If You’re Debating Travel or Expat Health Insurance – Read this!

Until a year ago, I never had traveler’s insurance. I thought it wasn’t worth the money (DOH! insert facepalm here). Luckily, for two years of travel around Asia, I never once had a medical problem.

Railay Thailand Beach Selfie

Old-Me : I have money to island hop but “I can’t afford health insurance”! Where are my values at?

Last month, my luck changed when I had a medical emergency and had to go to the ER. Fortunately, I’d began purchasing expat health insurance last year and had coverage.

While I heard from a hundred different people a hundred different reasons I should buy health insurance, I was never really convinced until I experienced my own major medical problem.

It doesn’t seem real until it happens to you.

Hospital Overseas Health Scare Rio de Janeiro

I’m smiling because I have health insurance and this over priced yet below standard medical care is covered!


Now I’m spreading the health insurance gospel:


Why? I’ll break it down into 3 main reasons.


1. Traveler’s insurance is cheaper than you think

Many traveler’s health insurance plans are just $1 a day, or even less. Some plans even cover electronics.

That means that coverage starts at around $350 a year. My most recent hospital visit was billed at $1000. And I didn’t even stay overnight.

If you get in a car accident, develop a serious health condition, or fall and break bones while rock climbing, you’re looking at potentially tens of thousands of dollars – even in a country where healthcare is cheap. As my father once forebodingly put it –


**cue early-twenties-me laughing hysterically because I’ve got, like, bars to hit up. I blow hundreds of dollars a week on pre-drinks, bar drinks, and post-drinks – I can’t be bothered to spend even a tiny fraction of that fun money on something as silly as, like, my health**

But seriously, my dad is right. If you don’t have medical insurance, you can end up paying the bill back for the rest of your life – unless you’ve got ten grand sitting around that you’re looking to cash out. And that’s if you’re lucky.

If you’re unlucky, you may even be turned away from treatment. Many hospitals, especially in the developing world, require foreigners to show proof of insurance BEFORE treatment.

2. Traveler’s insurance lets you treat the problem right away

Having a reliable health insurance will allow you to treat issues as they come up, rather than letting them fester and potentially worsen. Even the best vacation in the world isn’t enjoyable when you’re fighting a raging fever or have a painfully infected coral cut on your foot. Health insurance lets you get any condition fixed early on, without having to worry about costs, before the situation gets out of control.

When I was dealing with the awful pain of a kidney infection, I was SO glad I could go to the hospital to get it treated. If I didn’t have health insurance, I probably would have waited it out at least a week longer. By that time, I could have caused permanent damage to my kidneys and even organ failure!

3. Traveler’s insurance protects the priceless

Your health is invaluable, and so is your life. Treat them both as such.

In addition to protecting your priceless life, having traveler’s insurance gives you peace of mind. You can rest assured knowing that whatever happens, you’re covered. Traveling and living abroad can be stressful enough, take care of your health and insure your future.

What if you’re traveling for a long time, like longer than a year?

Expat Health Plans

If you’re an expat, or will be traveling more than a few months, you should consider looking into expat health plans. These are a bit more expensive, starting around $3 a day, but offer greater coverage. Most expat health plans include yearly physicals, full coverage with a small co-pay to see general care physicians, and also cover preventative and sometimes homeopathic care. They allow you to go to private hospitals, see the best doctors, and receive the best treatment – without breaking your bank.


If you’ve decided to get traveler’s health insurance or an expat health plan(YAY ! Great choice!), it can be confusing to choose the right one. Luckily, there are a few main aspects to look for and consider.

What to Look For in Traveler’s Health Insurance or an Expat Health Plan


First and foremost – what does the plan actually cover? Some plans don’t cover medical repatriation (the costly and often confusing procedure for transport back to your home country for treatment), which should rule them out completely.

Some plans (especially expat health plans) cover yearly health check ups and preventative appointments, and most appointments with primary care physicians (usually with a small copay). If you’re looking for a short-term traveler’s insurance, this probably isn’t necessary as you’ll keep your home doctor. But for an expat? You should definitely consider preventative coverage.

Also check on the fine print. Does the plan let you visit any doctor or hospital, or only in-network or preapproved doctors? Does it cover for emergencies, surgery, and contracted diseases?


Cost is usually the number one thing that keeps people from buying health insurance. You definitely should be concerned about costs, but there are a wide variety of plans to meet your needs.

Short term traveler’s insurance starts at only a dollar a day.

Expat health plans can start as low as $3 a day if you choose a higher deductible, which works great if you’re generally very healthy and don’t plan on using the coverage except for in emergencies.

Support and Customer Service

This is one of the MOST important aspects of overseas health insurance.

Because you’re living or traveling abroad, you likely won’t have access to an inexpensive phone – international calling is generally quite expensive other than Skype calls, but the quality there can be unpredictable.

Check that your insurance provider either accepts collect calls, or that they have an effective and available email and online support team. This is especially important if the connection where you will be located is really bad, as then you’ll need to do most communication via email.

Pin Travel and Expat Health Insurance

Travel and Expat Health Insurance

Do you have expat health insurance or traveler’s insurance? Why or why not?



A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

Find me on: Web | Instagram | Facebook


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.