Travel Insurance: Do I need it?

Do you need travel insurance? Lets talk about it.

The answer to the question of do you need travel insurance isn’t as straightforward as anyone would like. Hopefully, this article will help you decide when you need travel insurance by giving clear examples of when it is recommended, and when you can likely get by without it. 

Humans are clever and resilient. But accidents happen. Backpackers suffer scrapes and bruises. More serious injuries occur. Does every backpacker need the protection of travel insurance?

The answer is: it depends.

To decide if you need insurance, you perform what is called a cost-benefit analysis: does the security and (potential) services of insurance outweigh what it costs financially? Below are some guidelines and examples of when you may and may not need travel insurance. These are suggestions only, the final decision is up to you.  

Yes, you need Travel Insurance 

  • Going anywhere extremely remote. Examples: the Everest Base Camp Trek, hiking mount Kilimanjaro, and anywhere else where there is a risk of serious injury and illness, such as altitude sickness, and you are far from health care.
  • There are severe and known risks. Examples: the Congo, Libya, Syria, anywhere where there is civil and political unrest. 
  • Travelling with lots of valuable equipment. Examples: laptop, camera equipment, or anything that makes you a target for theft (usually meaning more than your iPhone and Cannon). Travel insurance does not automatically cover gear, so make sure you select one that does.
  • You have known health conditions. 
  • The peace of mind of having it will help you sleep at night. Maybe you have never travelled before, or maybe you know someone who got hurt….if you have serious anxiety, travel insurance is worth the money for the peace of mind. 
  • Your parents are willing to pay for it.

No, you don’t need Travel Insurance 

  • You have traveled without insurance before and are comfortable with it. If you don’t have plans for anything risky, and just plan to visit museums or lounge on the beach, you will likely survive without insurance.  
  • In developed nationsExamples: Europe, US and Canada, Urban Asia, Australia and New Zealand, The Carribean
    Most developed countries have excellent healthcare and emergency response services. If anything happens, you may be stuck with a bill, but in these places, at least, it’s not a question of if you can find health care at all. 
  • In very busy tourist destinations. Examples: the various Inca Trails to Machu Picchu, most of Southeast Asia. 
  • Travelling with a tour company. Examples: Overseas Adventure Travel

Maybe you need Travel Insurance, maybe you don’t

  • You are accident prone.
  • You plan on a lot of extreme sports and activities. Example: kayaking, skydiving, mountaineering, snowboarding, or whatever. If you are an adrenaline junky, consider insurance. 
  • There is no health care available where you are going. The WHO tracks healthcare by country. Some with the worst are: Sierra Leone, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Liberia. Check the list, and if you plan to visit a country with particularly bad healthcare, insurance may be a good idea. 
  • When your trip is short, so the cost of the insurance will be minimal.

DISCLAIMER: The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

What is the best travel insurance provider?

There are hundreds of travel insurance providers. Their coverage, prices, and policies are all unique. It is important to know exactly what is and is not covered by your insurance before making a choice. Once you pick a provider, find out exactly what their policies are: For example, sometimes you are required to call local emergency services or the police BEFORE calling the insurance company. Know ahead of time what you need to do in case of emergency so that you don’t accidentally void or reduce your coverage.

What is not covered: most travel insurance does not cover any activity where you are considered to have put yourself at risk: such as alcohol and drug related accidents, starting fights, carelessness, negligence, cancellations due to preexisting medical conditions or you changed your mind, stolen goods, and extreme sport activities. 

World Nomads

The best travel insurance is World Nomads. They have figured out that backpackers do a lot of stuff. They let you choose a plan that covers whatever you want to do. The variety of activities covered is what sets World Nomads apart- they even have plans for high altitude, which is rare in the insurance world. 

Some benefits they offer are: 

  • 24/7 service
  • Option to extend coverage if you decide to extend your trip
  • Comprehensive coverage options
    • Gear and baggage 
    • Cancellation 
    • Medical and dental
    • Hospitalization
    • Ambulance
    • Assault
  • High altitude coverage (optional)
  • Options to include coverage for activities such as scuba diving, kayaking, bungee jumping, and more.
  • Easy to use website, registration, and claim system.

Good For
: World Nomads is best for backpackers who plan a lot of extreme activities and want coverage for themselves and their gear.

I’ve only felt that I needed travel insurance once: for my trek to Everest Base Camp. I used World Nomads and was fully satisfied with their service. It was straightforward to purchase and my claim for lost gear was honored. 

Credit cards: do you already have travel insurance and not know it?

Some credit cards, like American Express and most airline cards, include some amount of travel insurance. The benefits range and there may be fees associated, but do a little research and decide if any travel cards have perks that suit your needs. Before you get something new, check to see if you already have some travel insurance on one of your current cards that you don’t know about. If you do decide to add a new credit card, be careful of any influences on your credit score.

So should you buy travel insurance or not?

The decision of whether or not you need travel insurance is up to you. If the lack of it is going to cause you sleepless nights and ruin your trip to Rome, then by all means, get it. If you think you can rest easy without it and feel confident in your survival skills, don’t.

Insurance companies work because they’re betting you won’t need it (so they get to keep all your money). But that is not always the case, sometimes you DO need it. There are pros and cons to both having it and not having it. The decision is yours, and you’ve got lots of options. 

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission or compensation if you click through and/or make a purchase. The opinions and recommendations expressed here are my own. 

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To travel is to live.

― Hans Christian Anderson

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