One important thing to take along when you travel abroad is travel insurance. I needed to use mine on three international trips this year: one to London in January, a cancelled one to Puerto Rico in February, and one to Budapest in May. These are the only international trips I’ve scheduled since January of 2020. Obviously, my post-pandemic travel is not going well.
While travelling back to the U.S. with a 102-degree fever is miserable, the pain is even worse if you don’t have medical coverage. Accordingly, the number one reason to buy travel insurance is for medical expenses. This is especially important because your U.S. health insurance and Medicare almost never cover medical expenses when out of the country.
What should you do if you get sick in Europe, the number one overseas travel destination for Americans?
- Go to a pharmacy. European pharmacies are much different than in the U.S. They can help diagnose and prescribe medicines for many common symptoms such as cough, back pain, abdominal symptoms, respiratory concerns, sore throat, rashes, fever, headache, and fatigue. Also, some drugs that require prescriptions in the U.S. are available over the counter in Europe.
- If the problem is beyond the scope of a pharmacist, you may need to go to a medical clinic. While the medical service could be free or inexpensive, it may not. Most clinics expect payment up front, whether or not you have insurance. Most take credit cards, but not all, so it’s good to bring cash (in the local currency). Get a copy of the bill so you can file a claim with your travel insurance when you return home.
- If you are too sick to leave your Airbnb or hotel room, you will need a doctor to come to you. This was the case for me when I got bacterial pneumonia in January and Covid in May. This is where money starts flying out the door. Expect to pay $300 to $600 per visit, and many require cash.
Other popular travel insurance options cover losing your luggage, extensive travel delays, or needing to cancel or interrupt a trip with nonrefundable deposits for hotel reservations, workshop tuition, or cruise costs.
Most cruise lines require full payment about 90 to 120 days prior to sailing. Much, if not all, of that is typically non-refundable after that point if you cancel for any reason. Most trip insurance will reimburse you for non-refundable deposits, such as cruise costs, airfares, and tour deposits, up to the amount you select for trip cancellation or interruption for a number of situations. In addition, trip insurance will cover the costs of medical and dental expenses, emergency medical evacuation costs, delayed baggage expenses, lost luggage, and travel delays.
More than once my wife and I have had our baggage fail to show up (once for three days) on our departure flight to catch a cruise. Several times we used every bit of our delayed baggage coverage to buy basic clothing and personal items. For this reason, we rarely check bags anymore, including on our longest trip, an 18-day excursion to the Balkans.
The insurance offered by cruise lines is usually quite expensive for the coverage provided, so I typically purchase trip insurance from a third-party vendor. US News and World Report found the best company for comprehensive medical coverage to be Seven Corners. For single-trip medical coverage they recommend Allianz. Good places to shop for trip insurance coverage are Squaremouth.com and InsureMyTrip.com. I recommend checking out both.
Whether you’re planning a routine business trip or the vacation of a lifetime, travel insurance matters. I won’t leave the country without it.