Allie had just left the beach. Like many travelers, she had rented a motorbike to get around during her five days in Koh Phangan, an island off of Southern Thailand’s east coast. Cruising at a fairly low speed — the bikes didn’t go faster than 30 miles per hour — along the scenic outer ring of the island, she swerved to avoid a patch of sand. The bike fell to its side, dragging Allie across the asphalt, breaking her wrist, and cutting up her leg badly enough to need a number of stitches — expensive stitches.
Unforeseen obstacles like sand patches are a hallmark of adventurous travel, and you can’t always avoid them. Even non-adventure travel can bring similar mishaps.
When Allie told me her story during Koh Phangan’s famous Full Moon Party two nights later, it reminded me why travel insurance is a no-brainer.
For less than $100, my travel insurance plan covered medical emergencies, flight problems due to weather or strikes, and lost luggage during my three-month trip.
One part of your policy I’d recommend taking an extra-close look at is the clause about pre-existing conditions. My policy defined a pre-existing condition as:
Any injury, sickness or condition…for which medical advice, diagnosis, care or treatment was recommended or received within the 180-day period ending on the Effective Date. Sicknesses or conditions are not considered pre-existing if the sickness or condition for which prescribed drugs or medicine is taken remains controlled without any change in the required prescription.
Emphasis is mine. During the time of the trip, these plans supplement any existing health coverage you may have. This will be your primary form of insurance should an accident like Allie’s happen to you, and it will cover (or refund; check your policy) the cost of medical treatment — in Allie’s case, stitches and a brace.
However, if Allie discovered while in Koh Phangan that she needed a brace for an achy wrist, which instead had been bothering her on and off for the last several months, and for which she had previously seen a doctor for medical advice, the cost of it would not have been covered.
That said, you should always read contracts carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you have a pre-existing condition that you suspect may become a problem during the trip, many insurers may offer a higher-cost plan that will have your back.
To find a travel insurance company that suits your needs, the State Department’s office of U.S. Passports and International Travel lists dozens of trustworthy options on its web site.