ultimate guide to long term travel insurance

What You Need to Know About Long Term Travel Insurance

In five years on the road, we’ve had to return back to our home base twice for family emergencies.  We’ve had emergency dental surgery in Russia, been in a hospital in India, and suffered a severely broken wrist.   We’ve managed to damage two consecutive cameras and there are also three laptops that have been consigned to the bin since we started traveling.  However, throughout the more challenging parts of our travels, we’ve felt safe and secure in the knowledge that our long-term travel insurance covered us and ensured that we weren’t out of pocket.

We’re often asked, what do we recommend for long-term holiday insurance, how do you make a claim on travel insurance and what do you need to look out for, so here you go.


What is Long Term Travel Insurance?

The phrase “long term travel insurance” means different things to different people, but generally, when we’re talking about insurance for long term travel it usually means a period of more than a month.  Which definitely doesn’t seem like very long, but consider that most vacations are one or two weeks and a trip of more than a month then does seem like a long trip!

Many travellers and holidaymakers take out cost-effective annual travel insurance policies, us included, depending on the type of travel that we are undertaking, but oftentimes, there are activities that you want to take part it or places that you wish to visit that require a more considered approach to selecting a travel insurance provider.

We’ll touch on some of the key things to look at when buying long-term travel insurance and how we work our way through some of the small print in travel insurance policies.

How To Choose Long Stay Travel Insurance

There are a number of key aspects to look at when you’re buying travel insurance.  We’re going to touch on what travel insurance will cover you for, what travel insurance doesn’t cover, the elements that you need to look for in an insurance policy and some things you need to be aware of when buying the best long term travel insurance.  Bear in mind that you shouldn’t always go for the just cheap long term travel insurance.

Reasons to Buy Travel Insurance

The primary reason to buy travel insurance is to ensure that you’re not out of pocket if the unexpected happens.  The unexpected can be a number of reasons and I’ll touch on those now.

Unexpected Family Circumstances

Our trips to Central America and Central Asia ended abruptly because in both instances close family members were taken very seriously ill.   There is nothing that can prepare you for this and there is nothing that would have stopped us from returning home, even if we hadn’t had travel insurance.  Luckily we did.  One way, last-minute flights from the other side of the world are expensive.

Cancellation and Curtailment

Travel insurance trip cancellation covers you if you can’t take your trip for unforeseen circumstances – illness, accident, or the death of a close relative.  It’s key that trip cancellation will cover not just your flights, but also any costs incurred for hotel or accommodation bookings and tours you might have booked and paid for.  Curtailment is when your trip comes to a halt while you’re on it and you’re unable to continue for whatever reason.  Coverage for curtailment was key to our claim when we returned home from Uzbekistan, just 30 days into a 90-day trip from Istanbul to Kathmandu.

Illness and Medical Issues

Getting sick when you’re away isn’t fun in any way whatsoever.  You’ll want to ensure that whatever policy you have covers you for medical emergencies – for emergency procedures, scans, and also repatriation costs to get you home if it’s necessary.  Check also that you’re covered for emergency dental expenses, as these are often separate from medical expenses.

Losing Your Gear

If your gear is lost (let’s say your bag doesn’t arrive on the same flight as you..) or stolen, you want to be sure that you can replace your stuff.    Most policies provide a total amount for replacing gear, but there are different definitions of “valuable” items.  Electronics and tech gadgets usually have to be insured as separate items and they tend to be expensive to insure.

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Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)

If you plan on renting cars while you travel, then we’d recommend including CDW coverage into your travel insurance plans.  It’s easy to include (World Nomads includes it with the Explorer policy).

What Happened to Us – Our Travel Insurance Experiences

All in all, we’ve been very lucky in our travels.  The dental surgery in Russia was for an infected tooth and the entire cost, including the antibiotics and painkillers, was around US$35.  The charges for intravenous antibiotics and 2 days in a private room in a hospital in India around US$60.   We didn’t claim on our travel insurance for either of these instances because they were lower than our US$75 travel insurance excess.  I was “lucky” enough to be in the UK when I tripped and broke my wrist, so as a British citizen, was treated by an amazing NHS team and didn’t have to pay a penny for my two surgeries and 6 months of more than weekly visits to the surgical team.

But we have had two major and two minor claims on our insurance and the fact that we had the insurance saved us a huge amount of money and ensured that our cameras were repaired for free.  We’ve returned to the UK once from Guatemala and once from Uzbekistan, both journeys taking nearly 24 hours and expensive taxis, last-minute one-way flights, and horrendously expensive car rentals.  But throughout it, we had the peace of mind that our circumstances were covered by our travel insurance and while we did have to pay costs initially ourselves, we were reimbursed quickly and efficiently.

Why We Recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance

When we first started traveling we had been living in the USA and had returned to the UK.  We weren’t Us residents, but we didn’t have the 6 months residency status in the UK that 99% of insurance companies wanted before they’d insure us.  World Nomads did.

We also didn’t know how long we would be traveling for.   We took a 12-month policy with World Nomads, knowing that we could extend it without having to return to the UK.

