Based on March 2020 events, this article has been updated. I have not been paid to write it, though if you do choose to buy insurance through a link in this post, it supports this site at no extra cost to you. I do honestly discuss the numerous drawbacks of World Nomads and provide alternative suggestions as well here, so please read this fully before purchasing a plan to be sure it will work for you.
Ladies and gents, it’s time we took a deep dive into travel insurance.
Why? Because it really, truly sucks if you have an emergency abroad and don’t have it, and not all insurance is created equal. There have been horror stories of people being held in hospitals, almost like hostages, for not paying outstanding bills, or worse, not getting care at all.
But if you need to be airlifted out, must have a family member flown to you, or you simply get sick on the road and don’t want to have to suffer when you could get care, then travel insurance is a no-brainer. It’s best if you never have to use it, but when you need it, it can literally save your trip (and self).
That said, travel insurance is not meant to cover everything. In most cases beyond medical coverage, you will need a separate policy. I’ve taken out many of these policies in the past as well, and will discuss your other options in this post as well. World Nomads might not be for you, but before I talk about the drawbacks, let’s talk about the typical coverage.
It Covers Major Medical Expenses
Why pay for insurance you might not use? You could risk it and travel without insurance. I’d be lying if I said I have never done that. Once I had to visit the doctor in Vietnam and, since I was uninsured, paid $100 out of pocket for the visit and medications. It cost me about the same as insurance would have for the entire 4 months that I was away. That was risky of me, because had I experienced a bigger problem, I could have been out a lot more money than that.
I’ve had friends need ambulance rides in the US which cost over $5k without insurance, met divers who needed compression chambers after diving emergencies, and recently had a family member cancel her trip when her travel companion fell ill. She had insurance and got her money back, but he didn’t, and had to eat the cost.
The worst case scenario if you have insurance is that nothing goes wrong and you spent the money just for the security, but the worst case scenario without insurance on your trip is much, much more dire. It’s possible to get denied care entirely in some countries if you can’t pay – yikes.
Why I Use World Nomads for Health Needs
I choose this one because it covers activities I love that most other insurance won’t cover, and they have paid out claims put forth by friends of mine consistently.
No insurance is perfect. If you want to get reimbursed, your claim has to include all of the necessary paperwork and qualify under the coverage they offer. I’m not a fan of any insurance company — they all kind of suck and I don’t feel health insurance should ever be for profit — but I still get insurance for all of the reasons mentioned so far in this post.
I free dive, hike at high altitudes, skydive, scuba dive, and more on my trips. World Nomads is my go-to because of both the comprehensiveness and specificity of the coverage. These guys cover so many activities, from unicycling and dog sledding to swimming with whales and running of the bulls. It’s also helpful that they clearly state which activities are covered by each of their two plans, Standard and Explorer. You can use the following tool to look at pricing:
So, for example, say you’re planning a trip to Bali to go surfing, sailing, and scuba diving. You would be able to go on the World Nomads website, look at their detailed lists of activities to find your specific ones, and determine if you’d need to purchase the Standard Plan or the Explorer Plan to make sure that everything you’d be doing on your trip would be covered.
World Nomads will also allow you to purchase more coverage quickly and easily if you run out while abroad (like if you decided to extend your trip at the last minute). They also have multilingual emergency assistance available 24/7.
All in all, I like that World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance designed to help cover health costs. Having the activities I love covered makes this my go-to for those reasons.
The Coverage You Need Based on the Way You Travel
Keep in mind that every policy is going to differ depending on where you are from. The following suggestions are based on their general offerings, but you need to read the fine print to be sure your policy with WN will cover these things.
That said, how do you like to travel? Are you adventurous, or do you prefer to play on the safer side when you go abroad? Does your ideal trip look like yoga on the beach, or cliff diving and hang gliding? World Nomads clearly breaks down the insurance plan you need based on the activities you plan on participating in. Figure out the coverage you need for your favorite activities below.
For the typical trip:
If you like to do pretty normal things like:
- Horseback Ride
- Paddle Board
- White Water Raft
- Do Yoga
- Play Sports
then World Nomads’ Standard Plan should be just fine for you. Nearly any normal activity you would participate in while traveling is covered under this plan, whereas the Explorer Plan comes in handy for the activities that are more the style of “living on the edge.”
While both the Standard Plan and Explorer Plan cover up to $100,000 in emergency medical and dental costs, the difference lies in the daily cost of the insurance plan you choose, as well as the total dollar amount of coverage you’ll receive for a number of other situations such as stolen gear or delayed baggage. While the daily cost differs depending on the specifics of your trip, you’ll pay, on average, 60 to 75% more for the Explorer Plan than you would for the Standard Plan, but if you’ll be participating in risky activities, your safety is without a doubt worth the extra cost.
