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International Travel Insurance: Benefits, Types & How to Buy

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Getting international travel insurance before a trip to a foreign country is a smart thing to do. It only takes one emergency to rack up a bill of tens of thousands of dollars.

Trip insurance policies can help protect you against the delays, costs, and inconveniences associated with a wide range of travel-related issues. These include:

  • trip cancellations
  • medical emergencies
  • flight cancellations or delays
  • lost luggage
  • travel interruptions
  • accomidation issues
  • activity cancellations or emergencies
  • lost passport
  • robbery
  • rental vehicle accidents

Any one of these problems can ruin an international trip. But, these are just some of the reasons why you should be sure to get international travel insurance coverage before a trip abroad.

5 Most Important Benefits of Travel Insurance

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 There are several benefits to having travel insurance, including:

  1. Peace of mind - Knowing that you have insurance coverage in case of unexpected events can provide peace of mind while traveling.
  2. Financial protection - Travel insurance can help protect you financially from losses due to trip cancellations or interruptions, medical emergencies, or other unexpected events.
  3. Medical coverage - If you become sick or injured while traveling, travel insurance can help cover the costs of medical treatment. In many cases, your existing health insurance will not cover you fully while abroad
  4. 24/7 Assistance services - Many travel insurance policies offer on-call support services, such as emergency medical assistance, travel assistance, and concierge services.

    This is a critical benefit, especially if you are traveling between time zones. Emergencies don't wait for business hours!

  5. Trip cancellation and interruption coverage - If you need to cancel or interrupt your trip due to unexpected events, such as illness or injury, travel insurance can help reimburse you for non-refundable expenses. These include pricey costs like flights, hotels, and tours.
The Travel Insurance Experts at the World Travel Center have a Policy Picker that provides you with FREE Quotes from the leading travel insurance providers.

What Are the Different Types of Travel Insurance?

travel insurance papers being handed across a desk

Not all international travel insurance policies are the same. Some offer comprehensive protection against a variety of issues travelers face. Others are more limited in their scope.

Some of the most common types of travel insurance coverage are:

Travel Medical Insurance

This type of policy provides coverage for medical expenses incurred while traveling, including emergency medical treatment, and hospitalization.

Some travel health insurance policies also include coverage for medical evacuation should you need care that is unavailable at your location.

Trip Cancellation Insurance

This type of policy provides coverage for non-refundable expenses if you need to cancel or interrupt your trip. In most cases, you need to have a reason for the cancellation such such as an international incident, death of a family member, illness, or injury.

Some policies allow a wider array of cancellation options. Some even allow for cancellation without any resason at all. However, these policies usually have higher premiums and/or deductables.

Baggage and Personal Belongings Insurance

This type of policy provides coverage for personal property that is lost, stolen, or damaged during your trip. In some cases, policies include support for replacing the lost or damaged items while you are still abroad.

Travel Accident Insurance

This type of policy provides coverage for accidental death or dismemberment that occurs during your trip.

Rental Car Insurance

This type of policy provides coverage for damage to or theft of a rental car while you are traveling.

Whether you are taking an international road trip or simply riding around an international city, insuring your rental car is a good idea.

What to Consider When Choosing the Right Travel Insurance Policy

a road closed sign in front of a hurricaine-flooded road

When selecting an international travel insurance policy, it's important to keep in mind all of the pieces of your travel plans.

Here are the most important factors to consider when selecting a policy:

  • Your Destination - Every country is different. Your safety, access to medical care, and comfort with your surroundings should all be considered when determining the type and amount of travel insurance coverage you need.

    Be sure to check our Travel Warnings Guide when assessing the risks associated with certain travel destinations.

    Note: Some policies may have exclusions or restrictions based on the destination. Make sure the policy covers the countries you plan to visit.

  • The Length of Your Trip - The amount of coverage you need for a trip overseas may depend on how long you plan to be abroad. A short trip may not require as much protection as a longer one.

    Note: Some policies may have restrictions on the length of the trip, so make sure the policy covers the duration of your trip.

  • When You Are Traveling - Consider the weather and events that could be occuring during your international trip.

    For instance, if you are traveling to a destination during hurricane season, purchasing travel insurance that includes coverage for weather-related cancellations and delays may be a good idea.

    Likewise, if you are traveling during a period of cultural or civil unrest, insurance that covers both your personal safety and possible evacuation needs are a must.

  • Your Health History - If you have pre-existing medical conditions, it's important to review travel insurance policies to ensure they cover these conditions.

    In addition, if you are traveling to a country where health care is expensive or limited, you should consider travel insurance that includes medical evacuation coverage. This covers the costs associated with transporting you wherever necessary to receive the medical care you need.

