Those of us who are digital nomads are aware of the fact that things unexpected happen more often than not on the road. You are somewhere that you don’t know very well. You are so busy trying to navigate the new location that it is easy to make a mistake you wouldn’t at home.

You are even more adventurous, though. You are going to add foreign travel to the mix. Now you are possibly dealing with a foreign language, foreign customs and a different set of rules and regulations than in the U.S. It is all too easy to make a mistake or be in the middle of something that you did not foresee, like domestic unrest, illness, injury, theft of your electronic devices(!) or natural disaster. Even worse, your insurance coverages in the United States – such as medical, auto and renter’s insurance – likely will not provide you any coverage during your foreign junkets.

Why Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Maybe you are young and in great health. Maybe you aren’t planning on a long trip, and then you will come back home. You may be saying to yourself, “This is just another expense. Isn’t the idea of being a nomad that I can save money and see the world and decide if and where I want to land?”

Let’s look at some reasons why travel insurance is really a necessity:

Emergency medical coverage: Sadly, your medical insurance in the U.S. often will not cover you in the case of foreign travel. If you are in Mexico, where healthcare costs less, maybe you will be able to front the cost. But, what if you are somewhere that medical care for foreign nationals is pricey? What if you rack up tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs while traveling abroad? This is where travel insurance comes in.

A basic travel insurance policy should cover at least $50,000 in emergency medical expenses. You can usually add riders for more coverage of up to $100,000.

Emergency medical evacuation coverage: If you are going somewhere isolated with poor medical infrastructure, then you may need to get evacuated back home for treatment. Travel insurance covers this as well.

Loss, theft, and damage coverage: If your laptop, an expensive still or video camera or any of the rest of your electronics that are your bread and butter get stolen, damaged or lost, do you have the resources to cover their loss? Travel insurance will pay from $500 to $1,000. You can usually buy a rider that will cover more expensive items.

Trip interruption or cancellation coverage: People traveling to Hong Kong this summer probably had no idea that they might have a lot of difficulties leaving one of the world’s financial centers, as protesters blocked departures from the international airport.

Civil unrest, travel companies that go out of business that you prepaid or personal circumstances, such as hospitalized family members can force you to cut your trip short. Travel insurance will cover such changes in plans. In the case of political unrest, non-medical evacuation coverage can save your life.

If you are young, it is far less expensive: If you are a young traveler in good physical health, the cost of your travel insurance will be cheaper than for someone who is older and has pre-existing health conditions.

As you can see, travel insurance is not optional, it really is a necessity for a traveler’s peace of mind as well as for their financial and medical security and safety.

What is the Cost for a Year of Travel Insurance?

As you can see from the discussion above, it depends upon your age, your physical health and what types of travel insurance that you opt for in order to determine a cost. In general, you can expect to pay around 5 to 10 percent of the total cost of your trip for travel insurance. This includes airfare and accommodations.

The variance in the cost of travel insurance is directly related to several factors, but the main factors in your travel insurance cost are:

  • Your age: Anyone over 30 is going to pay more for travel insurance. Those aged 60 and above pay substantially more.
  • A number of travelers: When you add four or more travelers to a group, the cost for the insurance increases substantially.
  • Length of travel time
  • The types of coverage: The more expensive coverages to add to a travel insurance policy include insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason and rental car collision coverage.

Let’s look at some of the most recommended travel insurance companies for digital nomads:

World Nomads

World Nomads is highly recommended by the likes of National Geographic, Eurail, International Volunteer HQ, and Lonely Planet. You can build a short-term or long-term travel policy with World Nomads. They are innovators who purposely built their business model to cater to digital nomads.

Pros:

  • Although you can only get an estimate for 180 days of coverage online, you can simply keep extending the coverage indefinitely.
  • If you need to make a claim, you can do it online.
  • Claims are handled quickly
  • They have great coverage for the price.
  • Their Explorer coverage helps adventurous travelers have the security of knowing they are insured when they want to play.
  • They are the go-to company for many major travel providers.

Cons:

  • Since they work with a myriad of local insurance providers, the costs and the coverages can vary widely, based upon area. Read your policy carefully.
  • You must have health insurance in your country in order to get their add-on health coverage.
  • You will likely not be able to get scooter coverage.
  • You are only allowed one trip back home on the policy.

Some estimates on pricing: From each travel insurer, we received quotes for a trip to Finland for 3 months for a U.S. national traveler age 22 and a U.S. national traveler age 60 in order see the age differential factor.

