Although long-term travel is a dream for many, things can go wrong. If you are planning on traveling for a year, you’ll need travel insurance for a year.
Travel insurance can help protect you in medical emergencies, political emergencies, and even cover trip cancellations. We have tried out a handful of the most popular travel medical insurances and over the last year and a half of full-time travel, found what we need to know.
We’ll cover all the basics of travel insurance for a year, best travel insurance, travel insurance for a year abroad, travel insurance for a year worldwide, and what to look for with travel insurance., and more!
This post is all about travel insurance for a year and everything you need to know.
Travel Insurance For a Year:
Why Do You Need Travel Insurance For a Year?
If you are going to be traveling for a year you are going to need an insurance policy to protect you in certain instances. Unfortunately, accidents and injuries can happen and you’ll need a way to pay those bills. Long-term travel insurance is just that.
You may already have health insurance at home, but it might not cover you abroad. Or if you are quitting your job to travel, you won’t have health care protection. Either way, you will need medical coverage that works as you travel worldwide.
In some cases you will need to state where you will be traveling, others work anywhere in the world. Some will charge monthly or annually and some will have contracts for set periods of time.
What to Look for in Travel Insurance For a Year?
There are quite a few different companies offering travel insurance. Meaning, there are a ton of different factors you need to be aware of when looking for the right insurance for you. We’re going to go over each of those factors and what it means for you. When I first started looking at travel insurance I had no idea what I was doing. This will hopefully break things down for you.
I’ll be using SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance as our example since that is the insurance we use. We have tried out other insurance companies (World Nomads and IMG Health) and found this to be the most comprehensive and easy to use. We are not being paid or sponsored for this post by SafetyWing but we do receive a commission if you decide to purchase your insurance plan through our link.
First and foremost, you need to understand what is included in the medical coverage and what is not. You should know this before you purchase and certainly before you need to file a claim. Getting into a motorbike accident in Vietnam and then realizing you’re not covered for the ambulance ride because ambulances aren’t covered, is not ideal. Do your research upfront to find what is covered and what is not.
You should look for coverage for:
- Hospital charges
- Intensive care
- Emergency accident & sickness coverage
- Emergency dental
- Accidental death & dismemberment
- Repatriation of remains
- Pre-existing conditions
- Emergency medical evacuation
Some things may be more important to you than others due to the level of activity you plan on doing or even just how careful you are.
Next, you will want to look at what your coverage will be. This is the maximum amount that the insurance will cover regarding your medical bills. The maximum coverage is usually a very large number, anywhere from $100,000 and upwards of $1,000,000. This is known as the maximum coverage for all expenses per policy period (usually 1 year for medical insurance).
There will also be breakdowns of the maximum coverage for each service covered (hospital visits, medical evacuation, etc.). In each category, you will just want to be sure that the maximum makes sense to actually cover you if you needed this service. For example, let’s say that hospitalization has only $1,000 maximum coverage per year. If you are hospitalized and the bills end up being $4,000 for a week of hospitalization (which is not unheard of), the insurance will cover $1,000 and you will be responsible for the remaining $3,000.
This usually isn’t the case and their maximums will more than cover one use of the service, it’s put in place to hopefully prevent multiple hospital visits in one year.
Your deductible is what you are responsible for paying before insurance steps in. If your deductible is lower (say $100), that means you pay a smaller sum of the bill and insurance will step in to cover the remainder of the bill at a much lower price point. This usually means that your monthly insurance rate is higher since insurance will have to pay more out of their pocket if something happens. If your deductible is higher (say $500), insurance won’t step in until the bills are larger and your monthly rate is likely lower since they are responsible for less.
For example, say your annual deductible is $250 (with SafetyWing). You can in a motor scooter accident and you have bills that are $800. You will be responsible for paying $250 and the insurance will cover the remaining $550. The same is the case if those bills were $10,000. You would pay $250 and insurance would pay the remaining $9,750 on your behalf.
And if your medical bills are less than the deductible, you won’t even need to file a claim and you can just pay that out of pocket.
In general, you’ll want your deductible to be something that you can easily pay but not so low that it will hike up your insurance rates. For many travel medical insurances, you won’t get much of an option but if you do, you know what to look for!
Everything can seem fine and dandy on your policy until you look at exclusions. These are the activities or conditions that are excluded from their coverage. Usually, you can find extreme sports, things that aren’t medically necessary, cosmetic surgeries, and holistic care. Since travel medical insurance is not full-blown health insurance there will often be quite a few more exclusions you should be aware of. Look for exclusions of:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Sexually transmitted diseases or infections
- Mental health disorders
- Self-inflicted injury or illness
- Routine medical exams
- Dental work
- Injury sustained while under the influence
- Pandemics (we’ll cover this more below)
Since travel medical insurance is mostly used for emergencies and accidents, and preventative care (like annual check-ups or vaccinations) is not covered.
If you are looking for full-scale health insurance you can check out SafetyWing’s Remote Health plan.
How Claims Work
You’ll need to understand how claims work with travel medical insurance. Most likely you will need to pay for whatever coverage it is upfront and then file claims to get reimbursed. This is different from US insurance where they bill the insurance company directly and you pay the co-pay upfront.
