• should i get travel health insurance

Should I Get Travel Health Insurance?

Before your trip there is a lot to plan and get organized. But it’s not just packing, you’ve got to think about paperwork and your health as well. Lots of new travelers ask me:  Should I get travel health insurance? The answer is most often, Yes!

Whether it’s for a short trip of a month or two, or a year RTW (round the world) trip I DEFINITELY recommend insurance. Any travel abroad situation, I’ll probably recommend insurance and there’s one thing you’ll want to know:

  • Many volunteer and tour groups make you prove insurance before buying or on the day you show up. Some activities may require it as well. 

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So, which travel insurance should I get?

I took out insurance through World Nomads the top agency in the travel industry. I paid 211 for just under 3 months when I backpacked India, as I only had 200 in my budget so decided to cover myself only part of the trip. Not the best idea. I’ve heard horror stories of not being covered, and it’s best to cover yourself the day before you leave to the day you get back.

Actually, a blogger just BROKE his back and had to be life-flighted. They wrote about how travel insurance was a life saver for them. Read the story over on the popular blog, the Planet D.


If you’re really hoping not to buy insurance, I get it. I know what it’s like to want to cut costs. You probably think you’re okay under your parents insurance or your employer. The reality is, you’re not.

Maybe you have it on the mind that where you’re headed is really inexpensive and in the case you get hurt, you can afford the care. That could be true.

You have to figure out how expensive health care is where you’re headed. Almost all countries have unaffordable health insurance (most of Europe, North American, South America, etc) In Asia, it’s more up in the air in somewhere like India but definitely necessary for say, Japan.

An example when insurance didn’t actually help:

I’ll be the first to admit for small things it’s not all that useful in a very inexpensive country. I took out travel insurance for three months in India, for a total cost of 211 dollars. I was hospitalized for food poising, and I was sick for one month straight with Dengue Fever. Dengue causes severe and strange symptoms. By the time I was diagnosed I had been to multiple hospitals that treated me by prayer, incense, and pills. I had rashes, hives, Delhi belly, UTI, migraines, severe nausea and vomiting.

On the positive side, it only 60 bucks all together counting the cab rides to the hospitals AND the treatments.

On the negative, I was sick for a month and insurance meant nothing. I didn’t meet the deductible (or even come close) to get reimbursed. So basically I got severely sick, had medical insurance, and it was still didn’t get me the money back.

Had I gotten far more sick (which is very possible with Dengue) I could have needed that insurance and I was SO happy to have that piece of mind while I was in and out of the hospital.

travel insurance, money, saving money, travelI go in and out of policies and sometimes am uninsured while figuring out my next move. At all times, I am under my parents health insurance because I’m under 26. I still get my required vaccinations. I choose to do my preventative care here in India where it’s cheaper even so rather than at home.

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Why you need insurance (while traveling):

A kidney infection that causes hospitalization will cost you 1,000 dollars in India. A broken leg having surgery will cost you 2,000 dollars.

There are sad stories of travelers in India, which one might consider the least expensive place to travel and avoid buying insurance, who needed extensive care and had to be life-flighted home. They’re going to be tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Private care in India is expensive.

So, I’m using India as an example because I’ve seen my friends go through these scenarios. India is a cheap place to travel, so if these are the prices here, you can imagine what they would be elsewhere.

When making your decision you have to decide what’s best for you. But if you have the money to go abroad, then you should absolute take that extra shift at work, or save that extra $200 bucks so that you can buy adequate travel health insurance. It’s not something you’d regret!

should i get travel health insurance


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About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Linda Bibb December 5, 2013 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    We don’t have travel insurance. In the 3 1/2 years we’ve been traveling we’ve only needed medical services twice, and my husband refused to go to a doctor both times. We did pay for an elective procedure (repairing a hernia) and we now understand why medical tourism is so popular. We paid $3000 and received care from a US-trained doctor in a US-affiliated facility. My brother-in-law had the identical surgery in Sarasota, Florida and the bill came to over $22,000.

    • Rachel December 6, 2013 at 5:09 am - Reply

      wow you got a good deal then! medical tourism is popular in goa where i live especially brits coming down for their dental care. 25 bucks for a filling, and 120 for a root canal at a really well known office. crazy!

  2. Mig December 12, 2013 at 3:43 am - Reply

    Buying travel insurance is a personal decision which one has to gauge their level of comfort and risk. I got World Nomads insurance for the first several months of my trip, but haven’t renewed yet. It can be purchase and renewed while on the road as needed. I now decided to take a chance and like you will cross the bridge if needed. Fingers crossed!

    • Rachel December 12, 2013 at 5:09 am - Reply

      Yes, it’s going to be different for everyone! If I had a bigger budget I would get insurance, but where I’m at in India I just don’t need it now. Good luck!

  3. Usha January 23, 2017 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Hi Rachel,

    I just came across your article. Very interesting and informative article. Since i have plan to visit for about 3 months starting Feb 15th, 2017, i have one question for you about the medical insurance.

    I just turned age 70, and am on traditional Medicare with Supplemental insurance with PlanG. Medicare do not cover any out of country medical cost but this plan G has emergency medical coverage of maximum of $ 50,000 after payment of deductible of $ 250!

    I am pretty sure about the insurance you are suggesting thru’ World Nomad, may have same requirement about providing coverage in case of emergency. And other coverage such as trip interruption and baggage lost etc during travel is being covered by my American Express Credit Card!

    Any suggestion? Do you think i still need additional Medical Insurance? Thanks.


    • Rachel Jones January 24, 2017 at 2:39 am - Reply

      Hi Usha, I’m sorry I can’t answer this :( You’ll have to call up the insurance provider as there is always some small print and it’s quite complicated.

  4. […] You need travel insurance in India. World Nomads is recommended by Lonely Planet, Nat Geo, and me! I’ve used it for years. You can get a quick quote here. Check out what exactly it covers and doesn’t. […]

  5. […] I recommend you travel India with health insurance. World Nomads is recommended by Lonely Planet, Nat Geo, and me! I’ve used it for years. You can get a quick quote here. Check out what exactly it covers and doesn’t. […]

  6. Kara McLeod January 27, 2018 at 6:52 am - Reply

    Thanks HH. I lived in India for almost 10 years and visit a lot. Some times I had insurance, often I didnt. The last few times visiting I have. and phew thank heavens. 2 months hospital. 1 month in 5 star hotel close to hospital rehab and all that entails, 3 surgeries. (on my birthday I might add) :) My daughter flew in for a few days and while she was here she received Carers insurance for her food and accom.. I dont even want to think how much it cost. India is a crazy country with extremely high risk traffic and road behavior. I am about to go again and yup.. researching insurance…

  7. Michele July 5, 2018 at 4:26 am - Reply

    Many credit cards offer travel insurance if you use their card to purchase the trip. Between that, and our Medicare supplement plan, the only part of coverage needed was for emergency evacuation. That policy was quite reasonable.

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