TLDR: If you prefer a ‘too long, didn’t read,’ cut-to-the-chase kinda article, simply visit SafetyWing travel medical insurance. You’ll get the idea.
As much as we love to bring you exciting and inspiring travel tales here at eTramping, occasionally we feel obliged to deliver a message on a more serious note. And let’s face it, insurance is about as unexciting and uninspiring as an article could possibly get.
Nonetheless, it is a subject that needs to be broached from time to time, particularly as it’s a vital part of traveling, yet something that many would-be nomadic types still regularly overlook. This is due in no small part to it all being rather confusing, expensive, and as mentioned – more than a little dull.
Which is why we’ve decided to pen this little article to hopefully make things a little easier when it comes to choosing the right insurance for traveling. And as we are digital nomads ourselves, we’re focussing more on cover for the long-term globetrotters amongst you – because that is quite different to shorter trips. So, let’s rip the band-aid off and jump right in, with as little jargon as possible. The quicker we can then get back to the fun stuff.
Do You Need Insurance in the First Place?
Ahhh, the eternal question among travelers, a debate that will no doubt rage for many a year. The short answer is yes – you do. If you choose not to take it, you’re playing fast and loose with your financial stability, and, more importantly – your health. Quite simply there are many things you’ll experience in this life that you have little to no control over. Some of those things will impact your ability to do the things you want to do. Like my less-than-pleasant accident in China.
I won’t labour the point, suffice to say I was eternally thankful to be covered for medical expenses after twisting my knee while fooling around in a classroom entertaining students. The bill ran into the thousands, and on your head be it if you decide not to prepare for such a possibility. You’re welcome to take the risk, if you prefer so.
Note for digital nomads: payouts for your claim may be issued in a different currency than your local one if you insure yourself with one of the leading travel insurers. Hence, you may want to open a borderless account that can transfer money to any country using the same exchange rates as those found on Google. In fact, it’s good to have a borderless account anyway, if you travel a lot.
A Little Terminology
First of all, let’s clear a few things up – because insurance terminology can get your head in a spin. It is most important you know the type of cover you’re going to be applying for, so, let’s do some definitions.
Never leave home without it – but it’s more suited to those going on shorter trips – let’s say for up to 12 months. Gap year students, backpackers, and volunteers abroad are likely to look at this option, which will only give you basic cover for emergencies, short-term illnesses or theft/loss of belongings. You’ll also have a permanent address in your home country – not useful if you intend to be of no fixed abode for any length of time.
Likely to be what you already have back home, either private or from the state. Full cover for any medical eventuality. This is also ideal if you plan on settling down outside your own country, as it’ll cover everything from regular check-ups, to accident and emergencies and more serious, long-term illnesses. It’s not particularly useful if you’re going to be moving around – you’ll find it might not cover you in every corner of the globe.
Travel Health/Medical Insurance
Now we’re talking. This is the insurance we personally use as digital nomads. Comprehensive health insurance when you’re on the go. If it’s worth it’s salt, it’ll last as long as you need it, rather than you being required to return home to renew every 6 months. For those who don’t know where they’re likely to be tomorrow, next week, month or year – but need peace of mind in case the unthinkable happens – this will cover the lot. But what should that actually be?
The Cover You Need
Here’s an at-a-glance checklist for what you should get covered for as a digital nomad. You’ll notice that most policies will cover more than listed here in the small print – but these are the basics.
- Accidents and emergencies. Eg – twisting your knee or suffering Montezuma’s revenge.
- Round-the-clock emergency service support. Including search and rescue, evacuation and transport.
- Lost, stolen or damaged luggage.
- Legal expenses.
- Other travel assistance. Eg delays, emergency accommodation.
- Coverage for every country you visit.
Bear in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list – merely the very least you should expect. Each policy will be different, and it’s up to you to structure one that caters for your needs. For example, if you’re regularly engaging in winter sports or visiting the US – both of which will usually involve more costly premiums.
Aside from all the health and medical assistance, many digital nomads want their insurance to cover the loss, damage or theft of their personal belongings. I don’t mince my words when I say that to lose a laptop as a globetrotting entrepreneur would be similar to losing a limb. Well, perhaps not quite that bad – but not all companies will foot such a bill. And we recommend only covering the expensive gear – insuring a $50 camera isn’t worth it at all.
As previously mentioned you need to make sure your insurance covers you for each country you’re going to be in or traveling to. Don’t just take it as a given – thoroughly examine all your benefits before embarking to said destination so you don’t get any nasty shocks later. Countries like North Korea might send a cold shiver down the spines of insurers, far more than say, Iceland.
Which Company to Choose?!
Yes, it’s a selection headache, and we could potentially rattle off pages and pages comparing different companies and you might still be none-the-wiser. But, in the interests of getting to the point and not boring you to tears, we have chosen to use SafetyWing ourselves. They have rapidly become something of a godsend for worldly wanderers everywhere.
That’s because (and it’s been a long time coming) it’s travel medical insurance for digital nomads BY digital nomads. These guys know a thing or two about the nomadic lifestyle, rather than simply catering to tourists or short-term travelers, as most insurance companies are wont to do. We long-termers finally have a voice – and an affordable one at that. Mind you, though, this is our choice and we are not giving advice for your personal situation here.
Aside from cover that ticks most of our boxes, they offer the most competitive premiums on the market. At $37 every 4 weeks, there isn’t another company that can match them (unless you do make a trip back home every 6 months). You can already be on the road when you join them. For us roamers, that really was an attractive proposition. You’ll also be covered for up to 30 days should you wish to return “home” for any reason.
Of course, there are other options available. World Nomads are another excellent travel insurance company, while Liaison Majestic, Bupa Global, and Allianz also jockey for favour. They come at a cost though, so you’ll need to shell out some of your hard-earned online cash to afford them.
If you happen to be European, you can use your European Health Insurance Card in any EU country (and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), but it still really is only a temporary solution and isn’t comprehensive. You won’t be able to renew it if you’re no longer a resident in your home country.
And we certainly don’t advise relying on your credit card cover if you have it, usually limited to 90 days and totally unsuitable for independent and remote workers. Handy as an incentive from your bank, pretty useless for a digital nomad.
Private Health Care
Finally, you could always try and go it alone. You might very well know many travelers who never took out insurance, and if they ever got into difficulty they covered costs out of their own pocket at private clinics. This is all very well and good should it be little more than a routine check-up, but if – in a worst case scenario – you were to require serious medical attention, then unless you’re rolling in cash you might find your nomadic lifestyle will come to a swift and untimely end.
To Sum Up
In our extensive experience, it’s a no brainer. It’s simply not worth the risk to not take out travel medical insurance. Even if you’re the healthiest person in the world, at a sprightly 19-years-of-age, you never know when a piano is going to get dropped on your head. Maybe if you’re only going on a short break you can fly by the seat of your pants a bit more. But if you’re serious about a long-term nomadic lifestyle, exploring the far-flung corners of the globe will wild abandon – then you need to have a solid insurance team in your corner. Just don’t forget to read the small print and remember that it’s all about your individual situation – we are not giving YOU advice here.