Much as you need car insurance to drive a car, it is vital to have travel insurance for travel. I personally wouldn’t travel anywhere without it! Some countries, such as Cuba, require travellers to have travel insurance for the duration of their trip. Having a valid travel insurance policy is usually mandatory to go on a working holiday too*. But this shouldn’t be the main reason you buy travel insurance. Travel insurance is important for so many other reasons and let me explain a little why.
*For the Canadian IEC program, for example, participants risk receiving a shortened work permit or being sent home if they do not have travel insurance for the length of their intended working holiday. And it does happen! I run an IEC discussion group on Facebook and I hear of this happening to people A LOT.
the serious bit: life-changing illness and injury abroad
It is sadly not unusual to come across stories in the media of people who have had their lives drastically changed by accidents while travelling or working abroad (examples here, here and here). While you may be used to free or low-cost healthcare at home, medical treatment usually comes with a fee when abroad. If you have an annual health care plan at home, it probably won’t have any cover outside your home country. And that’s where travel insurance comes in.
Medical and repatriation coverage
Travel insurance policies typically include medical and repatriation coverage to help in the event of such life-changing incidents. The repatriation part refers to transportation home for those critically ill or injured. In a worst-case scenario, repatriation also returns a person’s body back to their home country. For this reason, buying insurance doesn’t just benefit you, but also your family if the worst happens.
No-one thinks that it will happen to them but the risk of a serious accident or incident is a part of life, both while travelling abroad and at home. Avoiding adrenaline sports such as skydiving or rock climbing doesn’t necessarily eliminate the danger either. Don’t forget that everyday activities such as driving, cycling and even walking have risks too!
travel insurance: not just for emergencies
Experiencing serious injury abroad isn’t the only reason to have travel insurance. Here are just a few real-life examples of less serious incidents that can happen while travelling and travel insurance can help with:
- Elizabeth (name changed) was packing her suitcase in Canada, heading to a new destination. As can so easily happen, she stumbled while moving items and fell on a pair of scissors. The total cost of treatment for this relatively minor injury? A whopping $1115! The insurer reimbursed Elizabeth for the full amount.
- My friend Linda from Retired and Travelling wanted an inhaler to help with potential low air quality in India. Back home in Canada, these inhalers usually cost around $30. One short visit to a cruise ship doctor and $400USD later, Linda had an inhaler sorted. Linda’s insurance company paid her back the full amount after a claim.
- While on a two year working holiday in Canada, Jason (name changed) had two separate incidents requiring medical attention. He first dropped a weight on his foot in the gym. The second time, he pushed back a chair to get up and the chair legs fell down a step behind him. Putting out a hand to stop the fall, Jason ended up breaking his wrist. A simple fracture but a not-so-simple $634 medical clinic bill. He was able to claim the full amount back.
- Over in Australia, Ross (from Ross the Explorer) had some of his walking gear go missing in a hostel. The equipment was worth around £100 and was potentially stolen. Not a huge amount but certainly an annoyance and inconvenience. After paying an excess fee of £35, Ross received £65 back from the insurance company.
- Only a quarter into her working holiday in Canada, Julia (name changed) has so far made three insurance claims. One was only a month after her move to Canada! A finger infection, a wisdom tooth removal and a filling later and Julia was already down around $1000. Dental treatment is not always covered in travel insurance policies (be sure to check!) but Julia received near full reimbursement for all three claims.
examples of what to look for when buying travel insurance for working holidays and long-term travel
Each person mentioned above received some form of reimbursement from their travel insurance company. Learn from their experiences and consider the following when buying travel insurance!
- When researching and comparing insurance companies, try not to fixate on the price. The cheapest may not be the best one for your specific trip. Something that is especially important is to read the reviews from customers who have had to claim from the policy, not just those who purchased and never had to use it. A cheap policy may save you money now, but prove to be useless later.
- If you’re heading out for a working holiday, keep in mind that a lot can happen while living abroad for a couple of years. Like Julia, dental attention may be needed. In a more serious scenario, a close relative may become seriously unwell or even pass away while you are living abroad. Some insurance policies cover return flights home in this instance while others do not.
- An excess is a contribution that insurers usually require customers to pay towards a claim. So in Ross’ example above, the excess on his policy was £35. He had to pay this amount before being able to claim any money back from the possible theft. Some insurers allow customers to pay an additional fee when purchasing the policy to waive the excess on any future claims. In some situations, this could be an instant money saver.
- Some insurance companies allow online claims. This can be very helpful for those travelling for a long time or living in another country on a working holiday. Gathering and compiling information (medical bills, proof of flights, police reports etc) can be tricky while on the road.
For more tips about choosing travel insurance, check the links at the end of this article.
Insurance options for long-term travel and working holidays
There are hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of travel insurance policies available for people planning short trips of less than 30 days. For anyone travelling longer, however, the options narrow down quickly. Working holiday participants (1 year +) have even fewer choices. Here are some examples of long-term and working holiday insurers:
Fast Cover -An initial 12-month policy can be purchased and then extended on the departure day for up to another 12 months
EEA citizens (including UK and ireland)
True Traveller – Travel insurance policies are available up to 24 months in length and can be started if you’re already travelling.
Down Under Insurance – Not advertised on their website, you’ll need to call Down Under to be able to purchase policies up to 24 months in length.
World Nomads– Insurance from World Nomads is available for travellers from over 140 countries. Policies can be started even if already travelling.
for more on working holiday travel insurance, Read these posts next….
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