How to Buy International Travel Insurance

Posted in: Our Perspective, Product Reviews

Update (May 13, 2014): We published a new post entitled: 7 Travel Insurance Options for Expats & Travelers

Just before we flew to Miami last month, a shot of fear went through me. Travel insurance! A couple of months earlier we were in Canada, and I didn’t give it a second thought – its Canada, for goodness sakes. Home of the (almost) free medicare.

sicko-themovieAnd you know whats really funny is that I had just watched Michael Moores Sicko (again) about the state of US health care. Of course, it might not actually be that bad, I don’t really know. I’m an ignorant and medicare-covered Canadian. However, the movie put the fear in me and I had to buy insurance.

So I did what every other self respecting person does – I googled it: travel insurance. As it turns out, I can’t buy travel insurance from Canada. The rules require that we be actual Canadian residents – living more than 6 months per year in Canada. And we don’t. I checked with our Canadian credit card companies – nothing.

I was short on time, and didn’t feel like searching and sorting out the options that I’m sure are available here in Ecuador.

I did find an option that turned out to be really good.

Its called World Nomads and they cater to the world traveler – regardless of where you live or where you are going you can buy insurance. And it isn’t that expensive. For our family, it cost less than $200 for two weeks in the States. If we went for 5 weeks it would have cost just over $300.

What Does International Travel Insurance Cover?

The travel insurance we purchased from World Nomads had the following coverage. It is so much more than just emergency medical insurance – although this is the most critical component of any plan.

  • Emergency Out of Province Medical Expenses maximum cover per person per trip $5,000,000
  • Emergency Medical Transportation / Additional Expenses maximum cover per person per trip $500,000
  • Trip Cancellation maximum cover per person per trip  $1,000
  • Trip Interruption Costs maximum cover per person per trip $5,000
  • Luggage & Personal Effects maximum cover per person per trip $2,500
  • Sporting Equipment Coverage maximum cover per person per trip $2,500
  • Travel Accident Coverage maximum cover per person per trip $10,000

Update: A reader brought the age limits to my attention. Depending on your country of permanent residence, there are predetermined age limits. For example, Canadians are covered up to age “under 60”, Americans are covered to age “under 67” and in Ecuador, permanent residents are covered to age “under 66”. Be sure to confirm as you book your coverage.

buy international travel insurance

  FAQ’s about Travel Insurance

  1. Do I need Travel Insurance?Believe us, when you travel, things can – and do – go wrong when you least expect it. Adequate travel insurance helps to protect you (and your bank balance). If you’re still not sure, read this.
  2. Who can buy it?World Nomads Travel Insurance is available to residents of over 150 countries.
  3. What if I change my mind?Had a change of travel plans? Unlike other policies, World Nomads is flexible and allows you to extend your policy while you are still traveling.
  4. What activities are covered? World Nomads cover most adventure sports from bungee jumping in New Zealand to white-water rafting in Colorado.
  5. How do I buy it?You can only buy World Nomads policies online using a credit card. To start, please choose your country of residence.
  6. How do I make a claim?With World Nomads Travel Insurance you can claim online even if you are still traveling. And if you don’t entirely trust insurance companies, have a look at how World Nomads have helped some of their travelers.

Without insurance, your vacation might become a little more expensive than you planned. Here are some other travel insurance options.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

18 comments… add one
  • Rob Leigh-Clark Nov 7, 2013, 2:23 pm

    Brian – In your blog you write as if you are automatically covered by the Canada Health Act when you return to Canada for visits (as permanent residents of Ecuador). I understand things can vary from province to province. If this was the case for your family, it was likely because you went to Nova Scotia. When my wife and I returned to Canada after a 7 year absence we went to live with family in Alberta, which had no wait period for us. If we had gone to live in British Columbia, however, we would have had a three month waiting period. I wanted to clarify this in case a Canadian who now has permanent residence in Ecuador or another country plans a return to Canada expecting to immediately go on our (all most free) Medicare. By the way, in BC it costs a couple $120.50 per month for coverage, and this amount varies too from province to province. Hope your vacation in Miami is enjoyable.

  • Lauren Jul 24, 2013, 8:00 am

    I just wanted to say a huge thank you for this article! Last week I bought a one way ticket to Quito to begin my new career (I’m a so pleased to have come across your amazing site). Today I had literally just hung up the phone to the insurance company that I work at as I was getting a travel insurance quote with my staff discount (still super expensive) when I got your notification re World Nomads. What perfect timing! I’ve had a look at the coverage and got a quote and it is far superior in every aspect compared the cover my work can provide. It’s also relief to see that you can extend your cover when you are overseas.
    So thank you very much for sharing this valuable information!

    • Bryan Haines Jul 24, 2013, 2:07 pm

      So glad you benefited from the post. We had trouble finding good travel insurance when we wanted to go to the States from Canada. I think that the US would be one of the worst places to be without insurance…

      All the best on your move!

