If you're already traveling and looking to cover your butt with travel insurance, this post will help you find the right plan for the right price—or, if Step 1 of the five steps below applies to you, you may not even need to buy anything!
Cover up your mistake.
Most would agree that not buying travel insurance is a mistake. It's cheap, whereas the potential medical costs if you get hurt abroad can be enormous.
But sometimes you forget. There are a lot more interesting things to think about when planning a trip, after all.
The bad news is that if this happens to you, lots of insurers don't want anything to do with you. You're too "high risk."
The good news is some companies are more flexible and will sell you travel insurance when already traveling. Or you may be covered already and not even know it.
To find the best plan, and not make your mistake even worse by buying an invalid plan (a common error), here are five steps to follow to find the best travel insurance when you're already traveling.
5 Steps to Get the Best Travel Insurance When Already Traveling
Step 1: Check if You Already Have Free Insurance
Before hurrying to buy travel insurance, ask yourself:
Is your credit card's travel insurance already covering you?
For example, Kim and my credit card provides 31 days of travel insurance. If we're traveling for less than that, we don't need to buy anything. And if we're traveling for more than 31 days, we avoid double-paying by buying travel insurance plans that kick in the day our credit card insurance expires.
Step 2: Watch Out for the Following
- Do you have health insurance back home? Some travel insurers won't cover you or will significantly cut back their coverage if you don't have home country health insurance. And if you get badly injured, your travel insurer will likely bring you home for treatment. Once home, you're on the hook for all medical expenses whether you have home country insurance or not.
- What's not covered? Travel insurance policies generally don't cover pre-existing or on-going medical conditions, dangerous sports, and some high-risk countries.
- Are you going to the United States? Travel insurers charge significantly more for travel in the US because of astronomical health care costs there.
- Do you still have to pay if something bad happens? Some travel insurance policies have an excess or a deductible, which is the amount you need to contribute if you make a claim.
- How much coverage do you really need? The biggest expense you risk incurring when traveling is emergency air evacuation. It can cost as much as $250,000 if you're in the middle of nowhere and they need to bring you home.
- Age matters? Yes. Once you hit 40 years old, travel insurance rates tend to go up, and once you're over 65 years old it can be very difficult and extremely expensive to get coverage.
For more boring but important info on travel insurance, see our 8 Steps to Finding the Best Travel Insurance.
Step 3: Pre-Departure vs. Post-Departure Travel Insurance
Many people make the mistake of buying pre-departure travel insurance when already traveling. Those policies are void, so if something happens, they're screwed.
To avoid a similar screw-up, be mindful of these differences between pre-departure and post-departure travel insurance:
- Most travel insurers don't offer post-departure travel insurance. They only sell pre-departure travel insurance. Call the insurer to confirm before buying any policy if you're at all unsure.
- Travel insurance when already traveling is more expensive. The few companies that will sell you travel insurance when you're already traveling generally charge a premium because you're a higher risk to them than someone who buys a policy before leaving.
- Post-departure travel insurance isn't fully refundable. You can usually get a refund on travel insurance policies you buy before you leave, but not on policies you buy when already traveling.
- You can't get trip cancellation insurance if you're already traveling. Trip cancellation insurance refunds pre-paid, non-refundable expenses if you have to cancel a trip. But some companies like SafetyWing do offer trip interruption insurance, which covers a flight to your home country if your home residence gets destroyed, there's a death in the family, or you get injured and your physician deems it medically necessary for treatment and recovery.
- There's often a waiting period if you get travel insurance when already traveling. With some insurers, you have to wait (and play it safe) 48 to 72 hours before the policy kicks in.
Step 4: Buy the Best-Value Plan You Can Find
We scoured the web for the best already traveling travel insurance and found a new startup that blows the competition out of the water.
If you find something better let us know and we'll update this post.
$US1.32/day (under 40-year-old of any nationality not traveling to the US)
- Worldwide. Aside from very few exceptions (Cuba, Iran, and North Korea) everyone can buy it no matter their home country or where they're traveling.
- Flexible timing. Unlike other policies, which require you to buy insurance for your entire trip up front, you can buy four weeks (or less) and extend (or auto-renew) as needed.
- Unlimited coverage period. Great for long-term digital nomads like us because, unlike most travel insurance policies, you can extend every year for as long as you need.
- Travel coverage. Insurance includes trip interruption, travel delay, and checked luggage protection. Other low-cost travel insurance providers often don't.
- Kids are free. One 14-day to 10-year-old child is covered for each adult without added cost.
- No waiting period. You're covered as soon as you pay.
- It's getting better. SafetyWing has announced plans to increase their limits, get rid of the deductible, and offer extreme sports add-ons. They also plan to release a comprehensive health care package.
- Not the cheapest (as long as you remember to buy before you leave). For example, the travel insurance plan we're covered by as I write this in Spain is $1.12 a day, 15% cheaper than SafetyWing.
- Low maximum limit. SafetyWing's maximum is only $250,000 (and only $100,000 for emergency evacuation), which may not fully cover worst-case scenarios in far-off lands. The industry insiders I interviewed off-the-record for my travel insurance post recommend a maximum of at least $500,000.
- $250 deductible for non-urgent medical care. Many other companies have a $0 deductible, though you generally pay higher premiums for this benefit.
- No US travel flexibility. SafetyWing's doesn't cover non-Americans traveling through the US or on short layovers there. You have to get a new policy that includes the US to be insured (though a good credit card's travel insurance should cover you).
- Not customizable. SafetyWing keeps their insurance cheap by keeping it simple, but that also means you'll have to look elsewhere if you want insurance on things they don't cover like personal electronics, travel to Iran and North Korea, and some extreme sports.
Do your future self a favor and read the full policy (PDF).
Other Companies Selling Already Traveling Travel Insurance
Shop around and see if you can find a better deal than Safety Wing for already traveling travel insurance. (If you do, please let us know!)
Here are the most popular providers of travel insurance when already traveling.
- World Nomads. Starting from $US2.78/day. Yeah, super expensive. Bloggers love to recommend these guys because they pay high commissions. But World Nomads does have a great reputation in the industry and among past customers and offers extensive coverage for activities and countries SafetyWing doesn't.
- Globelink. Starting from $US1.57/day. For UK, EU and EEA residents only.
- True Traveler. Starting from $US1.78/day for European residents. They offer a wide variety of add-ons, options, and packages.
Step 5: Put it in Your Wallet
Keep insurance contact info in your wallet.
If something happens during your trip, you, your companion, or anyone who's caring for you will then know who to call to coordinate emergency travel arrangements, doctor referrals, or claims questions or other issues.
Hopefully, it's a waste of (less of) your money!
Enjoy an injury-free trip, so all that time and money you spent on finding travel insurance doesn't get put to use.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions, feedback, or tips of your own about buying travel insurance when already traveling.