  • Activities - If you plan to participate in things such as extreme sports or adventure activities on your trip, make sure the policy covers them. Some policies charge more (or outright deny coverage or claims) depending on what you were doing when the accident or emergency occurred.

  • Your Personal Belogings - If you are traveling with expensive equipment (such as cameras or computers) or with other valuable items (such as jewelry, art, or expensive clothing), be sure to select travel insurance that includes coverage for loss, theft, or damage to your personal property.
  • Your Travel Itinerary - The more actual traveling you will be doing, the more important travel insurance becomes. Every connecting flight, rental car, taxi, port, and train is an opportunity for an issue like an accident or lost belongings.
  • Deductibles - Pay attention to the deductibles (the amount you will need to pay out of pocket) before an insurance will pay out a claim.

    Having a deductable that is more than you can afford to pay defeats the purpose of getting insured in the first place. But, lower deductables usually mean higher policy costs. As with all insurance, it's a delicate balance.

  • Policy Prices - Consider the costs of your travel insurance policy options and compare them with the coverage and benefits offered. In some cases a comprehensive policy may be the most affordable travel insurance choice. In other cases, purchasing several separate, more limited policies may be the best option.

  • Coverage Limitations and Exclusions - Read the fine print of any travel insurance policy before you decide to buy. Many affordable policies do not cover specific types of emergencies, activities, and/or travel-related incidents. This means your claims could be denied and you are out both the cost of the policy and the out-of-pocket expenses associated with your travel issue.
  • The Travel Insurance Company's Reputation - As a rule, you should only purchase travel insurance from a reputable provider with a history of good customer service and positive reviews. You are looking for details like a smooth claims process, responsive customer service, and honesty.

    Avoid purchasing travel insurance from unknown or unreliable providers. This includes or from pushy providers that try to pressure you into purchasing coverage you don't need.

The 2 Reasons You May NOT Want International Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is usually a great asset for an international traveler. But, there are cases where purchasing travel insurance isn't the right move.

When thinking about your travel plans, there are 2 main reasons why it may be worth skipping the insurance.

  1. Your trip is short and inexpensive. If you aren't traveling for long and your trip did not cost a lot, the price of travel insurance may not be worth it. The combined cost of the policy and any deductable you would have to pay out of pocket could be more expensive than just covering emergency expenses out-of-pocket.

  2. You are already insured. You may already have coverage for medical emergencies and trip cancellations through your existing health or homeowners insurance policy.

    If you have credit card or other insurance policies that provide coverage for travel-related incidents-such as trip cancellation, medical emergencies, or lost baggage-purchasing additional travel insurance may be unnecessary. Having duplicate coverage may seem like a benefit, but it will not offset the policy premiums and deductibles you will still have to pay.

Frequently Asked Questions About International Travel Insurance

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With all the options and considerations, purchasing travel insurance can lead to a lot of questions. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we have received from our readers over the past 20 years:

Which type of travel insurance is purchased most often by international travelers?

Medical travel insurance is the most common type of travel insurance purchased by people traveling abroad.

Most health insurances purchased for use in the U.S. offer little to no protection for international medical issues. So, purchasing supplemental medical coverage is particularly important for traveling overseas; even moreso for those who are visiting a country where healthcare costs are high or where acceptable medical care may not be readily available.

The other most popular types of travel insurances include trip cancellation or interruption insurance, baggage loss or delay insurance, and travel accident insurance. These types of insurance can provide protection against financial and physical losses incurred while traveling.

What is the average cost of an medical emergency for a U.S. citizen traveling internationally?

The cost of a medical emergency abroad for a U.S. citizen will vary depending on the country being visited and the traveler's specific medical needs.

However, depending upon the healthcare system being used, the cost of medical care can be in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to a 2021 report by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, the average claim for medical expenses for a U.S. citizen traveling internationally in 2019 was $2,262. This amount is based on the average claim for travel insurance policies purchased in the U.S. It is only an estimate.

The actual cost of medical emergencies will always depend on the individual circumstances of the medical care required and available. Advanced procedures and medical evacuations will lead to higher costs than routine care and medication needs.

What percentage of travel insurance policies purchased lead to a claim?

According to a 2023 Insider survey, the overall claims ratio for travel insurance is around 18%. This means that approximately 18 out of every 100 travel insurance policies result in a claim.

As we have discussed, the likelihood of filing a claim will vary depending on the type of travel insurance policy purchased, the destination, the trip length, the traveler's health, and the travel itinerary.

While the percentage of policies that result in a claim may seem low, it's important to remember that the purpose of travel insurance is to provide protection in case of unforeseen events that could result in significant financial loss or hardship.

The value of travel insurance lies in the peace of mind it provides. Having reliable coverage means knowing that you are prepared to face an emergency or unexpected event that may occur while traveling.

