As border restrictions ease and countries reopen to tourists, you might be considering taking a much-needed vacation overseas (I know I am!). It’s important to have all your bases covered as you travel, including travel insurance for COVID AND any other unexpected mishaps or health emergencies while abroad.
I not only have a background in public health, but also am a long-term traveler myself and have researched travel and global health insurance extensively.
In this post, I’ll share what you should consider as you shop for the right insurance coverage for your travels. And at the end, I’ll offer my recommendations of specific travel insurance plans you should check out. Let’s get into it!
This post may contain affiliate links which means I get a small commission if you purchase something through the link, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products and services I have used before and loved and think you’ll love too!
Know what coverage you already have & what you need
Your American health insurance might cover some of your travel insurance needs! Some domestic employer-sponsored health insurance plans offer overseas benefits as well.
And if you have a travel credit card, you might have some basic level of travel insurance that comes with it. So I recommend checking on those to see what coverage you already have and decide what outstanding coverage you still need.
When shopping for any insurance, it’s helpful to know your risk tolerance. Are you risk-tolerant, risk-averse, or somewhere-in-between?
Some people feel comfortable only having health emergencies covered while others want to have out-patient non-emergency doctor’s visits covered as well.
Make sure the plan covers your destination and activities
You want to make sure the plan you get covers your destination and any activities you know you’ll be taking part in. Do you know you’ll be driving a motorcycle or taking part in other adventure sports?
You also want to make sure your plan will cover any lost or stolen expensive gear you plan to bring.
Make sure your plan satisfies your destination’s rules for entry
Some countries that have reopened already are requiring a certain level of health insurance coverage. Check with your destination’s border entry restrictions (you can usually find this on your embassy’s website for that country) to be sure your plan qualifies.
Check what the plan covers in terms of coronavirus
Insurance companies like to be really sneaky about fine print and exclusions so it’s your job to make sure they can be held accountable for ANY and ALL issues related to the pandemic.
For example, you’ll want your plan to cover…
- Any last-minute changes or cancellations in response to the virus
- In- or out-patient treatment
- Emergency repatriation
Travel insurance plans that cover COVID-19
If you’re going on a short trip, World Nomads would be my Number One travel insurance pick. When the pandemic broke out, they said they do NOT exclude pandemic coverage (whereas SafetyWing DID exclude it at the time).
Here are the benefits World Nomads say they offer in relation to COVID:
- Medical and trip interruption coverage if you contract the virus or go into quarantine while traveling
- Travel delay coverage for border closings announced during your trip
- Some doctors’ visits and hospital stays
- Certain prepaid travel arrangements
- Possible trip cancellation coverage if you unexpectedly get sick before planned travel
They DO NOT cover you if you change your plans due to fear of travel. You can read more in their coronavirus FAQs.
(According to the Travel Off Path blog, some insurance providers exclude pandemic coverage if you travel to a country with a level 4 travel advisory as labeled by the US Department of State. However, I’m not seeing this in the World Nomad or SafetyWing literature…I recommend asking about this when shopping just in case!)
In addition to all this, World Nomads cover injuries sustained from motorcycling and a bunch of other adventure sports which is rare in the travel insurance world!
I also like that World Nomads is backed by Nomadic Matt and Lonely Planet so they have a public-facing responsibility to the travel community to do what they say they’re going to do.
SafetyWing would be my Number Two pick for travel insurance for a short trip. When COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic in March, they said their normal Nomad Insurance plan excluded pandemics. Now, pandemics still fall under exclusions EXCEPT FOR COVID-19. I’m not a big fan of this but their pricing may suit your budget and your risk tolerance.
The benefits SafetyWing say they offer in relation to COVID:
- Emergency medical coverage as for any other illness as long as you didn’t contract the virus before your coverage start date
- No testing for COVID is covered unless deemed medically necessary by a physician
You can read more in their 37-page description of benefits document! (*eye roll*)
If you are looking for global primary health coverage or insurance for a longer period of travel, I recommend checking out Cigna Global. This is the health insurance I have, though do understand it is not a “travel insurance” but rather international primary health insurance. This means they cover health needs (e.g. preventive care, outpatient care, prescriptions, etc.) but don’t cover travel risks like gear, lost luggage, or trip cancellation.
At the start of the pandemic, Cigna Global sent an email saying they were extending their benefits: they waived all deductibles and cost-share if treated for COVID by an in-network provider until the end of May.
The benefits Cigna Global say they offer in relation to COVID:
- Coverage for any treatment costs associated with COVID in the same way as any other illness under your plan
- Access to their Global Telehealth service for medical support and advice
- Medically necessary COVID testing in line with your plan’s coverage for diagnostics for other illnesses
For my fellow long-term travelers: Check out my post comparing the best digital nomad health insurance plans here.
In summary: Choosing a travel insurance plan checklist
Know your risk tolerance
Check if you have any benefits from your domestic health insurance plan and/or your travel rewards credit card
Make sure plan covers your destinations and activities
Check destination’s rules for entry and be sure plan satisfies any requirements
Read the fine print about coronavirus-related coverage and ask about ANY COVID-related exclusions