Do I really need travel insurance? Almost all travelers ask this question when planning a trip. You are on a limited budget, this is a big expense, you are not planning to do extreme sports and you are a careful person, is it worth it? I take out insurance so that I am covered for the big stuff, things that can not only end my trip, but put me in serious debt when I return home. I have been in hospital more than once in the last 6 years of travel, a diving incident, a surfing accident and malaria more than once. Luckily the most expensive incident that I have claimed for was not health related, but a camera of about $1000 when I fell into a river.
Here are some true stories fellow travelers shared with us:
Allergic to a wasp sting
My realization of the importance of travel insurance came about when I was on a working holiday in Canada. I was walking around downtown Toronto on a sunny Sunday afternoon when I got stung by a wasp. I’d never actually been stung before, so it was a great time to discover that I was in fact, pretty allergic. In my panic, I raced into a grocery shop and tried to explain the situation. Because I was so panicked and was pretty sure my throat was closing up, I actually passed out and in doing so took out a whole shelf of carefully placed fruit and vegetables. An ambulance was called and so I was transported to the hospital for a bunch of injections and tests. I had to stay in the emergency room for a few hours whilst they monitored my heart rate before I could actually leave. Little did I realize this wouldn’t be the most painful part of the process. Pretty soon after, I got my second sting – the bill. There was a fee for using the ambulance, a fee for all the drugs they had given me, and a fee for taking up a bed in the emergency room. I owed over $1000. Luckily, I had travel insurance so I could forward it all on to my insurer. It was fuss free and they paid the hospital directly on my behalf. I now never travel without insurance (and am a bit weary of fruit and veg stands). Lizzie and Dave Wanderlust & Life
Expensive slip in the snow
We were wandering along and enjoying the beautiful snow filled parks of Belgrade and saying how we should spend more time in the snow. Suddenly we were both flat on our backs in the snow, feeling pretty embarrassed we struggled to our feet and spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for ourselves. Returning to Montenegro I was still feeling pretty average so we headed to the Kotor Hospital to be checked out. With very little language skills, we were lucky to have a lovely young student who translated for us and ensured we were looked after. It turned out I had broken four ribs so the recovery was not going to be as quick as we had hoped, as we were on a motorcycle we had to stay in the area for a bit longer until I was ok to get on and off the bike. As always we travel with insurance, we were covered by World Nomads Insurance that covered all the medical costs and we look back now as it being all part of the experience of travelling. Ron and Michele Legge Legging It Travel
Crashing our drone in Malaysia
Insurance is not only important to cover you financially during injury or sickness. See what happened when Craig dropped his family’s new drone in the ocean- I’ve always said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel! We never leave Australia without it and thankfully we haven’t had to use for anything medical related. We purchased a new Parrot Bebop drone a few years back and our first trip was to Langkawi and we were so excited to get it up in the air and see what we could do with it. We did some great footage over our hotel and then we decided to take it to Paradise 101, a private island we were spending the day at. Craig put the drone up to capture some footage as we were being hosted by NAAM Adventures. He took it out over the ocean so to capture the whole island frontage and suddenly it just fell out of the sky into the water. Craig and I were a bit stunned and took us a minute to register what had happened. However, we did more pretty quickly into the ocean. It was too late, the tide had picked it up and it was gone. We team at NAAM spent the afternoon searching for it in scuba gear and located it 80m off shore. I was so thankful to them for doing it and we took it home and returned it to Parrot. About a month later we received a replacement drone in the mail. We were never told what the issue was. I’m still very nervous with the drone near water! Sally Lucas our3kidsvtheworld
Family couldn’t fly due to a sick little girl
When visiting Fiji with my then four-year-old daughter, she unfortunately got a severe gastro bug the day we were due to fly home. We still went to the airport that evening but by this point, she was almost non-stop vomiting as we were checking in and the airline said (and fair enough) we couldn’t fly. We phoned our travel insurance company who said only one adult could stay with her, so while my husband and son continued on home, I was left with a sick little girl, nowhere to stay and only 5% battery left on my mobile phone! I managed to call the hotel we had just left and confirmed they had a room we could stay for the night, then it was off to downtown Nadi to see an emergency after hours doctor (which the insurance company said we needed for verification purposes). A two hundred dollar bill later for medicine I didn’t want to give her – antibiotics for a gastro bug?! – and being escorted by the security guard’s son to the hole in the wall pharmacy due to the dodgy nature of Nadi at midnight – we arrived exhausted back to the hotel. Luckily the vomiting stopped and we could fly home later the next day. I was extremely glad to have travel insurance as it paid for the extra night in the hotel, all the medical bills, taxis and re-booked flight. I would never travel without it and now always keep my phone charged! Kyle Gibbon Our Overseas Adventures
Liver problems in Bejing
They say you judge the quality of insurance cover not by how cheap it is, but by how easy it is to claim with. I’ll give WorldNomads a 10/10 for that, and even an extra point for helping me not die.
