In the first part of this story, I quit my job to write and travel full-time. When looking for private insurance, I found that comparing insurance policies was a complex and difficult task. In this post I explain how I narrowed down my options and identified the most important items in a policy, and picked two policies that suited my situation.
I had to choose between two types of insurance: travel insurance and expatriate insurance.
Travel insurance offers limited medical and theft benefits, but is very affordable. Expatriate insurance offers much better benefits, similar to those that people receive from insurance companies in their home countries, but is much more expensive than travel insurance.
It was easy for me to compare travel insurance policies because there are few that are tailored to long-term travelers and cover outdoors adventure activities like surfing and paragliding, and the other things I planned to do. The travel insurance policies that I found cost between $50 and $100 USD per month.
It was very hard, however, to compare expatriate insurance policies. Many companies offer them and the prices, benefits, and exclusions varied greatly. After some searching, I stumbled across BrokerFish.com, a website that allows you to compare international health insurance policies side-by-side the same way Expedia allows you to compare airline tickets.
After comparing several expatriate insurance plans I realized that they probably weren’t appropriate for my situation. Although the coverage was good, the terms of most were fuzzy with regard to things such as having belongings stolen while traveling. Expatriate insurance plans are mainly designed for expatriates who require quality medical cover while living away from their home country and not for somebody like me who needs additional cover for expensive photography equipment.
So, travel insurance it would be. I first looked at travel insurance from Worldnomads.com. Unfortunately, I found a disclaimer in the policy that drastically reduced my medical benefits if I did not have government health care in my home country, Canada. Since I spend more than six months each year outside of Canada, I’m not eligible for Canadian health care. So, World Nomads was out.
After some searching I came across STA Travel. I spoke to an agent who assured me that my lack of Canadian health insurance would not be a problem and that they would cover me for all of the outdoors sports that I planned to do. It only cost $55 per month so the price was right.
There were two problems though. First, if I was seriously hurt or sick they would pay to bring me back to Canada, but then I would be on my own. So, if I got into serious trouble, I would have to pay my own Canadian medical bills for the first three months I was in the country (after that I would qualify for Canadian health care).
Second, the theft policy would not fully cover my expensive laptop and camera should they be stolen (few travel insurance policies fully cover these items). I asked around on some travel blogging forums to find out how others dealt with these problems. They referred me to a specialized insurance agency that offers special travel insurance for specific items. Through that agency I was able to insure my electronics for about $150 per year.
So, although I was not able to find an ideal insurance solution, I found one that seemed OK. My electronics were insured. I would be taken care of in case of a medical emergency. The only problem is that if something goes terribly wrong, I may end up with three months worth of expensive Canadian hospital bills. But, to be honest, I could not find a better option.
But, since I’m only paying about $70 per month for insurance, I think the risk is manageable.
Header photo: olarte.ollie