Things you should know about travel insurance from World Nomads.com

  1. Trusted reliable underwriters
    World Nomads.com is backed by a suite of strong, secure, specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance, and the highest levels of support and claims management when you need it most.
  2. Value for money with the cover you need
    World Nomads.com provides cover for what’s important for travelers from over 130 countries. By focusing on what you need and leaving out what you don’t, World Nomads prices are some of the most competitive online.
  3. Flexibility when you need it most
    Had a change of plans? You can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you’re already traveling.
  4. Cover for a range of adventure activities
    From skiing & snowboarding in New Zealand to whitewater rafting in Colorado, World Nomads.com covers a range of adventure activities, giving you peace of mind to get the most from your travels.
  5. World Nomads keeps you traveling safely
    All World Nomads.com members have access to up-to-date travel safety alerts, as well as travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub.
  6. More than just great value travel insurance
    All World Nomads.com members can learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and can stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal.
  7. Commitment to exceptional customer service
    We want to make sure you get the most from World Nomads.com. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact World Nomads.com directly.

Travel Insurance Questions to Ask Yourself

The travel insurance policy that you buy will depend on a number of factors and you should make sure that you can answer these questions about your travel prior to buying a travel insurance policy.

Where are you traveling to?

Don’t just think about the continent or country that you’re going to, but the places you’ll visit when you get there.  If you’re going to Colombia for instance, be aware that many of the places you might travel to might be at an altitude that’s considered higher risk and you may need specific coverage for that altitude.

What will you be doing when you get there?

Are you planning to trek?  Sail?  Ski?  Scuba?  Bike down the Death Road?  The activities that you undertake are important when buying a policy.  Check the details carefully.  Add an adventure package if you plan on doing something, well, adventurous.

Do you have pre-existing medical conditions?

Because you need to be upfront about them.  There are no ifs and buts about this.  If you don’t fess up to it in your travel insurance application then you just plain will not be covered.

What excess should you go for?

The cheaper policies tend to have larger excesses.  Be sure to work with an excess that you can handle and afford.

Should you cover your electronics on your Travel Insurance

Electronics and tech gadgets tend to attract a separate charge.  Our laptop might be worth USD$1500, so covering it is likely to cost in excess of USD$160 annually.  Be aware of that.   We have had policies where we’ve paid extra for gadget coverage and those where we haven’t.  We’ve claimed against them for cameras, but when our laptops died, the cost of repairs was under the excess and so we didn’t claim.

How long can you get travel insurance for?

The answer to this is that it depends.  It depends on how old you are and where you’re going.  It is possible to get a travel insurance policy for 2 years of travel.

Can you take out a policy after you’ve left home?

Yes.  But only certain companies do this, and it depends on where you call home.  World Nomads will insure residents of more than 130 countries.  You should also be aware that many travel insurance companies require you to have been resident and registered with local authorities and doctors surgeries for at least 6 months before taking out a policy (World Nomads is an exception to this).

Can you renew a travel insurance policy while you are traveling?

Yes.  But only with certain companies.  Let’s say you want to extend your trip, then you can simply use World Nomad’s online system to extend your travel insurance coverage.

When should you buy travel insurance?

You should buy your travel insurance before you book any tickets for your trip.  Your travel insurance can’t cover you for cancellation or problems unless you’ve bought it and you can’t backdate your purchase date.

What happens if I need to go home during my trip?

Some companies, like World Nomads, will allow you to interrupt your trip, take a trip home and then resume it without ending your policy.  If you claim on your insurance in order to go home, this will, though, generally end the policy and if you wish to continue traveling, then you will need to take out a new policy.

What is not covered by travel insurance?

Lots.  Lots of things are not covered by travel insurance, you’ll find most of them, detailed in the small print.  You’ll generally find that if you make a claim for something that occurred when you were drunk or using drugs, then you won’t be covered.    There’s more on the loopholes and small print after this.

Travel Insurance Small Print – Loopholes and What To Look for

The travel insurance policy that you take out is a legal contract and what is covered and not covered is included in the certificate, description of coverage, and the policy.  It’s often called the small print.  Because it is usually written in quite small print.   It’s rarely read, but you really need to take a look at it.  You should not assume that your travel insurance policy automatically just covers you for everything.   You may not be covered at all for a particular incident, or your claim may be in part denied, because of the small print.  Your frustrations can be dealt with easily by reading the small print and being aware of the main loopholes.

Pre-Existing Conditions

Insurance covers you for unexpected events that occur, not ones that have already taken place.  If you have a pre-existing medical condition that flares up while you are away you will not be covered on your travel insurance unless you notified the insurance company beforehand – and usually paid any additional premiums associated with it.

Coverage Exclusions

Every policy is going to have exclusions.   This will be detailed in the small print.  You’ll likely find that this includes things like “under the influence of alcohol, competitive driving, self-inflicted injury, criminal acts.

Incomplete Documentation

When you make a claim you have to have the correct paperwork and evidence.  You can’t claim for a taxi that you don’t have a receipt for.  If you don’t have the correct documentation from the hospital that you attended or the results of a test that you had, then your claim is going to stall.  If the claim relates to a death in the family, you’re going to need to provide a copy of the death certificate.

Buying Your Insurance Too Late

You can’t buy insurance for something that has already happened, so make sure that you buy before you lay down any money for your trip.

Travel insurance is, in our opinion, a very necessary cost associated with travel.   While we always look for the best deal on travel insurance, the cheapest isn’t always the best.  We want to make sure that if something does go wrong then we’re with a company that can get us dealt with safely and effectively.    Let us know your comments and thoughts on travel insurance and travel safety.

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