This was my experience with WorldNomads and why I’m a convert, still using them as a full-time digital nomad, blogging about adventures in extreme learning at Discover Discomfort.
While living and working in Beijing, I remember my colleague Judy going wide-eyed while I was speaking at a meeting. I paused. “Your eyes are yellow.” she said simply. I ran to the bathroom. My eyes WERE yellow! Over the next few hours, my symptoms of jaundice became worse. By the next morning, due to a combination of gross symptoms, I thought I was dying. I wasn’t, but it was still pretty bad. I was feverish, but managed to call WorldNomads to enquire if they’d cover me and what I’d need if I went to the best hospital in town, Beijing Family United Hospital. They said I just needed the receipts. So off I went in a taxi.
At the hospital, I saw the best doctors in town, including eventually the Head of Internal Medicine at Peking University. After a couple of scary tests to confirm it wasn’t something REALLY bad (“It could be a gallstone, liver cancer or hepatitis”), the Head of Internal Medicine asked me a key question:
“Have you had a cold recently? Been on cold and flu medicine, perchance?”
I had. And worse, I had been taking two kinds of medicine, both containing paracetamol. Turns out that overdosing on paracetamol is both easy and potentially deadly. It can literally make your liver stop working. The result: jaundice, and if left untreated, death. But not for me!
I made all the payments (nearly US$2,000) on my American Express, sent off the receipts to WorldNomads in a big scanned stack, and was reimbursed promptly.
Lessons learned: Pay super close attention to the maximum dose on cold medicine. Don’t combine it with others. And get WorldNomads.
Fainting and concussion due to altitude in La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz in Bolivia is known for travelers experiencing altitude problems. While there, I ended up fainting one morning, banging my head a few times (probably on the counter and on the floor). I lost consciousness for a few minutes and ended up dizzy, nauseous, and scared. Of course, I had a mild concussion. After that, I had to go to the hospital a few times, had multiple tests done, including 2 CT scans, consultations with neurologists, and all the other things.
Lucky it was in South America, where medical care price isn’t exorbitant, but it was a lot more than we’d like to have paid. We had travel insurance (World Nomads) and got all our money back after a few weeks. And it was a great comfort knowing that if I’d needed more tests or hospitalization and couldn’t pay for it up front, they’d have paid for it straight to the hospital. Thais Saito World Trip Diaries
Attacked by a crazy dog in Thailand
I was volunteering in an animal shelter in Thailand, on my first day of work, everything went fine and I had such fun. On my way back to my hostel, a caught a white dog by the gate on one of the row houses on the corner of my eye and didn’t give it much thought. Not far from there, something attacked me from behind, I looked back and saw the same dog running back to the gate of the house. I was wearing my headphones, hence I did not hear him come. I was super shocked, I tried to walk towards the house to talk to the owner, but only managed to take a few steps. I tried to walk away but I couldn’t move forward either. I started to shake, the panic and shock is crawling all over my body – I’m now aware that I was bitten by a dog. Suddenly, two guys are standing in front of me. One who was the witness of what happened and the other is a young teenage boy who dragged the dog inside the house. Neither of them speak any English, I tried to tell him “hospital” and I think he understood me. I knew that my rabies shot was long expired and I’m aware that rabies is fatal in Thailand. I called up the manager of the volunteer house and she came to the hospital with me to explain that I needed a rabies shot. It was $10 per shot and I had to do 5. I was supposed to stay for only two weeks for my volunteer but I had to stay for one month since the shots are spaced out 7 days from each. Mary – A Mary Road
Getting injured hiking in Israel
