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As the Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues, many countries are re-opening their borders, and travelers are feeling more confident again.
International travel is exciting and enriching, but it’s important to be prepared when you are crossing borders. When traveling far from home, there’s always the potential to have an illness or injury in an unfamiliar place. On top of this, you’re navigating new surroundings, language barriers and logistical challenges.
International travel often requires lots of planning and generally prepayments for deposits.
“Long haul flights and accommodations can add up—and can represent a big loss if you don’t complete your trip as planned or end up canceling,” says Lisa Cheng, a spokesperson for insurance company World Nomads. “Protecting these investments—as well as your health—should be a priority when traveling abroad.”
International travel creates additional risks for both you and your belongings, but there are many possible problems that you can buy insurance for.
Medical Insurance Considerations for the International Traveler
Perhaps most importantly, it’s vital to plan for medical issues when out of the country. Cheng says that when faced with a medical emergency, your travel insurance company’s emergency assistance team can steer you in the direction of quality care through a network of vetted providers, help monitor your care, and make arrangements for a medical evacuation if necessary. “These things are particularly hard to figure out on your own when you’re in a foreign country,” she says.
Travel medical insurance pays for expenses such as doctors, hospitals and treatment.
Carol Mueller, a spokesperson for Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, says most U.S. consumers don’t realize when they travel internationally that their health plan doesn’t travel with them.
At best, “you’ll be out-of-network, shouldering increased expenses for hospital or doctor visits abroad,” she says. Or your health plan may have no international coverage. Travel insurance can save you thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket, unplanned, potentially catastrophic expenses, she says.
Look for at least $100,000 in travel medical coverage. Seniors, who generally make more medical claims while traveling, may want to look for at least $250,000 in medical coverage.
A separate coverage called emergency medical evacuation insurance pays to transport you to a better medical facility or even back home when your condition requires it. You can buy travel insurance policies with up to $1 million in medical evacuation coverage.
“A medical evacuation could be financially catastrophic, costing upwards of $100,000,” says Mueller.
She also notes that medical evacuation coverage isn’t just for airlifting you out of a remote area after an injury. It also provides benefits such as:
- The cost of additional seats required to fly home with a broken leg.
- The cost for a traveling medical escort to accompany you back home or an additional travel attendant for minor children flying back home while the hospitalized traveler has an extended stay.
- The costs associated for additional hotel nights or meals for a traveling companion who stays longer to be at the bedside of a hospitalized traveler.
Insurance for What You’ve Packed
And then there’s all the stuff you may be hauling with you. Baggage and personal effects coverage pays out when there’s damage, loss or even a delay in your baggage getting to your destination. For example, good baggage coverage might offer $2,500 per person when luggage has disappeared and $500 per person to spend on necessities if luggage is delayed for 12 hours or more.
“You’ll want protection for your baggage and personal belongings, including your travel documents,” says Cheng. “It’s a huge hassle traveling abroad when you lose a passport and/or visa. The same goes for when your baggage gets delayed or your wallet stolen.”
Delays and Emergency Changes
If you are traveling internationally, you likely have connecting flights. Your policy’s trip delay coverage can ease the stress of long waits by covering expenses if a flight is delayed more than a certain number of hours. For example, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection’s ExactCare plan provides $200 a day if you’re delayed more than five hours. You might need this for meals, toiletries or some extra clothes.
If you need to cut your international trip short, a policy’s trip interruption benefit reimburses you for unused, non-refundable deposits. For example, if you lost a hotel deposit in Capri because you got injured in Rome and had to return home early, this benefit would reimburse you.
Travel interruption coverage also pays the expenses for your emergency travel back home.
If you don’t have this type of coverage, you could be faced with very expensive last-minute fares for international flights.
Putting Together a Comprehensive Insurance Plan
Travel insurance plans commonly bundle coverage in a comprehensive package that includes trip cancellation insurance and coverage for trip interruption and delay; travel medical expenses and medical evacuation; damaged, delayed, lost or stolen baggage; and a host of emergency travel help services.
Note the 24/7 assistance line offered with your insurance plan. A travel insurance company’s travel assistance service can make everything about your trip easier, including helping with entry and vaccination requirements, currency conversions, finding a local doctor abroad, locating a pharmacy or translation or interpreting services, Cheng says.
Erica Lamberg is a personal finance and travel writer based in suburban Philadelphia. She is a regular contributor to USA Today and her writing credits include NBC News, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, Oprah Magazine and Creditcards.com.