Here’s what you need to know about purchasing travel insurance during a pandemic

Just 18 months ago, the standard travel insurance policy would not have covered losses resulting from a pandemic. But nowadays some countries require exactly that and travel insurers have been forced to pivot.

Costa Rica, for example, now requires all international visitors to purchase at least $ 50,000 in travel medical insurance that covers quarantine costs and medical bills for visitors who test positive for the coronavirus.

Some airlines will help you make sure you have the right coverage for your destination by checking your documents at the boarding gate. “They don’t want to take you somewhere just to tell yourself you can’t get in because the airline is then responsible for bringing you home,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights.

But there are other things you might want to consider. Even when not needed, travel medical insurance can fill gaps in your health insurance coverage and potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars in emergency medical bills.

Medicare and many U.S. health insurance plans often do not cover health care for people traveling outside of the United States. Some US insurance networks are so restrictive that even medical emergencies during domestic travel would incur high costs.

“Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’re covered no matter the situation,” Keyes said.

Read the fine print

As the world closed in early 2020, travelers were forced to contend with the fine print of their travel insurance policies. Not only were pandemics not explicitly covered by travel insurance at the time, but the full refunds expected by some buyers did not materialize.

“They should have bought a more expensive policy,” Keyes said.

Today, travel insurers explicitly state how their policies apply to Covid-19. Allianz travel insurance, for example, will take into account trip cancellation and interruption requests if an insured person, family member or travel companion becomes ill with Covid-19 before or during the trip. Being afraid to travel is not enough to trigger Allianz’s epidemic protection.

Whichever carrier you are considering, you’ll want to carefully read the COVID-19 portion of their fine print to make sure it meets your needs.

There are other caveats to be aware of as well. Those wishing to use included travel insurance as a credit card benefit must book their trip with this card. This also applies to rental cars. Being a card holder is not enough for coverage to come into play.

Remember that you can buy your trip first and then shop for a travel insurance policy for your trip, especially if you buy parts of your trip on multiple sites.

Determine the type of coverage you want

The typical travel insurance policy in the United States includes coverage for trip cancellation, trip delays, and baggage delays. Many policies also include coverage for emergency medical care and evacuation if needed.

The most common reasons for trip cancellation – unforeseen illness and death in the family – are usually covered by standard travel insurance policies.

These policies generally do not cover the type of emergencies you can anticipate. Normally, COVID-19 would come under this umbrella, but insurers have had to adapt and now treat it as they would other medical emergencies.

However, for expenses related to the change of mind, travelers will need to switch to Cancel coverage for any reason. Cancellation policies for any reason cost more, but give travelers extra leeway to recoup at least some of their lost costs. “It’s actually ‘cancel for whatever reason’,” said Stan Sandberg, co-founder of comparison site TripInsurance.com.

This coverage is for anyone who wants the ability to change their plan without having to provide documentation about their illness, including COVID-19. Travelers should always expect to be absent for a portion of the cost of their trip – typically 25% for something other than a covered medical reason.

Travelers wishing to cancel for any reason will need to change their plans at least 48 hours in advance, unless the decision is driven by unforeseen illness, weather related disruption, or hospitalization.

Determine the level of protection you want

Coverage for trip cancellation tends to be the costliest part of travel insurance. It usually costs between 4% and 10% of the total cost of the trip, making an expensive dream trip more expensive to insure.

For travelers who can live without trip cancellation coverage, travel insurance can be purchased for less than $ 25.

For international travel, Stanberg recommends between $ 50,000 and $ 1 million in travel medical coverage. But he adds, “I can’t think of too many scenarios where you would face evacuation costs of $ 1 million.”

Hiking the Himalayas and dealing with a medical emergency would be one of them. It recommends that travelers engaging in adventure sports or traveling to remote locations consider paying more for additional perks.

“The extra cost might not be as high as you think,” he said, “especially if you’re looking for peace of mind.”


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