It was the end of March 2017, and my third day of hiking on the Jordan trail that goes from Dana to Petra. I was alone with my guide – a really kind Bedouin who could barely speak English. He knew the area very well, though. So I felt in good hands. At least until I followed him through some bushes so that we could find a better path to follow – there was none in the canyon we were crossing, and we kept crossing the river, wasting a lot of time. Pity that, as I walked through the bush, I hit a branch that was sticking out and hurt my leg quite badly. I almost collapsed from the pain. I had nothing to medicate myself, and there was no phone reception, so I could not get in touch with my insurance company. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere and the only option I had was to continue walking until we’d reach the place where we’d camp that night, and I’d be able to seek medical assistance. I continued walking for 4 long hours, limping from the pain, bleeding a bit, hoping that no bacteria would get into the wound. When we finally made it to the camp, I demanded to be taken to
a clinic. The doctor determined that I didn’t need stitches despite the fact I asked for them; but he gave me antibiotics to avoid any infection, and ordered me to rest. More than anything else, I was in complete shock for what had happened. It took me a couple of days to call my insurance company back home, and when I did they immediately set up an appointment with a doctor in Jerusalem (I was crossing the border back into Israel). Interesting enough, the first thing the Israeli doctors asked was why I didn’t get any stitches. I didn’t have to claim anything back to the insurance, as everything was paid for in advance. Claudia Tavani – My Adventures Across The World
It was the last evening of our trip in Lombok, Indonesia and we decided to go down to the pool and have a few drinks. My husband and daughter were taking too long getting ready and I was super keen to get to the pool, so I said I’d meet them there. As I walked out of our little bungalow, with a spring in my step, I fell down the stairs and heard an almighty snap – I knew immediately I had broken my foot. My daughter and husband were quickly at my side as were various hotel staff members. We went to the nearest hospital were x rays were taken and despite my belief that my foot was broken, they told me there was no break and I was good to go. So I hoped that it was just badly bruised and the next day I would be able to walk. Well when I woke the next morning, my foot and ankle were massive and black and blue. I could not walk at all and had no idea how I was supposed to get around. My husband purchased some crutches for me and I spent out last day in Lombok sitting on a chair whilst my family enjoyed the pool. Whilst I was feeling pretty crap about not being able to join in, I was super thankful that it was our last day and I had not had the accident earlier in our trip. Late that evening we made our way to the airport for our 2 flights home to Australia. All the staff at the various airports were great, I was provided a wheel chair to get around the airport. The staff on my flight to Australia even arranged an extra seat for me on the plane so I could raise my foot – by this stage the swelling was ridiculous! Of course once in Australia I went to the hospital, only to discover my foot and ankle were in fact both broken and I spent the next few months in a moon boot whilst it healed. Melissa – Our Thrifty Family Travels
Taking our 4 year old daughter for a CAT scan at 4am in Hong Kong
We were staying in an apartment in Hong Kong. Our 8 year old daughter had her own room and like many Hong Kong apartments, the floor was tiled. She loves doing gymnastics back home and despite telling her to get ready for bed, she was practicing a gymnastic move on the side of her bed. We were in the living room when we heard a loud crash, followed by cries and screaming. She had fallen backwards off of the bed and landed on her head. We helped her to calm down and put an ice pack on her head for an hour but became concerned about the size of the bump (it was like an egg!) and also her sleepiness. Of course, it was bedtime so we couldn’t be sure if she was concussed or just tired. We found a local hospital in the middle of the night and she was seen by a doctor and told she would need a CAT scan. 4 hours after the accident we were discharged from hospital. Thankfully there was no major injury and she wasn’t concussed. We had to pay for our hospital fees us front, which came to around $500 USD. However, we had an insurance policy with World Nomads and were able to claim back those fees. Suewan RTW Families
Getting sick without insurance in Morocco
