Insurance’s purpose is to make sure you’re ok when things go bad, and when you’re on the other side of the world, things go from inconvenient to bad pretty quick. Lost luggage, theft, damaged items mean lost time re-acquiring the things you need. A cancelled trip could be an expensive loss on non-refundable tickets. And most importantly, you need to be confident that if you get seriously sick or injured then paying for it is the least of your concerns.
Some people have amazing insurance that could cover international travel, but most don’t. You’ll likely want to get travel insurance, and the good news is that it’s not that expensive, and it’s easy to get.
Two of the big travel insurance companies are Travelex and TravelGuard. I chose TravelGuard because it was cheaper and the web site was easier to navigate and it allows you to start with a basic plan and add only the features that you want.
Before you purchase the insurance, read the policy. Don’t just skim it; you need to understand what it covers. In some cases it will say it’s acting as a secondary insurer, which means they’ll try to make your primary insurer cover the cost, and if the primary won’t then they’ll do it. Take notes of the exceptions and what is actually covered. It’s also handy to have a copy of what your current insurance covers so you can compare. I noticed that my primary insurance covers out of country emergency care only, and that satisfied me enough to not opt for the much more expensive primary care upgrade on the travel insurance.
Order your insurance after booking your flight because you need to enter the cost of the trip into the insurance. The lower the cost, the cheaper the insurance will be.
Once you have the insurance policy paid for, you may get it in the mail or in an email. Print off these documents and keep them with your passport. If things go bad, you want to have a physical copy of your insurance policy with contact numbers, and you want it to be with you. Losing your luggage sucks and travel insurance can reimburse you for it, but if your insurance information is in the lost luggage, well that’s just ironic.
As a point of reference, for my $1400 flight itinerary and a 3 month stay in Shenzhen, I paid $153 for travel insurance.