You should look at all the paperwork needed before you ever need to file a claim though. You might need to fill out specific forms or ask the doctor to fill out forms or provide signatures. This can be extremely hard to get after the fact so be prepared ahead of time with what the process entails and how to get those documents when you need them.
You should also be familiar with the claims process timeline. You will likely need to submit the claim within a certain number of days after receiving treatment. Don’t miss this deadline and submit everything as soon as you can. You should also be prepared for how long the process could take. You may not hear about your claim for weeks or, in our case, months. And when you do, you may need to provide more information and it could take even longer. This can be especially frustrating for large bills.
Coverage in Home Country
A way to prevent people from getting travel medical insurance and then not traveling is to restrict coverage in your home country, especially in the US. Most travel medical insurances will have maximums for home country coverage or specific restrictions. For example, we currently only have coverage in the US for 15 days per 3-month period (30 days if your home country is not the US). And any claims must be for emergency incidents that happened in the US. In other words, we can’t sprain our ankle in Peru and fly home to get treated. It would only be covered if we sprained our ankle in the US and got treatment for it there immediately after.
If you plan on spending a lot of time in your home country, this can be problematic. We liked the coverage we received from World Nomads as they allowed us full coverage anywhere outside of 100 miles from our home residence. This was a great option for road-tripping across the United States.
One of the best advantages of travel medical insurance is the vast coverage it usually includes for trip insurance. Since you will be traveling quite a bit during the course of a year, this could potentially come in very handy for you. Trip insurance is usually offered each time you book a flight. It often includes coverage for travel delays, lost luggage coverage, and trip interruption. It’s a great service and we highly recommend having coverage for those things. However, we never recommend purchasing it with your flight or travel package. They are often overpriced and not as helpful as they should be.
With your travel medical insurance, trip insurance should be included. Review the terms so you know exactly what you are getting and what you can expect when something goes wrong. It often includes the following:
- Trip Interruption
- Travel Delay (amount per day for a hotel stay)
- Lost Checked Luggage
- Natural Disaster
- Political Evacuation
- Emergency Medical Evacuation
- Personal Liability
- Accidental Death & Dismemberment
You should also be aware of any trip insurance coverage you get through your credit cards. Take a look at our favorite travel credit cards that include some great insurance perks!
This is obviously a very relevant topic but one that is pretty new. Usually, travel medical insurances won’t cover pandemics or any costs associated with them. It makes sense because if it’s a pandemic, that means tons of people will be coming down with a disease or illness and it will likely hit their insurance company hard with thousands of claims.
That being said, many insurance companies are having to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. One major reason you want to be sure you have COVID-19 coverage on your travel insurance is that some countries are requiring a minimum level of insurance coverage specific to COVID-19. At the time of this writing, Costa Rica is still requiring every visitor to have a minimum of $50,000 in medical expenses (including COVID-19) and $2,000 for lodging expenses (in the event of quarantine). Be sure to read the fine print of your policy to ensure these are included and you are able to receive a letter stating as much.
Our current plan with SafetyWing includes coverage of quarantine expenses and hospitalization up to the maximum limit on our plan. This could be different with every plan though, so always read the fine print!
Length of Plan
This is self-explanatory but you will want to be sure to get coverage for your entire year. Some services will offer long-term contracts, like with IMG. With SafetyWing, you can set up auto-renewal monthly and manually cancel whenever you are done traveling. Other companies, like World Nomads, only have a maximum of 6-month policies, so you would need to renew halfway through coverage for that service.
If you are thinking of trying out one service and potentially switching to a new service after starting your travels, be sure that the other services allow you to sign up once you are already abroad. Most insurance carriers allow this, but be sure to double-check before you go abroad!
What Travel Insurance Should You Get?
After a year and a half on the road, our recommendation for travel insurance for a year is to get SafetyWing Nomad Insurance.
SafetyWing makes the insurance buying process extremely easy. It’s similar to setting up any subscription service (like Disney+) and can be done in about XX minutes. With other companies, we have had to fill out endless paperwork and answer questions we didn’t even know the answers to. Their basic coverage (travel medical & trip insurance) is only $42 per month per person and is set up with autorenewal so you never have to worry about losing coverage.
They have all the basic coverage we need with an affordable deductible ($250) that if needed, wouldn’t break the bank. Most importantly in 2021, they also have fantastic COVID-19 coverage where we don’t have to worry about going into an unexpected quarantine while traveling.
SafetyWing also provides a great service to help you find a doctor, specialist, or hospital near you wherever you are located. You can simply call a number (free with Skype) where they can help narrow down your options.
When filing a claim with SafetyWing, they ask for a medical report, invoice, and proof of payment. With other claim submissions, I needed signatures, letters, and a questionnaire filled out by the doctor. It was a pain to even try and submit the claim. SafetyWing does its best to make it easy and not take forever to get your payment back.
Overall, we have been extremely happy with SafetyWing and hope we won’t have to use them much in the future. If we do, we are confident that they will take care of us and that any claims will be reimbursed quickly.
> Check out SafetyWing Nomad Insurance for your travel insurance for a year!