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Insurance while travelling - yes or no?

Published by Martha S — 9 months ago

Blog: My Erasmus experience, tips and advices
Tags: Erasmus tips

The importance of having insurance while travelling abroad

There are no words that can describe how important it is to have some form of insurance while travelling abroad. I know several travellers who decide not to pay for an insurance. Some of them are fine, some of them get hurt, and then they literally have to crowdfund their medical bills. Think about it, would you rather spend fifty dollars on insurance or fifty thousand dollars on medical bills?

My story part one

The first time I ever needed an insurance abroad was while I was living in Lisbon during my Erasmus semester abroad. And since I was living only a fifteen minute bus ride from the beach, one of my goals for the semester was to learn surfing. Costa de Caparica had quite a few surf schools, and once I picked the surf school that seemed good, it was time for my first lesson.

Insurance while travelling - yes or no?

Beaches in Portugal are not bad at all. And they are great for learning how to surf.

Just like about everything else, surfing may seem easy, but it really is not. Of course, when you watch the pros, they make it look easy! So during my first lesson, and I am a little ashamed to say this, I spent more time in the water than on the surfboard. It was probably extremely entertaining for the people watching me, but for me, it was just incredibly frustrating. So I left my first surfing lesson with mixed emotions.

When I woke up the next day, I noticed a sharp pain in my left ankle, but I decided to ignore it. By lunch time, I could barely walk without screaming in pain, and my foot was terribly swollen, so as soon as I got home from school, I went online in search for the closest doctor. Luckily for me, the closest hospital was only a short subway ride away, but to me, it seemed like the hospital is hundreds of miles away because of the pain.

Insurance while travelling - yes or no?

See the difference? It was pretty alarming to me, since this was my first time hurting myself in quite a few years.

Insurance while travelling - yes or no?

Another angle, same terrible pain.

Once I arrived to the hospital, I saw probably fifty more people, waiting in line for the doctor, and I almost started crying. The process went like this: I had to go to the front desk, explain what is wrong, and then I figured out they do not speak English and my Portuguese was not good enough to explain what is wrong. So they had to get a person who spoke (very basic) English.

I had to pay a processing fee of fifteen Euros, and then I had to wait among all these people for my name to be called. To be honest, it did not take as long as I thought, I only waited about thirty minutes. Once my name was called, I was very relieved when I found out that the doctor speaks English.

It took me a while to walk to his office. After explaining exactly what happened, the doctor suggested doing an x-ray to see if I fractured a bone. And the x-ray was done right away, I did not have to wait in line again. Well, luckily for me, my bone was not fractured.

The final diagnosis was torn ligaments, and the doctor prescribed me some strong painkillers, which I had to pick up at the pharmacy. The two sets of painkillers cost me another twenty Euros. When I got home from Portugal, I filled a claim, submitted the receipts, and the insurance company reimbursed me all the money in less than two weeks.

In the United States of America, where I currently live, all this would probably cost me thousands of dollars, and I must say that I did not appreciate free health care as much as I should while I was living in Europe.

My story part two

I decided to spend a cold December two years ago in a warm Dominican Republic. Everything was great until my flight home was cancelled because of a snow storm in New York, where I had a layover. So I had the following extra expenses: an additional night at the hotel, call to the airline, food and drinks, and I had to book a new shuttle from the airport to my home.

And guess what, I was reimbursed for almost all the costs. My coverage was up to three hundred dollars for extra expenses, and the total cost was three hundred and fifty dollars, so I basically only had to pay fifty dollars out of my pocket. But I was able to spend an additional day in Santo Domingo, which is an amazing city.

My story part three

When on vacation, having to deal with stolen items or an unauthorized use of your credit card can be a real pain. I was unlucky enough for both of these things to happen to me during the same trip.

It happened in Rome. One day, I was just walking around with a phone in my hands (big mistake) and about a block away from my hostel, a person on a motorbike comes around the corner, need for speed style. He snatched the phone out of my hands, and I could do nothing about it.

Then, only one day after that unfortunate event, I get a text message on my phone that I transferred four hundred Euros from my account to someone via Western Union. I did not do that, so I had to call my bank and block my credit card. Luckily, I always carry an additional card and also some cash with me.

The insurance company reimbursed me the cost of the phone. They determined, based on my description, how much it was worth when it was stolen, and this was the amount of money I got back. The unauthorized use of my credit card was also solved, thanks to the insurance, although it took my bank almost three months to get the money back.

Which insurance to pick?

There is so many different insurance companies out there, and even more insurances that you can choose from, so everything can be a little bit overwhelming. Getting medical and travel insurance is your best bet. The coverage is different from policy to policy, but in general, the more the insurance costs, the more things it will cover.

I would say that medical insurance is a must. If you also add travel insurance, you will (if the insurance policy covers that, of course) also be reimbursed for delayed flights, stolen baggage and other similar things.

Insurance while travelling - yes or no?

You can simply search 'travel insurance' on Google. My favourite travel insurance provider, which is widely accepted, and not too expensive, is called Travel Insurance Club.

But insurance is expensive. I will be fine

You are right, insurance is expensive, but it is still waaaay cheaper than medical bills. During my travels, insurance usually costs me around one hundred dollars for a two week trip, which seems a lot, but based on what you read above, I think you can safely say that paying for insurance is worth it.

Something happened. Now what?

When you get sick or hurt abroad, the most important thing to do is to find a doctor. Some insurance companies list the hospitals that accept your type of insurance. Therefore, before going to the doctor, try to do a bit of research to see if they accept your insurance. This way, you will avoid having to pay the total cost of your treatment out of pocket.

There are two types of doctors. Some of them will accept the insurance right away and you will most likely only have to pay a little fee (which will be reimbursed after you fill the claim after you return home), and some will require to pay for everything yourself, and the insurance company will reimburse you the cost after you file the claim.

Please make sure you ask for a receipt, and do not lose it! Without the original receipt, you will be unable to fill the claim.

Filling the claim

Once you return home from your trip, go to your insurance provider. Or, some insurance companies will let you fill the claim online, but you will still have to mail the original receipts and other supporting documents to them eventually.

When filling the claim, you will be asked to describe what happened, what was the cost and so on. My advice here is to just be honest, because they will verify the provided information. Then, you also have to provide your bank account number, where, if the claim is solved in your favour, the money will be deposited.

At this point, I would like to mention that insurance claims are not always solved in your favour, meaning you might not get your money back. I have never had this happen to me, but one of my fellow travellers had this problem. It can happen if the insurance company suspects that the treatment you needed was not an emergency or something like that. But I think that as long as you are honest and have all the proofs (original receipts, and possibly doctor’s opinion), you should have absolutely no problems with that.

A few words for the end…

Some people like to say ‘never say never’, but I have to say that one of the things I will never do, is travel without insurance. After all, I do not want to worry through the whole trip about something happening. Vacation is meant to be relaxing, not stressful!

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