4 Factors To Consider For Travel Health Insurance


Traveling to another country can be a risky experience. What happens if you get sick while traveling abroad? How can you prepare and what are your options?

Do You Need Travel Health Insurance?

Traveling to another country can be a trying experience. No matter if it’s London or a remote village in China, there are inherent risks in crossing the borders. Along with cultural and language barriers, physical concerns, like being introduced to new illnesses, must also be taken into consideration. So, what happens if you do become sick while traveling abroad?

Some insurance companies might offer coverage while you are outside the country. However, this coverage can be very limited and might require you to jump through many hoops before getting a service approved. Others, like Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, have no coverage abroad. So, how can you be sure if you need travel health insurance? Here are some factors you'’ll need to take into consideration when deciding if you need travel insurance.

1. Duration

The longer you are outside of the United States, the greater the likelihood that you will need to see a doctor. If you plan on spending a year abroad in Zimbabwe, it might be a good idea to purchase travel health insurance. If you are only spending a week there, you might not need insurance.

This principle also applies to other types of insurance. For example, auto insurance companies will charge you more if you’re driving 50,000 miles a year, as opposed to someone who only drives 12,000 miles because the longer you are on the road, the higher the probability that you will get into an accident. Insurance is a game of probabilities, and the probability of something going wrong on a longer trip is greater than on a shorter trip.

2. Area

As you probably have already noticed, not all areas of the world have equal access to quality healthcare. If you have a medical emergency in a densely populated and advanced metropolitan city, you are more likely to get quality healthcare than in the middle of the rain forest. In fact, in some areas of the world, you might have to be medevac'd out to the United States, which could cost upwards of $50,000.

The key, then, is location, location, location. Keep in mind where you’re going. Research medical care in the country you are traveling to. Also, if you do have medical coverage outside of the country, see if your insurance covers all hospitals or only a few. If you don’t speak the native language of that country, getting emergency response personnel to take you to the correct hospital will be difficult, if not impossible.

3. Age And Medical History

Despite what the Red Hat Society might want you to believe, a healthy 60+ year old will not be able to perform the same physical tasks as a healthy 20 year old, nor will they be able to heal as quickly from an illness or injury. That’s why considering you and/or your travel companion’s age is important to deciding if you need travel health insurance. Even if you have a clean medical history, if you are older, you are more likely to contract an illness or experience an injury while abroad. So, it might be wise to purchase travel health insurance.

If you have had medical concerns in the past, it might also be best to purchase travel health insurance, even if it only acts as a backup to your regular insurance provider. That way, in an emergency, you will not have to worry about paying expensive medical bills. Also be sure to bring documentation of your insurance and the medications you take. If possible, get them translated into the language of the country you will be visiting.

4. Activities

Going on a cruise to several European ports is definitely not as dangerous or life-threatening as skydiving on a tropical island. The level of risk you are willing to take on your adventure abroad will also affect if you should purchase travel insurance. If you are doing some adventurous activities in the country you are visiting, then it might be best to purchase some insurance in case of an accident. If you are not 100% sure what you will be doing during your vacation, it might be wise to purchase travel insurance as well because you might be roped into doing something a little more adventurous than you had originally bargained for.

No matter if you’re traveling to Timbuktu or Milan, you should consider travel health insurance. Whether or not you choose to buy it should depend on factors like how much your current insurance covers, the availability of hospitals, and the amount of time you plan to spend there. Travel can be a great experience as long as you plan ahead and are prepared for the potential unknowns.


Date of original publication:
Updated on: July 12, 2017

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