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Do You Need Travel Insurance or International Health Insurance?

Do You Need Travel Insurance or International Health Insurance?

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When we tell people that we are full-time travelers, inevitably someone asks us about health care or travel insurance. It’s an important question. We, like everyone, get sick and injured at times. We worry about getting the proper care if something does happen. And, over the years, we’ve definitely had damage and losses to equipment – broken laptops and phones, and lost jewelry.

And we DO have insurance. We actually spent a fair amount of time researching our options before starting out. We knew that we wanted to be covered in case something happened.

For travelers, insurance falls into two main options: travel insurance and international medical insurance. Which you choose depends on your individual needs, as each are significantly different. You can find more detailed information about both of these options from Allianz Global Assistance, but we’ve summarized the details here.

What is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is designed to cover you for shorter trips. It’s primarily intended for vacations and short term trips, and typical policies can run anywhere from five days to up to a year. Coverage can include emergency services, as well as loss and damage of property.

Travel Insurance or Health Insurance?

Some typical options provided with travel insurance include coverage for:  

  • Trip cancellation
  • Emergency medical treatment
  • Evacuations
  • Delays
  • Lost luggage or other belongings
  • Flight accident and other losses incurred while traveling
  • 24/7 travel assistance

What travel insurance is not is long term health care insurance. In terms of medical coverage, the focus of these plans is on short-term emergency medical treatment. The goal of this medical support is to get you well enough to return home, where you are assumed to have more comprehensive health care available.

Still in the raft - for now

Still in the raft – for now

Trip cancellation and baggage loss coverage also provide peace of mind for non-life threatening situations. Lost, stolen, or damaged luggage or equipment can definitely put a damper on your trip.

What is International Health Insurance?

International health insurance is designed for expats or people living or working overseas. Anyone not living in a their country of permanent residence or citizenship will be faced with how to have regular coverage, and these policies provide it.

Typically coverage includes both emergency and regular healthcare. Just like your healthcare program at home, the policy will ideally provides you with the ability to choose your own doctor and treatment facility.

health insurance


When experiencing a medical emergency, or even routine medical care, in a country where you are not familiar with the health system, and where you do not speak the language, international health insurance coverage will ensure you get the medical attention you need.

International health insurance coverage varies depending on each plan, but a plan typically includes:

  • Routine check-ups
  • Hospital stays
  • Coverage for pre-existing conditions or chronic conditions
  • Choice of medical providers
  • Out-patient treatment
  • Maternity care
  • Dental care

It’s important to determine where you may need coverage. For example, if you’re relocating as an expat to a specific country, it’s easy to determine where you’ll need coverage. Since we’re completely nomadic, we opted for worldwide coverage.

For Americans, it’s also important to determine if you need coverage in the United States as well. If you won’t be going back to the USA during your coverage period, you can choose worldwide coverage excluding the United States (and save some money in the process).

safety and travel insurance
Obviously, this type of coverage is only for health-related issues. If you are concerned about lost luggage and theft, another policy will still be required.

Read the fine print!

Regardless of which type of insurance you choose, make sure you read the terms and conditions. Every policy can have differences, and you don’t want to be in a situation that you think you’re completely covered, only to get an unpleasant surprise.


If you’re traveling short term and have coverage at home, you’ll be covered for emergencies with travel insurance.

If you’re relocating to a new place abroad (or are becoming completely nomadic, like us) you’ll need the more comprehensive international health insurance.

At the end of the day, having the correct coverage will give you peace of mind. Because the best insurance is the one you never have to use.



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Travel Insurance


Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and we have received financial compensation. All our opinions, as always, are our own.

Bernz JP

Wednesday 9th of May 2018

Last February, I had to re-schedule my trip to Asia due to emergency surgery. When I booked this trip, for the first time I opted to buy travel insurance for $39. The ticket was low enough that I figured that an additional $39 was not a bad idea after all. Long story short, the trip was re-scheduled for this coming October. The airline charges me $201 as a rescheduling fee. It would have been more If I'd cancel the trip totally. I then contacted the travel insurance company, and after sending them the supporting documents they've requested, I was reimbursed for the $201 fee about 30 days later.


Saturday 12th of May 2018

Very glad this worked out for you!