to scare you or to deter you from traveling, but instead is meant to illustrate the importance of having travel insurance.
We had just arrived in Vietnam, and were on a bus to a small town in the north of the country called Sapa. We started chatting with the two Australian guys next to us who were just starting out on a 6-month trip around Southeast Asia.
They told us excitedly of all the plans they had in store. After the bus journey, we bid them "safe travels" and parted ways.
Sometimes when you're traveling, you run into the same people over and over again. And other times, you make a great connection with someone never to see them again in your lifetime. You never know what the case will be when you say goodbye.
Nearly a month later, we were relaxing on an island in Cambodia when we saw a familiar face: one of the Australian guys from that bus in Vietnam several weeks before. We asked him where his friend was, and suddenly the smile faded from his face.
He explained that a couple weeks before, they had been on a beach in Vietnam when his friend attempted a backflip, something he had done before and didn't think twice about.
The thing is, he landed a little funny, and in the days following started having spasms and trouble walking. He went to a doctor in Vietnam and was told that he immediately needed to be flown to Bangkok to undergo surgery, or risk being paralyzed.
Even though medical care in Thailand is significantly cheaper than in Australia or many other Western countries, an evacuation flight like that ain't cheap.
His friend told us that he thankfully had medical insurance, because the whole thing when said and done was going to cost a hell of a lot more money than this gap year twenty-something had access to.
After hearing that story, we immediately went online and bought travel insurance. And now, arranging a travel insurance policy is one of the very first things we do when planning a trip.
Do I NEED travel insurance?
I plan every single detail of my trips, so nothing will go wrong.
I never have issues with flights.
I’ll keep my valuables on me 24/7.
I always take great care of my health, and I hardly ever get sick.
These are all famous last words we’ve heard from fellow travelers.
But mistakes do happen. Travel isn't always pretty. Credit cards can be “misplaced”. Flights can be delayed due to weather (ahem… Minnesota snow. Or volcanoes in Bali). The one time you forget to keep your eye on your camera, it gets stolen. And let’s not forget that food poisoning happens whether you avoid street food or not. We speak from experience.
Don't believe us? Check out these real life travel horror stories, including one of our own. (The first story on there is a perfect example of why you should get travel insurance NOW!)
We are firm believers that there is exponentially more good in this word than bad. There is absolutely no need to fear other people, cultures or countries.
With that being said, we sleep better at night knowing our valuables are covered if something is stolen (unfortunately we’ve had to use our insurance policy for this reason). And we know that we can get medical care in an emergency (thankfully, we haven’t had to use this part of our policy yet… knock on wood).
Insurance is something you hope you never need to use, but you get anyway. That’s why you have it for your car, your home, your teeth, and your health... But often times people forget that their normal insurance typically won't cover stolen items or accidents that occur overseas.
Disclosure: This article contains some affiliate links. This means we make a small commission on some purchases at no extra cost to you. This helps us continue sharing our best travel advice. As always, we never recommend products or services we don't use ourselves or believe are high quality.
What travel insurance should I use?
Plug this phrase into Google and you’ll be overwhelmed by the choices. It seems as if there are a thousand companies with a million different policies. So how the heck do you know where to start?!
Lucky for you, we’ve done all the research so you don’t have to.
Cheapest travel insurance option
Before our first big trip to South America we used Squaremouth to find us our perfect policy at the right price. What Kayak does with flights and hotels, Squaremouth does with travel insurance.
You plug in a few details about yourself and travel plans (age, length of travel, pre-travel bookings, destinations) and it'll spit out numerous options that cater to your travel. Browse and compare different coverage to find the right one for you.
We got a policy that covered both of us for 3 months of travel within a half hour. And guess what? It cost less than my monthly phone bill!
That’s right – travel insurance doesn’t have to be expensive!
Our policy was great for our basic needs, but after reading the fine print, we found that there were a few things it just didn’t cover:
- Extreme sports, like paragliding and scuba diving.
- It also didn’t cover medical expenses if something were to happen at high altitudes (aka trekking to Everest Base Camp).
So for our next travels, we did a bit more research and found what we consider to be the very best travel insurance out there!
Note: If you don't plan to do extreme sports or to travel to high altitude, you should be able to find a policy that fits your needs just fine on Squaremouth. You don't need to pay extra for coverage you won't need or use.
Best Travel Insurance Coverage
World Nomads Travel Insurance is a fan favorite in the backpacking realm, and for good reason. With low-cost policies and coverage specifically for travelers, you’d be hard pressed to find something comparable. Plus, what other insurance company is recommended by Lonely Planet and National Geographic?
