Traveling with Health Insurance: Tips for International Coverage

When you’re traveling abroad, unexpected health issues or accidents can disrupt your plans and financial stability. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the vital topic of traveling with health insurance, providing you with valuable tips for securing international coverage and ensuring a safe and worry-free journey.

International Health Insurance vs Travel Health Insurance

It’s likely that you have purchased travel health insurance when traveling abroad. As with international health insurance, travel health insurance covers medical emergencies overseas. However, travel insurance is not a practical choice if you intend to move abroad for a long term.

Travel insurance, for starters, only covers medical emergencies and has a short term. Pre-existing health conditions, pregnancy, dental care, and so on are hardly covered by travel insurance. Travel insurance is intended to shield you from any unforeseen losses while on a vacation or business trip, not intended to replace comprehensive health coverage. However, you might want to look into expat travel insurance choices if you’re already an expat and plan to visit another country for a short while before returning home.

What Does International Health Insurance Cover?

The following are typically covered by international health insurance policies, though you can select which ones you want and to what extent:

  • In-patient medical treatment: hospitalization, surgery, intensive care unit, anesthesia, lab tests, and X-rays.
  • Out-patient medical treatment: physician visit, specialist visit, psychiatrist visit, urgent care, emergency room, etc.
  • Emergency services
  • Prescription medication
  • Dental coverage.
  • Vision coverage.
  • Mental health care.
  • Pre-existing health conditions.
  • Evacuation or repatriation.
  • Travel health insurance.

The basic coverage plans typically include the first four items. This means that the majority of insurance providers will be covering for them, whereas the remaining items may or may not be covered by a policy but might be available for purchase as add-ons.

The Importance of International Health Insurance

When planning an international trip, it’s easy to focus on the exciting aspects of your journey, such as exploring new cultures, trying exotic foods, and visiting iconic landmarks. However, it’s equally important to consider the potential health risks and challenges you may face during your travels. Here’s why international health insurance should be at the top of your pre-travel checklist:

  • Medical Expenses: Health emergencies can happen anywhere, and the cost of medical treatment in foreign countries can be exorbitant. International health insurance helps cover these expenses, providing you with financial security in case of illness or injury.
  • Travel Delays and Cancellations: Sometimes, health issues can lead to travel disruptions, such as flight cancellations or delays. Having travel insurance can assist in rebooking flights and accommodations, minimizing the stress and expenses associated with such situations.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing that you have access to medical care and support in a foreign country can alleviate anxiety and allow you to focus on enjoying your trip. It provides peace of mind for both you and your loved ones back home.
  • Legal Requirements: Some countries may require visitors to have health insurance as a condition of entry. Failure to meet these requirements can lead to denied entry or other legal consequences.
  • Access to Quality Care: With the right insurance plan, you can access quality medical care and facilities, ensuring that you receive the treatment you need without compromising your health.
  • Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions: Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, which is essential for individuals with ongoing health needs.

Types of International Health Insurance

Before we delve into the tips for securing international health insurance, it’s essential to understand the different types of insurance options available to travelers:

  • Travel Medical Insurance: This type of insurance is designed to cover emergency medical expenses while you’re abroad. It typically includes coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays, and medications related to acute illnesses and injuries. Travel medical insurance is ideal for short trips and is often available as a standalone policy.
  • International Health Insurance: International health insurance provides comprehensive coverage for both short-term and long-term international stays. It can include not only medical coverage but also benefits like dental care, maternity care, and wellness services. This type of insurance is suitable for expatriates and individuals living or working abroad for extended periods.
  • Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is a broader category that can encompass different types of coverage, including trip cancellation, trip interruption, lost luggage, and medical coverage. While it may include some medical benefits, it’s not as comprehensive as dedicated travel medical or international health insurance.

How Much Does International Health Insurance Cost?

Your monthly premium for international health insurance could range from $200 to $900, on average. However, the following factors may affect your international health insurance:

  • Age: Most insurance companies have varied prices for varying age ranges. As a client becomes older, the cost goes up, and many providers discontinue providing coverage beyond a certain age limit (typically 75–85 years).
  • Destination: The reason international plans are more expensive than local ones is that they provide a greater range of coverage, both in terms of covered goods and geographical reach.
  • The amount of coverage: A plan with a $500,000 maximum will cost less money than one with a $2,000,000 maximum. This is the annual maximum that, based on the terms of the policy, you will be covered for each claim.
  • Type of coverage: It will be less expensive to purchase a basic plan that only covers medical care, hospital stays, emergency services, etc. than to add coverage for “optional” services like mental health, dentistry, or maternity care.
  • The people included in the plan: It makes sense that the cost of an individual health insurance plan would be lower than that of a family plan.

However, avoid selecting the cheapest plan on offer. These plans typically have limited benefits and won’t provide you with the coverage you need.

How to Make a Claim With International Health Insurance?

You can contact the emergency hotline provided by your health insurance provider to request assistance. Before you buy the coverage, you will find out about their established protocols for handling claims.

You can receive treatment at any hospital in the network of some foreign insurance companies, and the hospital will submit the bill straight to the company; you won’t be responsible for paying it. In other situations, you must pay the invoice and then submit a claim to get your money back.

Tips for Securing International Health Insurance

Now that you understand the importance of international health insurance and the types available, let’s explore essential tips to ensure you have the right coverage for your international travels.

Start early

Securing international health insurance should be one of your initial steps when planning a trip abroad. The sooner you start, the more options you’ll have, and you can choose the plan that best suits your needs and budget. Waiting until the last minute may limit your options and result in higher costs.

