Purchasing an insurance policy is one of the most important things travelers can do to protect themselves from the health, safety and financial risks that accompany international travel. But when it comes to travel insurance, it’s often difficult to figure out exactly what you’re getting — or what it is you actually need.
In this article, we break down the two types of insurance you may be considering: travel insurance and travel medical insurance. Is there a difference between the two? The answer is usually yes.
Read on to learn what each type of insurance covers, how it protects the financial investment you put into your trip, and what you should look for in each policy.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is a type of short-term insurance which “protects the financial investment in a trip,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It may include coverage for lost baggage, trip cancellation, flight accident, and other covered losses incurred while traveling. Whether or not a travel insurance plan also covers medical expenses incurred abroad depends on the particular policy.
The CDC recommends that travelers “carefully research the coverage offered to determine if additional travel health and medical evacuation insurance is needed.”
How does travel insurance protect my trip?
Should your trip be cancelled or interrupted for a covered reason, a travel insurance policy will reimburse you for the eligible pre-paid and non-refundable portions of your trip.
Depending on the policy, travel insurance may also cover unexpected costs resulting from lost, damaged or stolen luggage.
The CDC notes that travelers “may be more likely to avoid travel when sick if they know that their financial investment in the trip is protected.”
How is travel medical insurance different?
Travel medical insurance is short-term coverage that protects you financially in case of a medical emergency abroad. Typically, travel insurance does not cover the cost of medical services. Without travel medical insurance, you could end up paying completely out of pocket for hospital bills or other expenses incurred. This is true even in countries with universal health care, because that does not always extend to people who aren’t citizens, according to the CDC.
What does travel medical insurance cover?
Travel medical insurance covers emergency medical and evacuation expenses. If you get injured or become ill while away from home, costs for medical treatment and services generally will be covered. If you are in a remote area and need to be relocated to receive proper care, medical evacuation benefits will generally cover you.
When searching for coverage, make sure both benefits — emergency medical and emergency medical evacuation — are included.
Does my U.S. health insurance already cover me abroad?
In some cases, yes. Your health insurance does cover some medical expenses, but not all, and usually you will be required to pay some cost for medical care.
The U.S. Department of State recommends you talk to your insurance company before traveling internationally to learn more about what they will cover, and to purchase a travel medical insurance policy if your domestic health insurance does not protect you.