The 22-year-old traveler would pay around $324 USD for a basic plan with generous coverage that included $100,000 in medical expense coverage; emergency and non-medical evacuation; coverage for participating in over 200 adventure sports; trip cancellation, interruption and delay coverage; and $1,000 of coverage for baggage and personal effects.

The Explorer plan that adds more adventure sports and higher dollar amounts on other coverages as well as a collision damage waiver for a total of about $472. If you will be going for an entire year, just multiply these figures by four to get your total coverage cost.

Our 60-year-old will pay the same cost, according to the online quote, for both packages for their three months in Finland. That was really surprising.

Safety Wing

Safety Wing is another newer company that is rapidly gaining new clients. Their specialty is providing primary health insurance for nomads. This is very helpful for long-term travelers who may no longer carry health insurance in their home country. Their company is a subsidiary of a powerful global insurance company, Tokio Marine.

Pros:

  • You don’t need permanent residency in any country to get the insurance.
  • Those under age 39 will find Safety Wing quite economical.
  • Besides the medical coverage, you will get non-medical evacuation coverage, interruption and cancellation of trip coverage and baggage claims.
  • You can pay monthly, rather than all upfront.
  • When you visit your home country for up to 30 days, you are still covered, unless you are a U.S. citizen.
  • You can choose private doctors and hospitals.

Cons:

  • Some activities that this nomad considers not very risky are not covered, such as climbing mountains at high elevations, scuba diving, and ice hockey.
  • The coverage in total maxes out at $250,000.
  • You have to be in possession of an international scooter license to be covered if you have a scooter or motorbike accident. It is really common for Southeast Asian travelers to need to use a scooter or motorbike for travel and very common to have accidents on these vehicles.

Some estimates on pricing: Safety Wing travel insurance for a 90-day trip for a 20-year-old to Finland was only $122! Anyone up to age 39 will get that price. If you are 60 or older, the price jumps to $424.

If you opt to travel in the U.S., then coverage is more expensive. Travelers up to age 39 have to pay around $225 for their 90-day travel junket, if it includes U.S. destinations, while those aged 60 and above will have to pay $832. The monthly recurring billing is a nice touch.

Integra Global – Digital Nomad Insurance

Integra Global offers international healthcare insurance for long-term digital nomads. They offer no traveler’s benefits, such as lost luggage claims or trip cancellation insurance. Instead, they offer comprehensive international medical insurance that is not limited to emergency care, the latter as is the case with most travel insurance.

They also cover routine health exams, dental and mental health services as well as chronic conditions. Travel insurance rarely covers these types of expenses.

Pros:

  • After the deductible is paid for the year, the coverage is 100 percent. You can choose a range of yearly deductibles. A good sweet spot is around $1,000, but you can make your deductible as high as $5,000 to save some serious money on the coverage.
  • They work with any licensed hospital or doctor.
  • There are plans available, at an additional cost, that will provide you treatment for pre-existing conditions.
  • They cover a much higher amount of medical expenses per year than travel insurance health care plans do.

Cons:

  • You will have to purchase separate travel insurance for everything other than medical needs.
  • You must purchase a policy for a year or more.
  • There is no direct billing, so you will need to front the money to the medical care provider and wait seven to 10 days for reimbursement.

Some estimates on pricing: Even though the insurance is an annual policy, in trying to keep with a similar length of time for comparison pricing between the travel insurance providers, we opted for a quote of the quarterly price. You need to realize that this is solely for medical insurance, but now we are dealing with comprehensive health insurance, like one would have at home, including wellness visits and routine check-ups.

For our 20-year-old globetrotter with no pre-existing conditions who do not opt for the dental plan, we have a quarterly premium of $668 with a reasonable $1,000 deductible. If you opt for the dental plan, the quarterly premium rises to $848. For an individual who is 60 years of age with no pre-existing conditions and the $1,000 deductible, we have a cost of $2,552 without the dental plan and $2,753 with the plan.

Allianz Global Assistance

Allianz is reputable, they have been in business for a long time and they are well regarded. They are known for their large array of packages for travelers.

Pros:

  • The One Trip Premier Plan offers up to $50,000 in emergency medical coverage, up to $1 million in emergency evacuation coverage, $2,000 in baggage loss or damage claims, $1,600 of travel delay coverage and pre-existing medical condition coverage availability.
  • If you intend upon taking multiple trips from home, you can purchase the AllTrips Executive Plan and have coverage all year long.

