Like many travelers, I’ve gotten some great advice from many folks that have really helped with my travels. One of the most interesting pieces of travel advice I’ve ever received was this: Only Stupid People Skip Travel Insurance. Is this true? Do we as travelers really need to consider travel insurance as a necessary cost of travel?
The first thing I decided to do was ask some fellow travel bloggers whether they had travel insurance or not, as I was pretty sure that there must be many others that don’t have it. I was also intrigued to find out why they did or didn’t have insurance. Is it really that black and white a situation? As it turns out, the answers were all across the board but I was most struck by those few travelers that had to learn the hard way.
Once I started asking people about their travel insurance, I started to realize that insurance is a lot more complex than either getting it or not, because many people also have varying degrees of coverage from other types of insurance, such as health, household and credit card insurance. So while some people may not have bought travel insurance, they may in fact be covered for medical emergencies or other situations.
Need more information? Check out this helpful guide to travel insurance on Travel China Cheaper.
I Don’t Need Insurance (I’m Invincible!)
Interestingly, I came across quite a few travelers that either don’t have any insurance cover all, or who don’t have travel insurance but have at least some sort of other cover. It’s a bit scary to consider how many travelers (usually younger ones) consider themselves invincible!
I haven’t bought travel insurance while traveling the world, which I’m sure one day I will look back on with regret when I fall off a camel or become ill. However, my ignorance and love for danger/adventure has been spurring me on. One thing I have noticed when considering insurance is to always check what excursions are included, as most seem to be left out. Therefore if you do get insurance, it might be worth pushing the boat out and paying for the most expensive one.Tom at Spaghetti Traveller
I don’t buy travel insurance because I try to travel as cheap as possible. I’m cheap, it is expensive…plus, for the few times I have paid for it, I’ve never had to use it.Jeremy Ginsburg at The Culture Chameleon
A while back I decided to self insure, meaning I estimate what I save on each trip by not buying insurance, and apply that towards a future situation where I would have benefited from insurance. So far I’m ahead. I do have evacuation insurance and auto trip insurance through AAA. One reason I decided to self insure is that there are so many gotchas in the fine print. I probably would buy insurance if I were going on an all-inclusive tour or cruise, but my trips are usually a la carte so not so much money up front.Carole Terwilliger Meyers at Travels With Carole
I don’t buy travel insurance because I have wasted thousands of pounds on it over the years and got nothing back. This has included being refused money back on 2 cancelled flights in South America that were beyond my control. As well as stolen jewelry and stolen bags none of which were my fault. Now I just cut my losses and don’t waste the money on it. If I lose something, I lose it…if I get ill, I pay for the hospital fees… The only time I take travel insurance these days is when it’s essential for a certain tour, or when it’s included in the price.Jonny Blair at Don’t Stop Living
I Needed Travel Insurance (& Learned the Hard Way)
Some people learn from experience that travel insurance can be valuable. Here’s a situation you definitely wouldn’t like to find yourself in.
This is a story that dates back to my early travel days. I had been living in Thailand for a year, without insurance as doctors visits had always been very cheap – less then $5 per visit. I returned home to Canada for a visit and went back to Thailand without travel insurance again, but planned to get it this time as to not to press my luck. I had asked our Thai office assistant to look into it and she promised she would. In the meantime, I developed a severe kidney infection that required hospitalization. I wasn’t that worried about the cost, since I knew medical care in Thailand was cheap. Little did I know that I was in the most expensive hospital in Bangkok and my medical bill would total over $3000! On my measly intern salary it took me an entire year to pay it off with monthly payments and left me with little to live on each month. After that expensive lesson, I’ve always purchased travel insurance before a trip.Laurel Robbins of Laurel Monkeys and Mountains
Just a few months ago, a friend of mine here in China had a sudden stroke and was completely paralyzed. It was entirely unexpected! He was an English teacher and, as expected, the school had promised to give him insurance but had never actually purchased it. His family had to go on GoFundMe and raise over US$80,000 just to pay for his hospital bills and evacuate him back to the UK! They will bear the burden of that debt for many years to come…all because he didn’t have any sort of repatriation travel insurance.Josh of TravelChinaCheaper
Yes, I Have Travel Insurance
Then we have the people that always carry insurance.
