It is important to do some research before snagging that policy because the fine print can make a huge difference in the type of coverage and whether or not you get reimbursed at all. Many travelers have been outright scammed by bad businesses that exist to take advantage of responsible people.
We want you to have the best trip possible, so we have collected the important features to look for in travel insurance, common pitfalls to avoid, and reputable agencies in your area.
What you need
In general, travel insurance is concerned with the following five areas: trip interruption or cancellation, medical treatment needs, evacuation, baggage damage or loss, and flight insurance. Depending on where you are traveling, you may also want to look at supplemental policies to cover specific concerns such as terrorism, identity theft, or political upheaval.
You should be able to choose coverage based on your particular needs so that the policy is likely to cover real-life problems that can affect your trip. We recommend choosing a comprehensive policy that protects you against those top five items, and adding a supplemental policy only if your research indicates that you could be at a heightened risk for more unusual occurrences.
The company you choose should have a reputation for paying claims quickly and make it easy for you to file for reimbursement, too. Online policies are great for ease of use. The best travel insurance will also pay your claim without regard to other insurance that you may carry. That means your claim won’t be hung up while the company waits to see if any other insurer will step up to cover medical care or property loss.
Guidelines to note
Travel insurance typically costs anywhere between 5-12 percent of your total trip expense, but the cost goes up the older the traveler. Expect rates to climb steadily each year for travelers over 50. Young people will enjoy much cheaper policies because their chances of a medical emergency are considered lower. Some policies even cover young children for free.
In most cases, you will need to pay out of pocket for unexpected travel expenses and then file for a reimbursement from your policy provider. However, you may be able to arrange for the insurance company to pay medical personnel directly.
It’s important to purchase travel insurance soon after booking the trip and making your first payment toward it. Many companies won’t issue insurance for trips that have been booked more than 21 days prior to your application. This is because anything could have happened in the intervening time, and the insurer wants to make sure they aren’t being set up to cover an incident you already know has happened.
What to avoid
The worst insurers present misleading claims about their coverage and then refuse to pay up when you make a claim. Beware of policies that are described as travel “protection” rather than travel insurance. This can sometimes be a tricky way of sidestepping legal requirements for insurance providers.
These shady dealers are likely to deny claims that come their way based on confusing fine print. Some travel protection plans can be valuable, but often as a supplement to a more comprehensive policy. Just be sure to ask very specific questions about what is covered, how they pay their claims, and any limitations or restrictions on the coverage.
If you purchase your trip through a tour company or travel agent, you may also want to skip coverage that is offered and underwritten by that same company. Though it is certainly convenient to simply add travel insurance to your booking, if the company faces bankruptcy or experiences financial problems, you won’t get paid.
Travel agents in particular may only offer you the insurance that results in the largest commission for them, and aren’t fully trained in the products or industry. Insurance underwritten by a reputable 3rd party agency will make you whole if the tour company folds before you get to take the trip, plus its agents can accurately answer all of your questions about the coverage.
Where to get it
We like online insurance providers that maintain a comprehensive website that are easy to navigate yet still offer phone support for people who need or prefer it. The following companies have been rated highly by travelers from all over the world.
This organization is trusted by travel experts Lonely Planet and Eurail, among others. You can learn about their coverage, get a quote, purchase insurance, and make a claim all through the website. They also maintain a call center if you prefer to communicate over the phone.
World Nomads additionally offers a series of FREE guidebooks to many popular destinations, phrasebooks to make communication easier, and even a series of education masterclasses that help you write about your experiences. Talk about added value!
You might want to choose Religare travel insurance if you need to cover a lot of bases. It offers policies that cover medical care, even if the cause is a pre-existing condition. It also covers you in the unlikely event of terrorism and the much-more-common experience of losing your passport while abroad.
Religare offers round-the-clock support, so you needn’t worry about time zones when facing a crisis. Their website is full of information and useful tips so that you can be sure you are purchasing the right insurance for your trip, whether you go as a student, for business purposes, or as part of a group.
This travel insurance company represents a partnership between two established agencies – TATA in India and AIG in the United States. With such strong international roots, you won’t need to worry about the company’s financial solvency. Most travel policies from TATA AIG cover all the expected things (cancellations, delays, accident, and property loss) as well as an unlikely hijacking and dental needs on top of medical needs.
You can customize your insurance as needed or take advantage of their packaged plans, including one specifically designed for travel anywhere in Asia. If you find that you like your TATA AIG travel insurance, you can also use the company for health, home, and motor insurance coverage.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of reputable travel insurance providers, the example set by these three insurers gives you a baseline to consider when researching all of your options.
The most important thing when choosing travel insurance is that you fully understand the extent of the coverage and the process for making a claim. Any company that glosses over these important features or hesitates to answer your questions should be avoided.
Luckily, there are plenty of great companies out there that really want to make sure you have the trip of a lifetime, or at least, don’t lose all of your money when something goes wrong.