Cons:

  • You can’t buy the coverage for canceling your trip for any reason.
  • Their packages are fixed in their offerings, but there are a wide variety of packages.
  • Their plans are higher priced.
  • Their customer service could be better.
  • In order to have the coverage, you have to buy it before you leave on your trip.
  • The One Trip Premier Plan coverage limit is 180 days, and you will be charged $5 more each day for trips that extend beyond 30 days.

Some estimates on pricing: The One Trip Premier Plan for the 20-year-old costs $511 for 180 days of travel. The price is dependent upon the cost of your trip. This author chose a cheapskate trip of $4,000, based upon averages she saw online. The same coverage for 60-year-old costs $614, so there is not much an age differential cost with this provider.

IMG Global

IMG’s travel insurance packages have many of the bells and whistles that others provide but at a very affordable price. They have a number of packages. For nomads who simply want medical insurance coverage and don’t feel the need for the rest, the best package is called “Medical Insurance for Expatriates & Global Citizens.” The iTravelInsured Travel LX Insurance caters to digital nomads who are in far-flung regions of the world and are active and adventurous.

Pros:

  • The cost to renew your policy is much cheaper than with the other insurers.
  • If you want the coverage to ski, bungee jump, ride in helicopters and go scuba diving, this is your company. If you get lost, they will provide $10,000 for a search and rescue team.
  • You get $500,000 in emergency medical coverage (!) and $1 million in medical evacuation coverage.
  • Cancel for any reason or interruption for any reason coverage is included without an extra fee.
  • Their customer service is stellar.

Cons:

  • They are slow to take care of your claims against your policy.
  • They have a wait time before you can claim lost baggage or trip cancellation. It is excessive and leaves customers out in the lurch a bit.
  • The health coverage package is not primary coverage, so you need to have coverage in your home country as well in order to qualify.
  • U.S. citizens are not allowed to return home while the policy is in force. Nationals of other countries are only allowed 14 days, otherwise, they cancel your policy.
  • They do not directly bill medical providers, so you will have to foot the fee and wait for reimbursement.
  • You can only purchase coverage for 90 days.

Some estimates on pricing: Since this travel insurance policy is only for 90 days, realize that this is half the duration of our trip quotes from other providers. The coverage for the Travel LX policy costs the 20-year-old $413 for the 90 days. For our 60-year-old, they can expect to pay a premium of $588 for a trip the same length, so there is a bit more of a price differential here by age.

True Traveler

Insurance for Backpackers and NomadsPeople who are citizens of the U.K. and other European countries are eligible for this travel insurance. They provide great coverage for adventurous activities. Their company has been serving travelers for over 30 years.

Pros:

  • They are highly affordable and will reduce the fee for pre-paying.
  • There is no limit to your number of home visits.
  • They offer a wide variety of coverages for adventure activities.
  • You can decide to buy the coverage after you are already on your trip.
  • You will be provided 5 million GBP in total coverage.

Cons:

  • You must be a resident of the European Economic Area.
  • The basic plan is highly affordable but limited in coverage. Many will find the need to purchase expensive add-ons in order to have the security of substantial coverage.
  • There is no direct billing, so you will have to wait to be reimbursed for covered costs.
  • There are an only private doctor and hospital coverage in places that do not have public hospitals or doctors available.
  • When you return for a home visit, your coverage is temporarily suspended.

Some estimates on pricing: Our 20-year-old subject on the 90-day journey within Europe was able to pay £ 67 to £ 94 for the plan. If they opted to travel from England to anywhere in the world, including the U.S. and Canada, they would have to pay from £ 144 to £ 211. A 60-year-old on the same 90-day journey within Europe would pay £ 129 to £ 141. If they traveled from England to anywhere in the world, including the U.S. and Canada, the 60-year-old would pay from £ 277 to £ 317.

As you can see, there is a lot of variety in the offerings of travel insurance coverage for digital nomads. You have to consider your length of stay if you have and will maintain insurance in your home country, your age, pre-existing medical conditions and the types of activities you will engage in on your trip. Some may opt for international medical insurance only, if they may be considering not returning home. This author was able to get a ballpark quote from each travel insurance provider’s website in real-time. The big tip here is to look at all of the fine print as you read your policy.

Featured image credits: Marco Verch, original photo & license.