The Ins and Outs of International Travel Insurance

by Pilar Dujan | October 12, 2023
Having international travel insurance is sometimes mandatory

When planning a trip, it’s important to make sure you have all that you could possibly need. In some cases that includes purchasing international travel insurance.

For some countries it’s mandatory. For most, however, it’s not, but it’s always something worth having in case of an emergency.

Here you will find out all the basic information about international travel insurance and its coverage.

International Travel Insurance: what is it and why do we need it?

The purpose of travel insurance is covering all the medical expenses a tourist can have while traveling abroad, as well as other expenses related to the successful development of the trip. Travel insurance only covers that which happens after purchasing the service so it won’t include coverage for pre-existing conditions or previous accidents. 

The most common expenses covered by international travel insurance are:

  • Medical treatment abroad
  • Repatriation
  • Trip cancellation or interruption (for charges of transport and accommodation). Missed flights, when it happened because of changes or delays of the airline, are also covered.
  • Possessions that have been lost, damaged or stolen but not due to the traveler’s fault
  • Return of a minor
  • Hijacking
  • Dental coverage

These charges are not usually covered by travel insurance companies: 

  • Pre-existing conditions, unless you suffer an acute flare up abroad (but you would need to check with your provider)
  • Pregnancy-related expenses 
  • Medical treatment when it’s needed because of drugs, alcohol, dangerous behavior by the holder or extreme sports

Traveling to places considered dangerous or that have international alerts is usually not covered as well.

So why do we need travel insurance? Because medical treatment can be extremely expensive for foreigners. You may not have the necessary amount of money to cover what you need, or you might have an unexpected issue, so it’s important to know you’ll be able to get it taken care of if it happens on holiday. Purchasing travel insurance is usually a lot more affordable than directly paying the hospital bills, so it’s always the safest option.

Blocks depicting elements related to international travel insurance

Do international travel insurance companies have coverage for disability?

Unfortunately, it’s not a common area of coverage for travel insurance companies. It’s usually categorized as additional coverage, which means you will have to pay more to be insured.

This type of coverage, when offered, tends to include the loss/damage of the equipment related to the disability and the need for essential medication abroad.

Which activities and sports are commonly covered? Which aren’t?

It’s extremely important to be aware of the fact that coverage policies change drastically from one company to the other and between the plans available. What one provider considers worth covering may not be included in other plans, so it’s always necessary to pick the one that fits the best with your planned itinerary.

Activities you can get coverage for

  • Swimming
  • Bicycle riding
  • Surfing
  • Trekking
  • Kayaking
  • Skiing if it’s during the best season for the sport
  • Supervised scuba diving
  • Rock climbing but not if you need special equipment, it would cover only amateur endeavors
  • Sailing

Activities not insured

  • Hunting
  • Skiing off-season 
  • Bungee jumping
  • Professional sports

Purchasing travel insurance with your credit card company

It’s common for tourists to buy travel insurance from their credit card company instead of looking for outside providers. Although the coverage is mostly the same, they work a little bit differently:

  • You need to pay for your medical expenses with the card that has the international travel insurance or they won’t be covered
  • The deductibles are usually higher, which means that you have to cover more by your own pocket to get coverage
  • It’s paid annually through your bank and you activate it by notifying them of your planned trip

Credit card and banknotes, calculator, passport, plane and insurance form

Countries where having travel insurance is mandatory

Most countries don’t have travel health insurance as one of their requisites of entry. However, for some it’s mandatory: you won’t be allowed to enter the country if you don’t have insurance, even if you have an approved visa. For example, it’s mandatory to have travel insurance for Cuba. It’s also mandatory to have health insurance for Rwanda.

  • Cuba
  • Rwanda
  • Russia (if you come from a Schengen country, Ireland or Israel). It needs to have been issued by a company with agreements with a Russian insurance provider.
  • Ecuador and Galapagos Islands
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Iran
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Moldova
  • Tajikistan
  • Jordan
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates (if you need a visa)
  • The 26 Schengen countries (if you have to apply for a Schengen visa)
  • Nepal
  • Antarctica
  • Turkey
  • Qatar