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Travel Insurance 101: What is Travel Insurance?

Are you familiar with travel insurance?

It’s quite okay if you’re not. In fact, you may not have known it existed before you stumbled upon this article. You probably don’t find yourself discussing the topic with your friends and neighbors, and travel insurance isn’t always advertised in big media by entertaining spokespeople (or animals, for that matter). Other insurance policies we purchase –  life, health, auto and home – are all self explanatory for themselves. But what exactly is travel insurance?

A simple definition of travel insurance

Wikipedia provides us one of my favorite definitions of travel insurance:

Travel insurance is insurance that is intended to cover medical expenses, financial default of travel suppliers, and other losses incurred while traveling, either within one’s own country, or internationally.

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Simply put, travel insurance is a very special line, designed to protect your health and assets in the event something goes wrong during your adventures around the world. While it’s not uncommon to purchase trip insurance for your travels domestically, you’re more likely to find travel insurance options for international trips. You’ll especially find travel insurance offerings when it comes to traveling to lesser developed nations, or areas of the world that are potentially in conflict.

Wouldn’t travel insurance overlap my current insurance coverage?

This is an often asked question when travelers are considering adding a travel insurance policy to their packing list. While your current life and health offerings will cover something that happens to you while you’re traveling within your home country, those same benefits may not extend to you when you travel internationally. This is especially true for those on Medicare: while Medicare will extend benefits while in the United States or a territory of the United States (including Puerto Rico, the U.S.

Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or American Samoa), you may not have access to benefits while traveling internationally.

Do I need travel insurance to visit another country?

This is another common question – but a very difficult one to answer. When traveling to many western countries on your own, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, or Germany, you will not be required to provide proof of travel insurance. That being said, travel insurance may be able to help you in these nations if you get ill or become injured during your stay.

In developing countries around the world, travel insurance is strongly recommended for many reasons. For instance, the health and sanitation infrastructure in each of these nations may not be constructed to the same standards as the western world. As a result, tap water can contain parasites, and hospital facilities may not offer the same level of care as you would find at home. In this situation, travel insurance may be able to help you find adequate care facilities, and (in certain situations) facilitate your medical evacuation in the event of an emergency.

On the other hand, some countries may demand that you carry a travel insurance policy before you enter their country. For example: in order to apply to visit Russia, the embassy you are applying at could request proof of travel insurance before issuing a valid visa, in addition to other documents. And travelers who are visiting Cuba are always required to carry proof of a travel insurance policy, or else they may be forced to purchase a policy from a local company before entry is granted.

Where can I find a list of travel insurance companies?

For informational purposes, the Department of State maintains a list of travel insurance providers in the United States. Click here to access their list of travel insurance providers. Each company can provide you with a travel insurance policy based on your needs.

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