When is Travel Medical Insurance Required?

"Do I need travel medical insurance?"

That’s the big question on every traveler’s mind. While some appreciate investing in the extra coverage, others feel travel medical insurance is unnecessary.

Travel medical insurance is designed to provide international coverage for various medical costs associated with injuries, illnesses, evacuations, and other emergency situations.

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One of the main reasons why travelers invest in travel medical insurance is because their domestic plan does not cover them abroad. In fact, many domestic insurance plans don’t extend past national borders.

There are also circumstances where travel medical insurance is a country requirement. Many types of visas, among other travel documents, require travelers to possess proof of insurance that will cover them outside their home countries. Some visas are required of all international visitors, while others are only required of visitors planning on staying in a country for an extended period of time (typically 30-180 days).

Even if you’re visiting a country that doesn’t require that you obtain a visa, there are several instances where insurance coverage can assist with travel mishaps like lost checked luggage or displacement accommodations. A travel medical insurance policy can cover things like medical treatment for unexpected illnesses and injuries incurred overseas, travel delays, medical expenses resulting from terrorism, and emergency evacuation.

Country Requirements

One of the main reasons to acquire travel medical insurance is to fulfill the necessary legal requirements of your visa. Currently, Americans can enter over 160 countries without a visa or with a *visa-on-arrival* for a specified period of time.

*Visa-on-arrival means you will need to acquire a visa once you enter your destination country. Unlike conventional visas, visitors will not have to go through extensive background checks or fulfill detailed application requirements. After paying a small fee, visitors will generally obtain their visas immediately with a low risk of being rejected.*

Popular countries to visit that do require an advanced visa include Brazil, China, Russia, India, Vietnam, and most countries in Africa, according to Business Insider. However, there are a few countries that may deny entry to anyone who is also uninsured:

  • France: According to the blog Mapping Megan, France requires non-working European expats under retirement age to meet “rigorous standards of cover, and proof of private health insurance is part of the visa application for long stays.” However, France is part of Schengen Zone that allows U.S. visitors to visit without a visa for up to 90 days.
  • Antarctica: Cruises to Antarctica usually require travelers to own travel medical insurance before purchasing a ticket. It’s also important to know that many domestic insurance plans may not cover you here due to its remote location. In a situation like this, where you’re hundreds of miles away from civilization, it’s smart to have an insurance policy with emergency medical evacuation coverage.
  • United Arab Emirates: In addition, the United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, etc.) will deny entry to expats or foreign nationals that do not have valid health insurance, and proof of coverage is required for a visa. If you are going on an organized trip, check with your tour operator to find out if this required travel medical insurance is included in the cost.
  • Russia: According to WaytoRussia.net, Russia may ask for proof of travel medical insurance if you’re looking to travel to places like Moscow.

In general, if a country requires its visitors to possess a visa, you will more than likely need travel medical insurance. Most long-term engagements like studying or working abroad will require you to possess a visa. Check out the countries that require a visa at CIBT’s VisaQuickcheck.

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Speeding Up the Application Process

If you need a visa, refer to the following tips to help speed up the application process:

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Trip Necessity

Even if you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t require a visa or proof of insurance, there are certain situations where insurance coverage can be helpful:

  • Lost Checked Luggage and Travel Delay: When it comes to inconveniences like lost checked luggage and travel delays, a travel medical plan can help compensate for costs. Clothes and toiletries as well as accommodations and meal reimbursement are common benefits associated with this situation.

  • Displacement Accommodations: If a natural disaster damages the hotel you’ve already paid for, a travel medical plan can help pay for other accommodations should the need arise. Atlas Travel, for example, can pay for replacement accommodations when natural disasters displace you from planned, paid accommodations.

    See the Description of Coverage for limitations regarding hurricanes, typhoons, and other natural disasters.

  • Illness or Injury: No matter how careful you are with your health, traveling can increase the risk for various illnesses and injuries. While insurance can’t prevent these things from occurring, it can help pay for the cost of an eligible hospitalization or surgery.

  • Terrorism: Many countries have political and social upheaval that can pose a threat to travelers and locals alike. Travel medical insurance like Atlas Travel may include a Political Evacuation benefit, depending on your current location’s security status. It’s also wise to seek coverage that can help pay for medical expenses for injuries from a covered terrorist attack.

  • Kidnapping: Express kidnappings—actual or attempted abduction and holding of someone against their will for personal belongings or ransom—are more likely to occur in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and India. Tourists are especially easy to target due to their difference in attire and language.

    When common sense isn’t enough to keep you safe, a benefit like Atlas Travel’s Crisis Response coverage can help pay costs associated with ransom and loss of personal belongings.

    See the Description of Coverage for limitations regarding the Crisis Response benefit.

Traveling with an insurance policy can be the key to opening doors to new experiences. Whether it’s to fulfill a country requirement or resolve travel mishaps, it’s beneficial to have travel medical insurance.

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Travel medical insurance is required for most study abroad programs. While many schools and programs provide their own insurance, you may be able to waive it if you find comparable insurance coverage.

If you’re looking for other international student health insurance options, StudentSecure offers four products ranging from premium-coverage to budget-conscious plans depending on the type of policy you want.

Check out the benefits for each StudentSecure product!