Travel Health Insurance: The What, Why, and How

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Like most people, you probably don’t consider travel health insurance until the last minute. And then, you might only buy it if your regular health insurance doesn’t cover you while you’re out of the country. But did you know travel health insurance provides much more coverage than medical expenses? This guide will discuss travel health insurance, why you need it, and how to choose the right policy for your needs.

Travel Health Insurance
Health Insurance For Traveling
Health Insurance For Traveling Abroad

What Is Travel Health Insurance?

So, what is travel health insurance? In short, it’s a type of travel insurance (also known as travel medical insurance) that covers medical expenses while traveling outside your home country. This can include everything from emergency medical evacuation to routine doctor’s visits. Travel health insurance can also cover non-medical expenses, like lost luggage or trip cancellation.

What Is Travel Health Insurance

Why do you need health insurance when traveling?

Traveling can be unpredictable, and you never know when an accident or unexpected illness might occur. Health insurance coverage can provide peace of mind and financial protection in emergencies. It can cover medical expenses, emergency medical evacuation, trip cancellations or interruptions due to medical reasons, and more. However, it’s important to remember that not all health insurance plans cover medical expenses outside your home country. Hence, ensuring you have the right coverage before departing is crucial.

Benefits of Health Insurance for Traveling Abroad

Health insurance coverage when traveling abroad provides numerous benefits, including access to medical services and facilities, emergency medical evacuation, and assistance in a foreign language. You could face costly medical bills without proper coverage, significantly impacting your travel budget. Additionally, many countries require proof of medical insurance coverage to enter or stay in the country, so it’s essential to have the proper documentation to avoid any issues.

Medical Insurance When Traveling

The Importance of Medical Insurance

Medical insurance is essential when traveling, as it covers unexpected medical expenses that may arise during your trip. Without adequate insurance, you could face exorbitant medical bills that can damage your travel experience and potentially have long-lasting financial consequences.

Types of Medical Insurance for Travelers

Various types of medical insurance are available for travelers, each with unique features and benefits. Some of the most common options include:

  • Travel Medical Insurance: Provides short-term coverage for emergency medical expenses while traveling outside your home country.
  • Comprehensive Travel Insurance: This includes medical coverage and other benefits, such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, and baggage loss.
  • Supplemental Travel Insurance: Enhances your existing health insurance plan, offering additional coverage for medical expenses while traveling.

Health Insurance When Traveling Abroad

Understanding Your Existing Health Insurance Coverage

Before embarking on an international trip, it’s essential to determine whether your existing health insurance plan provides coverage outside your home country. Unfortunately, many domestic health insurance plans offer limited or no coverage for medical expenses abroad. Contact your insurance provider to discuss the extent of your international coverage and whether additional insurance is necessary.

Purchasing International Health Insurance

If your current health insurance plan doesn’t provide adequate coverage while traveling abroad, consider purchasing international health insurance. International health insurance policies can be tailored to your specific needs, including the duration of your trip, your destination, and your preferred level of coverage.

Health Insurance While Traveling Domestically

Reviewing Your Existing Health Insurance Coverage

When traveling within your home country, your existing health insurance plan will likely cover medical expenses. However, it’s essential to understand any restrictions or limitations, such as out-of-network care, that may apply while you’re away from home. Contact your insurance provider to clarify the details of your domestic coverage.

Considering Supplemental Coverage

If your existing health insurance plan has limitations that could leave you vulnerable during your domestic travels, consider purchasing supplemental coverage. Supplemental travel insurance can provide additional protection for medical expenses, ensuring you’re adequately covered while exploring your home country.

Do I Need Travel Health Insurance?

Assessing Your Risk

Whether you need travel health insurance depends on various factors, such as the nature of your trip, your destination, and your existing health insurance coverage. Consider your risk of encountering medical issues while traveling, including any pre-existing conditions, and weigh the potential costs against the benefits of purchasing travel health insurance.

Weighing the Costs and Benefits

Travel health insurance can provide peace of mind and financial protection, allowing you to focus on enjoying your trip without worrying about unexpected medical expenses. However, weighing the costs of travel health insurance against the potential benefits is essential to determine if it’s a worthwhile investment for your specific travel plans.

Vacation Health Insurance

Why Vacation Health Insurance Matters

Vacation health insurance is crucial for safeguarding your well-being during your travels. No matter how carefully you plan your vacation, unforeseen medical emergencies can arise, potentially leading to costly medical bills and a ruined travel experience. Securing vacation health insurance can ensure you’re protected and prepared for any health-related issues.

Finding the Right Vacation Health Insurance Plan

When searching for the perfect vacation health insurance plan, consider the following factors:

  • Coverage: Look for a plan that provides comprehensive coverage, including emergency medical expenses, hospitalization, medical evacuation, and repatriation.
  • Duration: Choose a plan that aligns with the length of your trip, whether it’s a short vacation or an extended journey.
  • Destination: Some insurance plans have specific coverage limitations based on your destination. Ensure your chosen plan provides adequate coverage for the countries you visit.
  • Pre-existing conditions: If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, ensure that your vacation health insurance plan covers these, as not all plans will cover pre-existing conditions.

