If there's one thing you can't leave home without, it's travel insurance and I can't emphasise this enough. One of the first pieces of advice I give to someone planning a trip is, don't even think of hitting the road without it. When you're out of your comfort zone, you have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst – and, as I found out over the years, things can and will go wrong, just when you're least expecting it.
With any luck, you'll make it back in one piece, with no need to make a claim, but in the event that you do, your back will be covered. Travel insurance also gives you great peace of mind - you will know that, in the event of a mishap, someone's going to be at the end of the phone, helping you practically. And, believe me, if you get sick (as I have done), need a hospital (as I did) or get robbed (yes, this has happened to me too) you'll be glad you've purchased it.
What to look for in a Travel Policy
There are different things you need to look for in a good policy and here are some of the highlights:
The extent of your medical coverage – I always look for a policy with a high cover for medical expenses. Sure, many people travelling just need to see a doctor to get antibiotics or to have a stitch put in the finger, and end up with a small bill. But what if you break a leg? Wake up with toothache and end up having to have an expensive root canal? Catch malaria and need to spend a few days in hospital? (In case you think I'm being dramatic, I unknowingly caught malaria in Namibia and, two weeks later, ended up in hospital in Zimbabwe).
Don't try and save pennies when it comes to your limit.
Hospital bills in certain countries can run into tens of thousands of dollars. You really need to know you're going to be covered, should the worst happen. I personally look for a cover limit of at least $250,000, which seems like a lot but isn't if you end up hospitalised in, say, the United States, Israel or Germany.
Belongings - You need a policy that will cover your belongings, should they be stolen. Look for something that will cover the cost of you replacing a backpack, camera, laptop, passport etc. Unfortunately, I've been robbed on different trips, and as hard as it is to know your most precious items are gone, at least you'll be able to submit a claim for them (as long as you obtain a police report locally).
Emergency evacuation – hopefully it will never come to this, but it's possible – if you're very sick – you'll want to get back home as soon as possible. This may require an air ambulance – and they are not cheap. A few years ago, I met a girl who'd been trekking in Nepal and injured her spine badly. Not only did her travel insurance cover her for an operation in Katmandu, it also paid for her to journey back to Israel accompanied by a nurse. Had she not had insurance, the cost would have been....unthinkable. Some policies will even fly a family member out, to accompany you back home.
Special activities – if you're a scuba diver, mountain climber, skiing or into other 'dangerous' activities, look for a policy that includes them. They usually aren't included in regular plans and have to be 'added on.'
When choosing a policy, also consider the following:
Do they have a 24-hour number you can call? If you're in trouble, you'll want to speak to someone immediately.
Does the policy cover cancellation i.e. if everything is paid for then an emergency arises i.e. a death in the family, a sudden illness or injury. What if you're abroad and you receive a call that someone close to you is dangerously ill? Will your policy fly you home and reimburse you for accommodation you've already paid for?
If your plane is delayed more than a few hours, will you receive a payout, or at least be give money for a hotel and food?
For a long time now, I've used WORLD NOMADS insurance and so I don't hesitate to recommend them. You can find them here at
They're helpful, reliable and very honest. They have all different kinds of coverage and you can keep extending it (i.e, if you're so in love with Asia, you decide to change your ticket back and stay another month). They're excellent when it comes to medical crises and they deal with claims fast, so you won't be waiting for a refund for months. Their staff are friendly and you can purchase a policy in minutes.
So take out coverage. As the Boy Scouts say, be prepared!