I think it’s irresponsible to travel without health insurance. Expense is no excuse; if you can afford to travel then you can afford insurance. It’s not for that stubbed toe, case of Delhi belly, or even a broken ankle, but for those catastrophic cases where you may need serious medical attention. If you don’t have coverage who is going to pay for your care, or for you to be brought home? Your friends and family, that’s who. It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself in all aspects of your travels. Find a policy with high deductibles and low rates that way you can pay for that stubbed toe care but you will be able to help yourself in the worst case scenario.Gillian Duffy of One Giant Step
Should I Buy Travel Insurance or Not?
All that has given me a lot to think about.. Gillian Duffy thinks that people that travel without health insurance are irresponsible, and I can certainly see her point. I spend most of my time in Thailand, which is a country with a very high traffic accident rate, and have seen a few situations of the type that Gillian talks about. Travelers get horrifically injured, don’t have insurance, and then their family and friends often have to step in and help pay the bills. This obviously isn’t right.
But if you look a little more closely, you’ll see that many of these travelers that are in fact injured in situations where they have put themselves at risk. I have seen cases of people being injured while drunk driving and while riding a motorcycle without a helmet. If they’d had travel insurance, you have to wonder whether they’d be covered, as I think most insurance companies don’t cover these situations. So these people may have travel insurance, but friends and family are still expected to help out with the hospital bills because their insurance company refuses to pay out. I’m sure neither Gillian or Matt or commenting on this particular situation, but it’s something that needs to be considered. Buying insurance and driving drunk is the same thing as not buying insurance.
Another fact to consider is that many people can’t get travel insurance for various reasons. If you’re older or have an existing medical condition, you may not be able to find an insurer that’s willing to insure you, or the cost may be prohibitively expensive. Can we really call these people stupid? The alternative would be to stay at home and not travel. I don’t think it’s fair to brand these people as either irresponsible or stupid. They often have a lust for travel, but just can’t get insurance. I can totally understand why they choose to travel without it.
Whether you need medical cover or not also depends or where you’re traveling to. If you live in the EU, you can travel to other EU countries and you’ll usually get free medical care if you need it. So in that situation you’d be paying for cover that you may not need.
And then there is the situation where people are very diligent and always buy travel insurance. But when it comes to making a claim, the insurer does their best to find a way to not honor it. This actually happened to me a few years back. I eventually got my money after getting a lawyer involved, but the whole experience left me wondering what the point of insurance was. If I pay for insurance I expect any claim to paid, and not to have to waste my time and money hiring a lawyer
So, What Do I Do about Travel Insurance?
Personally, I can’t imagine traveling without travel insurance. No, I’m not saying that I purchase insurance to cover every, single, little problem that could go wrong, but I do cover against the major “what ifs” that could dramatically affect my life and ability to get medical treatment or return home. To anybody who says that insurance is too expensive or not worth the hassle, I say this:
You never need insurance until you NEED it.
I’ve been using World Nomads for my travel insurance these past few years – and I know quite a few other well-known travelers who do as well. They cover most high-risk activities that we travelers generally like to try and they’ll make sure that you’re repatriated to the country where you would want your long-term medical care in the case of an emergency (make sure you check for yourself what is covered before you purchase).
Having emergency coverage doesn’t just affect you, it affects your family as well. Consider Josh’s story above. His friend’s family was forced to fly out to China, pay for Chinese medical bills and then raise a HUGE sum of money just to repatriate him! It’s not fair for us to do that to our loved ones just because we think we’re invincible.
What’s Right For You?
This is up to you to decide. As you can see from the comments above, different people are willing to accept different levels of risk, as is the case with life in general. If you can’t afford to pay for any loss yourself, then it’s probably wise to insure yourself – and I recommend you take a look at World Nomads if you do.
So, do you have travel insurance?
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