When I traveled around-the-world for six months in 2007, many friends advised me to buy travel insurance. Normally I would not even consider such a thing. Frankly, I believe that most people in the U.S. are overly fearful about travel. In all my years of traveling I have had only one instance when insurance might have been a help. But in 2007 I was living on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and a local man, David Creecy, had been critically burned in the 2002 Bali terrorist bombings. At the time, rumors circulated that his health insurance refused to pay for him to be transported back to the U.S.; one of Creecy’s friends told me that he had to raise $25,000 cash before a medical evacuation flight could be arranged.
In addition to concerns about medical evacuation, I fretted over the amount of expensive gear I would be carrying. This trip was to launch my new career as a travel writer, so I would be backpacking with top-of-the-line cameras and lenses, a laptop, multiple thumb drives, and an iPod. So I made all the appropriate phone calls. Would my current health insurance company pay for my medical expenses if I had an accident or got seriously ill while traveling? Sort of. I would have to pay the bills when they occurred and submit receipts for reimbursement upon returning. Did my plan include medical evacuation? Absolutely not.
What about coverage for theft, loss, or damage to my electronic equipment? I considered dozens of policies from many different providers, all of which had very high premiums for six months. For each, I read the fine print until I was cross-eyed. In every case, reimbursement for electronic items was limited to $500, and then only if I could produce original receipts for the equipment. Since my clothes, toiletries, and luggage were worth very little, I decided to take my chances on the potential theft of my equipment, however I did decide that medical evacuation insurance would be an absolute necessity, and I chose MedJet because it was the only company that let me choose which hospital I wished to be evacuated to in the event of an injury or serious illness.
For instance, if I had been injured while on safari in Tanzania, the hospital of choice would likely be Nairobi, Kenya, or Cape Town, South Africa. With MedJet, I could demand to be taken to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Travelers who will be out of the country for less than 90 consecutive days can purchase an annual policy priced at $250 for individuals and $385 for families. Those traveling long term will need to purchase one of three expatriate policies, priced according to the length of time out of the country and ranging from $420 to $655 for individuals or from $535 to $975 for families.
If I were leaving again today, I would do exactly the same thing. Nothing bad happened during my trip. I didn’t get sick in any third-world country, despite eating constantly from street vendors. I wasn’t robbed or even vaguely threatened, though I walked all over unfamiliar cities. And I now know that there are decent medical services available in many areas of the world. Whether or not to buy insurance, and to what level of coverage, is an issue that everyone must decide for themselves, but at the very least, I advise purchasing medical evacuation service.