Is it a good idea to rely on travel insurance coverage through your credit card provider?

It is generally not recommended to rely solely on your credit card provider's travel insurance coverage. These policies are usually full of limitations and exclusions that will not offer you the protection you need in case of an emergency or unexpected event while traveling. This is particularly true for international travel.

True, credit card travel insurance coverage is better than nothing. It can provide some protection, but it typically has lower coverage limits and rarely covers all of the risks associated with travel. For example, credit card travel insurance may not cover pre-existing medical conditions, high-risk activities, or trip cancellation due to non-medical reasons.

It's important to carefully review the terms and conditions of your credit card travel insurance coverage to understand what is covered and what is not. You may want to consider purchasing additional travel insurance to supplement what your credit card company already offers you.

What types of travel insurance provide the best cost-benefit?

Insurance is balancing act. The best policies are often the most expensive. Then again, the hope is that you never have to actually use the insurance you buy.

The type of travel insurance that provides the best cost-benefit will depend on the individual traveler's needs and circumstances.

When doing any cost-benefit analysis of travel insurance, it's important to weigh the cost of an insurance policy against the potential financial loss or hardship that could result from unforeseen events while traveling.

It's also important to review policies carefully so you can be certain that they meet both your needs and budget. Comparing policies from multiple providers is the best way to find the policy that provides the best value for the cost.

Is medical evacuation covered on most travel insurance policies?

a rescue helicopter flying in blue sky
Not all travel insurance policies include medical evacuation coverage. Also, the amount of coverage provided (and the deductable) will vary depending on both the policy and the insurer.

It's important to carefully review the terms and conditions of travel insurance policies to determine whether medical evacuation coverage is included and, if so, the extent of the coverage.

Some travel insurance policies may provide limited coverage for medical evacuation, while others may provide more comprehensive coverage that includes emergency medical transportation by air or ambulance. Some policies will extend coverage to other related expenses such as accommodations and transportation for family members. These are all important considerations for international travelers since they involve some of the most expensive costs you can face when dealing with an emergency abroad.

Just like with other insurance terms, medical evacuation coverage may have exclusions or limitations, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, restrictions on the type of transportation used for evacuation, or limitations on the amount of coverage provided. It's important to review policies carefully to understand the terms and conditions of the coverage and to ensure that it meets your specific needs and budget.

Overall, if medical evacuation coverage is important to you, it's important to review the terms and conditions of travel insurance policies to ensure that you have the coverage you need in case of a medical emergency while overseas.

Should I purchase travel insurance for an international cruise?

a cruise ship in a carribean port

Cruise travel insurance can be a good investment in some particular cases:

  • Expensive cruise packages - If you have invested a significant amount of money in a cruise package, cruise travel insurance can provide peace of mind knowing that you are covered in case of a trip cancellation, trip interruption, or other unforeseen events that may result in financial loss.
  • Medical emergencies - If a medical emergency arises while on a cruise, cruise travel insurance can provide coverage for emergency treatment and evacuation.
  • Travel delays If you experience travel delays, such as missed connections or flight cancellations, you can easily miss the your cruise boarding and departure. Cruise travel insurance can provide coverage for the additional expenses incurred to catch up with the cruise or for trip cancellation.
  • Lost or delayed baggage - If your baggage is lost or delayed, cruise travel insurance can provide coverage for replacement items and related expenses.
  • High-risk activities - If your cruise includes potentially dangerous or extreme excursions such as scuba diving or other water sports, cruise travel insurance can provide protection in case of injury or medical emergency. Standard medical travel insurance typically does not cover injuries or issues that arise from these risky pursuits

Just like other travel insurance options, it's important to review cruise travel insurance policies carefully.

When is the best time to purchase travel insurance?

The best time to purchase travel insurance is as soon as possible after booking your trip. What you may not realize is that travel insurance can provide coverage for unexpected events that may occur before your trip even begins. For instance, you may have to cancel a trip due to illness or injury, a scheduling conflict, or an international incident. All of these could lead to a travel insurance claim before you even pack your bags.

Naturally, if you wait to purchase travel insurance until closer to your departure date, you won't be covered for events that occur before the policy is purchased. For example, if you purchase travel insurance after being diagnosed with an illness, that illness may be considered a pre-existing condition and may not be covered by the policy.

Who do we recommend for international travel insurance?

The Travel Insurance Experts at the World Travel Center have a Policy Picker that provides you with FREE Quotes from the leading travel insurance providers. Answer only a few simple questions and receive a list of the plans which meet your needs, accompanied by a brief description and quotes, with links to more information.

It's a great way to quickly receive different options that you can investigate further. Click here to get your free quotes.


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