Choosing A Travel Insurance Policy
Do Your Research
- Even if you are traveling within your own country you should check what your health care covers. In Canada for instance you may be surprised to know that not everything is covered when you are traveling out of province. In addition some things that are covered you may be required to pay up front and then be reimbursed when you get back home.
- Check out several insurance companies, check with travel agents, friends and family for recommendations. Read the entire insurance policy, not just the brochure. You may not be able to understand everything you read. Call and ask questions. Know what is and is not covered, don’t assume anything!
- Check out the company if you are not familiar with them. Ask who the underwriter of the policy is, they must provide you with this name. Go onto travel forums and see what other travelers have to say about insurance companies.
- Buy the insurance from a reputable source, a travel agent, tour operator, insurance broker or directly through the insurance provider.
- Don’t assume you have adequate coverage from your credit cards, home policy or work insurance.
Key Things To Look At When Choosing A Policy
- If you are traveling for an extensive period a normal travel insurance policy may not work for you. You will need a proper “backpacker” policy that will cover you for continuous travel.
- Many policies do not cover certain activities. Think carefully about what kind of things you might do on your trip and make sure you have insurance that will cover you if you get injured. Some examples included skiing, scuba diving, and skydiving, riding a rented moped and off road 4×4 travel.
- Does the company have a number you can call collect 24 hours a day to get emergency assistance
- If traveling to the United States make sure the policy includes this, check on whether you need special coverage even for a stop over into the U.S.A.
- What kind of hospital will you be taken to in an emergency? Will they evacuate you to one with modern standards? If you need to be evacuated does it cover the cost of bringing your spouse and or children with you?
- Helicopter evacuation from a remote area or an area without medical facilities to deal with your condition
- Do you want missed flight, flight delay coverage or trip cancellation insurance?
- Lost luggage, stolen and or lost item coverage
- How high of a deductible are you willing to pay?
- Do you have any special gear or expensive camera equipment you want coverage for?
- Does the policy include personal liability and how much?
- Emergency legal assistance
- Emergency dental coverage
- Accidental death, and return of your remains to your home country
- What happens if you extend your stay?
Other Insurance Considerations
- You may not be covered in countries if they are on certain travel advisory lists
- Be aware you may not be covered in the event of an act of terrorism or the break out of war
- If you are on any medication or have pre-existing medical conditions you may not be covered
- If you are going to be working or volunteering while traveling, check that you will be covered.
Important Note About Traveling For Extensive Periods Of Time
If you are traveling for extensive periods of time your insurance cost is going to sky rocket if you are not able to keep your country of origin medical insurance active. This is because if you have any kind of extensive injury or medical issue that is going to cost a lot of money the insurance company is going to do what ever they can to get you back home. Once you are home the on going costs will be dealt with by your local medical coverage and not the travel insurance company.
I’m not sure how it works for other countries or even other provinces in Canada, but while living in British Columbia you are normally allowed to be out of the country for six months and keep your provincial medical in place. You are allowed to make an exception to this once every five years, but you must contact M.S.P. (Medical Services Plan) and get permission and let them know how long you will be gone. With keeping our B.C. medical in place our insurance costs were kept down to about $1.60 per day, per person. If you don’t have your home medical it can get as costly as $6.00 a day!
If you are leaving B.C. for any reason and will not need your M.S.P. coverage because you have other coverage, ie. through work, volunteer program, etc., you must contact M.S.P and cancel your coverage, otherwise it will keep running. Otherwise when you return and try to establish your provincial coverage again you will be in for a surprise of a huge bill! We have had friends experience this. Yes you can get the charges reversed, but it is a major hassle and you have to prove you were out of the country for the time in question. I would assume this would be the same for other provinces in Canada. For other countries it would be best to check what the policies are.
What Insurance Company Do We Use?
For our around the world trip and for many other trips we used travel insurance from BCAA. We have used the company in the past for our home and vehicle insurance and always had good service. We thoroughly read over their travel insurance policy and asked a lot of questions. It met all of our needs. They did not allow us to purchase over six months travel insurance in advance, but we were told it was a simple matter of making a phone call to renew it. We phoned them during our travel just prior to the six months and had no problems renewing it over the phone. I believe each province in Canada has an insurance company like this. AMA in Alberta and I think CAA throughout the rest of Canada and AAA in the United States.
Our insurance through BCAA cost us approximately $300 each for 180 days of coverage. It worked out to about $1.60 a day, per person. This was in addition to having our regular medical insurance from British Columbia in place, up to date and paid for. That cost at the time was around $90 a month for the two of us.
If you are from another part of the world a company that has a good reputation for foreign travel insurance is World Nomads.
The Best Scenario Is That You Never Have To Use The Insurance At All. Happy And Safe Travels!