World Nomad’s easy-to-use plug and play policy guide walks you through the different coverage options until you find the right one for your travels.
They have one week to year-long policies with varies amounts of coverage. If you want to join the thousands that get insured with World Nomads, hop over to their engaging site and travel worry free.
But before you start plugging in your name and birth date, read below for some things you need to know about choosing the right travel insurance policy for you. We’ll also share which policies we've used and exactly how much they cost.
This is what we look for in travel insurance:
This is exactly what we look for when hunting for a travel insurance policy.
Coverage for lost or stolen items:
Try to get enough to cover above the price of your electronics and other valuables. A typical policy states that you will receive money for stolen items only if you have a police report filed AND a receipt for the purchase of that item.
Trip cancellation or trip interruption:
If something happens to you or a loved one before or after a trip has started, you typically can apply for trip cancellation or trip interruption claims. This way you'll get back the money you put down for accommodation and transportation you've already booked.
Lost baggage coverage:
Remember to keep all your receipts of valuable items. Take a picture of everything you’re packing into your suitcase so you know exactly what you have with you. We have an example of a picture like this in our Packing List.
Emergency medical transportation of $500,000 to $1,000,000:
Cross your fingers that you will never have to use this, but is good to know you can have that great of coverage. We met a guy who had an medical emergency and needed to be air lifted by helicopter from central Vietnam to Bangkok. This would have put him in debt nearly for life, but insurance covered it all. Phew!
Emergency medical and dental of $50,000 to $100,000:
This won’t cover a doctors check-up or a dental cleaning (which are typically cheaper in most other countries than they are in the U.S.). This will only cover major issues like broken bones or severe illness. You’ll likely have to pay the initial medical fees upfront, but you’ll get reimbursed later.
Length of coverage:
You'll want to be insured for your entire trip. From the day your plane takes off, until your plane lands back at home.
What travel insurance do we use?
The travel insurance company we use is Allianz Global Assistance. For our 3-month South America trip we bought an Allianz policy and we currently have a year-long policy for travels in Asia and beyond. It covers $2,000 in lost or stolen items per person and has $1,000,000 in emergency medical transportation. If we ever have trip delays we can be refunded up to $1,600 or if our bags are delayed, we can claim up to $600.
And what does this policy cost us?
The entire 365 day-long travel insurance for two people is only $70. That’s right, we have better coverage than the Minnesota Vikings’ secondary (If you can tell, this Ben writing). Check out which policy at Allianz Global Assistance works best for you, I know you’re curious. Head over to their site and get insured.
We also use World Nomads Insurance
While we were trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, we purchased an additional travel insurance policy through World Nomads. Our policy through Allianz doesn’t cover medical issues at high altitude, and they don’t offer any policies that cover this.
Thankfully, World Nomads had just what we needed. Our high altitude policy for 3 weeks cost $178 and had $100,000 in medical expense assistance and covered $300,000 for emergency evacuation per person. We saw at least 2 dozen helicopter evacuations during our 17-day trek, and let me tell you, those are not cheap rides. I sure hope all those people had travel insurance!
Golden Rule for Travel Insurance
Always, always, ALWAYS have a money trail. If anything happens, the insurance company will want to see proof of what you paid for. If your camera gets stolen but you have no proof of purchase, you’re outta luck.
Keep receipts for everything. For transportation, keep your tickets (at least until the transportation is completed hassle-free). If you go to the doctor, ask for a bill.
Tip: If you don't want to keep the paper version of your receipts, snap a picture on your phone and save it on your cloud account.
Before your trip, take pictures of receipts for your valuables and upload them to the cloud. That way if something does get stolen, you can access them easily and send the copies straight to the insurance company.
Understand your coverage
Read all those fine lines! This is a biggie. Like we explained above, compensation will likely only be given for items for which you have a receipt.
Another thing to be sure you understand is how medical coverage will be dealt with. More often than not, you will have to pay the bill up front on a credit card (or with a wire transfer), then the insurance company will reimburse you after you’ve provided all necessary documentation.
Many countries (in Asia, for example) have affordable fees for hospital bills, but it's good to have a game plan in case you need access to larger sums during an emergency.
Don’t know where to start?
Plug in your information below to get an instant quote. You can’t get easier than that!
You can also head over to Squaremouth to get a price and coverage comparison. Just remember to read all the fine lines and really know what is covered and what’s not!