yes, you do need travel insurance, and here’s why

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-3-58-57-pmI was a travel insurance skeptic, but I’m also a naturally cautious person. That’s why, when I decided to embark on my 3-month backpacking trip through southeast Asia, I took the recommendation of some big-name travel bloggers & signed up for World Nomads insurance.

Best. Decision. Ever.

My insurance for the whole trip cost about $260. That investment saved me $2500.

What happened? Went to Thailand. Got a throat infection. Took antibiotics, which triggered a severe allergic reaction in the form of a full-body rash. (I later learned that, left alone, the rash would have spread into my mouth and throat, eventually clogging my airways; I made it to the hospital just in time.)

In the end, I sat in a hospital bed on Koh Samui for four days, hooked up to an IV and getting anti-histamines pumped into me. Unfortunately, being an in-patient is pricey.

My trip wasn’t even that long, and I did everything right — everything you’re supposed to do to stay safe abroad. I took care with the mosquito repellent, with the places I chose to visit and the activities I tried. But when it comes to getting hurt or sick while traveling, it’s all about luck.

And luckily for me, I had World Nomads. I got my $2.5k back in full.

Before I proceed, let me make it clear: World Nomads did not sponsor this post or ask me for any review. I’m focusing on this company because it’s the only one I have personal experience with.

Anyway.

The 5 Things You Need to Know About Travel Insurance:

1. You do have to look at the company’s terms and see what they cover. Injuries related to certain activities are not covered under all travel insurance, or they might only be if you pay extra. Know what you’re buying.

2. You will have to pay for your own treatment upfront, and your travel insurance will reimburse you. Yes, it was scary to have to shell out that kind of money on the spot, not knowing for certain that my insurance would really pay me back, but it wasn’t like I could refuse treatment.

3. You MUST keep all documentation related to your hospitalization! This is the big one; your insurance can’t help you if you don’t keep all your records and paperwork. That includes a receipt showing what you paid, documents from the hospital describing what treatment you received and how the doctor diagnosed you, and the physician discharge summary. Just keep everything until you know for sure what you do and don’t need.

4. If you have a primary insurance provider, you might be required to submit a claim to them first. Once the primary insurance gets back to you, telling you what they’ll pay (if anything), you take that response and their explanation of benefits, and you include it when you submit your claim to World Nomads.

I was covered under my parents’ insurance plan, but that company only reimbursed me about $100. Yeah. So just… don’t count on your parents’ insurance to cover you for any disasters you encounter abroad.

5. If it takes you a while to submit your claim, that’s okay. I put off submitting a claim to my primary insurance for months. By the time I got around to doing it and finally completed my World Nomads claim, it had been almost a year since I was hospitalized. Didn’t matter. They reopened my case right away and had my answer in days.

As long as you’ve done everything you needed to do, and you understand the terms of your coverage, you should have no problems submitting your claim and getting reimbursed. I found World Nomads fast, efficient, and easy to communicate with. I can confidently recommend them to other backpackers.

After this experience, I don’t think I’d ever go on a long-term trip without travel insurance.

Fellow travelers, feel free to comment — have you had similar experiences? Or not? Totally disagree with me? I’m listening.

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