It’s a necessary part of the budget. Finding the right kind of insurance can be difficult though. I looked and looked and ended up just buying emergency medical insurance, but I have a solid reason for this. First, though, I’m going to explain the kind of insurance available to me. I am by no means an expert. This is what I learnt from a day online researching insurance.
Who do I buy a plan from?
There are different sorts of travel insurance plans available, but before you decide what to buy, you need to know how long you’re going to be gone for. If you leave Canada for longer than 183 days you are no longer covered under your provincial health insurance plan. Travel insurance providers can subsidize medical costs (I think) through the province’s healthcare. Once you’re gone longer than six months, the cost of insurance will increase. You can use a site like www.travelinsurancereview.ca to compare different plans.
For my purposes, I booked a plan for six months with Travel CUTS Bon Voyage that I can upgrade before departure and can extend should I decide to travel for longer. Travel CUTS plans are underwritten by RBC. I used this company before when I travelled to New Zealand. I’ve never had to file a claim, so I don’t know if it’s painless, but I do know that it was cheaper than World Nomads, though World Nomads had a higher limit for lost possessions.
What kind of plan do I buy?
If you haven’t booked a return ticket, interruption insurance is pointless. Unfortunately, there’s not many plans out there that make this an option. I have a one-way ticket. While Travel CUTS Plan D would have been a good option, it didn’t provide me with 24-hour personal accident insurance. I plan on doing some scuba, hiking and ride an elephant and all of these things could result in injury.
If you have business class or first class tickets, cancellation/interruption insurance would be a good idea. Some plans will include coverage to return home if there is an illness or death in the family. Some will also include a family member flying to be by your side should it be necessary.
Another option is personal effects and baggage coverage. While I think it’s a good idea to have this insurance, I opted out of it. It was $163 cheaper to opt out of this. I figure if my camera, laptop, phone, passport, wallet or entire backpack get stolen – I’m a moron. The option will only cover up to $300 per an item up to a max of $800. While it would be nice to not be out $800, I am convinced that I need to be a careful backpacker and not leave my things lying around or destroy them as I am often quite capable of doing. I know it’s wishful thinking, but this was a personal decision.
Insurance doesn’t cover everything. For instance, I have rheumatoid arthritis. If I need to see a doctor while I’m away to refill a prescription or because I’m having a flare – it’s not covered under my plan. I would pay out the nose to have my “pre-existing condition” covered. A pre-existing condition can also be something that you haven’t even been diagnosed with yet – but have had symptoms of. While I do plan on seeing a doctor to get my Twinrix shot in April and to get my prescription refilled at some point – I plan on paying out of pocket for these things. This plan is for the emergency I can’t imagine happening.
Some sports are also excluded. Skydiving – my hobby – is not covered. Mountain climbing, scuba – if not rated by a Canadian school or PADI/SSI school, white water rafting and glacier trekking are excluded as well. Be sure to find out which activities are not covered under your plan. Or be prepared to pay the price.
Print out all your documents. Scan them. Email them to yourself. Make sure you have some way to access the number you need to call in the event of an emergency. Make sure this number is in your wallet or money belt or where ever someone can find it should you be incapable to help them find it.
Bring a lock to lock your stuff in security lockers (if they got them) and don’t flaunt your iPhone or iPod or any other expensive loot for others to see. While most backpackers/flashpackers will have gadgets and laptops and dSLRs, you’ll also meet the guy who broke his camera, had a drink spilled on his phone or got his computer nicked at some hostel in Hanoi. Just be aware of your surroundings, try not to leave your things unattended and enjoy your trip.