  • Claire Jul 14, 2013, 12:32 am

    I’m traveling from the U.S. to Nicaragua later this month to check it out as a possible retirement option. Because the country recently issued warnings about dengue fever (and mosquitoes *love* me!), swine flu, and leptospirosis I decided I’d better get travel insurance for the month I’ll be there. I got it from AAA and it was under $150 for both medical and travel problems. I don’t think they even asked my age. Once I’m there I expect to get one of the plans from the Vivian Pellas Hospital (it’s really more of a discount program than insurance, but for unexpected surgeries or serious illness, it’s apparently an excellent option). Being over 65 and Canadian, it’s sounds like World Nomads wouldn’t cover me anyway. I think MExperience (a website about Mexico) has some info. about international insurance.

    FYI, Bryan, I tried to access this page from my tablet. I tried both my Chrome and Dolphin browsers, several times, but the page would “refresh” after a few seconds, to a blank page, and if I hit the back button, it took me back to the email.

  • Dave S Jun 18, 2013, 7:52 am

    This is very true and great that you covered that. When I would spend a lot of time in S. America, I always made sure I got a policy, even if it did cost me $400 for the 3 months, I did have to use it once. I had a friend visiting from Canada and he didn’t get insurance and he got sick. First I took him to the farmacia but they suggested he go to a doctor, and yes, inspite of the fact that in the end he forked out about $150, it’s a good thing he wasn’t really sick. Another friend and his wife visited, they purchased insurance, he was walking on the beach, fell, and scraped his back on a rock, a nice gouge. He went to the clinica, was treated, cost him $150 as well, but he kept the receipt, went home, submitted it and was reimbursed. The thing is, you never know what might happen. As for the US, in Florida, the land of Canadian snowbirds, there are horror stories. A man dislocated his shoulder playing golf and tore something, the hospital ER told him $30K, he chartered a plane, flew home the same day (cost him $7K) and had it taken care of free. He said he’d rather spend $7K then $30K. A friend of mine needs knee surgery, $35K, he doesn’t have the money and he’s only working part timeright now, so he is walking around with a cane. Some people…..

  • Rick Wells Sep 8, 2012, 10:57 am

    We enjoy your blog. Can you tell me how much we should expect to pay a lawyer to get all our our residency documents completed and filed?

    • Bryan Haines Sep 9, 2012, 9:16 pm

      I really don’t know the going rate – I’ve heard around $800-1000 per couple. In our opinion, it is money well spent.

  • jim roberts Aug 12, 2012, 12:12 pm

    what kind of insurance can i get at 77 years,

    • Bryan Haines Aug 12, 2012, 1:03 pm

      I think this insurance is only for people 66 years old and under. On World Nomads site you will find a link to purchase travel insurance from Bupa directly if you are over 66 years old.

  • Ed Weidner Jan 13, 2012, 8:08 am

    Hi Brian and Dena-Recently read about vaccinations. Are there any special Vaccinations that one needs when traveling to Cuenca?

  • ibrahem.khan1 Dec 15, 2011, 9:03 am

    It is a wise act to do the travel insurance before you travel anywhere in country or abroad. It was a nice, informative post. I always make sure to do the travel insurance before i go on a vacation with family. It is such a big relief and you do not get those negative thoughts. I have never claimed for it online though. Is that as authentic as other way?

  • garry ladouceur Dec 12, 2011, 2:18 pm

    Brian,

    At your age and your family situation I would strongly urge you to get international full time insurance. It is still cheap for you and it is best to buy the coverage while you are healthy etc. I am canadian but also European. I would suggest a company called BUPA which is a favourite for expats and travellers in europe and it is available for canadians. Generally, you could buy these insurances for your country of residence but they tend to exclude travel to the usa because of the high cost of treatment there. This sort of insurance is an excellent supplement to any other insurance you might get, i.e. equadorian. I am not sure of the cost but at your age and circumstance, it should not be that high.

    I alas have a preexisting condition so this option is not available for me. I do have canadian blue cross though that covers everything except hospital. I got it from my employer, her majesty herself and the insurance company had to ensure me. And I have hospital coverage frrom my swiss insurance which costs about 700 dollars a month. And me only 57. Preexisting condition see. So while you are young and condition free, you should get the insurance. They then have to ensure you generally until you die even if you do get sick and acquire something bad. I think that there is everything included including treatment for cancer and even having more children if you are willing to pay a bit extra. You will certainly get room upgrades and the like.

    cheers.

    • garry ladouceur Dec 14, 2011, 2:15 pm

      Hi Brian,

      Sorry for not doing this in my earlier reply however, here is the link to BUPA specifically for Equador.

  • Adrienne Dec 12, 2011, 8:16 am

    What kind of medical coverage does your family have in Ecuador?

    • Bryan Haines Dec 12, 2011, 10:08 am

      Savings in the bank. We’ve found minor things to be relatively inexpensive. We are looking into a couple of Ecuadorian based health insurance policies and will share them once we sort out all the details. The policy we talk about in this post is for traveling abroad.

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