Assess your needs

Every traveler is unique, and so are their insurance needs. Before purchasing a policy, assess your specific requirements. Consider factors such as:

  • The duration of your trip
  • Your destination(s)
  • Your age and health status
  • Any pre-existing medical conditions
  • The activities you plan to engage in during your trip

Understanding your needs will help you select a policy that offers the right coverage for your situation.

Research insurance providers

Take the time to research insurance providers and compare their offerings. Look for reputable companies with a history of providing reliable coverage for international travelers. Online reviews, recommendations from fellow travelers, and information from travel forums can be valuable resources for assessing provider credibility.

Check your existing coverage

Before purchasing international health insurance, review your existing health insurance policy to determine if it offers any coverage for international travel. Some health plans may include limited coverage for emergencies abroad, which can help you save on additional insurance costs.

Consider the coverage details

When comparing insurance plans, pay close attention to the coverage details, including:

  • Coverage limits: Ensure the policy provides adequate coverage for potential medical expenses, emergency evacuation, and repatriation.
  • Deductibles: Understand the deductible amount you’ll need to pay before your insurance coverage kicks in.
  • In-network providers: Find out if the policy has a network of healthcare providers in your destination country, which can make the claims process smoother.
  • Exclusions: Be aware of any exclusions or limitations in the policy. Some policies may not cover high-risk activities, certain pre-existing conditions, or specific regions.

Verify travel advisory information

Check the travel advisory information provided by your government. Some countries may have specific recommendations or requirements regarding health insurance coverage for travelers. Ensure that your insurance policy aligns with any such requirements to avoid potential issues at customs or immigration.

Get quotes and compare prices

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, request quotes from different insurance providers. Comparing prices and coverage will help you make an informed decision. Keep in mind that the cheapest policy may not always be the best choice, as it might lack essential coverage.

Understand the claims process

Familiarize yourself with the insurance company’s claims process. Ensure you know how to contact them in case of an emergency and understand the steps you need to take to file a claim. Keep a copy of your insurance policy, contact numbers, and claim forms easily accessible during your travels.

Travel with important documents

When traveling with health insurance, always carry essential documents, including:

  • A copy of your insurance policy
  • A list of emergency contact numbers
  • A copy of your passport and visa
  • A copy of your travel itinerary

Having these documents readily available can be invaluable in an emergency.

Stay informed

Stay informed about the latest travel advisories, health and safety guidelines, and any changes in your destination country’s entry requirements. These factors can impact your insurance coverage and your ability to receive medical care abroad.

Common Misconceptions about International Health Insurance

There are several misconceptions and myths about international health insurance that can lead travelers to make ill-informed decisions. Let’s debunk some of these myths to ensure you have a clear understanding of what international health insurance can and cannot do:

  • “I don’t need insurance; I’m healthy.”: Even if you’re in good health, accidents and unexpected illnesses can happen to anyone. International health insurance provides a safety net in case of unforeseen medical issues, offering peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
  • “My Regular Health Insurance Will Cover Me Abroad”: While some health insurance policies may provide limited coverage for international travel, it’s usually not enough to meet the potential expenses of medical emergencies abroad. International health insurance offers specialized coverage for travel-related health issues, ensuring you’re adequately protected.
  • “I Can Buy Insurance When I’m Already Abroad”: Purchasing insurance after you’ve already left your home country can be problematic. Many insurance providers require you to buy coverage before you depart. Attempting to buy insurance while abroad may result in limited options and higher premiums.
  • “All Insurance Policies Are the Same”: Insurance policies vary significantly in terms of coverage, exclusions, and pricing. It’s essential to carefully read and compare policies to find one that aligns with your travel plans and personal needs.
  • “I Don’t Need Insurance for Short Trips”: Even for short trips, having insurance can be crucial. Accidents and illnesses can occur at any time, and you don’t want to be caught without coverage when you need it the most.

Additional Tips for Staying Healthy During International Travel

In addition to securing the right international health insurance, there are several additional steps you can take to stay healthy and safe during your travels:

Check vaccination requirements

Before traveling to a foreign country, check if there are any required or recommended vaccinations. Ensure that your immunizations are up-to-date to protect yourself from preventable diseases.

Practice good hygiene

Maintain good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, and avoiding contact with people who are sick. These simple steps can help reduce the risk of infection.

Stay hydrated and eat wisely

Stay hydrated by drinking bottled or purified water, and be cautious when consuming local food and beverages. Avoid street food and tap water, as they can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal issues.

Protect against mosquito-borne diseases

In regions where mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved clothing, and sleep under mosquito nets to protect yourself from illnesses like malaria and dengue fever.

Be sun-smart.

Protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. Sunburn can not only be uncomfortable but also increase the risk of skin cancer.

Be cautious with adventure activities

If you plan to engage in adventure sports or activities, ensure you’re properly trained and follow all safety guidelines. Many insurance policies have exclusions for high-risk activities, so make sure to review your coverage.


Traveling with health insurance is an essential part of any international journey. It provides financial security, access to quality medical care, and peace of mind, ensuring that you can make the most of your travels without worrying about unforeseen health issues. By starting early, assessing your needs, researching insurance providers, and following the tips mentioned in this guide, you can make informed decisions and select the right international health insurance coverage for your unique travel plans.

Remember that your health is your most valuable asset, and investing in international health insurance is an investment in your safety and well-being while exploring the wonders of the world. So, before you embark on your next adventure, make sure to prioritize your health and secure the coverage you need to travel with confidence.

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