Essentially, there are two types of travel insurance plan: a package plan with cancellation and a travel medical plan without. Typically, a round-the-world traveler doesn’t worry about cancellation and a travel medical plan will often have trip interruption coverage if you have to return home to handle an emergency. The most expensive part of a typical travel insurance plan is covering the cancellation bit, so if that’s out of the way, you can get coverage for your trip quite economically.
1. Start with how long you’ll be gone
Determine how long your trip will take. We’ve heard that you can scream around the world in just ten days, but we’re betting that’s not the kind of trip you’re thinking of taking. The maximum duration of a RTW air ticket is one year – twelve months – but of course, you may take your trip in just a few months or even longer than a year.
Travel medical insurance plans come in three basic durations:
Single trip – coverage for a single trip, that is no visits home, and for up to six months
Multi-trip – coverage for multiple trips that is purchased in increments
Long-term medical – continuous medical coverage for the long-term traveler
Some of these plans can be renewed when they end and others cannot, so it’s important to determine how long you’ll be gone so you can choose. If you’ll be gone a long time – at least a year – look into an annual travel insurance plan for the most comprehensive coverage in an economical package.
2. Determine whether you’ll have access to medical care
Round-the-world travelers are less concerned about having to cancel their trips than travelers with less flexibility in their schedule but medical risks are true anywhere you go.
The U.S. State Department’s country-specific web pages can tell you about the availability and quality of care you can expect where you’re traveling. You’ll know if medical facilities are few and far between and whether Western medicines are available as well as what to expect when it comes time to pay up.
In some countries, medical care – even medical care given to foreign visitors – is paid for upfront before it’s administered (except in emergencies). Even in countries where everyone’s medical care is paid for by the taxpaying base, the patient is expected to bear at least some of the cost and this is where having an insurance provider who will arrange payment directly to the medical facility is handy.
3. Determine your regional risk
Depending on where you’re going – i.e., a remote jungle village versus a more urban itinerary – you’ll need more or less medical and evacuation coverage. Either way, if you’re going to be far from medical care facilities, you’ll want to have a little more evacuation coverage. See how much travel medical and evacuation is enough to determine how much you’ll need.
4. Be aware that travel to some countries isn’t covered
Some travel insurance plans do not extend coverage to certain countries. In some cases, those countries are the ones identified in a current U.S. State Department travel warning or alert. Specifically, many travel insurance plans do not cover losses resulting from or caused by:
an act of declared or undeclared war
an incident deemed an act of terrorism by the U.S. government
civil disorder, political unrest, and riots
Take a look at the U.S. State Department Traveler’s information to determine whether where you are going is considered safe by your travel insurance provider. Select the country on this website and you’ll see the specific information about that country. When in doubt, call the travel insurance provider to be sure you’re covered for where you’re going.
5. Factor in adventuresome opportunities
If you like to travel on the adventurous side – do a little paragliding in Bali, a little heli-skiing in Switzerland, a little SCUBA diving in Malaysia, for example – you’ll need to look into covering those activities.
Activities that are considered more risky are often not covered by travel insurance plans. That means if you break your ankle in a bad paragliding landing, your medical care won’t be covered. If you like to mountain climb, some plans do not cover you above 15,000 feet in elevation. There are other restrictions on adventure activities too.