Right everyone...it’s that time. We are going to talk about insurance.
Here at WiFi Tribe, we are aware that the world of travel and health insurance is an absolute minefield and we get a tonne of questions on it. This is largely because it’s difficult to take a ‘one size fits all’ approach when everything depends on the country you are travelling to as well as the country you are from. With that in mind, what we’re going to do is break down the basics so at the very least, you can figure out whether you need travel insurance, health insurance or both.
What is the difference between travel insurance and health insurance?
The first piece of confusion before we step out the front door, is figuring out the difference between travel insurance and health insurance. It seems like a silly question, but they do deliver different things and cover differing circumstances. Knowing which is which will help prevent you getting caught out when you’re abroad.
Travel insurance is commonly used to insure you for unforeseen circumstances whilst you are travelling. It covers for accidents whilst abroad, loss of luggage and/or valuable items and travel documents, and it covers you for any emergency medical treatment you may need, or the cost of repatriation to your home country to receive any medical treatment you need. Some plans will place emphasis on covering you for any trip cancellations so that you get back the non-refundable costs associated with the booking of your trip. Other plans will emphasise the travel medical cover you get with the plan.
Travel insurance combines insurance for your belongings as well as your health, which is great for us digital nomads who are abroad with a lot of equipment.
A lot of the time, you probably won't need to pay any extra for it if you have a credit card that offers travel insurance as a perk or you have a bank account with added benefits.
Prices vary as much as the terms and conditions of each policy, so check before you buy that you are covered for what you need, but on the whole you can get a good price if you shop around.
Some policies include trip cancellation cover -(there are plenty of exclusions though as to why this might not apply to individual circumstances, so again, assume nothing and check the fine print!)
Travel insurance policies are quite inflexible; you can get travel insurance annually BUT there is nearly always a limit on how many days you can stay out of the country (generally it's up to 3 months at once and then you'd need to come back and travel again). As digital nomads, there are a good number of us that change our travel plans frequently i.e. we don't go home when we should. This could be problematic.
Medical cover only stretches as far as emergency medical treatment. You are not covered for pre-existing medical conditions and if you do get sick abroad and claim on your travel insurance policy, you'll have to come home as you won't have the option of being treated abroad.
International Health Insurance is used to cover you for any health related needs you may have whilst travelling abroad. It is designed to allow you to access the treatment you need in any country of your choosing. It covers both emergency health needs and appointments for regular check ups and minor health issues.
International Health Insurance
International health insurance covers pre-existing conditions which means if you have ongoing health challenges you can still continue to travel and get treatment for those.
You can have treatment in the country of your choosing which means if you run into problems, you won't have to come back to your hometown if you don't want to. Travel insurance cover will almost always look for a way to repatriate you.
You get cover for things like compassionate visits, maternity cover/newborn baby cover (great if you have meet the love of your life abroad and then get preggers) and ongoing treatment for serious health conditions like cancer.
International health insurance doesn't place any time restrictions around how long you can be out of your home country for. This means that if you decide to change your travel plans and stay somewhere for a little bit longer or go somewhere you didn't plan for, you health will still be covered.
International health insurance can be incredibly expensive to upkeep, and for the privilege of being able to access treatment anywhere, premiums can hit hundreds of dollars per month.
Health Insurance does what it says on the tin and covers your health, so it's not going to help you if your equipment gets stolen or your luggage gets stolen.
Okay that's cool...which one should I get then?
The truth is that it depends on your travel plans. As a general rule, if you plan to travel for more than a few months at a time I wouldn't recommend travel insurance. It's not flexible enough and whilst you could risk it if you're a couple of days out, it's not worth it; imagine on the 91st day of your adventure, you trip and break a leg and you aren't covered? It's difficult to get when you're on the road as well so I'd definitely say it works best for the digital nomad that only travels in short blocks and know that they are DEFINITELY going back home.
For the rest of you digital nomads that love Bali too much to come home, get/keep your international health insurance going. If you're worried about your belongings, some of you with a permanent base can add contents insurance to your home insurance which should in theory cover your kit.
If you want to have a look at some of the top international health insurance providers, I found this article here on Pacific Prime! Please note that the providers listed by them might not be able to provide cover for you depending on the country you come from.
Our community Top Tips!
Always give priority to your health. If you miss a flight or break your laptop, you can replace it or do without it. You’ll maybe spend a couple grand to replace your laptop. If your health ends up in trouble, medical expenses can very quickly spiral out of control and you do NOT want to be in a place where you cannot afford the treatment that will save your life or get you home.
If you’re travelling for longer than a travel insurance will cover you for, maybe consider getting health insurance and combining with a worldwide contents insurance. It's difficult to find a good one but not impossible. Alternatively you could see if you can tie your contents insurance in with a home insurance somewhere...
Always check the fine print so you know what you’re covered for; this is true of both health and travel insurances.
Health insurance can be very expensive so shop around for the best deal; there are comparison websites available that will be country specific.
Really hope this helps! As ever, please feel free to comment down below any recommendations etc or add any comments that will help your fellow nomads!