How Travel Medical Insurance Works

Travel medical insurance is a type of insurance that provides coverage for medical expenses while traveling abroad. It can cover emergency medical treatment, hospitalization, emergency medical evacuation, and repatriation of remains. The coverage and benefits vary depending on the plan and the provider, so it’s essential to understand the terms and conditions before purchasing a policy.

Determining The Best Travel Health Insurance Plan

Now that we’ve answered the question “What is travel health insurance?” let’s discuss choosing the right policy for your needs. The first step is to figure out what type of coverage you need. Do you need basic medical coverage, or do you need more comprehensive coverage? Once you know what coverage you need, you can compare different insurance companies policies.

When comparing policies, there are a few things you’ll want to look at. First, check to see if the policy covers pre-existing medical conditions. Second, find out what the policy covers in terms of medical expenses. And finally, make sure you understand the policy’s exclusions and limitations. By comparing policies, you can be sure you’re getting the coverage you need at a price you can afford.

Types of Medical Insurance for Traveling Abroad

There are several types of medical insurance coverage options available for traveling abroad, including:

Travel Medical Insurance

Travel medical insurance is a short-term insurance policy designed to provide medical coverage during your trip. It typically covers emergency medical treatment, hospitalization, and evacuation but may not cover pre-existing conditions. This type of insurance is ideal for individuals or families traveling for a short period, such as a vacation or business trip.

International Health Insurance

International health insurance is a long-term insurance policy for individuals living or working abroad. It typically covers routine medical care, preventative care, emergency medical treatment, hospitalization, and emergency medical evacuation. This type of insurance is ideal for individuals or families who plan to live or work abroad for an extended period.

Group Travel Insurance

Group travel insurance is a type of insurance policy designed for groups of travelers, such as tour groups or corporate groups. It typically covers emergency medical treatment, hospitalization, and emergency medical evacuation and can also include trip cancellation or interruption coverage. This type of insurance is ideal for groups of travelers who want to have the same level of coverage and protection.

How to Choose the Right Medical Insurance for Traveling Abroad

When choosing the right medical insurance coverage for traveling abroad, it’s essential to consider the following factors:

Length of Travel

The length of your trip can impact the type of coverage you need. Medical insurance may be sufficient if you’re traveling for a short period. If you’re traveling for an extended period, international health insurance may be a better option.


The destination of your trip can impact the type of coverage you need. For example, if you’re traveling to a country with high medical costs, you may need a higher level of coverage. In addition, if you’re traveling to a remote location, emergency medical evacuation coverage may be necessary.

Pre-existing Conditions

If you have pre-existing medical conditions, it’s essential to make sure the policy covers them. Some policies exclude pre-existing conditions, while others cover certain restrictions or limitations.


The activities you plan to do during your trip can impact the type of coverage you need. For example, if you plan on engaging in high-risk activities such as extreme sports or adventure travel, you may need additional coverage for related medical emergencies.


The cost of the policy can vary depending on the type of coverage and the provider. Therefore, it’s essential to consider your budget and choose a policy that provides adequate coverage at a price you can afford.

Where to Buy Medical Insurance for Traveling Abroad

There are several options for purchasing medical insurance for traveling abroad:

Travel Agencies

Many travel agencies offer travel insurance as part of their travel packages. However, reading the policy carefully ensures adequate coverage for your needs.

Insurance Companies

Insurance companies offer a variety of travel medical insurance policies, including short-term and long-term coverage options. Therefore, it’s essential to compare policies and prices from different providers to find the best one for your needs.

Online Comparison Websites

Online comparison websites can help you compare policies and prices from multiple insurance providers, making it easier to find the best coverage at the best price.

Next Steps

Now that you know the answer to the question “What is travel health insurance?” you can decide whether it’s right for you. Travel health insurance can give you peace of mind and financial protection in an emergency. So, if you’re planning a trip outside your home country, purchase a policy that meets your needs. Safe travels!

Travel Health Insurance: The What, Why, And How (2023)
Travel Health Insurance: The What, Why, And How (2023)
Health Insurance For Traveling Abroad

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you buy just medical travel insurance?

Whether you’re planning for a short-term or long-term trip, covering your health should be a priority. That’s why travel medical insurance is available as part of comprehensive packages and stand-alone plans – travelers commonly refer to them as travel health insurance policies. At the same time,w their providers prefer the term ‘travel medical.’ This coverage will easily handle any potential illness or injury on foreign soil.

How long before travel insurance should I buy medical?

When is the most opportune moment to purchase travel insurance? The answer is easy: buy coverage as soon as possible and no later than 15 days before your journey commences. But don’t wait until it’s too late – get prepared for any surprises that might come up during your travels!

Is it cheaper to buy travel insurance separately?

Acquiring individual policies may be more cost-effective if each person on the policy has particular benefits they would like to include, such as “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage which can add an extra cost.

What is primary medical travel insurance?

Primary coverage refers to the first payer or reimburser of benefits when a claim is filed. By selecting an emergency medical/dental travel insurance plan with primary benefits, you can be assured that the insurance company will pay your claims promptly without any hassle!

*Disclosure: Some of the links in this guide may be affiliate links. I may receive a commission at no cost to you if you purchase a policy. It helps us keep the lights on!

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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