Should Digital Nomads get Insurance while traveling around the world?


Paula Vazquez
24 May, 2022
8 min read
Paula Vazquez
24 May, 2022
8 min read




Insurance


To be or not to be insured is the concern within a community that is constantly on the move. Should we go for the risk of going bankrupt if we have a health emergency or should we trust we are never going to be in the small percentage of people that require it? 

Several members in the community have shared their insights regarding whether to pay for insurance whilst nomading around the world. 

Note: To protect the privacy of members, we’ve not added names.

Let’s start on the bright side. This dear member highlights the power of community:  

We all chip in and that covers the cost when one of us needs it, and most of us end up paying more than we use and that's fine. And, in my opinion, that's a lot better than trying to fundraise online from your friends and family if you ever need it while dealing with an injury.

Other members, unfortunately, have learnt through experience that it is better to be prepared:

Smashed my shoulder while snowboarding in Chile. Luckily I had insurance to cover the bill which got to almost $20,000 for surgery, recovery and physiotherapy. So yeah at least if you’re doing fairly risky stuff get some sort of insurance.

I never used to do it, but I've learned. Both as I've gotten older and as I've learned of very young people who have horrible accidents, and need to crowdfund and use their family's savings just to get home. (And that we have free healthcare here, but your initial treatment and transportation costs can be huge). To me, it's just a cost you take on to have the freedom you want to live wherever.

100% always insurance. I've ended up in hospital in Germany from a random issue, been in a motorcycle accident in India, had luggage lost on multiple occasions. I would never leave the country without travel insurance.

I had a motorbike accident in Indonesia and I put my finger to a blender in Sydney, Australia several years ago so I'd never travel without insurance. Just an invoice for anesthesia in AU was 800 AUD.

Me @25 *still paying my health insurance in my home country*

Me @30 *gets diagnosed with diabetes* *insurance covers everything and I’m traveling again the following year *

Me @33 *needs surgery* *insurance covers for everything*

Many have also mentioned other travelers looking for help in GoFundMe, a site used to fundraise for individuals, typically for a medical or emergency reason, and would not like to find themselves in the same situation:

Of course. It's simple. If you can't afford insurance then you can't afford to travel. I see too many posts in other groups with people trying to raise money for someone who had an accident or got sick and is in hospital needing urgent treatment costing tens of thousands of dollars or more, and they can't pay for it because they don't have insurance. And this is in cheap countries like Thailand. Just because a visit to the doctor is cheap, people assume that they don't need insurance. But if you are in an accident or get critically ill and need urgent surgery or ICU etc. Then it is definitely not cheap anymore. Only exception is of course if you already have so much money that you can pay for example, a $100k hospital stay in cash with no worries. But most people who don't have insurance can't afford even a short hospital stay.

Just go to "gofund me" and there you will find a lot of travelers asking for money to pay for their treatments and recoveries after motorcycle accidents, illnesses, etc. If you can't afford decent insurance, don't travel and secure some money first.

Absolutely. Just go on gofund me there you find endless amounts of travelers begging for money to pay for their treatments and recoveries after motorbike accidents, illnesses, and so on. If you can't afford decent insurance, don't travel and save some money first.

Whilst other community members simply slay at being cautious on their health and financial states:

I think having decent insurance is important, especially for things you can't afford, like medical emergencies. I don't have insurance for my laptop, phone, checked bags, wallet, etc. If something happens I can just get a new one, however, I do have insurance for medical emergencies, accidents because I don't want to and can't afford a helicopter-assisted search and rescue mission, or 2 months in a hospital due to some unfortunate accident.

Always have insurance. You could get hit by a car crossing the street even if you are super careful. It's not just about having money to pay for emergency- treatments. With proof of insurance on you they'll treat you, no insurance they wait for the payment to clear and if you are unconscious well better have someone with you to pay the bill for you.

Good to have a cheap disaster plan with a low monthly and high deductible. Covers all major issues in case of serious injury or illness and you can self finance the small things.

Now, what do the nomads that don’t get insurance say? Many of them rely on the low probability to need it:

Statistically speaking, it's better not to take out insurance. But if you don't have enough money to cover an operation, it might make sense to take one out, making you poorer than you already are, ironically…

I don't see the point of getting one if you're not doing anything risky. If you have the extra money and want to be more cautious, you do it. but if your job creates minimal risk for you, then personally I would take it.

I never travel with insurance. 25 years - no problems.

9.5 years of extreme adventures, never needed it.

Others do not trust insurance companies:

If insurance were a good business for the customer, insurance companies would not be profitable. But they are profitable because people pay more for insurance than they take out; so you are likely to do the same. It's better to save for a rainy day.

In many cases, it is a scam. They require a ridiculous amount of paperwork and they have a LOT of asterisks.

It is also noticeable that some nomads in the community found it cheaper to pay directly for tiny expenses:

I found it cheaper to pay local prices for healthcare. Because I am from the US and we have the worst prices for healthcare. Now I live in Estonia and it is much cheaper here.

Not at all, I only had it last year for entering Europe, but I have traveled for ten years and never got one. When something happens (usually never, I just pay the dentist, or doctor or whatever and it's cheaper.

Finally, there were also other commentaries from members that lay in a middle point: 

Some take certain factors into consideration first:

If you mean health insurance, yes, that’s absolutely necessary. If you mean insurance to cover trip cancellation or whatever, that’s less important, since the most you have to lose without it is the cost of your trip.

I think it depends on where you are from. For example, my partner is from the UK and the NHS covers healthcare in Europe. I'm from the Netherlands and got myself health insurance with worldwide cover.

I think it depends on where you're from. Insurance in the US is Big $$$, so a lot of my friends don't have insurance or their insurance is basically unusable with huge out-of-pocket deductibles. I've never had travel insurance & don't plan on getting it any time soon unless required for entry.

So, what do you think? I personally think health and finances should never be put at risk (excluding the fact that it is now a requirement to have health insurance to access several countries in the world). 

Either way, the most important thing is to stay safe and have a great time globetrotting. 🌎💚

If you would like to know more about insurance, take a look at our article about the “Best Insurance Plans for Digital Nomads” which we’re constantly updating. Some of the more popular options include SafetyWing, WorldNomads, and more which you can find in the like above.