A couple of years ago, I packed in my nine-to-five job to spend a year working and traveling the world as a digital nomad.
But before I even reached my first destination, I encountered costly flight delays and a damaged laptop. Not exactly a great start to my new life.
It’s natural to hope that everything will be smooth sailing on your adventure, but even the most conscientious digital nomad can be hit by circumstances outside of their control. That’s why you’ll want to look into insurance before you go.
Do I really need digital nomad insurance?
In a word… yes!
Many travelers see insurance as an unnecessary expense, only to experience a theft, loss of property or medical emergency that can have costly circumstances.
Think about the costs you’ll incur if someone steals your laptop when you need it for work. Or the airline loses your luggage. Or an accident leads to time in the hospital.
All of these events are outside of your control but can prove costly without digital nomad insurance. Suddenly, the comparatively small fee you’ll pay to be covered seems like a godsend rather than an inconvenience.
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Travel vs. health insurance for digital nomads
There are two main types of insurance to look at before you start your digital nomad adventure: Travel and health insurance.
As a nomad, you’ll want the usual cover for medical emergencies, as well as help in case of cancellations and loss or theft or property. But if you’re away for a while, you might also want your day-to-day medical care covered.
Depending on your policy, travel insurance will cover medical emergencies, plus things like cancellations and loss of personal items… but routine check-ups and day-to-day medical care won’t be included.
Meanwhile, health insurance will cover emergency medical care and certain routine check-ups and procedures. So if you’re looking to be fully covered, it’s best to get a combination of both types of insurance.
If you’re watching your bank balance (like most digital nomads), note that you can generally pay more or less money to receive more or less coverage.
A cheaper option will only cover the essentials, like a flight cancellation or broken arm. A more expensive option will cover a wider range of things, like adventure sports cover or cosmetic dental procedures.
Looking for Digital Nomad Insurance? We’ve Got You Covered
Choosing a travel insurance provider
When choosing an insurer, it’s vital to look at the details of the policy.
Pick companies and policies designed for nomads
When I first went to buy insurance, I immediately went to my usual short-haul travel insurer. But after reading the policy details more closely, I noticed that those kinds of policies weren’t tailored to the digital nomad lifestyle.
I planned to work while I traveled and had no fixed time to come home. I was also departing straight after a vacation, so I wasn’t starting my journey in my home country. All of these factors would have rendered a regular policy void and stopped me from claiming if an accident occurred. Close call, right?
Due to these complications, picking an insurance policy specifically designed for nomads is a great option. These companies better understand your lifestyle and have adapted their policies accordingly, meaning things will go much more smoothly should you need to make a claim.
Get the right coverage
With any insurance policy, you’ll need to pay close attention to what’s covered and what’s not. Here are some of the things you’ll want to be included:
General cover should include emergency medical and repatriation, cancellation cover, protection against loss of baggage and personal property and specific cover for any expensive gadgets like your laptop.
If you’re planning to ride a motorbike or do any skiing, snowboarding or adventure sports, make sure these are covered, too. This type of coverage doesn’t usually come as standard.
Finally, make sure the claims procedure is easy and suitable for a nomad. For example, you’ll want to be able to claim and receive compensation while traveling, renew while you’re still on the road and perhaps start and end your policy outside of your home country.
Popular nomad travel insurers
As the name suggests, this company is geared specifically toward nomads and expats. They’ll allow you to buy and claim policies while traveling and cover tons of cool adventure activities.
This is another policy made with nomads in mind. You won’t need a fixed return date, and they have a “find a doctor” feature that’ll help you search for medical care in your current location.
Choosing a health insurance provider
Finding a health insurance plan for nomads can be tricky, as plans are generally designed for those receiving care in their home country.
Global plans exist but can be expensive, have little coverage and exclude pre-existing conditions. Many also won’t let you start the process from outside your home country, so it’s best to purchase a plan before you leave.
Traveling without health insurance
Before we get into health insurance providers, I should address that not buying separate health insurance is a viable option… for certain nomads.
Nomads often choose to forgo routine medical cover and rely solely on the emergency cover offered by their travel insurer. However, that doesn’t mean you have to completely neglect your day-to-day health.
I stayed registered at my doctor back home and planned any necessary check-ups when I was home to visit for the holidays. This is great for people who have factored trips home into their budget for traveling around the world.
Another option is to get check-ups and minor procedures carried out in cheap countries and pay out of pocket. Be careful to check the price beforehand as things like hospital stays can still rack up a substantial bill.
Of course, it helps to speak the local language if you plan to see a doctor in your new country. And be mindful that the medical facilities might not be as modern as back home.
You can also carry a small medical kit with you with over-the-counter painkillers and bandages for minor problems.
Popular health insurers
Understandably, some nomads feel more comfortable with comprehensive health insurance. It’s certainly the best option if you can factor it into your budget. Here are some popular providers.
GeoBlue offers dedicated insurance for long-term travelers and expats with various mobile and online tools to help you claim on the go.
This provider is well-known in the travel community and has two tailored solutions for digital nomads. One covers the basics, including standard check-ups, mental health appointments and prescription costs. The other (more expensive) option has lots of extra benefits.
Cigna provides flexible, international plans that can be customized based on your needs. It offers 24/7 phone assistance.
Bupa works with a network of over 1.2 million medical providers around the globe.
Being insured for your trip can give you peace of mind and make life a million times easier if something goes wrong.
After losing my bag in Western Africa, I was able to recover the cost of all the contents and receive additional money to buy clothes and toiletries while the airline tried to locate it. Lifesaver!
Insurance also saved my friend thousands in medical bills after suffering an asthma attack in Thailand.
Just be sure to review the details of a policy before buying and check that everything you need is covered. (If it’s not, you can always ask to add it on for an additional cost!)
Hopefully, you’ll never need insurance. But if you do, it’s great to know that someone’s got your back.
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