Probably one of the stupidest things I did when I started traveling in my late teens, was going to non-European countries (I hold a European passport, and therefore have my health needs covered within the European Union due to the current regulations and agreements between EU countries but not elsewhere!) without getting myself a good travel insurance before leaving my home country. Soon I learned that this was not only shortsighted but also put my life in danger. The worse thing I went through was falling sick due to a poorly refrigerated meat brochette I bought in a Moroccan street stall. Thank god, I was traveling with my partner that particular time as I was not able to keep traveling and had to rest for 3 days, enduring temperatures as high as 40 for most of the time. My partner had to look for a doctor in the medina, and then find a pharmacy – simply tasks that became slightly more tricky in the streets maze of Fez Medina. Lesson learned, ever since I remember to book my travel insurance before departure. And so my last Moroccan adventure. Inma Gregorio A World to Travel
Scooter crash on Easter Island
My husband, Justin, had a grand idea to rent a scooter instead of a car during our trip to Easter Island, Chile. The cost of the scooter rental was cheaper per day and a “fun” way to explore. I was reluctant to the idea at first since Justin hadn’t ridden a scooter in many years, and eventually agreed to ride together. On our second day of the trip, my worst nightmare came true. As we drove up a muddy path, the scooter skid and we crashed. Justin had bruises and a torn shirt. I had a huge bloody gash below my left knee. Confused and dazed by the situation, we went straight to the local hospital for treatment. The doctor cleaned and stitched the wound. The area was swollen after two days and didn’t improve. We didn’t think it was that bad until we returned back to the U.S. and rushed to the emergency room for surgery. Did we have travel insurance? No. The cost of the medical treatment was around $215 USD. We should have had coverage to return back to mainland Chile or the U.S. to seek medical treatment faster. Lesson learned to have some coverage, especially if going off-roading. Jackie Szeto Life Of Doing
Car crash in Uganda
Last Winter we did a road trip in Uganda. We rented our 4WD through a local car rental company managed by Dutch expatriates. Because money transfers from Europe to Uganda are very expensive and Paypal does not exist there, we chose the option to pay by cash at the arrival. Unfortunately, we had a bad car accident inside Murkinson Falls National Park where I got different cuts in my arm and the car was badly damaged. After getting my wounds cleaned and covered by a nurse on holidays, we left the (useless) jeep there and headed to the nearest hospital in Masindi, at 2 hours drive from the Park. Because I had booked my flight tickets with my Mastercard, its insurance was covering all the medical expenses (tetanus, antibiotics, stitches, and dressings) which were not covered by my Social Security. They were also ready to make me fly back to Paris if the wounds were really bad. However, there was nothing to do with the car, which we had booked without insurance, so we had to pay the repair. The car company was very understanding: they came to Masindi with another car and they tried to help us with everything else. We were lucky to learn that they keep a fund for emergencies like this one and helped us with the costs. In the end, we learned the lesson well and we won’t book any other car without a proper insurance. Elisa from World in Paris
Car crash in France
In 2012, my girlfriend and I decided to leave our lives in Scotland and spend a year living as house sitters in rural France. This was something we’d spent almost a year preparing for, as we sorted out freelance careers for ourselves, applied for house sits, and bought a LHD car. Within three weeks of getting to France, however, I crashed the car and suddenly it looked like our travel plans were going to fall apart. It wasn’t a big crash, and nobody was hurt, but the chassis of the car was damaged and the repairs would cost almost as much as the car was worth. We had insurance, of course. The problem was that our car insurance company in the UK wanted documentation from the local French garage and that was something the garage wasn’t accustomed to giving. The next, and biggest problem, was that the UK insurance company – despite being one of the world’s largest insurers and having offices in France – didn’t have anyone in their claims unit who would speak to the garage in France. It was left to me and my very basic French to try and sort the situation. It took a lot of visits to the local garage, but eventually I got the documentation I needed and I was able to get the insurance company to pay up. We were then able to buy a new car and our adventure, which has now lasted more than six years, was able to continue. James Link The Portugalist