For the Winter Olympian
Most normal winter activities are covered under World Nomads’ Standard Plan, including:
- ice fishing
- skiing & snowboarding (resort/cross-country)
- even “polar plunging”
However, you’ll want to purchase coverage with the Explorer Plan if you want to:
- go backcountry skiing or alpine ski touring
- work as a ski instructor abroad
- free-style or stunt snowboard
- or try other dangerous snow activities
For the Beach Lover
The following activities are covered by the Standard Plan:
- scuba diving up to 165 feet
- sea canoeing
However, the following more extreme activities are only covered by the Explorer Plan:
- scuba diving up to 165 feet (commercial/instructor/guide)
- free diving
- shark cage diving
For the Serious Athlete
- kick boxing
- mixed martial arts
- certain kinds of running or triathlon
For the Thrill Seeker
- cave diving
- cliff jumping/diving
- rappelling/rock climbing
- motocross/motor racing
- hang gliding
You can compare the plans and price here.
Some Big Drawbacks of World Nomads
World nomads contracts through providers on a location-by-location basis. What one policy covers in one country or state might differ from another, which is why reading the fine print, annoying as it is, is necessary.
World Nomads, like most travel insurance, intentionally omits things like pandemics, much to the chagrin of anyone who wanted COVID reimbursements. The travel insurance provided by Chase cards, and most other standard insurance, also has this policy. Unfortunately it’s standard and you often need additional policies, or much more expensive ones, to get full coverage (which I’ll discuss below).
They also omit acts of terrorism, civil unrest, acts of war, and really anything else that might trigger a mass payout from them. Some insurance companies will cover this, but they’re pricey. It’s always a balance of whether it’s truly worth it or not.
Since World Nomads is primarily a health insurance provider, they also only cover a minimal amount of gear. If you’re traveling with expensive equipment, in most cases you’ll need a separate policy for the tech gadgets.
If you do need to file a claim, you must follow the fine print exactly. Like all insurance, honestly all of whom suck, they’re trying to make a profit.
For example, trip cancellation has specific requirements that will be unique to your policy, such as a required period of 24 hours. You might also find that if you return home to get treated, the insurance assumes your home coverage kicks in. Read the fine print always, because you can be sure that they will when evaluating your claim.
Important Things to Know
There are a few important things to know that make this insurance work better for you. The first is that booking more time upfront is better than breaking it up. If you know that you’ll be on a 6-month trip, then paying for the full 6 months upfront works out much cheaper than doing 3 now, and 3 later. Plus, you don’t want to let the insurance lapse. If anything happens when you’re not insured, it won’t be covered (that’s standard industry practice).
Also keep in mind that this insurance will only cover you if you’re over 100 miles from home. If you come home for further medical attention, travel insurance typically assumes you’re using your home coverage once again. This is important to keep in mind if you come home to get your treatment completed (you can always call them to get more info on your specific case).
Finally, this is mostly health insurance and isn’t the only policy you should have if you have lots of expensive gear. I’ve learned through the years that the only way to insure your gear if you’re a professional photographer or blogger (like me) is to get a separate policy for your gear, and they ain’t cheap. World Nomads will, however, cover most personal electronics, like phones and cheaper cameras, up to a small amount, provided you can prove the value (receipt), have a police report, and can prove you had it with you (so take pictures with your electronics on the road just to cover yourself).
Other Types of Insurance with More Coverage
As you can see, travel insurance isn’t meant to cover everything. For true coverage of all the things, you’ll need to pay more and take out policies that are designed to cover specific circumstances. Here are some I’ve tried or have been recommended to me by friends:
Expat Insurance: If you’re looking for longer term health insurance abroad, consider expat insurance instead. This will only cover medical needs, but acts more like a traditional health insurance that can cover longer term health needs abroad. I used ALC when I lived in Germany and they paid out all of the claims I qualified for after my deductible.
Diplomat Insurance: If you want to be covered for all the things, including kidnapping, acts of war, civil unrest, and more, check out Global Underwriters, which provides diplomat insurance.
Cancel for Any Reason Insurance: Some companies will offer insurance that you can cancel for any reason. Be sure to buy it as soon as you place an initial deposit (which goes for any insurance) in order for it to work. There are other stipulations as well, naturally. You can read more about AIG’s here.
Gear Insurance: If you have expensive gear, most travel insurance will only cover a small part of it. Since I travel with a backpack full of gear, I had a policy on all of my tech gear from Taylor & Taylor. I did quite a bit of research on this prior to purchasing, but ultimately do not use it anymore for one big reason: It’s really expensive. Each year the policy cost me $500 for insurance up to $7k worth of gear, and a deductible of $500 per claim. If I break a phone, for example, it would just even out. This would be a life saver if all of your gear gets waterlogged or stolen, but otherwise, unless you make a claim over $1k each year, it might be cost prohibitive.
In a Nutshell
There are more exclusions that are wise to read about before taking the plunge and purchasing, which is typical of all insurance. All that said, for coverage of the more adventurous activities that I love, I like World Nomads the most and have been recommending it for years, both to my readers and to those who come on my BMTM Adventures tours.
I hope this guide helped you to better understand the World Nomads option when considering which travel insurance you want to purchase for your trip. For active types like me, it’s the best way to make sure that I can get a policy that covers me when many would not.
Finally, in the spirit of full disclosure, World Nomads has not paid me for this review nor asked me to write it, but I like to share about the companies that I use myself on this blog, and if you make a purchase through a link on this page, I will get a small commission at no extra cost whatsoever to you. Thanks, as always, for supporting.